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April 3, 2006

Does face to face marketing add up?

A recent study by KPMG concluded that the face to face events industry - that's trade shows and consumer exhibitions - contributes more than 9 billion annually to the UK economy. It's a big market place and that must be taken seriously.

The research that Vivid Interface conducts on behalf of exhibition organisers and exhibiting companies tells us that, overall, face to face events work. It tells us that exhibitors and visitors meet their pre-set objectives and conduct profitable business.

So, what information is out there to help exhibitors decide if they should be part of this large and apparently successful industry?

In some cases there can be a lot, and in others not much.

If an event is organised by a member of the Association of Exhibition Organisers it will be audited by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) and this will provide you with information of the numbers of people who attended the event.

Trade show visitors usually register for an event in advance. As part of this process they answer a number of questions about who they are; what industry sector they belong to; what level of purchasing or specifying responsibility they have, and - sometimes - what type of exhibitor they would like to see at the event.

The combination of the audit and registration processes can give you a picture of who came to the event but it does not tell you what they did there.

Consumer exhibition visitors, on the other hand, do not register for the event and often the organisers have no information beyond the mailing address for the ticket purchaser.

Enlightened event organisers conduct market research with a sample of visitors and exhibitors, either at or after an event, to seek to build up a profile of visitor behaviour and to understand how the event performed for its exhibitors.

This information can be made available to you if you are, or thinking of becoming an exhibitor: you should ask to see the research if it's not immediately available.

The research should be conducted by a company that is a member of the British Market Research Association and whose directors are members of the Market Research Society. You need to check who conducted any research and make sure they are qualified and independent.

What are the gaps in data that can help you to decide to participate or to continue participating in an event?

In reality this depends on who you are and the sophistication of your own internal examination and tracking.

The last industry research Vivid undertook with event visitors to examine how face to face marketing compared to other media for finding new products and customers placed events above the internet, business to business media and sales calls. This means that if you plan your event strategy well then you should be rewarded with success.

Success, however, takes planning.
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