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October 6, 2006

Live marketing breeds growth

There has been plenty written about exhibitions on this site over the past few months, most of it about falling visitor numbers and an industry in crisis. But despite the gloom, we have also reported on a number of shining stars that reveal the true potential of exhibitions. There’s Reed Exhibition’s new City Break event, where all appointments between exhibitors and visitors were pre-arranged; Grand Designs, which overflowed with creativity, generating a truly engaging experience for visitors – a video report of which you’ll find here - and Taste of London, which worked wonders for the brands sponsoring the event and was championed by O2’s Paul Samuels in a recent article.


What’s more, in a couple of weeks, VNU Exhibition’s Fedde van der Woude talks on video about how event organisers should be doing more than just filling floor space and helping exhibitors to get a better return on their investments. VNU actually sets up exhibitor training sessions with this aim in mind, one of which we’ve been invited to attend in the new year.

It was also encouraging to see the Exhibiting Show directly facing up to some of the problems inherent in the exhibition industry through its Big Survey research project. The noble aim of the study was to stimulate debate about the issues facing the exhibition industry. The organisers, Exposure, led by Simon Burton, wanted to help drive change in an industry that sits poised to benefit from the increased interest in face-to-face marketing, but also faces threats both internally due to poor communications, lack of alliances and externally through media fragmentation.

A detailed look
Farrugia Leo Research & Consultancy was commissioned to carry out the survey. It looked in detail at those people who make up the majority of the show’s content, ‘the exhibitors’. What’s surprising is the broad base of companies that contributed. The findings of the report are based on interviews with businesses from both the private and public sector, and covered main industry types, including manufacturing, financial services, retail, fashion, electronics, marketing and mobile communications.

The largest group of respondents were marketing decision makers (35%), while senior management, from owners to financial directors, made up 27%. Meanwhile, contributions were spread across corporates (60%), agencies (28%) and charitable and public organisations (13%).

What was revealed about these exhibiting companies was that 67% were also involved in a host of proprietary events, from user conferences (51%) to VIP events and roadshows (40%), media and PR events (36%), private trade shows (35%), product launches (34%) and dealer/distributor events (30%).

These companies clearly appreciate the value of live marketing far beyond the exhibition floor. This makes the next revelation, which is tucked away towards the back of the report, and which we highlighted in a recent news story, particularly interesting – 73% of them considered themselves to be growing. This is twice the average growth figure found among those who don’t participate in events in other market studies.

According to Sarah Farrugia, managing director of Farrugia Leo, who interviewed thousands of companies participating in events, these active companies are displaying a mind set which is as important as the activities they undertake. “They are literally ‘out there’,” she explains. “Companies exhibiting the ‘growth gene’ believe that their success or failure is in their own hands and that activity and engagement will bring rewards.”

Growth gene keeps companies live
Not only do the companies showing Farrugia’s so-called ‘growth gene’ use live events more creatively and actively than their ‘static’ competitors, but they have “more objectives from event marketing, exploit a wider selection of events (including exhibitions, road shows, conferences, field marketing and product launches) and are likely to give success a longer time to materialise”, according to the report. In terms of exhibition budget alone ‘growth companies’ spend on average £261,000 a year, nearly four times as much as the £70,000 for the static or passive companies.

“Growth companies are masters of their own destiny,” Farrugia continues. “They are demanding of event organisers, but recognise that success comes from partnership. Growing businesses cannot resist being at the heart of the market and seeing and being seen, taking part and shaping the market. Static companies on the other hand blame everyone for their lack of success: the market, the organiser, their competitors, rather than themselves.”

The results show that growth and live marketing are extricably linked, suggesting that growing, and therefore successful, businesses place live and experiential marketing high on their list of marketing priorities. Their growth characteristics alone suggest that this strategy is reaping rewards.

What’s more, with companies like Exposure generating such interesting statistics and firmly pushing best practice forward, it’s clear the exhibition industry still has much to offer.

The Big Survey – Inside the hearts and minds of exhibitors is available for download from the Exhibiting Show website http://www.exhibitingshow.co.uk

Watch Exposure’s Simon Burton talking about The Big Survey and it’s implications for exhibitions and events next week on ER.

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