Unless your conference is growing, you are on the road to decline.
All conference attendance plateaus eventually erode.
Unless you are taking conference attendee market share from others, you are not growing significantly.
Stealing And Trespassing Are Legal When Attracting Conference Registrants
There is a closed market for conference registrants. Yes, that’s right. There is not an infinite market.
Typically, most people travel to only one major conference a year and focus on attending more local events. Their professional development, conference registration and travel budgets are limited.
Every conference has a target market. There is a limited market share available to each conference. During tough economies, the amount of conference growth can be finite. So the ability to grow the conference is often dependent on acquiring attendees that registered for competing conferences in a previous year.
If your conference has saturated a market, then how do you grow attendance by increasing that share at the inevitable expense of others? The reason so many conferences plateau with attendance and get caught in the plateau success trap is that they never engage in a strategy to enlarge their market share. They don’t master the skills of attracting new attendees from competitors as well as first time buyers.
Why Conferences Decline
Conference attendance decline results from a variety of factors:
- Revenues cease growing because the conference’s existing market is saturated.
- The conference market evaporates due to retirement of loyal attendees, disruptive technology, new competition, declining profession and travel and education budget cuts.
- Attendee’s work and life demands increase so much that leaving the office or home results in a major loss of productivity.
- The conference organization’s infrastructure, business expenses and conference costs grow faster than revenues.
- The conference organization needs to increase staff which grows faster than revenue.
- As conference organizers concentrate marketing in highly successful areas, secondary and tertiary target markets are ignored thus causing the conference’s brand to become lesser know in those areas.
- Conference hosts try to offer programming for a variety of market segments offering something for everyone. Results are achieved by concentration, not splintering.
- The conference experience has become status quo, predictable and stale. Loyal attendees are now going to competitor’s conference because of their buzz and better quality.
Go For The Low Hanging Fruit
Low hanging fruit refers to an attractive market that is easiest to reach.
Why take the risks of climbing a tree when there is high quality fruit within reach at the ground level? You don’t need a ladder. Don’t need additional help. No risk of falling. And you probably won’t bruise the fruit.
Attempting to steal a rival’s market share actually has advantages. For example, you don’t have to convince a former conference registrant about the value of attending a conference.
Pursuing buyers who are already inclined to register for a conference and are accustomed to travel, lodging and other expenses is a rational and intelligent strategy.
The challenge is for the conference hosts to spot the right target buyers. Then they have to position their conference as one with a better experience, quality programming and qualified registrants.
Why do conference organizers try to offer something for everyone instead of concentrating on the top two or three target markets? How do you feel about trespassing on conference competitors for new registrants?
Traci Browne says
I buy competing conference names on google adwords/LinkedIn…and I’m perfectly OK with that!
Ciaran - Meetingsbooker.com says
I would be inclinded to find a niche topic that is not covered already by a conference or at least many conferences rather than trying to steal other attendees.
I think a lot of people like to mix up their events and might attend one conference this year and a competiting one the following year.
Great article though, you know your stuff!
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for reading and commenting. What I’ve found is that people are becoming more sophisticated with their conference selection. They go to the ones that are being cutting edge and innovative. They won’t rotate to another conference unless it’s demonstrated that they will offer something fresh and new.