November 6, 2017 by Dave Lutz
A strategic look at your marketing spend, as well as what you spend on your attendee experience, can be telling. According to Convene’s most recent Meetings Market Survey, on average 6 percent of a meeting’s direct expenses fall in the marketing/promotion category. After studying 100 or so meetings’ profit and loss (P&L) statements in great detail, I can confirm that this expense line item varies greatly. Some organizations spend as little as 2 percent and have a very healthy conference product, while others rack up spending in the 20- to 25-percent range and are on life support.
This variability begs the question: Why such a big difference? Here are four insights we’ve learned from analyzing the marketing-spend category:
If your conference loyalty is less than 30 percent (“loyal” meaning having attended two or more of the last three annual conferences), your problem is likely not marketing but rather learning and networking value. More or better marketing can’t fix this. Marketing tactics that are gaining favor for increased effectiveness and ROI include:
Marketing’s traditional four P’s are product, price, place, and promotion. Promotion is push, or outbound, marketing, where the goal is to convert a percentage of the number of impressions, or eyeballs, via an ad or campaign. For years this marketing tactic has been losing its effectiveness. Consumers are much better at fast-forwarding through commercials, deleting HTML emails, and ignoring ads both online and in print.
Smart conference organizers are shifting marketing spend to pull, or inbound, marketing strategies like thought leadership/content marketing. This strategy aligns with word-of-mouth marketing’s new three E’s: engage, equip, empower.
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2017
Which marketing tactics have shown increased effectiveness and ROI for your conference? What new channels are you using when shifting dollars from print?
Filed Under: Attendance Marketing, Business Model
When you say “marketing” are you counting both offline and online marketing in the same percentage? Mostly curious to see if you had any info on the typical breakdown here.
Also, do you think it would be more wise to put more effort into programming, rather than inbound marketing like the post suggests?
Jordan, thanks for reading and for the questions! Marketing spend percentages in the post do include all channels – print, digital, design, postage, etc. We haven’t been able to pinpoint a breakdown or benchmark between digital and analog. Some of the major expenses (design) are more omni-channel expenses. No question, however, offline (print) is decreasing across most shows. Mostly this is due to thinner advance and final programs.
On your second question, I think you need both. Without stellar programming, content marketing designed to leverage inbound will likely be weak in relevance and thus have low conversion.
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for taking the time to respond!
More marketing is certainly not the answer, rather correct marketing that ensures a good ROI. An excellent article. Overspending is not the answer!
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