In July, Evolio Marketing and Lippman Connects published “Attendee Acquisition and Event Marketing Survey Report,” offering a glimpse into what 89 event marketers have on their minds and on their drawing boards as the pandemic wears on.
What is insightful about the results, said Evolio Marketing President Joe Federbush, is that they demonstrate that “many organizers and associations realize they must advance their attendee acquisition and marketing skills to be more impactful, efficient, and effective, by investing in both people and tools to maintain, grow, and attract new audiences.”
Nearly half of the respondents are at the director level, one out of five identified as being an executive vice president/vice president/general manager, and more than a quarter are managers. They work in a range of industries — industrial, education, consumer goods, and health care, among them.
Nine out of 10 (91 percent) held a virtual event between March 2020 and June 2021, yet only slightly more than half (54 percent) said they were successful in meeting their organizations’ objectives. Two out of five said their virtual events were somewhat successful, and 6 percent said they were unsuccessful.
Fifty-seven percent plan to hold a hybrid event in the near future, and nearly one-third said they are unsure. Eleven percent said they are not planning to incorporate an online element in their in-person event, citing costs (“twice the price to have it in person and virtually,” one respondent wrote in) as the main reason, in addition to an overall lack of effectiveness.
More than 60 percent of respondents said they are well-prepared — while 22 percent think they are somewhat prepared — to handle attendee acquisition and event promotion challenges for their upcoming hybrid events. The biggest challenge, of course, is understanding the differences between online and in-person attendees, followed by developing new or improved digital marketing strategies to reach new attendees.
Not surprisingly — considering only around half of them deemed their virtual events a success — respondents are itching to bring in-person events back. More than a third of respondents plan to increase the number of in-person events they hold — and more than half plan to keep the same number of in-person events — compared to what they’ve held in the past, pre-COVID. Only one in 10 plans to cut back on the number of physical events they will hold.
Some of the new approaches to attendee acquisition, cited by a majority of respondents, will be digital and targeted marketing, email marketing automation, and social media.
What jumped out to Lippman Connects President Sam Lippman from the study results “was the need so many organizations have for new staff with new skill sets.”
Indeed, more than one-third (35 percent) of organizations represented in the study will be hiring staff to address new roles and skillsets for their upcoming events in such areas as digital and general marketing, data analytics, sales, technical/IT, and AV.
Lippman, producer of the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) and other events for trade-show executives, sees this as a very positive sign. “These new hires,” he said, “will certainly improve how we market and produce our events — and will extend their reach.”
The fact that event marketers recognize the importance of developing new skills offers “one more proof point,” Federbush said, “of how the event industry is evolving, and that we must stay ahead of the curve — let alone keep up — in the new normal.”
Respondents who wrote in said they are seeking talent to cover such developing areas as CX (customer experience), video production, demand gen (which focuses on brand awareness and product education vs. lead generation, which is focused on converting prospects into qualified leads), and audience development — plus innovation. One respondent is seeking to hire an innovator “who [can] come up with new ideas for the organization or team,” and would be particularly helpful “at the start of a project or when the team is stuck.”
Definitely a skill for our times.
- To learn more about the study, contact Joe Federbush, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.