In the B2B space there are two primary segments that leverage the traditional exhibit business model — conferences with an expo and expos with a conference. Based on our deep analysis of dozens of shows, the former are the event business models being disrupted most. From our view, most industry mega-shows continue to thrive.
The slow death of expo revenue is not an indicator that meetings don’t mean business any more. Many of these conferences still have high deal-making value. Much like a Macy’s department store closing in a mall, the retail industry is healthy, but brick-and-mortar stores are on the decline.
Marketing effectiveness has evolved from push to pull. Here are five evolving trends and stats in the B2B-buyer journey that are impacting expositions.
1. Ninety percent of B2B buyers don’t respond to cold outreach. This means that if you’re allowing exhibitors to send an e-blast to your entire registration list, nine out 10 of your paying attendees tune-out. Instead, exhibitors should be encouraged to make targeted outreach with customers/prospects they already know. They should also do campaigns that make new prospects curious about the solutions being showcased. Exhibitors who calculate ROI based on number of leads will be difficult to retain.
2. Three out of four B2B buyers conduct the majority of their research before talking to a salesperson. “Kicking tires” happens much later in the process today. The online listings for your exhibitors should be rich (descriptions, links, images, and videos) and searchable. Product/service categories should be updated to match up with the queries of your profession’s buyers today.
3. 74 percent of B2B buyers choose the sales rep who was the first to add value and insight. This means that helping is valued over selling. Booth personnel should be consultative, not salesy. In-booth education, white papers, and solution-based demos will be valued greater than a chance to win Alexa. Exhibitors who don’t participate in education don’t get this one.
4. B2B buying is a team sport — an average of 5.4 people are involved in the decision. This means that there are a lot more influencers walking around. Exhibitors are going to need to be careful to not disqualify prospects based on title or tenure. My favorite insight about influencers is that they can’t say yes, but they can say no.
5. 75 percent of B2B buyers rely on social proof for validation. Online reviews, peer recommendations, and ratings have never been more critical to the buying process. Nurturing existing customer relationships (and making them the hero) during conferences can help attract others like them.
If you have a conference with an expo that is in decline, consider shifting from an expo/trade show/marketplace to a solutions center. At a minimum, this shift can help slow down the decline. Instead of forcing the expo experience with exclusive show hours, food & beverage, and give-aways as a lure, make it an irresistible learning destination that educates your participants and makes them smarter buyers.
For more, read Christopher Ryan’s post “The Evolving Journey of the B2B Buyer” on the Customer Think Blog at convn.org/evolving-B2B-journey.