CEIR Sneak Peek Luncheon – A Smorgasbord of Insights on Trends Influencing Marketing and Impact on B2B Exhibitions

CEIR Sneak Peek Luncheon – A Smorgasbord of Insights on Trends Influencing Marketing and Impact on B2B Exhibitions

Missed out on the CEIR Sneak Peek session at #ExpoExpo? Read what research CEIR has in store for marketers in the exhibitions industry!

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC, Senior Research Director, CEIR

Executives who attended the CEIR Sneak Peak Luncheon held at Expo! Expo! in San Antonio in November 2017 were given a lot to munch on, both delicious food and thought-provoking insights. Dr. Sam Potolicchio, Director of Global and Custom Education, McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University offered an eclectic mix of insights that are influencing marketing in America today, both on a conscious and a subliminal level. His lecture was followed by reactions from panelists Kelly Kilga, CEM,  Vice President, Meetings & Events of NPES/Graphic Arts Show; Jeff Davis, Vice President, Informa Global Exhibitions; Thad Lurie, CAE, CIP, Vice President, Business Intelligence and Performance at Experient; and Meg Grant, Senior Vice President, Digital Defense, offering an exhibitor perspective.  The audience also engaged in lively discussion. This blog summarizes the key themes that came from his lecture and panelist commentary.

Dr. Potolicchio first summarized key points relating to the B2B (business-to-business) exhibition industry he distilled from the qualitative research completed recently for CEIR’s CMO/Senior Executive Research Study. He also pulled in data from other relevant CEIR research.

Perceptions Opportunities Threats
B2B exhibitions – support primary marketing objectives F2F helps penetrate the information glut For companies with high market share, know their prospects – exhibiting is not as urgent, calls into question ability to achieve marketing, sales objectives via other F2F marketing options
Fortunes of the exhibition industry will continue to be tied to the performance of the economy B2B exhibitions – highly valued for marketing in new markets, fragmented markets with many prospects, where market share is low Scrutiny of ROI/ROO metrics will increase. Increasing ability to track metrics will drive this
Larger companies that exhibit face challenges with consistency and politics across silos, impacts how they exhibit, and means selling exhibits to them varies on a per company basis B2B exhibitions – highly valued where relationship selling is key Cost to exhibit is expensive relative to digital alternatives. Begs the question of using digital touchpoints vs. F2F touchpoints, makes it more urgent a need to prove the ROI/ROO of exhibiting

Trends that May Threaten B2B Exhibition Industry

Dr. Potolicchio then went on to identify significant, disruptive trends that are in play in America today that impact the environment in which B2B exhibitions operate:

  • Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections.
  • Rise of tribalism in America – the ability to personalize media content and more sophisticated segmented marketing approaches are enabling like individuals to engage and connect, and limit their information to their ‘tribes.’
  • Rising power of the opinion of crowds, a growing disdain and distrust for institutions and people, and diminished appreciation for experts.
  • People today are on ‘autopilot’ when consuming content on mobile devices. They do not realize that a content provider could be manipulating them, using a psychological technique called priming that funnels an individual to a desired outcome – whether seeing only what they want a consumer to see or triggering a behavior. Consumers will need to step away from this content, ‘get outside their own heads’ to minimize falling in to these tricks or traps.


Trends that May Help the B2B Exhibition Industry

At the same time that Internet sources dominate in how consumers access information content; another trend is occurring suggesting that consumers are disengaging from social media somewhat. Is its primacy plateauing? Facebook has been incurring systematic declines in reach per posts as well as on a reach per cost basis.


Though digital is pervasive, it is not necessarily as effective as F2F marketing. As metrics become more precise, perhaps they will demonstrate the power of F2F marketing in achieving desired business outcomes.

CEIR’s CMO/Senior Marketing Study will assess the effectiveness of F2F marketing at B2B exhibitions for different marketing objectives compared to alternative digital options.

Though Amazon is the e-retailer behemoth of today, will it continue to prevail or will it trigger anti-trust concerns? Dr. Potolicchio thinks it will be the latter.

At this time its impact on retail is substantial and it is having an impact on exhibitions that serve this sector. It is an area to continue to monitor to see how B2B exhibitions evolve with it.

Panelists commentary relating to impact of trends discussed on B2B exhibitions:

Maintaining Relevance of Channel

  • The growing lack of trust will make organizers work harder to prove, keep the trust of their exhibitors and attendees.
  • To remain relevant, efforts are essential to shift with changes in exhibitor goals. Also need to shift with how attendees want to experience an exhibition. Another panelist encouraged organizers to be proactive, go on the offensive to bring in elements of live marketing that are known to work, acknowledging that the live event platform is very strong today.
  • People want to connect, want to belong. We surveyed our members, and people don’t want fewer events, they want better events, better quality leads and connections. This comes down to attendee experience. We have to make it more of a community. We’re being bombarded by a lot. Trade shows may look more antiquated, so how do we do things that we are first at doing them in the most exciting way, not stealing genius from other sectors?

Need for Better Use of Data

  • Analysts should be with sales and marketing people, not in the basement so the right data helps support better decision-making. For example, we were looking at how to support a sponsorship revenue growth goal. An analyst provided a data dump which negated a heavy hitter strategy, NSF approach. Instead it was shown a middle class (of exhibitors) that wants to grow is the area to grow sponsorships. Saw that in the Excel file. Need to empower the analysts as a way to plan more effectively.

Meeting Exhibitor Needs

  • The declining efficacy of Facebook as a marketing medium resonated with the exhibitor panelist. She also agreed that she is being challenged on proving the value of exhibiting at her organization. She encouraged organizers to look at ROI more broadly, measure everything: “Both qualitative and quantitative. Don’t just look at leads, number of appointments, sales conversion, but also getting in front of industry analysts, media interviews, chance to speak. Look to measure attribution to a trade show, not just tracking a lead to sales, other channel touchpoints, we now track ‘influence’ e.g. PPC ad lead capture, visits to booth. Getting face time with tech providers that we integrate with, value add resellers are important to us.”
  • Today we are speaking to the marketing person at exhibitor companies. It is now a more consultative conversation. This is a shift and it is a lot of work. We need to understand their needs, provide the data, make sure they are happy during a show, provide post-show data. It is labor-intensive, takes away from working with other exhibitors.
  • With heightened focus on tracking metrics, it is wise to focus on ‘quality’ over ‘quantity.’ Measuring ‘meaningful’ is harder and is more subjective. Though it is in the interest of organizers gaining a better understanding of what ‘meaningful’ is to most exhibitors.
  • Senior Marketing Executives have more power today in the board room given the digital revolution. Through social media and other data analytics, they have insights others do not. Organizers need to provide these executives with the data that got them to where they are today.

Virtual vs. F2F

  • Virtual conferences, distance learning – we know F2F meetings are very different. Trust building, sincerity, demonstrability, lack of body language reading, etc. Virtual is not as impactful. There is something to be said about the statistic that F2F is 34 times more impactful than email.
  • Virtual does not deliver high ROI, 30% that register is a good turnout rate. Virtual is not as a successful type of event. However, another panelist notes virtual can be a very effective distance learning setting. Distance learning programs with electricians – 27% of those who went through were less likely to make mistakes on the job. We need to segment opportunities for virtual and weed out where it is not a good option.


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