by Matt Alderton | April 26, 2013
Although events and trade shows remain a “vital part” of the marketing and customer engagement mix, senior marketers say they’re challenged to measure and prove ROI, according a new study by the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA), the results of which were released this week.

Titled “Customer Attainment from Event Engagement,” the report — conducted in partnership with the CMO Council — is based on a survey of 260 brand marketers, as well as interviews with 21 senior brand marketers and 11 meetings industry experts. Among its key findings:

• Eighty-nine percent of marketers say events still hold some level of importance and value for their organizations, with 31 percent considering them essential.

• Events are primarily viewed as revenue-driving opportunities, with 64 percent looking to source new prospects; 62 percent hoping to gather and cultivate leads; and 61 percent seeking face-to-face meetings with clients and prospects.

• While marketing still finds value in events, 40 percent are cutting back on big shows in favor of more targeted gatherings, and 44 percent are choosing to host their own events.

• The top challenges faced by marketers with respect to events and trade shows are making a business case for investment (45 percent) and managing the escalated costs associated with them (39 percent).

“Events and their ability to host intimate, face-to-face dialogues with customers, prospects, influencers and even competitors remains critical to many marketers across a multitude of industries, but until very recently, the same rigor and attention to measurable return have not been enforced to define the return of investments,” says CMO Council Vice President of Marketing Programs and Thought Leadership Liz Miller. “What this study demonstrates is that marketers’ attention is shifting, and now is the time to begin moving down this road of defining and tracking the value of event and experiential marketing.”

The reason that marketers struggle to measure trade show ROI, the survey shows, is that they lack visibility into the conversion pipeline to determine how events are impacting sales and revenue. Although 42 percent of marketers are happy with their CRM systems, the primary metrics that are being considered — referrals/introductions, leads and deal closures — aren’t tracked by them, according to E2MA.

“The exhibit and event marketing medium needs to develop generally accepted practices for measuring outcomes from face-to-face marketing efforts,” says E2MA Executive Director Jim Wurm. “It is imperative for marketers to obtain and employ exhibit and event marketing analytics to inform the value of their spend and guide them on their future investments. This study is the first step in a process meant to make exhibit and event marketing measurement a fundamental component of every marketers program.”

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