Joyce and GED16

Opinion piece – from Joyce Dimascio, Chief Executive of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA)

In a world that’s ‘always on’, the landscape has shifted for marketers.

Historically, the relationship between a brand and its customers was largely transactional. The lion’s share of the marketing budget went to advertising and the product with the catchiest tag line or most memorable jingle won the day – and ultimately market share. But this has all changed.

It’s no longer about who can stand out with the best advertising campaign; it’s who stands out as a brand worth starting a relationship with. Now, and in the future, true value for both brands and customers will come from engagement – a long-term and enduring relationship that benefits both parties. Think Apple.

We have never had more opportunities to connect. The Internet and social media has helped to break down the barriers of time and distance and literally brought the world – and its people – to our fingertips.

And while the digital age has been both celebrated and derided, like most things in life, it’s a balance between the positive and the negative. We decry the growing invasion of work into our personal lives, while at the same time revelling in our ability to converse and share our life’s moments in real-time with those who matter most to us.

Relationships that stand the test of time are based on trust and shared values. They are forged in our physical world and strengthened and enhanced by our digital world. Digital tools supplement, rather than replace, real personal connections. They enable us to maintain and nurture our relationships on an ongoing basis.

Our business relationships are no different. They too are built on trust and shared values and are strongest when established in-person. Again, technology is the enabler of added value.

In this new world, trade and consumer expos and the exhibits, conferences and activations within them, stand out as ideal channels to establish such relationships. In the words of Seth Godin, ‘If you’re serious about engaging the customer, you realise that the most valuable moments you can have are when the customer is using your product, on the phone with you, actually engaging with you’.

No other marketing channel engages all five senses at once. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently found that 98 % of young exhibitors see a unique value in trade shows that cannot be fulfilled by other marketing channels. At a tradeshow, your customers can see, touch, hear, smell and taste what you have to offer. They can speak with someone directly about their experience, ask questions, give you real-time feedback. And, best of all, exhibitions bring your most active prospects and customers to you! With an average dwell time of five to six hours, visitors to an exhibition have the intent (72 per cent) and the authority to purchase or influence purchasing (83 per cent). There really is no better place than an exhibition to engage with your target market – particularly one this interested and motivated.

Exhibitions are true marketplaces for businesses to thrive. They are one of the truly cost-effective marketing channels around and yet, I believe, the most underutilised in core marketing strategy. Our research shows that trade events count for just 9 per cent of marketing budgets, but return 23 per cent of business.

The power of exhibitions to drive trade, export and investment opportunities, economic development and employment is well understood. Governments are getting it to varying degrees. Industry gets it. It’s time exhibitions took their rightful place in the marketing mix.

Globally, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) estimates there are around 31,000 exhibitions held each year, which welcome 4.4 million exhibiting companies and 260 million visitors. In Australia, EY found that in 2013/14, exhibitions, such as OzComic-Con, CeBIT Australia, and the Good Food and Wine Show, contributed $3.1 billion in direct expenditure, $1.5 billion in direct value add and generated over 21,000 jobs.

Last week on 8 June 2016, the world came together for the first-ever Global Exhibitions Day (#GED16) to celebrate the power of exhibitions and their valuable contributions to diverse sectors of the economy, business growth, national prosperity, and, of course, marketing strategy.

1. EEAA Team L-R Sandra Stocken Rebecca Ius and Joyce DiMascio

On 8-9 June, the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) also sent a strong message to the world, showcasing its support for the global campaign with a series of events, including its annual high-level business forum – the EEAA 2016 Leaders Forum. Influential speakers from business and government include Deloitte Access Economics, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, James Pearson and Federal Minister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment, Senator Richard Colbeck.

Exhibitions are an ideal place to start a great business relationship and our digital world gives us the tools to sustain and nurture that relationship over time. If engagement is what you’re looking for in your marketing strategy, exhibitions should be a cornerstone of your marketing mix.

We’re ‘always on’. You can start the relationship anytime!