Dave Lutz, CMP
Push to Pull
Marketing’s traditional four P’s
are product, price, place, and
promotion. Promotion is push, or
outbound marketing, where the
goal is to convert a percentage
of the number of impressions, or
eyeballs, via an ad or campaign.
For years, this marketing tactic
has been losing its effectiveness.
Consumers are much better at
fast-forwarding through commercials, deleting HTML emails,
and ignoring ads both online
and in print.
Savvy conference organizers
are shifting marketing spend
to pull- or inbound-marketing
strategies like thought
This strategy aligns with word-of-mouth marketing’s new three
E’s: engage, equip, empower.
ON THE WEB
Review “Customer Acquisition
vs. Retention Costs: Statistics
and Trends,” an infographic
from invesp, at convn.org
According to Convene’s most recent Meetings Market Survey, on average 6 percent of a meeting’s
direct expenses fall in the marketing/
promotion category. After studying 100
or so meetings’ profit and loss (P&L)
statements in great detail, I can confirm
that this expense line item varies greatly.
Some organizations spend as little as
2 percent and have a very healthy conference product, while others rack up
spending in the 20- to 25-percent range
and are on life support.
This variability begs the question:
Why such a big difference? Here are
four insights we’ve learned from analyzing the marketing-spend category:
1 Marketing spend for conferences
with an expo is usually closer to 6 percent. Expos with a conference are more
likely to be in the 12-percent range.
2 When a conference has a strong loyal
attendance base, the marketing budget
should be no higher than 6 percent.
3 Organizations with marketing spend
of 20 to 25 percent usually have a 132-
page final program. They also spend a
lot on list buys and ad placements. Leadership often thinks the answer to their
attendance problems is to earmark even
more spend for attendance marketing.
4 Spend in this category doesn’t
contribute to the value proposition for
attendees. They value experiences like
food and beverage, speakers/entertain-ment, and learning environments with
If your conference loyalty is less than
30 percent (“loyal” meaning having
attended two or more of the last three
annual conferences), your problem is
likely not marketing but rather learning
and networking value. More or better
marketing can’t fix this. Marketing tac-
tics that are gaining favor for increased
effectiveness and ROI include:
› Alumni campaigns Targeted messaging and offers to attendees from the last
year or two.
› Group campaigns Special offers and/
or experiences available to organizations that send five or more participants.
› VIP invitations For those who qualify,
special invitation-only offers that
include upgraded experiences.
› Content marketing As opposed to
promotion, content marketing is more
of a thought-leadership play in which
you help your customers and prospects
without expectation. In the long run,
you earn their loyalty and preference.
› List enhancement List buys or trades
are rarely effective. Moving forward,
more associations will hire interns or
contract DaaS (Data-as-a-Service) providers to improve customer and prospect intelligence and segmentation.
› Retargeting Savvy marketers are
testing retargeting based on consumers’
previous internet actions. While the
effectiveness of retargeting likely will
be low for a premium conference, it can
be helpful for introductory freemium or
lower-cost products and services.
› Less print This one is a no-brainer.
Some organizations have a tough time
ripping off this Band-Aid due to ad
revenue. The bigger issue is that they’re
selling something that’s not moving the
needle for advertisers nor embracing a
digital-first strategy. .
Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director
of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,
More Marketing Isn’t the Answer
Increasing your marketing spend isn’t going to get you more
attendees. Focusing on the learning and networking experience will.