The online revolution – can event marketers adapt?

The event marketing world is changing quickly. Digital, like in many industries, is shifting the emphasis from traditional channels, such as trade shows, and rewarding those who communicate effectively online. That’s all well and good for those who are quick to react. The question is – do the traditional channels, in an age-old industry, have what it takes to survive?

A changing landscape
The shift towards digital in all walks of life is marked. According to ZenithOptimidia, Internet advertising spend grew 5.5% to $537bn, and now accounts for almost 25% of all global advertising spend. Advertisers everywhere are shifting their priorities online to maximise profits.

This shift reflects the preferences of consumers, who are moving online to buy. The effect of websites such as Trivago and Secret Escapes, who have revolutionised marketing for the travel industries, or Expedia for hotels, shows how billion pound industries can be turned on their heads. A similar trend is emerging in the events industry.

Consider the fact that in the past 12 months there were an average of 1,600 Google searches for the term “event venues” every month, whereas in the previous year – November 2012 to October 2013 – there were an average of only 1,000 each month; that’s a 60% increase this year in people going online to find venues.

Venues and event suppliers react
Sellers in the industry are reacting, and it’s not all about Google search. Social media use has grown exponentially. Analysis shows that 64% of venues on Hirespace.com have a Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin presence, an increase of 13% since the company launched 18 months ago. There are currently 1,774 Twitter profiles for venues in London and counting.

The event industry has also been quick to embrace partner companies which offer instant access to an online visibility. Hire Space currently takes on around 20 new venues in London every week – an 18% increase on this time last year. The site’s Digital Marketing Series, designed to equip venue managers with basic online marketing skills, has also seen a 20% increase in views month on month.

Data winning the day
Ultimately, the shift online is not just about generating sales. The data provided by online marketing activities gives valuable insight to marketers. Marketers can see how many buyers have clicked through to their website (or venue profile, in this case), and how much each one individually has cost. They can see which advert inspired these buyers to click, and what they found most appealing about their offering. They learn their audience’s gender, average age, and location. They can build a picture of their online audience, and quickly start to drive costs down through more efficient advertising.

Traditional channels, most threatened by the digital channels, can struggle to provide that clarity. Tradeshows, for instance, are notoriously hit and miss for venues and suppliers. An off day means that and not only is spend lost, but little objective customer insight is gained.

Can the industry adapt?
The good news is that the internet marketing battleground is still open to everyone. Venues, caterers and event production companies are embracing it quickly. Some established marketing players are too: industry publications have reacted with engaging, content rich websites and strong social media presences. The channels are especially powerful in combination. Even those coming late to the party still have time to shine, and there’s plenty of good advice out there on developing an online strategy.

Those who don’t want to change, though, are likely to struggle. Ultimately the events industry is about relationships, and new ones are being formed online every day. Being in the right place at the right time is key. That means inhabiting a new, dynamic world where knowledge is gained and decisions are taken. It means ranking well on Google for “venue hire” or “great wedding caterers”, or leaving a positive impression with an event organiser while he or she is browsing Facebook on their mobile phone on an idle Sunday.

This is easy enough to achieve for those willing to invest in it. The forward thinking are already reaping the benefits. For everyone else, the decisions they make in the coming weeks and months could have a big impact on their long term prosperity.

Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Author

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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