It’s a Small World After All

International dolls

By John Folks

As I flew back from IMEX America last week (http://www.imexamerica.com), I was reminded of what a great industry we work in – not only because of the community of outgoing and fun people we get to work with every day, but because we also get to meet so many interesting people from around the world at events like IMEX. I couldn’t help but be energized by the variety of languages I heard, regional costumes I saw, and interesting snacks I sampled as I made my way though the bevy of booths and international pavilions in the Sands Expo Center. Certainly it’s a vibrant trade show experience, but what makes it truly successful is that business is getting done there. The “hosted buyer” model of IMEX requires us (the buyers) to make (and keep) a minimum number of appointments with our choice of exhibitors over the course of the 3 day show. In exchange for that one-on-one time, the exhibitors bear the cost for our travel to and accommodations in Las Vegas. The benefit to the buyer is the opportunity to learn about new places and spaces, as well as to expand our Rolodex of reliable destination experts, global partners that are critical to planning and executing successful events outside the US.  

Over the years, attending shows like IMEX, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of wonderful people from many different countries and destinations. Cultivating and growing this network has become a passion, and rarely do I travel somewhere and not know someone there. What I find that binds us all together in this industry is our love of travel and discovery, and the joy we get from bringing the world and the people in it a little bit closer, face to face.  And with so many global issues effecting all of us these days, a little face to face time with new international friends helps remind us that despite the news, there are a lot of good things going on in the world, too!  

So, if you haven’t attended (or planned) an international meeting, make a point of doing so soon. But I will warn you, your world will get a little bit smaller.

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To grieve is human, to post-it is, too.

by Max Suzenaar

Steve Jobs Post-it MemorialTributes honoring the passing of visionary Steve Jobs have organically popped up throughout the country – like this makeshift Post-it® memorial at an Apple Store. As the founder of revolutionary technological innovations such as Iphones, Ipods, and Ipads, it seem ironic that even in today’s uber-digital culture, it is the penned word that speaks the loudest volume and projects personal human emotion. Proof positive that even the coolest in “I” technology is nothing without the sensibility of the human behind the “I”.

Searching for Attendees?

Word cloudby Tom Baer

More and more associations have realized times have changed, and are now ready to step up marketing efforts to drive annual meeting attendance back to where it needs to be.  But many are not so savvy when it comes to how to spend dollars that have been shifted to marketing.  Instead of exploring new opportunities, some are still just going with what they know – simply sending out more post cards or conference brochures to the same old tired list.

Time to change the mix.  The first place to add?  Online.  Why?  Because that is the world in which we – and more importantly your potential attendees – now all live.  Remember when people used to fill out and mail in registration forms?  How many do that now?  And if they are registering online, ask yourself, which is likely more effective, a post card where they have to get from their mail to their computer, log on, get to your site and register, or an online ad where they simply click right to your registration page?

So assuming you agree you want to promote your event online, then you have another decision – should you invest in display advertising, search engine marketing, or social media?  The best response would be all three, but that implies you have the budget to do so.  If not, you have to prioritize. 

If this is the case, here’s how you should do so:  1. Search, 2. Facebook, 3. Display.  Search should be your first priority because it offers the best ROI and is therefore more effective for lower budget campaigns.  Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Marketing software company Kenshoo, puts it well: “Search is unique in that it reaches people when they’re in the right mindset. When people search, they’re in between activity on the Web (moving from one site to the next) and actively looking for something. This makes them more open to commercial influence. Display just sits on the perimeter begging to be ignored while consumers engage with the content they’re interested in.”  Admittedly this is a bit of an overstatement regarding ineffectiveness of display – otherwise it would not command more than 60% of internet marketing dollars as it does, but it does illustrate the point.

Facebook shares search’s ability to take advantage of consumers being more “tuned in” to content.  Yes, they are more interested in the “social content” of the page they are looking at, but just being on facebook allows the target to feel you are more in tune with their likes and needs than if your ads are found on non-social sites.  One caveat – if you plan on marketing on facebook, make sure you have a facebook page for your event that potential attendees can visit.

Another great benefit of marketing online is that you can monitor and tweak your campaign as you go, and get a great deal of data to learn from through Google analytics, but that will be the subject of another blog.

Bottom line, if you add online to your marketing mix you should see results.  If you can, invest in all three, but at minimum, test a search campaign before your next event…it will likely provide some of the results you are searching for.