How Event Attendee Acquisition is Evolving in 2018

The good news? Thanks to a stronger economy and growing demand, all signs this year point toward continued positive growth for the meeting and events industry – and likely beyond too.

But the not-so-good news is increasing attendance remains a top challenge for most event organizers. Exhibit Surveys has previously reported that 57 percent of event executives say “growing attendance” is their top challenge.

So what are event organizers currently doing to acquire new attendees? And what should they add to the marketing mix going forward?

Here’s a look at how the attendee acquisition landscape is evolving in 2018.

The Evolving Attendee Acquisition Mix

For years, email marketing has been the dominant marketing channel for attendee acquisition. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research Cost to Attract Attendees report, 84 percent of event organizers cite email marketing as their preferred channel. The report also indicates email and direct mail still make up the largest share of event marketing budgets – about half of the budget for all types of events.

As email and direct mail have become so ubiquitous, they’ve become less effective. So as event organizers looked for additional cost-effective ways to reach new audiences, they’ve turned to other digital tactics.

The 2017 Attendee Acquisition Benchmarks and Trends study, conducted by Exhibit Surveys, Lippman Connects, and Trade Show Executive Magazine found nine out of 10 events use the following six marketing vehicles:

In addition:

Measuring the Effectiveness of Digital Channels

But with the addition of more channels, measuring effectiveness still remains a big challenge. Specific to social media promotion, the 2017 Attendee Acquisition Benchmarks and Trends study also found only 29 percent of respondents thought social media was a “very effective tool” to increase attendance. Sixty-four percent acknowledged social media has been “somewhat effective.”

Part of the reason measuring the impact of digital or social media success is tricky is because numbers like impressions, increases in followers or content views, or the number of “likes” don’t always easily translate to trackable attendee registrations.

As organizers look ahead to 2018, there is a new channel emerging that’s making it easy to attract new audiences and convert more prospects – all with built-in, easy-to-measure metrics.

Enter the Growing Importance of Social Referral Marketing

The concept of social referral marketing is simple. Attendees and exhibitors can be an organizer’s BFF, advocating and spreading the word about your event for you – and ultimately helping to increase attendance.

Social marketing referral tools built into the registration process make it easy for attendees and exhibitors to share your event with their networks. Organizers benefit from an expanded audience reach without the costly spend of more direct mail or email marketing and can see direct, tangible results.

For event organizers tasked with increasing event attendance, social referral marketing is a win-win to solve the age-old challenge of attendee acquisition while cutting through cluttered inboxes.

Want to learn how social referral marketing could work for your event? Contact Tamar Beck at for a demo!

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