Industry Economics

More than ever, the industry needs trade events

In the electronic security business, technological advancements continue to play a key role in moving the industry forward. As companies continue to collaborate and develop technological advancements, without the ongoing exchange that takes place within the security distribution channel, there would be industry stagnation— an undesired effect given today’s economic outlook.

While there are pockets of good news and bright spots on the horizon, security spending is expected to be down overall—with the notable exceptions of government and education. Many companies are adopting a wait-and-see approach to purchasing security systems while dealers and integrators are challenged with increasing their sales in 2009.

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According to a recent survey released by the Advertising Research Foundation of New York, purchase intent—a customer’s stated interest in buying a product—is on average 34 points higher among attendees who actively interact with a brand at business-tobusiness events compared with those unaware of the brand. Nearly half of attendees felt they had an emotional connection with the brand after interacting with it at a tradeshow—a 31 percent increase from the 15 percent who would have made that claim regardless of whether the brand exhibited or not.

To a manufacturer, that is valuable information. The impact of pre-recessionary spending in advertising and marketing to maintain market share and brand awareness diminishes when marketing campaigns cease. Now is not the time to limit spending and, essentially, go dark. Of all of the marketing vehicles available, industry-specific trade events offer a multitude of opportunities that invest in a company’s future. Some mistakenly believe that during these times, cutting an ad or marketing budget cures all ills. In fact, it only provides a short-term gain, which will undoubtedly come at the expense of the long-term future of the business.

Increasingly, industry events, such as the upcoming 2009 ISC West in Las Vegas, are finer-tuned and longer lasting as they bring together decision makers from more tightly defined industry categories, responsibilities, areas of expertise and topics of interest.

Consider a recent Forrester Research survey that indicates that more executives are going to more events and relying on them more heavily. In fact, 94 percent of executives attended at least one trade event or conference in 2007—nearly 20 percent higher than in 2001. The more senior the executive, the more days he or she devotes to live events, according to the survey. Seventy-three percent of top executives spent five or more days at business events and said “tradeshows provide a window to their industry.” Top executives rank business-to-business events as the No. 1 place for learning about new products, services, providers and potential allies.

Opportunities and Advantages
Considering the sales and marketing options that companies are weighing in their budgetary spending, an industry event, which accomplishes the following five critical elements, provides the best opportunity:

Show/Exhibition: the largest microcosm of what’s new, what’s happening and what’s next, and an excellent barometer of where the industry is headed and who is leading the charge or changing the direction.

Buying: provides access to executives who have purchasing authority and is the best place for new products and services to make their debut to the most targeted buying audience.

Knowledge/Learning/Conference: attendees obtain industry insight from the biggest names on the most cutting-edge topics—a veritable cornucopia of industry forecasting, best practices and viewpoints.

Professional and personal development: offers the greatest opportunity to develop, maintain and grow a relationship for both personal and company gain.

Marketing: offers numerous marketing and public relations opportunities for your company, brand or product portfolio.

Technology has expanded the reach, utility, frequency and connection available through a wide range of events that include seminars, conferences, award shows and 24/7 online event components. A short video demo turns into a 365-day sales pipeline. These online and database technology offerings, such as, extend the marketing channel globally and in real time. The advantage is the opportunity to get support in maximizing connections with customers—all with measurable results and analytics.

But the paradox is that events have a higher priority in executives’ schedules than in marketers’ budgets, and that’s a gap worth closing. The mindset must be shifted from spending money on media that gets headlines to media that drives commerce. Driving commerce means investing wisely in business media by putting events front and center and then by surrounding the audience with a combination of brand and product advertising in other media such as publications and Web sites.

Closing the Gap
According to the American Business Media, 85 percent of business marketers report more qualified leads from integrating industry-specific events and media. Yet, attendees and executives are dedicating a higher percentage of their time to industry-specific events and media than marketers are dedicating their resources.

More customer time and attention yields more marketing opportunities. In 2009, business decision makers intend to increase industry-specific trade event resources to 58 percent while marketers plan on increasing resources by only 40 percent. Additionally, business decision makers plan to increase their resources on industry-specific Web sites to 63 percent while marketers plan on increasing their resources by only 45 percent. The companies that can close this gap and ensure that they are allocating money and resource strategically will come out the winner.

Tough and challenging economic times are not when to bury your head in the sand. Now is the time to strategically and proactively spend money wisely on tactics that drive commerce, integrate your message and, ultimately, help to gain market shares.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Security Today.

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