According to the results of our 2015 Economic Outlook Survey, which gauged the opinions, expectations, and experiences of nearly 400 exhibit and event professionals, the future of face-to-face marketing is bright, despite a statistical stagnation of both marketing budgets and the number of regional, national, and international shows at which companies plan to exhibit. In fact, 87 percent of exhibit and event marketers are confident that their company's trade show programs will achieve increased returns in 2015. By Travis Stanton
arlier this year, Kiplinger released a relatively optimistic economic-outlook report for 2015, citing stronger consumer spending, a growing jobs market, and lower energy prices as key drivers of a predicted 3.3-percent growth in the U.S. economy. According to the report by David Payne, a staff economist for The Kiplinger Letter, consumer spending in the fourth quarter of 2014 grew at the fastest rate in more than eight years, and consumer confidence is at a seven-year high.
Here in the exhibition industry, there's a similar outlook. In fact, exhibit and event professionals' economic optimism has more than doubled in the past six years, and face-to-face marketers seem confident that their programs are on track to generate increased returns in 2015.
But despite their optimistic countenance, the nearly 400 exhibiting companies surveyed report something of a statistical stagnation. The number of regional, national, and international trade shows at which survey respondents plan to exhibit is essentially unchanged, compared to 2014. And while roughly one-third of companies report their 2015 exhibit-marketing budgets are larger than last year, 24 percent are decreasing their spend, resulting in a bit of a budgetary wash. Furthermore, 18 percent of companies anticipate reallocating a portion of their 2015 exhibit-marketing coffers to other marketing activities in the coming year, signaling that when all is said and done, this year's spending levels may end up equal to (or slightly below) those of 2014.
That said, there are a few undeniable silver linings to look forward to in the coming year. First, while almost a quarter of respondents report smaller exhibit-marketing budgets for 2015, the vast majority of face-to-face marketing budgets are holding steady or growing. Additionally, one-half of respondents have at least tentative plans to purchase a new exhibit in 2015, with 24 percent reporting definite plans to pursue a new build. Lastly, nearly nine out of 10 exhibiting companies are confident that their trade show programs will achieve better results this year than last, citing everything from improved execution, better booth staffing, and enhanced lead-tracking capabilities to improvements in the economy, increases in show attendance, and reductions in exhibit-related expenses as justification for their optimism.
The following pages contain key data points from our 2015 Economic Outlook Survey, along with a handful of participants' quotes.