A trade association experienced a significant decline in exhibit space sales and attendance, followed by several years of no growth or further decline. The association wanted to take a deep dive inside its annual event to understand the factors contributing to the show’s decline. The goal was to make strategic recommendations to revive the event and improve its competitive position for the future.
Defining the Potential Audience
To start, the team defined the potential for attendance growth that could stem from the industry’s core market of buyers. Using NAICS codes, we defined approximately 30,000 attendee companies that comprise the show’s core market. By comparing these companies against the list of registered attendees, we found that only 4% the of companies in this total universe attended one of the past three shows.
We conducted a similar exercise by identifying those organizations in the association’s marketing database who had either never attended or had not attended the past three shows. It was discovered that only 10% of organizations in the potential universe were represented in that group.
Expanding into New Regions
The next step in the process was to review the geographical representation among attendees. The comparison revealed growth opportunities, like the Southeast region, which had the highest number of potential attendee companies but the lowest representation among attendees at the last three shows. The region was underrepresented in the association’s marketing database.
Through our research, we know the average attendee travels a specified distance to attend a show. This show had been on a regular rotation between the host cities of Chicago and Las Vegas, but the association had not held its event in the Southeast. Furthermore, an analysis of the directly competing regional events found that their weakest competitor was in the Southeast.
Reaching Untapped Potential
Armed with a more detailed understanding of the true market potential in the Southeast, as well as insights gained from research among non-attendees, the association expanded its attendee marketing promotion.
By adding a Southeastern venue to the show’s rotation, and by reaching out to the untapped pool of potential attendees, the association was able to increase attendance in the first year by 22%, and then by an additional 16% in the second year.