What Should Your Attendees Cost?

Convene recently asked, "How much should you spend on marketing your meeting?"

According to Dave Lutz, CMP, and managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, it depends.

"After studying 100 or so meetings’ profit-and-loss statements in great detail, I can confirm that this expense line item varies greatly," Lutz says.

"Some organizations spend as little as 2 percent and have a very healthy conference product, while others rack up spending in the 20- to 25-percent range and are on life support."

According to Lutz, you should:

  • Spend 6% of your total budget on marketing, if you have an expo; 12%, if you don't.

  • Spend 6%, at most, when you have loyal attendees.

  • Lutz notes that large conferences with hundreds of speakers typically spend 20-25% of their total budget on marketing.

    We have a simpler formula: regardless of your event's budget or size, or whether you have an expo, spend $100 per attendee (give or take a few bucks).

    There will be exceptions, of course; times when you must spend more (if you are starting up an event, for example; or targeting C-level attendees only); and times when you can spend less (when, for example, you're running what's essentially an expo, but calling it a conference because that sounds nice).

    How did we learn our-rule-of-thumb?

    Experience. Tons of it.

    And quite a bit of original research, too.

    CEIR reports that average attendee-acquisition costs currently range from $14 to $20 per person.


    Our own past research, done in the 2000s, showed acquisition costs then ranged from $68 to $80 per person.

    An attendee acquisition cost of $100 per person today is just about right.

    Influencers Can Boost Your Event's Attendance

    Influencers now occupy a central role in the event marketer's mix, writes Elizabeth Johnson in TSNN.

    Johnson asks three event-industry veterans to describe how influencers function to attract attendees.

    Ed Several, senior vice president, Reed Exhibitions, says influencers often function like teachers who help attendees "understand how best to participate in an event.”

    Renee Lewis, president, Infinity Management Group, says influencers function like restaurant and movie reviewers and represent "the most powerful way to convince new attendees to attend.”

    Bob James, president and chief storyteller, Bob & David James, says influencers "amplify" your marketing messages—provided you help them do so.

    Don't leave influencers to their own devices. Befriend them before your event, welcome them on site, and treat them like valued members of the trade media.

    “Be ready with soundbites, avoid jargon, and help them shape the narrative," James says.

    Read the full story here.

    New Survey: Email, Direct Mail Members' Faves

    Email is association members' favorite marketing channel, according to a new study by Edge Research.

    The firm asked over 1,000 members to rank marketing channels by preference.

    One in two (56%) chose email. The member's age is not a factor (41% of Millennials, 49% of GenXers, and 48% of Boomers chose email over other channels).

    One in three (32%) chose direct mail.

    Only one in four (26%) chose social media.

    The study also found:

  • Email also is the leading choice of "super members," "rank-and-file members, and "value seekers."

  • Millennials and GenXers want more frequent communication than Boomers.

  • "Loyal members" want detailed updates more than twice a month.

  • Two additional findings of the study should freak out any association marketer worth her salt:

  • One in two members feel absolutely no connection to their association.

  • One in two also feel that associations' content is imersonal.