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.


    Baloney.


    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.

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