Trade shows, conferences, vendor events, channel partner trainings, product launches: chances are, your company either sponsors or attends some combination of these in-person events over the course of the year. In fact, according to Meeting Professionals International, the US spends more than $122 billion annually on corporate events. This price tag exists because these functions are valuable—they’re typically well-attended, and are highly effective at building brand awareness, improving customer relations, and introducing new products and services.
In short, company events are successfully leveraged for a number of different purposes; however, businesses like yours are often overlooking a significant opportunity to find value in these settings—conducting on-site market research.
Event-based research has been a critical cornerstone for numerous enterprise companies, but oddly is underutilized in the corporate landscape as a whole. With nearly twenty years’ experience conducting research studies at large-scale corporate events, we want to help you understand the unparalleled value of this kind of approach.
Event-based research has numerous benefits, most notably:
Location, location, location. If your company sponsors or hosts a national or regional event, it is typically to bring strategically valuable audiences together in one central location. This could be key customers, business partners, employees, sales reps/distributors, etc., but one thing is certain: it represents a tremendous opportunity to address qualitative research needs. Engaging this strategic audience in research ensures:
- Prequalified audience members. The very thing that makes these attendees valuable to your event also makes them perfect candidates for insightful research.
- Central location. Because the audience is already attending your event, travel logistics and geographic distribution are greatly simplified.
- Key staff present. Regardless of the audience, it is also extremely likely that key members of your management and/or marketing team are also in attendance, making it easy for them to observe qualitative sessions.
Cost savings. The benefits of location listed above translate directly into significant cost savings for the project. Researchers have a ready supply of qualified participants, available time blocks in which to schedule them, and no need to travel to several locations around the country (or globe) for the actual sessions.
Shortened timeframe. In addition to cost, qualitative initiatives take time. When you factor in design, recruiting, travel, reporting etc., multi-market focus groups can easily span eight weeks or more. We’ve seen clients reluctantly shelve qualitative efforts (or, worse—attempt to use a quick-turn survey to collect what should have been qualitative insights) because decision-makers view the timeline as “too long.” There is likely no faster, high-quality way to conduct focus groups, usability sessions, or IDIs than leveraging an existing event.
Why not use the opportunity of a competitor’s event to conduct competitive BI research or even to learn about your company’s brand equity among this important audience?
With registration data helping us hone in on key participants (or, in some cases, our trained recruiters present on the floor screening real-time), recruiting is a breeze. Sessions are considered part of the conference schedule, so show rates and engagement are high. Well-designed event research can even include debriefing/presentation sessions with company management at the end of the event, meaning key players can head back to the office ready to implement the research findings.
Content feedback. Strategic announcements of new products and/or services made during the event provide the perfect opportunity to obtain feedback directly from attendees. These insights can then be quickly leveraged to support broader roll-out readiness and marketing/communication efforts. It’s also the perfect place to obtain feedback on the event itself, and provide input for improvements for the next one.
These benefits are easiest to realize when your company is the sponsor of the event, but there are advantages to event-based research even when this is not the case. Your company may be a participating sponsor of an overall industry event, or an event primarily hosted by one of your strategic partners. The audience is still compelling, your key personnel are still likely to be in attendance, and most of the cost savings can still be realized.
In fact, many of these advantages can be obtained when you’re simply aware of an event, or even when it is being held by one of your competitors. Why not use the opportunity of a competitor’s event to conduct competitive BI research or even to learn about your company’s brand equity among this important audience?
The bottom line is that research should be a dedicated part of your event planning. You’ll be hard-pressed to find these cost and time efficiencies elsewhere in your research budget.
Not sure how to set up a successful event-based research program? It may seem a daunting task to anyone new to this approach, which is where we’re eager to help. In fact, our current record stands at conducting 53 one-hour focus group sessions over a three-day event, covering more than 40 topics with five moderators, but we’ve also done two to three sessions at smaller, regional events.
Contact us to learn more about why such clients as Microsoft, HPE, AZZ, Autodesk and many others have engaged with us to develop custom event-based research programs at large and small conferences throughout the world.
Warren Beymer — Vice President, MDC Research