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If you build it, will they come?
By Cam Bishop, CEO
As a creative agency, Ascend Integrated Media has produced more trade show and event-related material than any other similar agency or service in the world. We’ve been doing this for 30 years now.
That history involves developing and publishing show daily newspapers for more than 700 associations, event and trade show owners. That’s more than 2,200 editions when each event or trade show averages a two- to four-day publishing cycle. We’ve published event daily newspapers for as many as 10 consecutive days, as we did at the Sundance Film Festival.
Coupled with that, each year, we create and deliver some 300 or more exhibitor guides, event programs, show directories and catalogs as well as city guides, membership directories, maps, media and exhibitor kits and other collateral print material.
But as we enter the digital age, our publishing work in the digital and mobile world has grown exponentially. Interestingly enough, none of this new work in digital has been at the expense of print work. To the contrary, it all has been completely in addition to print and a complement to print products. Print and digital media truly do go hand in hand and all the research, especially as it relates to the medical and health care community, points to the fact that that is exactly what users and readers want and expect. As we say here, it’s about delivering content “when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.”
However, a problem readily arises, as we’ve seen with many other digital and mobile vendors serving the trade show and event market. Those vendors simply want to hand over a digital product to their customer — the trade show or event client — to populate with content and make it available to the audience without any sort of promotion surrounding it.
From what we are seeing, this rarely works. It is not a good value for the show/event owner. Time and time again, we have seen that just because you build it and make it available — whether it’s a WAP, native app, website or digital directory or guide, seldom will they come and rarely in any number that is meaningful for the event or any company that might choose to spend their marketing dollars on-site or app advertising or sponsorship.
That’s why we advise our clients that every digital product needs to include an audience-development strategy. The digital product and the audience-development strategy are simply inseparable if the goal is to maximize use of the digital media.
For our clients, audience development covers a diverse range of tactics from email blasts, links, website buttons, event signage, event material advertising and text messaging programs, and we advise our clients to begin promoting the existence of these digital resources sometimes many months in advance of the event. Even including information on the availability of digital media in initial registration materials. Perhaps even more important, asking attendees to provide cellphone numbers and to opt in to show-specific text messaging. Traffic stats prove that some combination of these audience development actions is a highly effective process.