The Value of Event Data: Part 1

I read an article by Mike Blackman, Managing Director of Integrated Systems Events, regarding the value of an event’s registration data.  I found it very interesting and thought I would share it:

Tread carefully when considering whether to rent or sell your attendee data to third parties, says Mike Blackman, managing director of Integrated Systems Events.

“Big data.” It’s a phrase that entered into common usage a couple of years back, when it seemed the only companies seriously bucking the recession trend—at least in the Western world—were those engaged in the acquisition, processing and subsequent exploitation of customer data.

Whether data is your core business, as it is for companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, or an increasingly important part of it, there’s no denying the power of data to shape customer behavior and influence purchasing decisions.

As trade show operators, we are all in the fortunate position of requiring our event attendees to provide us with certain data before we allow them entry. Of course, the length of any given registration form, and the number of fields the organizer chooses to make mandatory, vary significantly from market to market and from show to show. But over the past few years we have all, in our own way, become holders of “big data.”

Many show organizers treat their data as a saleable commodity that contributes significantly to the creation of an aesthetically pleasing bottom line. Whether they perform third-party mailings on behalf of customers, rent their lists for a one-time promotion or sell some or all of their data outright will depend, again, on the nature of the event and the market it serves.

We all spend a lot of time and valuable marketing dollars bringing customers to our events. Why shouldn’t we reap additional rewards from gathering the data those customers bring us, above and beyond having a busy trade show floor?

Well, there are two very good reasons why not. The first is legal and ethical. Depending on which country your event is located in, local data-protection legislation may prevent you from distributing your data to any third party. Simply including an “opt-in” on your registration form for third-party mailings may not be enough—again, depending on the location, such an option may not have any legal weight behind it.

And, even if you do abide strictly by the law, there is the question of visitor sentiment. An attendee who tells their colleagues “I went to Gua-Gua Expo and ever since then I’ve been spammed every day” is not just an unhappy customer who may never return—they may deter other people from coming too.

Setting data-protection issues aside, the second reason to be wary is a simple business one. Just as data is Facebook’s biggest asset, so it is for an event organizer. In business, now more than ever, you are only as strong as your contact book. You may think you are selling your list to an exhibitor who is a customer rather than a competitor, but who knows where all those e-mail addresses and phone numbers will go after that? One possibility is that they will end up in the hands of a rival event organizer.

Even if you only rent your list, you will not be able to control the promotional messaging. Who’s to say that what is being promoted might be an exhibitor-led event that might ultimately compete with yours?

Short term, there’s no doubt that the revenue from selling data can enhance an event’s profitability. Long term, it jeopardizes customer loyalty and, in extreme cases, can end up being commercial suicide.

Mike Blackman, CTS, is Managing Director for Integrated Systems Europe.The event, ranking number 9 in the 2010 Top 25 Fast-Growth Shows list, sits on 22,760 square feet of exhibit space and attracts 28,489 attendees.  You can read the original post here:  http://www.expoweb.com/article/value-event-data-part-1

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