– Skip Cox, Exhibit Surveys’ genial road warrior, President and CEO

His organization has been acknowledged as the premier intelligence and measurement resource in the events marketing industry. In addition to his responsibilities at Exhibit Surveys, Skip serves on the boards of The IT Event Marketing Community and the International Association for Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). Skip’s finger is on the pulse of our industry because he’s so often attending shows in a variety of vertical markets. That’s why I invited his views on what challenges and opportunities are facing this industry today. But first, I wanted to find out how it all started:

TFT : What service did Exhibit Surveys’ founder, Richard Swandby, seek to provide?
Skip Cox : Dick was an engineer by profession, and had always focused on numbers and research. The company he was working for at that time asked for his help with methodology for gauging the effectiveness of their trade show program. At that time, “research” had never really been applied to trade shows in any formal way; it was all much more simple. Dick was looking for answers to questions like “What’s working and what’s not?” This quickly grew to include determining the potential value of specifi c shows, and developing justifi cations for exhibiting at those shows. But initially, Dick Swandby’s main idea was “How can we do a better job?”

TFT : What were exhibitors doing before your company came along?
Skip Cox : Not much. The predominant attitude of exhibitors back then was “How many leads did we get, and what’s the value of those leads?” Exhibitors either got a lot of people or they didn’t, and decisions about the value of particular shows were made basically on gut level feelings. When Dick fi rst started promoting the idea of more intelligent show analysis, a lot of show organizers were against Exhibit Surveys doing this.

TFT : Why should a trade show exhibitor invest in research?
Skip Cox : From a marketing mix point of view, it’s a different environment. Bottom line, you as a trade show or event manager are competing for dollars against other marketing opportunities available to your company. Exhibitors just don’t have the budgets that once existed, so they’re looking for ways to cut costs. Exhibitors are also looking for the right places to spend their money. And with the increased emphasis on online marketing taking place right now, trade shows are going to have to continue to earn their keep. We’re able to provide our clients with a great deal of data that supports the value of trade shows, and demonstrating how effective events can be in driving purchase intent and leading to sales.

TFT : What can companies expect to improve through use of research?
Skip Cox : To start, it’s the tactical stuff, strategy and approach. As an example of that, I can point to the healthcare industry, where we’re seeing a great deal of “rightsizing” going on. Most companies are in the right shows, but they’re over or under invested in certain shows, based on what the audience is for that show. Effectively balancing an exhibitor’s resource allocations comes from using research to find the size and value of the audience. Dave Egan the head writer at Writers Direct Group, a full-service outsource writing resource for live trade show presentations, product demos, website content and other written- or spokenword business communications.

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