The study profiled marketing channel spending of business-to-business exhibitors from small to large-sized organizations, across all exhibition industry sectors, including hospitals and clinics.

In a series of special reports, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research recently released its latest one – “The Marketing Spend Decision”.  This was interesting to me because of the proliferation of all the medical tourism conferences popping up all over, Dubai, Jordan, Puerto Vallarta, London, Greece, Tunisia, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

This study profiled marketing channel spending of business-to-business exhibitors from small to large-sized organizations, across all exhibition industry sectors, including hospitals and clinics.

The report offers exhibitors an invaluable tool to determine whether their marketing expenditures, objectives for exhibiting and success metrics align with industry norms, and helps to set expectations and objectives for the return on investment (ROI) of exhibiting.

More than 640 executives from organizations that exhibited at trade shows answered the survey.

Ninety percent of those surveyed said the top ranked important objectives for exhibiting were the following:

  • To reach/ identify new customers/sales leads (If there are no medical tourism consumers at the event, this won’t happen. If the facilitators present don’t have any business to steer, it also won’t happen!)
  • Build product/company awareness, but the objective must be clear. (To whom are you generating brand awareness? Your competitors?)
  • Meet with existing customers. (If they won’t be there, is the conference the right conference in which to spend money?)

Though both marketing and sales metrics were used by an overwhelming percentage of exhibitors to evaluate the success of exhibiting, sales metrics prevailed as the most important success metric to management, according to 78 percent of surveyed executives.  Six out of 10 exhibiting companies used the number of sales closed after the show as a success metric. For most of these exhibitors, two-thirds, the sale needs to occur within six months following the event to be counted towards the ROI of that exhibition.  I would argue that most medical tourism conferences produce little, if actual “sales” of medical tourism cases to consumers. At the same time, to the conference organizer, it represents 100% success when a hopeful or inexperienced medical tourism seller or destination buys a stand for the right (or wrong) objectives.

Findings indicate that the business-to-business exhibition channel was the marketing channel of choice among brand marketers who include this channel in their marketing mix. In 2013 and 2014, this channel captures more than 40 percent of marketing dollars.  Yet, in medical tourism, the business-to-business channel means marketing to medical tourism facilitators. Many facilitators have no business to speak of, have no volume to spend and have no brand recognition as a seller of medical tourism. Those that do tend not to grace every exhibition with their presence.

Median spend per exhibition in 2014 was estimated to be $20,000. That does not take into account additional travel costs, shipping, customs duties, printing of materials and conference SWAG, set up and tear down contractors, etc.  It also begs the question, why are expereinced, published and renown industry speakers expected to travel to and prepare presentations at most medical tourism events without compensation?

The most popular digital marketing tactics exhibitors reported engaging in with the most popular tactics including e-mail, 74 percent, social media, 63 percent, websites/microsites, 56 percent, and online advertising, 48 percent.

Data suggested the conference industry continues to recover from the economic downturn. Exhibitors are slowly adding exhibitions, though cautiously. In 2014, the median number of exhibitions participated in was five, an increase from four in 2013, and is projected to remain at five in 2015. Given the newness of medical tourism sector development and the disproportionate share of conferences, exhibitions and congresses, I doubt that medical tourism exhibition participation for exhibitors or facilitators is in the 5 per year frequency, on average.

Results indicated that the median booth size will not budge beyond the 100 NSF dimension in 2015.  That means that super exhibitors like THTC from Turkey and others are spending far more than the average of USD $20,000 per event. I wonder exactly what turnover is the result of each show where “diamond” and super exhibitor sponsorship is committed? It should be 20x to 30x attributed to each show.

The expectation of little organic growth among existing exhibitors is affirmed when evaluating the typical size of an exhibitor’s booth to the size of the exhibitor’s booth of the prior year.  Overwhelmingly, roughly 70 percent or more of all exhibitors used the same booth size as in the previous year. Only one out of 10 increase their booth size and less than 10 percent decrease their booth size.

If you’d like to take a look at the report for yourself, you can find it at: (IAEE members can get their copy for free.)