Smaller Event Audiences are on the Way
May 10, 2012 2 Comments
We’re starting to hear how the recent GSA event scandals will impact the ability of government employees to attend our marketing events. If you rely on trade shows, conferences, seminars, and other in-person events to interact with your federal customers and prospects, you might want to take another look at your marketing mix.
I’d start by reading the article Jason Miller posted today on FederalNewsRadio.com. The good news, if you can call it that, is GSA employees will still be able to travel to staples like GSA Expo, ACT/IAC’s Management of Change Conference, and other events over the next four months (albeit with specific rules and restrictions). Even with this allowance, approvals will be harder to get, and GSA workers will be encouraged to use other means to communicate.
Miller cites an April memo in which acting GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini announced the suspension of travel to various events unless certain criteria, justifications, and budget restrictions are met. That’s understandable on both practical and political grounds.
More ominous for federal marketers is the specter of GSA’s top-down review of agency operations, which will include a close look at the travel policy. Miller’s sources speculate that “GSA participation in vendor dinners or events will be much lower, maybe by more than half.” So much for marketing ROI.
So far, I’ve only heard specifics about how this will impact GSA employees; the agency has “cancelled more than 35 conferences” already. But I don’t think it will stop there. DoD killed its annual procurement conference. NOAA solicited, and then stopped, a bid solicitation for a magician for its June leadership conference, earning more negative press at a time when government events didn’t really need it. Early reports from this week’s DISA conference indicate lower attendance numbers. We’ve seen this at other recent shows that are not connected to GSA.
We continue to recommend that IT companies take another look at virtual marketing activities and look for teaming opportunities to sponsor conferences, trade shows, and hosted seminars with complementary vendors. We have several programs in place to support these types of initiatives and make it easy (and cost-effective) for our clients and partners to pull them off. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re worried about how these changes will impact your marketing spend or lead generation activities.