Conference Spending Cuts Continue: Six Tips for Marketers

by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

I predicted in a previous post that recent concerns with government conferences and travel would spill outside the responsible agencies and impact spending overall, making it more difficult for federal marketers to leverage events in their marketing programs. Those who thought the restrictions would be limited to events hosted by the government itself, or to specific recent offenders like GSA, should follow this topic closely and consider the potential impact on their marketing plans.

On Friday, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, released a memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies (not just GSA) regarding the efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Highlights include:

  • In FY 2013, each agency must spend at least 30 percent less on travel than in FY 2010 and maintain this level through FY 2016; savings will be used to increase transparency and investigate abuses, a detail that will likely make federal employees less eager to leave the office. Agencies have 90 days to report on proposed travel reductions and also must specify how they will make these reductions sustainable in their FY 2014 budget submissions.
  • Agencies are being directed to focus on expenses related to attendance of Federal employees at conferences sponsored or hosted by non-federal entities. Many of the new rules require approval for high-dollar spending and increased transparency of expenses.

This comes on top of the House’s approval of the DATA Act in late April, which includes a provision that would cap spending on nonmilitary travel to attend a conference at 80 percent of fiscal 2010 levels. And let’s not forget about proposed changes to ethics rules that could force contractors to face many of the same limitations previously intended for lobbyists.

If lead generation events are important to your marketing mix, here are six recommendations to consider based on our reading of these evolving situations:

  1. Stay Local – Federal employees are going to be less inclined to hop on a plane in this highly charged environment.
  2. Go On-Site – Give agency tabletop events another look. They’re cost-effective for everyone, and there’s no risk for an employee to attend an event held in his/her own building. immixGroup’s Agency Expo program can help you here.
  3. Keep it Simple – If you host your own events, avoid flashy venues or anything that looks or sounds over-the-top. Be conservative and stay on the right side of the lines or you can expect low registration and attendance numbers.
  4. Stick Together – Your prospects will be more comfortable attending events sponsored by multiple vendors to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Find one or more complementary vendors with whom you can co-brand your events and share costs. immixGroup frequently creates multi-vendor events and trade show kiosks to make this easier for our clients.
  5. Go Virtual – Targeted Webinars should play a larger role in your programs as agencies are explicitly instructing employees to turn to the Web to reduce travel costs. immixGroup offers several flavors of turn-key webinar programs for clients. The key is to make them relevant to your intended audience.
  6. Go with a Chaperone – Ethics rules favor events hosted by third-parties such as media companies and non-profits. We have seen tremendous success with these and can find or create events that fit your marketing plans and objectives.

To learn about any of these programs, contact your immixGroup account team or email me at

4 Responses to Conference Spending Cuts Continue: Six Tips for Marketers

  1. Pingback: Air Force Cancels AFITC Conference « Government Sales Insider

  2. Pingback: New Research: Best BD and Marketing Practices of Winning Government Contractors « Government Sales Insider

  3. Pingback: Two Upcoming Events for Federal Marketers « Government Sales Insider

  4. Pingback: Three Reasons to Cut Your Trade Show Marketing Budget « Government Sales Insider

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