Make Events Count with Strategy & Creativity

Last week the energy industry descended on Orlando for the annual gathering of hearts, minds and large-scale installations known as Distributech.

Walking the exhibition floor, it’s easy to get swept away in the beauty, size and spectacle of exhibits.  Major players sport massive displays that dwarf their neighbors. Smaller entities fill the space with more modest displays. Countless tables offer flyers, pens and other branded materials—begging passersby to stop, listen and learn. A decidedly different approach, but who’s to say which is most effective?

The eternal question for an industry in flux. Grid modernization, the integration of renewables and the entire business model of utilities in question mean shrinking budgets across the board. It’s the same story we’ve heard for a while now—do more with less. 

The good news is that energy marketers are trying. This year’s DTECH boasted a record 11773 attendants from 67 countries and 400 utilities. In fact, MG’s 2014 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report identified event marketing as the most used marketing program overall. While there’s no questioning its popularity, many may question its impact. The same report showed that nearly half (40%) do not measure event success. That means no viable ROI and no way to determine which events are the best use of program budgets.  While 83 per cent of respondents believe that events are effective for lead generation, there’s a serious lack of data to support that assumption.

If lead generation is the goal, then major shows like DTECH are the battleground. With a four to one ratio of vendors to utilities, the competition for the time and attention of potential customers is stiff. Sadly many exhibitors failed to capitalize and differentiate. Row after row looked more or less the same, featuring an indistinguishable parade of products and sales people. Instead of telling stories that connect, most opted for the mainstays they’ve used for years. 

 One who got it right this year was Sensus. Their booth was attention-grabbing with functional flair. It featured a familiar game that taught prospects about their product features and how it compares to the competition—sans all the dry brochures, power points and stuffy videos. Visitors walked away knowing the value Sensus can deliver, and that is powerful. #nobottlenecks These are the companies you want to talk to. They get it.

To be clear differentiation doesn’t have to mean bigger, better, more—it can simply mean more creative, or strategic or thoughtful. There’s room to try a new approach in an industry undergoing major change. Next year I look forward to seeing more examples of creativity, strategy and information coming together.

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