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editorial




 
"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." 
- Bill Vaughan

n the grand scheme of things, there's nothing particularly remarkable about Jan. 1, but we all seem to view it as a rebirth, the day things are magically going to change, or (for some) the morning we will likely wake up with a hangover. Regardless of how you celebrate or prepare for the new year, it does represent change, at least to some degree. After all, the only thing constant is change. And the only thing the new year promises is movement and evolution, for better
or for worse (along with a month of writing the wrong year on your checks).

The movement most Americans are hopeful for is of the economic nature. For several months already, people have been speculating that 2010 will be a year of re-growth at best and stabilization at worst. In the trade show industry, exhibit managers hope for increased marketing budgets and salaries, while suppliers share similar hopes since budgets beget buying. And according to results from BtoB's 2010 Outlook report, those hopeful exhibitors and suppliers just might get their wish. The report, released last November, indicates that while 58 percent of marketers were forced to cut their budgets in 2009 (with the majority of cuts seen in print advertising and event marketing), 39 percent anticipate increased budgets in 2010. Granted, that doesn't represent an overwhelming majority, but it's comforting to know that an additional 47 percent of respondents foresee their budgets holding steady, leaving only 13 percent who anticipate more cuts.

The majority of survey participants expect budget increases to range from 5 to 14 percent, but a handful of marketers (11 percent) predict budgets that are more than 30 percent higher than they received in 2009. The anticipated increases appear to be tethered to hopes and dreams of post-recessionary growth, as 61 percent of survey respondents cite "customer acquisition" as their primary marketing goal for 2010, followed by customer retention and brand awareness at 16 and 15 percent, respectively.

Obviously, not every additional budget dollar is going to be invested in trade shows and event marketing, but the results offer notable optimism for members of our industry. In fact, 35 percent of respondents plan to increase event-related spending in 2010, alongside other marketing efforts that are anticipated to grow, such as online (73 percent), direct mail (38 percent), print advertising (20 percent), and telemarketing (20 percent).

There's also hope in the survey data for exhibit managers who were laid off in 2009. More than a quarter of respondents (26 percent) expect their marketing departments to hire or re-hire employees in 2010, along with an additional 66 percent who predict the head count in their departments will hold steady. That bodes well for legions of exhibit marketers who have spent the past 12 months worrying about falling victim to the recession and losing their jobs.

Unfortunately, this data doesn't ensure growth and stability throughout 2010. It's merely a forecast provided by respondents, most of whom are managers, directors, or vice presidents of marketing for their companies. Will 2010 usher in the resurgence our industry needs? Or is the wishful thinking little more than a series of hopeful predictions made by marketing professionals looking into their crystal balls and seeing what they want to see?

Only time will tell if the survey results actually represent post-recession realities. Until then, most Americans will continue to move forward with two sets of resolutions for the coming year: one rosy and optimistic, another in case of emergency. And, at least for the time being, the ubiquitous "Happy New Year" greeting will continue to carry a question mark at the end.e

Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com

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