Marketing Budgets: Everything is the Same, Yet So Different.

Yes, it is that time again. Football is back in full swing, the Halloween festivities will soon begin, the kids are back in school in some capacity, the beautiful fall leaves are beginning to turn and it is time to prepare next year’s marketing budget. So everything is still the same and yet somehow completely different this year. However, with that said, you know you have to do this, so Poretta & Orr has some helpful information.

When developing a budget one of the first things you should do is to make sure that all your stakeholders are on the same page, and this year especially, as you’ll have some very different kinds of conversations. Marketing budgets for the new environment resulting from the pandemic will be discussed at length. This means asking the right questions to make sure that your budget aligns with the goals and expectations of upper management. Be sure you are funneling information regarding the many changes that are predicted to be in store for 2021, to the right people.

Some of the questions you should be asking:

  • Are there key conversations about virtual and hybrid events taking place?
  • What about considerations for experiential mobile marketing events?
  • Are the goals and objectives outlined?
  • Is there a baseline and strategy established to determine if you’ve reached your goals?
  • Are you being tasked to do more with less?
  • Do you have contingency plans to adapt to the quickly changing environment that is expected for 2021?

While these are just some of the important questions to ask, once you have determined the goals and objectives for your exhibit and event program for the following year, you can develop a plan that justifies your budget request. This year it will be important to recognize that there are some unknowns, so plan for the unknown too.

You will need to be ready to discuss the future of experiential marketing in a post-pandemic world.  Research seems to indicate that there will be a gradual return to events in 2021, with CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) predicting a full recovery by Q4 2021. While some places continue to open back up to in-person events, other locations are slow to follow. This pattern is likely to repeat itself into 2021.

However, since postponing all events and marketing programs indefinitely is unrealistic, what can you do in the meantime? 

Let’s briefly explore ways you can continue to connect with your target audiences and how you can adapt your marketing spend to the new pandemic standards for hosting safe events, while creating a budget that sets your company’s marketing program up for continued success.


The obvious and most popular choice right now is to utilize a virtual environment. We’ve seen no shortages of conferences, tradeshows and exhibitions move to the virtual experience as short-term solution until face-to-face returns. Most of us have experienced this transition and have found that it isn’t enough to just shift to virtual. Engagement is key and is stronger than ever. Distractions are vast with a virtual event.

When utilizing a virtual platform and producing a virtual experience, here are just a few things to keep in mind.

  • Determine if virtual is right for your event. Don’t waste time and effort if it doesn’t even make sense. Key to helping you determine this is working with the right partner. Experience and in-depth knowledge are needed to produce a virtual experience that resonates with your audience.
  • Budgets are scalable so virtual can be an effective solution for all types of budgets. Work with a partner that will develop a plan for your virtual event that will address your goals and objectives and will utilize options that meet your budget parameters.
  • Keep it engaging. Be cognizant of an attendee’s attention span. There is no doubt that information overload influences the way attendees consume and absorb content so be mindful of this. There are many creative options to include in virtual events that provide networking and stimulating conversations that can lead to leads. While nothing will take the place of face-to-face interaction, there are ways to either gamify the experience, offer giveaways, or include new and exclusive research or information.
  • Virtual can be utilized far beyond the convention halls, as well. For example, many healthcare company’s sales reps continue to utilize their virtual exhibit as educational tools for their office visits or interactions with HCPs. As a result, this becomes a very budget-friendly tool that can be configured for multiple uses.


Hybrid events will be the future. All indications appear that in 2021 you will begin to see an increase in companies utilizing hybrid offerings. This is an approach that includes both a face-to-face and virtual aspect. Developing a marketing strategy that ties the two strategies cohesively together is an important consideration. Not doing so is the equivalent of not sharing information across silos within a company. This is never a good approach and minimizes the effectiveness of your company’s marketing efforts.

Going forward you are likely to see more companies holding a live event for a limited number of people and then streaming that live event or holding a virtual event as well to reach more of their target audience. This also allows content to be available beyond the event, if desired.

At conventions, you will continue to see exhibits that allow for the effective face-to-face options for engagement, furthering sales opportunities and educational purposes. In many cases, face-to-face engagements will be complemented with a virtual exhibit or event. This allows for broader reach, especially globally, as well as the ability for a company to extend its reach by keeping the virtual exhibit open for a certain time period beyond the face-to-face event.

Experiential Marketing

In-person events can still happen and can be produced in a safe, effective way continuing to make it a very viable option. Experiential tours and private events provide the ability to access new areas of your market with a fully immersive brand experience. This allows you to approach your targets on a more regional or local level in a controlled environment. Safety is always top-of-mind at events and this allows for safety measures to be implemented, controlled and monitored. As a result, your attendee’s peace of mind is heightened.

These engaging, non-virtual events take your experiential marketing program on the road allowing your company to reach your target audience face-to-face. Ideal for hands-on product demonstrations, one-on-one interactions or market research. These types of tours or private events influence your targets with memorable, multi-sensory brand engagement experiences and can be created in a budget-friendly manner.

As you are aware, the world of marketing has changed quite a bit over the last 8 months, some of the changes are temporary and some are here to stay. The conversations you are having internally should likely change too. If you are struggling to find ways to engage with your target audience or customers, please be sure to reach out to Poretta & Orr and let’s talk strategy. We have been helping companies develop their exhibit and event marketing strategies for over 30 years and we can help you thrive and connect.

So yes, everything is the same, yet so different this year.

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