Virtual trade shows combine some interesting elements of both inbound and outbound marketing.
Recently I convinced a firm to participate as a Sponsor for a virtual trade show run by a professional organization serving their industry.
Compared to a live trade show, the virtual version provided some distinct advantages, as well as some eerily similar behavioral analogies.
Firstly, there are obvious cost savings in travel, lodging, meals, shipping, logistics, downtime and dead tree media.
Beyond that, a number of distinct advantages occurred. For starters, the price tag was about half the comparable expense for a live in-person event, yet the traffic was higher than any of the dozens of events we had done in the same year. I suspect the low price is partially due to the reduced production cost, but I can’t help wondering if prices are artificially low and might inflate in the next year or two, as virtual trade shows catch on and sponsorships become more of a premium (the old supply vs. demand conundrum). I guess time will tell.
Operationally, the virtual event had some distinct characteristics I really liked. For example, exhibitors had the ability to:
- post all manner of media – video, white papers, demos, brochureware, available for unlimited download and access, and all without killing any trees.
- empower virtual booth attendants – the sponsorship package we selected permitted the creation of 3 avatars, each represented in real life by myself and two colleagues, who would take turns “staffing” our virtual exhibit – that is, being online to receive automatically generated alerts each time a visitor accessed our virtual exhibit, and operating a chat window feature provided with the virtual exhibit.
- track and nurture visitors – Most importantly, exhibit and show traffic was better than any live event over the past year, and it was all visible to us, not only during the event but for up to 90 days after the show dates. We could see who had accessed each type of content, how long they visited, and any questions they had logged or discussed in chat sessions. Any time a visitor logged in, we could see what content they were accessing and make some determination about how best to follow up. Genius!
This last feature is roughly the equivalent of having a dedicated micro-site, laser focused on a specific audience, complete with profiling, analytics, reporting and live alerts. All data was stored and accessible in spreadsheet format for easy download and transfer to our in-house CRM software. All for the same price.
If all this is not sufficient testimonial in favor of virtual trade shows, consider: the professional organization whose virtual event I sponsored has decided to make their big annual conference a virtual event too.
Pre-event training offered by the virtual event company was well worth attending; it kept us out of the woods and guided us in attaining successful results.
Have you sponsored or managed a virtual event? What has your experience been?
Author note: since posting this article and linking to it from the MarketingProfs community on LinkedIn, a lively discussion thread has started *over there*. People are commenting on the importance of face to face communication and networking opportunities afforded by attending a live event. Others are commenting about the ease and efficiency of managing and qualifying virtual event attendees’ dataflow. If you are a member of LinkedIn, consider joining the MarketingProfs group. They are an engaged forum and a wealth of information.
Or, leave your comments here and I’ll compile and update the article in a few days. Thanks! ~Ed