Gone are the days of the in-person trade show. Marketers and sales people knew what to expect, prepare for, and deliver at a physical trade show; and virtual fairs attempt are meant to have the same type of deliverable. But do you treat them that way? Let’s explore a few pros and cons of virtual events, and you can decide the quantity and quality of sales leads a virtual trade show can generate.
Trade Shows Were Always More Than a Booth.
In-person trade shows are more than an exhibit booth. In order to maximize your presence and investment at a trade show, it normally takes a team with focused efforts to make a trade show produce sales leads. Here’s the breakdown of trade show worker assignments:
- Work the trade show booth during exhibit hall hours.
- Walk the trade show floor to meet other exhibitors for possible partnerships.
- Attend any of the ‘open’ sessions to gain insights into the industry…and network with attendees.
- Go to as many after parties as possible to meet attendees.
- Walk the show hallways, taking breaks to start conversations with attendees.
2. Speaking Engagement
- If your company was lucky enough to get a speaking engagement, your team of sales people were meeting and greeting attendees in the break-out room.
- Press announcements are conducted in a special room for editors.
- If there’s a press room, leave an electronic/paper press kit for editors.
- Invite press to the booth to educate them on your solution.
4. Sales Funnel Advancement
- Place participating customers and key prospects together for lunch to provide in-person case study discussion.
Now, that’s not to say every company does all of these trade show activities. If you did implement most of the activities, virtual fairs will be challenging as they are singular in focus. If you’ve only exhibited at your own booth in the past, virtual fairs may prove beneficial.
Virtual Fairs Are More Singular In Focus.
Virtual fairs have only just had a very recent inception. There are many features to virtual event software, and most hosts of these events are still trying to figure out how to maximize their use. When the benefits are not apparent to the exhibitor, most will take a pass and hope next year’s in-person show will be better.
Recently, a customer shared their reluctance to exhibit at a multi-company trade show they’ve attended for the past 15 years. With just one month to showtime, only 5 exhibitors had signed up… including them. The number of registered attendees was not released, even when multiple inquiries were made.
However, single-company hosted virtual fairs show signs of success. Here are a couple of examples:
A food manufacturer recently sponsored an “innovation day’” The event had taken place in previous years in-person, in a singular facility. However, with the virtual event, all of their locations were able to participate. The best part was receiving management support, encouraging employees to attend. The exhibitors were allowed to market to the internal list, explaining what they would see and experience. The turnout was high; with plenty of virtual visitors coming into the virtual “booth”. The exhibitors were beyond pleased, and the event generated plenty of interest.
Getting a speaking engagement at a virtual fair can also prove to be profitable, because of the wider audiences that attend. A single speaker at this food manufacturer’s event, who didn’t even have his own virtual booth, was flooded with new opportunities that came his way and helped his business grow after the online fair!
Making Changes to Old Marketing Habits Is Always a Challenge.
These examples only cover 2 of the 10 ways to work a virtual trade show. Plenty of other online publications have found that virtual events have higher signup and attendance rates; and that exhibitor information stays online for approximately 90 days in case anybody missed the day of the show. That’s a feature most trade shows have never had available in the past!
If virtual fairs are to become a major staple for B2B businesses looking to generate leads, however, that means companies must invest more in production. You must make it easier for your prospects to consume content. So instead of investing in excessively-decorated booths, tchotchkes, travel, hotels, and food, you’ll need to reallocate your physical trade show funds to video production.
Will you actually get something from it? That’s hard to say… but ironically, you’ll be a lot more sure after the show about whether or not the event was an effective lead gen tool.
After physical trade shows, you might have a stack of business cards but you might not have much more information to go on for each lead. Online, you can see video and email newsletter analytics right off the bat! Suddenly you can tell for certain which leads are actually interested. Because if they aren’t, then they’ll unsubscribe. Lead gen data doesn’t get much clearer than that.
The Only Bad Action Is Inaction.
Even if you’re still on the fence about trade shows versus virtual fairs, the only wrong thing you could do is nothing at all. A/B test different marketing tactics– especially this year, since all that trade show marketing budget has to go somewhere else for a change. This is the perfect time to evaluate your current sources of sales leads, and even experiment with new ones.