Now Is The Time To Rethink Your Entire Event Marketing Strategy
The companies that emerge from these uncertain times strong are those that quickly pivot their business strategy, including the marketing and sales that go with it.
Most of us expected to attend at least a handful of events, trade shows and conferences this year. Over the past few years, live events have exploded as an opportunity to meet prospects, introduce new products, close deals, entertain customers and build your brand.
Even when we go back to working at offices, large gatherings like trade shows will remain on the shelf. Now is the time to start aggressively moving toward digitally transforming your marketing to match today’s new normal.
How do you do that? One way is to consider a virtual trade show experience. Let’s look at this in detail.
First, here is an example of a virtual trade show booth. We did this mock-up for a potential client, and we wanted to share it and all its features with you.
Before we get into the technical details, let’s look at the strategy we’re recommending and the advantages of using a tool like this.
There is some very good news when you move your trade show experience to virtual. First, it’s wildly less expensive. Trade show costs to exhibit can run between $10,000 and $100,000 just for labor, travel, entertainment, swag and more. That doesn’t include the exhibiting fees, sponsorship and more. You could easily spend $50,000 to $150,000 to exhibit at a big show.
You have this money in the budget, and even if budgets are tight now, you can take a small percentage of that money and still deliver a trade show experience.
Next, all that investment typically has a very short lifespan. Most shows are a couple of days, with actual trade show floor time even more limited. Now you can have your trade show booth up 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Even worse, how many shows have you done where you’re not sure about the ROI on the show because the leads you collected or the people you talked to weren’t collected or tagged correctly? How about the sketchy follow-up on leads generated at the show? Were you always sure the reps followed up as designed? Probably not.
All of that goes away when you move to a virtual trade show experience.
We’ve been talking to clients about trade shows for years. We would ask them if they generated leads at the show, and generally their answer was, “We think so.” We’d then say, “Well, if you’re not sure you’re getting leads, why go to that show? It’s expensive, right?”
Their answers were always the same: “If we don’t go to the show, people will think we’re out of business.” We’d always respond with, “Maybe they’ll think you were smart for not coming because you never get enough leads to justify it.”
There is no reason to go to any event, conference or trade show other than to generate high-quality leads for your sales team.
With that understanding, let’s shift our lead generation strategy to take advantage of the current situation. You probably have shows that were canceled. You probably have money you’re not going to get back. You probably also have shows that you wanted to do but haven’t committed to.
Step one is to contact all of those shows and work out a deal to get their email lists. This includes email addresses of registrants for the upcoming event, general email lists in their database and email lists with people who attended last year’s show.
If they are holding your money (and some are), they should have no reason to not share the registrant and/or email list with you. If they are giving money back, they may be open to renting you their list (or even last year’s registrant list). They need to generate revenue creatively, too. They may even be considering alternatives that your virtual trade show booth could fit in nicely.
Regardless, this conversation should produce names of new people who are affiliated with the now-canceled event. Once you have these names or access to these names (if they are going to send an email for you, that’s OK too), you’re ready to go.
Once you have the names of the people who were planning on attending, attended last year or are the perfect target to attend the now-canceled event, you’re ready to go.
The invitation to join you and your company at the virtual trade show booth involves the same set of motions as getting attendees to come by and see you at the physical booth. You want to create excitement, you want to create offers and you want to give them a reason to find you, visit with you and talk to your people at the event.
Here are a few very specific campaign ideas.
Let them know the show must go on, and you’re planning on having a virtual trade show booth for them to visit.
Give them a reason they can’t refuse to stop by and see you at your virtual trade show booth. This should be an offer to get something. It can be exclusive content, discounts, free add-on services or the chance to talk to someone they wouldn’t normally get to meet, like your CEO or an industry celebrity.
Help them understand what a virtual trade show booth is and how they’ll interact with your team via the booth. Let them see a picture of your blown-out booth. Remember, you might have only been able to afford a 10x10 booth in the past. Now you can afford the biggest and best booth on the planet because it’s virtual.
The image here is of a huge trade show booth with features most companies would only dream of having.
Let your attendees know the hours the booth will be manned. You might want to offer a webinar session as part of the show experience.
For example, the booth will be manned from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Each day at noon you’ll hosting a webinar with speakers from the event. The booth will then be open to talk with attendees from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. those same days.
There are two areas for video on this booth — customer reference videos and application- or product-specific videos. You can test different videos, running one the first day and another on day two. You can even invite guests back by changing the video and promotions in the booth.
Not getting the engagement you want during day one? In a live trade show, you’re stuck for the rest of the show, but not with a virtual trade show booth. It’s virtual, so you can change it every day or every hour, depending on response and clicks.
As you keep track of visitors, clicks, mouse drags (via heat-mapping tools), chats, abandoned chats, meeting requests, product demos and video views, you get an immediate idea as to how the virtual trade show booth is performing, and you can make adjustments as often as you choose.
Since this is a website page, it’s as easy as changing copy, changing the videos or swapping images on a website page. It’s very easy to track, very easy to change and very easy to optimize based on visitor data.
Share everything everywhere — yes, on social media, but also on industry websites, association websites and partner websites. Make social sharing and social promotions major campaign tactics for getting the word out. Get the event company to help you promote it on their website or in their email campaigns regarding event rescheduling.
After the event is over, keep the site up on your website. Make it highly visible and keep monitoring it via chat, so that if people stop by, they can get a personal response as needed. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
One challenge with trade shows is working with sales. No difference here. You’re going to need to bring them into the idea, get their buy-in and coordinate covering the booth with them.
One of the ways this works so well is making the booth 100% interactive, which means people can talk to reps via chat in real time, or they can schedule a meeting/call with a rep too. This is going to require tools, but it delivers the interaction people love from trade shows and it does so in a very familiar and comfortable way.
Get sales to cover the booth, and make sure they’re available and not in meetings or on other calls. In the example here, we have “Ask An Engineer” and “Speak With A Sales Rep.” This company needs engineering on call and sales as well.
By routing chat notices to sales, we can quickly engage a rep with a prospect via the virtual trade show booth. We can even route the inquiry to the rep assigned to that account, if those assignments are in place. This keeps continuity to the sales process.
If people want to schedule a meeting for a later day, meeting scheduling tools are available via the virtual booth. Simply pick a time to meet and it’s scheduled. All reps have slotted times on their schedule for meeting with people from the booth.
It’s much easier and much less expensive than buying and producing a real trade show booth. One of these can be done for a tenth of the cost of your physical trade show booth.
Booths typically take months to produce. A virtual booth can be done in a single week and customized for future use, making it even more economical. New show? Change the logo. Want different graphics? Need different videos? Want bigger monitors? Want more interactivity? It’s all doable in days, and for far less money than managing and maintaining a physical trade show booth.
No lighting, no electrical, no astronomical internet fees, no storage fees, no union labor and no card scanner — just constructive, positive and revenue-generating conversations with prospects.
Digital transformation isn’t just for Target, Starbucks and Amazon. Companies like yours need to start thinking about the future and how you’ll interact with your prospects the way they want to interact with you.
It’s possible to create incredibly remarkable experiences that get your prospects to want to do business with just you. A virtual trade booth is one of those ways.