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Comparing Physical And Virtual Trade Shows


At Focus.com, Alex Gonzalez posed a question about the pros and cons of physical and virtual trade shows.

I’d like to share an insightful answer posted by Steve Gogolak, Director of Solutions Innovation at Cramer.

Pros/Cons as an attendee

Travel – the convenience of not having to travel is great for the participant. What’s even better is being able to invite a colleague who may be interested despite not having any intentions to visit the event. It’s the “hey, Jerry would really want to see this” moment realized.

Experience – this is highly dependent on the effort put forth by the booth owner. A lot of booths fall flat in a virtual world, but the same is true in the real world. If an exhibitor understands how to use the features within the booth well, it will make for a good experience. The use of self-directed video is a great example here. The more an attendee browses through video, the more fulfilling the experience. Chat is functional and generally gets the basics across, but will not be comparable to an in-person experience until two-way video is an option.

Privacy – browsing privately is much less intimidating online than in-person. The biggest opportunity an exhibitor has with a visitor is in the attract loop. In a virtual booth, the visitor can be presented with a finite “pitch” regarding what the booth is about. They remain captive for 30-60 seconds as the watch the video, which is effectively qualifying them as a lead (if they bolt, they weren’t interested anyway). It’s hard to stand in a physical trade show booth for a minute and not be bombarded by sales people.

Pros/Cons as an exhibitor

Cost – oh where to begin. A smart exhibitor will shift funds away from travel, employee time and expensive scenery to content production. More content that is suited specifically for a virtual booth is what the best exhibitors will focus on.

Reporting – this has already been mentioned, but near-real-time data about who is in your booth, who has visited and what they did is readily available. Similar results can be achieved in the real world with RFID systems, but the cost is near prohibitive for all but the largest companies. The data that emerges from a virtual booth can keep your sales team busy for weeks worth of follow up.

Commitment – I haven’t seen that many exhibitors really commit the time to understanding what they are doing in side of a virtual booth. They need to see it as a mini-website. An extension of their online presence, targeted for the specific audience that is attending the event in question. The reality is that 95% of the time commitment is spend in content development since the actual tools to “build” the booth are so darned easy to use. In my opinion, the limiting factor is always the content, not the technology.

Re-purpose existing content from other marketing initiatives. As Dennis mentioned, you’re online… so use the assets you already have available and treat the booth as a traffic driver, feeding highly-qualified traffic into your other marketing nets.

View the original Focus.com discussion here:

http://www.focus.com/questions/marketing/live-vsvirtual-trade-shows-pros-and-cons/

About Steve Gogolak

Marketing & Communication is my passion because I love to tell stories. I love to see the look on someone’s face when I’ve hit a chord that resonates with their needs, wants and desires.

Marketing is changing. It is moving further and further away from the “blah blah blah” of a bullhorn in the hands of large companies with big budgets and more toward the targeted messages and subsequent conversations between real people and real buyers. In short, marketing is “getting real” in a big way. What does that mean? It means that companies with remarkable products and services that demonstrate remarkable passion for their buyers’ needs will succeed more quickly – and those who rely on bullhorn-style marketing to force feed their buyers will not.

I’m passionate about marketing because real stories told by real people sell – fast and frequently. I tell stories and I help my clients tell theirs every day.

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