In the current issue of BtoB Media Business, Charlotte Woodward published a cleverly named article, “Face to Facebook“, that highlights the incorporation (by physical event organizers) of digital technologies into the once-static event web site. The inclusion of these technologies is helping show hosts extend the life of their events and support a 365 day/year experience – with a (hopefully) engaged online community to go along with it.
The article references the latest CEIR / GPJ research report:
Digital sponsorships contribute only about 7% of an event’s marketing budget, according to a recent report from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research and George P. Johnson. The study, “Digital+Exhibiting Marketing Insights 2009,” conducted online in April and May, surveyed 287 event managers and corporate brand exhibitors about the use of digital media.
As a result of the trends noted in the article, my belief is that in next year’s report, the percent of event marketing budget allocated to digital will climb to 15-20%. Why? Because online/virtual will become a standard component of physical events. The “new” event web sites of today – that include video, blogs, social networking, trackability, additional “impressions” for exhibitors, additional revenue for event organizers, etc. – could stand to benefit by leveraging a virtual event platform. So rather than building your own event web site from scratch, you leverage virtual event/tradeshow technology to power the next generation “site”.
For the event organizer, the business model seems rather straightforward:
- Bundle sponsorship of the online community with the physical event sponsorship – upsell those low/mid-level sponsorship packages into a premium package, which includes a presence in the virtual component (e.g. full-blown virtual booth, signage within the environment, etc.). You can create a “presence” for all of your physical event sponsors, but only those who have signed on for the full bundle will have real content behind the virtual booth storefront. Those who opt not to purchase the bundle will have only their logo in the environment – a great way to incent the non-believers to enter the fray.
- Create value to attract online attendees – the online venue cannot solely be an area to appease exhibitors/sponsors. In the same way you attract attendees to your physical event, you need to make it valuable for online attendees to visit your virtual community. For me, this means a combination of compelling content (e.g. videos, articles, external links, etc.) and effective social/sharing tools (e.g. blogs, message boards, chat, etc.).
The incorporation (blending) of physical and virtual events creates very exciting possibilities. Let’s consider what b-to-b publisher Hanley Wood is doing:
Additional improvements also integrate all the customer data Hanley Wood has collected, demonstrating to exhibitors and attendees who register that Hanley Wood remembers them and allowing the company to make recommendations based on a customer’s profile and history of participation at its events.
“We can put together some cross-show marketing, as well as up-sell the events that these people participate in,” Buraglio said.
The aggregation of attendee data from physical + virtual creates value:
- Attendees – by better understanding all of the touch points by an attendee (across physical + virtual), event organizers can more effectively package and target content that’s uniquely tailored to that attendee. Give attendees precisely what they want (or need) and you create a more satisfied user, who will be more likely to stay engaged and return to the site frequently.
- Exhibitors/Advertisers – by building a complete picture of physical + virtual engagement from attendees, you can more intelligently plan and execute your lead follow-up paths. If a user had her badge scanned at your physical booth, then entered your virtual booth to download 3 separate documents, she’s probably an advanced lead / “A” lead.
- Blog posting: The ABC’s Of Lead Follow-Up For Virtual Events
- Blog posting: The Convergence Of Physical Events And Virtual Events