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What Virtual Trade Show Booths Can Learn from The Apple Store

June 18, 2011

Photo credit: The Pug Father on flickr.

Introduction

Want to create a virtual trade show booth that moves prospects along the sales cycle towards a purchase? Head into an Apple Store and apply a few lessons from your visit.

A recent article in the Mercury News referenced a Yankee Group analyst who “estimated that Apple Stores pull in about $5,000 per square foot in revenue per year, blowing away even Tiffany’s roughly $2,700 per square foot.” While I don’t expect virtual trade show booths to directly sell products, there are many lessons we can learn from The Apple Store.

Make Yourself Indispensable

With the list of services above, Apple transcends beyond a “store” to become a technology adviser, consultant and partner. When you click to reserve a Workshop, the web site asks, “What would you like to learn?” When you click to make a Genius Bar appointment, the web site asks, “How can we help you?

When you have questions or need hands-on technical support for your Apple products, you can get friendly, expert advice at the Genius Bar. Found in every Apple Retail Store, the Genius Bar is home to our resident Geniuses.” (Apple’s description of the Genius Bar.)

While visitors to an Apple Store are predisposed to purchase an Apple product, visitors to your virtual trade show booth are more likely in need of a solution to a business problem.

Every virtual trade show booth should have a Genius Bar – a set of Subject Matter Experts (SME) to help visitors solve their business problems. While Apple’s Genius Bar provides product-specific advice, your Genius Bar should focus first on solutions (for your prospects) and secondarily on your own products and services. Make yourself indispensable to your prospects.

Make Your Products Readily Available

Photo credit: James Cridland on flickr.

Apple Stores are unlike any other retail environment. The entire width (and length) of the stores are all about the products. There’s a nearly endless supply of iPods, iPads and Macs for potential customers to try out. Of course, in a virtual trade show booth, you can’t provide an storage array to touch and feel.

You can, however, build digital representations of your products and invite booth visitors to “touch and feel” (digitally). I mention related technologies (to enable this) in the “Touch and Feel the Products” paragraph of my Virtual Trade Show 2.0 post.

If you’re a software company, you should find ways to allow visitors to interact with your software directly in the booth. If you’re a design agency, your virtual booth should reflect your design principles and capabilities.

Provide a Call Button for Assistance

On a recent visit to an Apple Store in Northern California, I noticed that every product had an iPad 2 next to it. The iPad 2 provided product specs and featured a neat button to “Talk to a Specialist.”

All too often in virtual trade show booths, visitors leave the booth feeling “unloved.” In a prior post, I wrote about a flight attendant call button for virtual events, which could be used to request technical support, among other things.

All virtual booths should have a “Talk to a Specialist” button. Booth visitors who click the button are likely to be your hottest leads, so you’ll need to ensure that your “geniuses” are available to take the call.

Conclusion

First, make yourself indispensable to prospects. Then, give them the product to “try before buying,” while making “geniuses” available to answer the “call button.” That’s the lesson I learned from The Apple Store.

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A New Approach to Virtual Trade Show Booth Surveys

April 19, 2011

Introduction

Surveys should not be difficult to operate! Too often, however, they are. For virtual trade shows, booth surveys can complement the demographic data (collected during registration) with psychographic data to help you further qualify your virtual trade show leads.  In this post, I introduce a new approach to the virtual trade show booth survey.

Make it Fun

Surveys are no fun.  As a first step, don’t call your’s a “survey”.  If you sell B2B products, call it a “Readiness Assessment” instead. Then, make it fun. Introduce a host or hostess (audio voiceover) who talks to the end user after each step, cracking jokes along the way.

Develop humorous text or imagery, to encourage users to unmute their speakers.  After every few questions, pipe some humor into the process. For instance, insert a text bubble that reads, “4 out of 5 of virtual event attendees surveyed indicate that they … dislike surveys!”

Provide Instant Feedback

When you complete most surveys, the feedback you receive is, “Thank you for participating in our survey.”  The new approach to the booth survey leverages numerical weightings to each multiple-choice answer.  You design the survey questions (and the answers), so that the answers are summed up to a total “score.”

Next, capitalize on the current popularity of badges (a la Foursquare) and assign ranges of scores to custom-designed badges.  For instance, in our B2B Readiness Assessment, the badges could be:

  1. The Dunno Badge (“I don’t know if I’m ready or not”)
  2. The Boyfriend Badge (“I don’t know if I’m ready to commit”)
  3. The Trooper Badge (“I think I’m ready, let’s do it”)
  4. The Honeymoon Badge (“Let’s skip straight to the honeymoon”)

(Note: use of sarcasm for demonstration purposes – may not be appropriate for a B2B setting.)

Your Ticket to Lead Qualification

When you designed your survey questions to add up to a score, did it seem like lead scoring?  It should have!  Just as you’d calculate an “A lead” based on their activity in your virtual booth, you badges become a form of a lead score.  If you’re implementing lead scoring for your booth visitors, you can augment scores with badge information.

For instance, “A leads” who completed your survey and received the “Honeymoon Badge” are the cream of the crop.  They receive higher priority than other “A leads” who received the Trooper, Boyfriend or Dunno badges.

Be Prescriptive on Next Steps

Surveys provide little to no information on next steps.  Since your survey is labeled a “readiness assessment,” you ought to prescribe the next steps to the user.

Our new approach assigns a specific piece of content to each badge.  For instance, users with the Dunno Badge receive the “Widgets for Dummies” eBook, while Honeymoon Badge users receive the “Widget Implementation, Volume I” white paper.  By giving users a clear follow-up plan, you’re delivering tremendous value in exchange for filling out the survey.

Conclusion

The new approach to booth surveys can create a win/win/win scenario.  First, by making it enticing and fun, you generate more survey completions. Next, by mapping each survey responder to a badge, you provide instant lead qualification (which helps you).  And finally, by prescribing a follow-up plan for each badge, you provide value back to the user, while conveniently leading them down the sales cycle.


5 Virtual Events Postings You May Have Missed

February 23, 2011

5 Virtual Events Postings You May Have Missed

Introduction

In the rush to get caught up with RSS feeds (that I routinely neglect when busy), I unintentionally skip articles and postings that I’d find quite interesting and valuable. With that in mind, I thought I’d round up recent virtual events postings (from this blog) that you may have otherwise missed.  And yes, I do still use an RSS reader.

1) Interactive Emails and Potential Use in Virtual Event Promotions

Virtual Event Email Promotions and Hotmail Active Views

Like banner ads, email marketing and email (in general), response rates tend to decline over time.  The use of interactive elements (within the email) could be a big win – and this certainly applies to virtual event email promotions. Here’s a link to the full posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/virtual-event-email-promotions-and-hotmail-active-views/

2) Virtual Event Lead Management

Virtual Event Lead Management

I outline the “drive-by viewing” that you often see at virtual events and note that those visitors are names, not leads.  I also introduce the notion of curating your leads, as if they were fine art.  Here’s a link to the full posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/book-supplement-virtual-event-lead-management-leadmanagement/

3) Why I’m There on Pure Virtual Events

I wrote a counterpoint to an article from Velvet Chainsaw’s Dave Lutz on the topic of pure virtual events. While I’m a firm believer in hybrid events, I also believe in the benefits of “pure” virtual events.  Here’s a link to the full posting:

http://inxpo.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/why-im-there-on-pure-virtual-events/

4) Can I Get a Woo Hoo for Virtual Events?

Can I Get a Woo Hoo for Virtual Events

I loved the tactics used by a department store to encourage customers to contribute (to a charity) at the cash register. I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided to draw parallels with the store’s tactics and apply them towards the planning and promotion of virtual events.  Here’s a link to the full posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/can-i-get-a-woo-hoo-for-virtual-events/

5) Use Virtual Booths to Complement Your Physical Booths

Use Virtual Booths to Follow Up with Leads from Your Physical Booth

I outline ways in which a virtual booth can allow trade show exhibitors to distribute content, nurture leads and engage with prospects in real-time (after the event).  Here’s a link to the full posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/use-virtual-booths-to-follow-up-with-leads-from-your-physical-booth/

Conclusion

If you liked any of these postings, but missed them when they were originally published, subscribe to the It’s All Virtual RSS feed.  If you do subscribe, but “Mark All As Read” in a rush to get caught up, I forgive you (I know the feeling).


Book Supplement: Virtual Event Lead Management (#leadmanagement)

January 22, 2011

Introduction

In “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events,” Chapter 6 is titled “Score and Follow Up with Leads”.  This really could have been Chapter 7 – and instead, Chapter 6 could have focused on important steps to consider before scoring.  Before you import your virtual event leads into your CRM system, consider these important steps first.

Step #1: Beware of the “Drive-By Viewing”

Someone visited your virtual booth – congratulations! Not so fast.  Make sure the booth visit was not a “drive-by viewing”.  I define a drive-by viewing as:

  1. One (and only one) visit to your booth
  2. “Visit time” of 5 minutes or less
  3. No engagement with others while in the booth (e.g. group chat, private chat)
  4. No interaction with booth content (e.g. booth tabs, documents, links, etc.)

I see plenty of drive-by viewings from booth visitors. Some visitors simply want to see which companies are exhibiting at the virtual event.  And, some virtual platforms have “previous” and “next” buttons in the virtual booths, which means that drive-by visitors may simply be doing a quick tour of all booths.

Drive-by visitors are not leads – they’re NAMES!  My recommendation for drive-by visitors:

  1. Go ahead and import them into your CRM system
  2. Schedule a “thanks for visiting” email
  3. Using simple text links, provide them with a few options (e.g. receive more content, schedule an appointment, etc.)
  4. Respond accordingly – and, if they do not open the email or respond to the offers, cease communications [for now] and nurture them over the long term

Step #2: Beware of Existing Leads and Business Partners

Your virtual event leads can look like a pile of dominoes.  You may not be aware that within that pile of dominoes are existing sales prospects, along with current customers and business partners.  When you exhibit at a virtual event, your sales team is inclined to invite current prospects to come visit – and, your existing customers and partners are inclined to stop in to see what’s new.

Warning: LEAD IMPORT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.

If you don’t manage your leads well, you may import “hot prospects” (who are already in your CRM system) and trigger a follow-up email to them.  The result is a turning back of the clock with those prospects – imagine finalizing your purchase decision, only to have one of the potential vendors call on you and ask if you’re in the market for their product!

Personal Story: I attended a virtual trade show and did a “drive-by viewing” through an exhibitor’s booth.  I’ve been a long-time subscriber to this exhibitor’s email newsletter and know some of the employees there.  My drive-by viewing was done simply to see who was staffing the booth.

A few days later, I received an email from the exhibitor, asking if I’d like more information.  This exhibitor probably should have known that I was a long-time subscriber – and, routinely click on the links in their newsletter.  Given this, the follow-up should have been more tailored, or skipped entirely.  If I was contemplating a purchase  decision with this exhibitor, that follow-up email could have cost them my business.

Step #3: Build and Import Engagement Profiles

Virtual event platforms have built-in RFID, which means that all interactions from sales prospects (with your content) are tracked and recorded.  The platforms assemble a detailed “engagement profile” for you – the worst thing you can do is throw away that profile when the lead is imported into your CRM system.  My guess is that the majority of marketers today do just that.

Instead, create custom fields in your CRM system to capture this data (e.g. number of visits, documents downloaded, transcripts of chats, etc.).  The more data, the more informed your sales team.  Just like an auto insurer reviews your past driving record and a loan officer reviews your past credit history, your sales team should have the benefit of a prospect’s past engagement data.

Step #4: Curate Leads as You Would Fine Art

You can automate portions of lead management, but you can’t automate the entire process.  It’s easy to automate the de-duping process, which ensures that new records are not created in your CRM system when there’s an existing lead record.

However, it’s not as easy to automate the business intelligence that needs to be applied to your leads (e.g. you can’t do AI on your BI). Examples of business intelligence rules:

  1. Knowing (and spotting) competitors
  2. Knowing (and spotting) existing business partners
  3. Knowing (and spotting) industry experts, analysts, media [who should not be followed up with]
  4. Spotting “creatively submitted” leads, such as “Mick E. Mouse” or “Barack Obama”

Sure, you can automate part of this by filtering on a list of company names, but there are bound to be some leads that slip through the cracks.

For instance, users may have a typo in their company name – or, may list their company differently that what you’ve entered in your filter list.  Your leads are the lifeblood of your business, so you should curate them as if they were fine art.  This means that manual review will always be a part of the lead management process.

Conclusion

Lead Management is not easy.  However, perform these steps before your first virtual event lead hits your CRM system – and you’ll be better off.  Your sales team will receive a far higher percentage of qualified leads – and they’ll thank you for that.


How To: Generate More Effective Virtual Trade Show Booths

October 19, 2010

My local farmers market had a “Vote 4 Your Favorite Booth” contest.  While the contest was active, I noticed that the fruit vendors were much more engaging and the amount of free samples increased dramatically.  The fruit stands had become more customer-friendly as a result of the competition.  This was a great thing.

I immediately thought – virtual trade shows are a lot like farmers markets – how about creating a similar contest?  Let’s consider a “Vote For Your Favorite Booth Contest” at your next virtual trade show.  The benefits:

Attendees Take Notice

The contest causes attendees to take notice, especially if you offer up prize(s) for voting.  The contest provides attendees a framework (and context) for their booth visits.  Now, when they enter any exhibitor booth, they are paying more attention to what’s there, to judge the current booth to other booths they visit.  Ultimately, they will need to determine their top vote, which requires a certain level of engagement and awareness as they move from one booth to the next.  And that’s a good thing for exhibitors.

Exhibitors Boost and Optimize their Presence

Ever sell a home or condo and host an open house?  I bet your home was de-cluttered and nearly spotless.  And I bet some of you baked cookies for the occasion.  A booth contest is a lot like the open house: the host knows that its visitors will be evaluating the space.  This results in:

  1. More captivating and refined booth imagery
  2. Booth content that aims to please (the visitor)
  3. A higher level of booth staffers
  4. More engagement from booth staffers (just like at the farmers market)

With everyone “raising their game”, this means that exhibitors win and attendees win as well.

SaaS: Sampling as a Service

In the picture above, a fruit stand placed a large assortment of samples in labeled bins, allowing visitors to sample for themselves. I call this Sampling as a (Self) Service!  The idea here is to allow “prospects” to sample your “products” (on their own) and then have a “staffer” come by to see if they have any questions.

The same could be done in a virtual trade show. Place your products in your virtual booth and allow visitors to take them on a test drive.  Let them do their thing, but check in with them from time to time to see if they need assistance.

Logistics

Here’s how the booth contest could be run:

  1. Heavily promote the contest prior to the event
  2. Educate and inform exhibitors on the ground rules
  3. Create meaningful incentives for attendees to vote
  4. Announce the winner two-thirds of the way through the event. This leaves the remaining one-third of the event for the winner to receive the benefits (traffic to their booth)
  5. Create a badge or logo that the winner can place on their web site and share via social networks

Conclusion

The virtual booths at some events can be underwhelming.  A contest can encourage and motivate the exhibitors and create a win/win/win for attendees, exhibitors and you.



Comparing Physical And Virtual Trade Shows

September 16, 2010

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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