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Case Study: Trade Show Lead Generation with American Express OPEN

April 26, 2011

Introduction

At NAB Show 2011 in Las Vegas, American Express OPEN (@OPENForum) created a game-based attraction in a lobby area that generated nearly a thousand (my estimate) sales leads.  Attendees were invited to play a Memory Match game, with an iPad 2 awarded to each day’s top performer. Read further for my thoughts on what made their approach so effective.

How They Attracted a Crowd

At any trade show, whether it’s physical or virtual, you want to attract a crowd to your space (or booth). To attract interest, location sure helps. The OPEN attraction was located in the lobby, right beyond the entrance and adjacent to the Information Desk.  Location goes only so far, however – you need to give attendees a reason to walk over to see what’s going on. OPEN achieved this with a prominent physical structure, along with an engaging host.

The host engaged simultaneously with the player and the audience, rooting the player along, while playing things up to the crowd, to generate excitement. Since the host spoke into a microphone, he garnered the attention of attendees who were walking by.

How They Tapped Into Attendees’ Competitive Juices

The brilliance of OPEN’s Memory Match game was the “score” (the time it took you to complete all matches – the lower the time, the better) and the leaderboard.  If the top score was “35 seconds,” then each contestant knew that they had to beat 35 seconds in order to win the iPad 2 (or, at least to attain the top spot on the leaderboard).

With a typical booth giveaway, you drop your business card in a fishbowl and hope that your name gets picked. The OPEN giveaway was different, because it tapped into the competitive spirit in all of us.  Contestants feel like they can control their destiny, unlike the random pick out of a bowl.  And, they’re presented with a clear goal in mind.

The game dynamic created a byproduct: an intense amount of excitement each time someone set the new “record”.  A woman who obtained the top time of the day jumped and screamed her way off the platform, as the crowd roared. It was like Tiger Woods sinking a birdie putt at The Majors – and, it drew further interest from passersby.

How They Captured Leads

Before beginning the Memory Match game, contestants needed to enter their information on the game console – the process was quite similar to filling out a registration page.  While leads from viewers (in the “audience”) were presumably not captured, all attendees who played the Memory Match left their name and contact information.  By providing a fun experience to visitors, OPEN can expect a stronger response from sales prospects compared to a more conventional show presence (i.e. without the game).

How They Provided Instant Gratification

Only a single visitor would win the iPad 2 each day, which means that 99% of visitors would go home empty handed. Not so with OPEN: they occasionally handed out $10 Starbucks cards to those contestants who showed their AmEx card. A great way to send visitors away happy, and to reinforce the notion that “membership has its privileges.”

Conclusion: Apply This to Your Virtual or Physical Trade Show Booth

Things to consider for your next trade show, whether it’s virtual or physical:

  1. Figure out how to attract attention.
  2. Tap into the competitive spirit of your visitors.
  3. Make sure your visitors have fun.
  4. Make sure a portion of your visitors leave happy.
  5. Optimize your lead gathering process.
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Just In Time For The Holidays: Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

December 16, 2010

Introduction

Virtual events can be a dream for marketers.  In 2011, you can leverage virtual events to generate more leads to fuel your sales pipeline.  And, you can qualify those leads “on the spot”, in what I call “accelerated lead generation”.

With a virtual event, you have the opportunity to engage in real-time with your sales leads and review a rich engagement profile that uncovers their degree of interest in your products – and, their position in the sales cycle.

Got marketers on your holiday list?  The printed version of “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Event” is now available at a list price of $12.99 (UPDATE: the book is now listed for $11.69).

Amazon

Buy the Paperback: at Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Buy the Paperback: at BarnesAndNoble.com

Additional Resources

  1. Find more information about the book, including where to buy it for assorted e-readers.
  2. Read the Introduction of the book online.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!


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.


Using Social Media Marketing To Drive Your Virtual Tradeshow Leads

September 14, 2010

The following is a guest post from Cece Salomon-Lee.

As a marketer, one of my goals is to generate the right leads for my sales force as efficiently and quickly as possible.  This requires constant evaluation of existing tools — emails, banner ads, and events — as well as new ones such as social media and virtual events. While webinars arguably are a standard part of a marketer’s lead gen toolbox, virtual tradeshows are just being considered. Part of the challenge is how to effectively drive qualified sales leads to your booth or virtual event.

Here are recommendations on how to leverage social media to market your next virtual tradeshow (Please note that these recommendations are for organizations who are hosting their own virtual tradeshows and may need to be amended for those exhibiting within a virtual event):

Identify Online Influencers

Each industry has influencers who yield a lot of sway with potential and existing customers. However, popularity – the number of followers or readers -is not necessarily a barometer of one’s online influence– the ability to drive a community of individuals to an action. Identifying the right influencers based on your objectives and audience will require research and time. When done well, these individuals will write or tweet about your upcoming event.

Here are some recommendations:

Twitter Search: Use keywords to find those who tweet the most about your industry.

Twinfluence: Not only does Twinfluence provides a list of the top 50 twitter users based on reach, velocity and social capital, but also can leverage this to determine the influence of those you researched via Twitter search.

AllTop: While you can use Technorati to search for top ranked blogs, I recommend starting with Alltop, which categorizes blogs under separate topics. This will help narrow down the blogs most appropriate for your virtual tradeshow.

Engage in Conversations

Have you been in a middle of a conversation when a stranger suddenly interrupts and adds his two cents? Your initial reaction probably was “who is this guy?”. Well the same applies to online conversations. It’s important to engage in existing conversations BEFORE jumping in to promote your event and disappear. Rather, take time to monitor and participate in ancillary conversations weeks if not months before your event.

For example, research and join relevant groups on Facebook or LinkedIn related to your company, industry and/or solution. If there is a relevant question, avoid the temptation to market only your company or product. Rather, respond with valuable information that contributes to the conversation. This helps to position you and your company positively.

Advertise Socially

Social networks have a wealth of demographic and professional information regarding its members. This is a great opportunity to create ads that target specific age groups or professional titles.  Facebook allows you to select age group, region and professional title when creating ads. Like Google adwords, you’ll want to create variations of your ads, test and refine to determine the best copy and attributes. If you’re targeting more than one professional level, I recommend creating separate ads with only that professional title to better determine who is clicking through. At this time, Facebook doesn’t provide detailed analysis by title.

While LinkedIn Premium Events service is coming soon, you can leverage the social networks’ Direct Ads service to target the network’s 76+ million members. Options include company size, job function, industry, seniority, gender, age and geography.

Share Freely

With the proliferation of information online, the challenge is to demonstrate the value of your virtual tradeshow to motivate people to register and attend. You can entice potential attendees by highlighting the types of information that is available at the tradeshow. For example:

– Blog Posting: Planning a white paper? Consider sharing a graph from the white paper and soliciting feedback to drive interest.

Slideshare.net: Presenting in the virtual tradeshow? Upload the presentation slides to Slideshare and promote via Twitter, your blog, etc. Then invite people to submit questions that will be answered at the conference.

YouTube: Have a product video? Consider posting to YouTube and embedding it on your website, blog, etc

In each instance, include information about your upcoming virtual tradeshow, such as dates, times, and a unique URL to track conversions.

Measurement and Tracking

So you’re tweeting the event, connecting with industry influencers and sharing content online. The next question is how to you track the effectiveness of your social media marketing?  Most virtual event platforms should have a system for tracking and measuring media campaign effectiveness. At minimum, they should be able to provide a formula for tracking those who visit a landing page and register accordingly.

Assuming the above, I recommend:

1) Creating unique landing page URLs for each channel

2) Shorten the URL via a URL shortener service, such as Bitly, that tracks the number of clicks per URL

3) Measure, evaluate and update your marketing mix based on the a) click-through rate and b) conversion to registrations

Conclusions

One word of warning is to first research and evaluate before plunging in with a social media marketing program, especially when contacting individuals and bloggers or participating in online discussions. While social media marketing takes time and effort, when done well, the results can be spectacular!

What strategies or tactics have you used to drive virtual tradeshow attendance?

Bio

As Principal of PR Meets Marketing, Cece Salomon-Lee has over 15 years experience conceptualizing and executing successful strategies for public relations, customer communications, executive visibility, analyst relations, social media and virtual events.  She has worked with start-up and established organizations in enterprise software, SaaS and digital entertainment, such as Blue-ray Disc Association, Cisco Systems, DreamWorks Animation, HP, Yahoo!, and MapQuest. Follow Cece at @csalomonlee or via email cece@prmeetsmarketing.com.


Bringing The Physical Event Experience To Virtual Events

March 30, 2010

Source: flickr (User: cafebiz08)

Virtual trade shows got their start by creating 2D graphical replicas of physical trade shows: exhibit halls, booths, auditoriums, lounges, etc.  Most users are “wowed” in their first experience attending a virtual trade show – they enjoy the quality of the user interface and often comment that they felt like “they were  there” at a physical event.

Exhibitors, too, find the virtual trade show experience to be quite enjoyable – at the same time, they often highlight important differences between exhibiting virtually vs. physically.  In a physical event, for instance, you have some amount of guaranteed foot traffic on the show floor – a portion of which will naturally wander into your booth.  The “efficiency” of a virtual event means that users only enter your booth by explicitly clicking into it.  In a physical event, exhibitors can greet prospects with a friendly handshake – in a virtual event, the exhibitor may never see the prospect’s face.

How can virtual event platforms incorporate aspects of the physical event experience?   Let’s consider a few ideas.

Source: flickr (User: ExhibitPeople)

How To: Gain Virtual Foot Traffic to Booths

On a crowded show floor at a physical event, an exhibitor knows that some percentage of attendees will visit their booth – additionally, exhibitors can increase their investment and receive strategic placement on the floor (e.g. near the entrance, near areas where food and drink are served, etc.).  In a physical event, as attendees walk towards (or past) your booth, there are tactics to catch their attention (e.g. making eye contact, telling them about a special sales offer, showing T-shirts that you’re giving away, complementing them on their laptop bag, etc.).  In a virtual event, you never see someone “passing by” your booth – they click directly to where they want to go.

The Guided Random Walk

Virtual event platforms could re-create the leisurely stroll down the show floor aisles.  Clicking on a “take me on a guided booth tour” button could allow the platform to become the auto-pilot and guide the attendee to the “store front” of randomly selected  booths.  At each  “stop”, the attendee is presented with an overview of the exhibitor, the products/services they provide and a list of staffers with whom they can engage.  The attendee can click to enter the booth – or, continue on with the “walk”.

Once they enter a booth, attendees would see a “resume walk” button to return to the guided tour.  Additionally, the virtual event platform could collect “interests” on the registration form (or on the attendee’s profile) to more efficiently recommend exhibitors (on the tour) to attendees.  Since most virtual attendees prefer to visit only those areas that interest them, this service would be completely optional.

Strategic Offer Placement

Virtual event platforms provide many avenues and areas for exhibitor branding and promotion (e.g. banner ads, jumbotron, etc.) – similar to a physical booth located near the food and drink, virtual event show hosts could map out the event hot spots (e.g. lobby, auditorium, etc.) and provide sponsorship opportunities for exhibitors.  For instance, the Auditorium could display banner ads that drive traffic to premium sponsors’ booths.  Since the virtual attendee is bound to navigate through key areas  (e.g. the Auditorium), promotions in those areas creates the equivalent of “passerby traffic” in a physical event.

Webcast Exit Actions

Imagine taking all attendees of a physical conference session and teleporting them to a specific sponsor’s booth at the conclusion of the session.  Well, a virtual event makes such teleporting possible.  If an exhibitor is presenting in one of the event’s Webcasts, have the virtual event platform provide an “exit action” to drive Webcast viewers to the exhibitor’s booth when it concludes.   Be sure to instruct the Webcast presenter(s) to inform viewers that additional questions can be addressed within the booth at the conclusion of the Webcast.  And, be sure those presenters also “exit” into their booth to provide the answers!

Source: flickr (User: SESConferenceSeries)

How To: Gauge Visitor Interest

When an attendee visits your physical booth, you can quickly judge their interest level based on facial expression and body language.  While these signals are not available from virtual booth visitors, you certainly can decipher interest based on the visitors’ mouse clicks.  Eloqua developed the concept of digital body language – and it applies directly to virtual booth visitors – “Digital body language can arm sales people with deep insights into the areas and levels of interest of every prospect.” (source: Eloqua)

The virtual event platform could provide real-time profiling of booth visitors, based on the actions they’re taking within the booths.  Inactive visitors can probably be left alone, whereas highly active users (lots of document views, document downloads, web site views, chat requests, etc.) may literally be raising their hand to engage in a conversation.

The virtual event platform could first characterize the nature of the prospect’s interest (e.g. map the requested documents to high level “interest categories” defined by the show host) and then place a subtle offer in front of the visitor (e.g. “An online representative is available to answer questions about telepresence – click here to engage in a 1:1 chat”).

Since this feature could be deemed too “Big Brother” by attendees, it would have to be tested (to gather feedback) and/or have an explicit opt-in setting that allows attendees to enable or disable the feature.

How To: Connect with Interested Attendees

During periods of high activity in a physical booth, visitors often walk up, see that all staffers are speaking with other attendees and decide to move on to the next booth.  Perhaps  later in the day, the same visitor returns to see if any staffers are available.  The observant exhibitor may recognize the visitor (from her prior visit) – and if so, provide special attention to her (since she made the effort to visit the booth and return a second time).

In a virtual event, all activity is tracked, which means that observant exhibitors need only turn to the services of the platform to let them know about repeat visitors.  Virtual event platforms ought to explicitly track repeat visitors and alert booth staff accordingly – perhaps the platform plays one audio alert for the first time visit  – and separate audio alert for the repeat visitor.

Additionally, the platform could allow exhibitors to build in rules and offers based on the amount of repeat visits.  For instance, on the fifth visit to the booth (within the same day), the visitor could be offered to download a free copy of the exhibitor’s software.  Exhibitors  could then leverage the resulting action to qualify the worthiness of the prospect (e.g. visited my booth 5 times + downloaded a copy of my software = have a sales rep follow up tomorrow).

Source: flickr (User: bilateral)

How To: Create Better Attendee Networking

One of the key attractions to an event is the ability for attendees to network with like-minded professionals – exchanging ideas, thoughts and business cards.  In a physical event, there are many “transitory phases”, where attendees migrate from one locale to another.  These phases create opportunities to meet or “bump into” random strangers.

That being said, meeting at a physical event is largely inefficient, based on the random nature of the meet-up.  Who knows if you’ll meet someone aligned with your interests or an uninteresting individual who’s there only for the free cocktails?  A virtual event can leverage the information available in user profiles to make meet-ups a bit less random – and far better “matched”.

In virtual, we can skip past the not-so-subtle glance at another attendee’s badge label – instead, we can auto-recommend like-minded individuals.  In my mind, the single most effective feature of LinkedIn is the “People You May Know” listing in the upper right of your LinkedIn home page.  Virtual events ought to create recommendations (of other attendees) with the same effectiveness.

The recommendation engine could be combined with an interface similar to ChatRoulette – whereby attendees enable their webcam and rotate through and chat with other attendees in roulette-type fashion.  It may not be quite the same as the physical experience, but the use of webcam can add a whole lot more than just text chat.

Conclusion

While it’s still true that virtual events can never replace the handshake – there are benefits of physical events that if modeled and implemented properly, can be a boon for virtual events.


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