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5 Tips For A Successful Virtual Trade Show

June 22, 2010

The following is a guest post from Craig Rosenberg.

On the 29th of June from 8AM to 4PM Pacific, I’ll be running my first virtual trade show: Mastering Lead Management.  At Focus, the company I work for, we’ve been doing webinars for our clients for years. But this virtual event is our first day-long comprehensive show.  To differentiate and make it as successful as possible, there were a few critical decisions we made during the show’s development:

We called it an interactive summit — To us, a virtual trade show or trades hows in general give the impression of a vendor bazaar where everyone’s main goal of the event is to get buyers introduced to vendors. Buyers expect more.

We leveraged all unbiased, third party content (no vendor pitches) — We have sponsors, but our approach to any content we create is all about making it “buyer-helpful,” that is, information that helps buyers do their jobs better or make more informed purchasing decisions.

We gave all sponsors full booth functionality — Instead of worrying about creating different pricing schemes for different features in the booth, we gave everyone everything we could.

    We think these decisions are at least in part the reason why we’ve garnered thousands of registrants to the event so far. Based on what I’ve learned and past experience with all kinds of trade shows, here are my 5 tips for successful virtual trade shows:

    1. It’s all about the content, it’s always about the content – All the blog posts and marketing we find today about virtual events is about minimizing environmental impact, shrinking travel budgets, etc.  While I think these points are interesting, we believe that if the content is compelling, they will come.  Think about it, despite all the marketing we are producing about people avoiding live events, they go and they go because they see value.  White papers, webinars, you name it, they all still work. But it’s about the content. Why would virtual events be different?  The answer is they are not.
    2. It’s all about the variety and volume of content – A virtual summit gives you multiple opportunities to peak a buyers interest with all kinds of content.  In a white paper or a webinar, it’s a one-shot deal.
    3. Content drives the types of leads you get – The biggest factor for the future of the virtual trade show market is ROI.  I can tell you that if you try to be something for everyone, then that’s what you’ll get.  Guess what, that is the problem with the traditional trade show market.  For successful lead generation, I’d suggest creating more targeted content and be prepared for less numbers.
    4. Virtual events are scoring machines – From a lead management perspective, virtual shows provide amazing activity data on attendees.  There is a lot of content available to participants and a lot of opportunities for interactivity. All of this should be collected and sent to whomever cares, such as sponsors.
    5. Understand why trade shows don’t work – This is a bit of a “reset” of the points above, but trade show attendance isn’t only down because of shrinking travel budgets. Trade shows are down because buyers have A LOT of choices for content to do their job better.  15 years ago, trade shows had a pretty solid hold on information. Now with the internet, information is everywhere without the time and resource commitments that make it harder for live trade shows to compete. What can you learn?  Well, people aren’t going to come to your event just because your show is virtual (and you don’t want them to), they are going to come because they see value.

    Craig Rosenberg is Author of The Funnelholic, his very popular B2B sales and marketing blog. He is also Vice President of Products and Services at Focus where he oversees product creation, management, and delivery. Prior to Focus, Craig spent years as a consultant for SalesRamp where he designed, built and managed lead-generation and inside sales strategies and processes for high-tech startups.

    During that time, Craig built lead generation machines at over 25 different companies in a variety of different high-tech verticals ranging from business applications to IT infrastructure. Because of his extensive experience, Craig acts as an advisor to Focus‘s clients, helping them solve a variety of different marketing and demand-generation challenges  You can visit Craig’s B2B Demand Generation Blog at www.funnelholic.com.

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    Increase Your Virtual Event ROI: 10 Tips and Tactics

    March 22, 2009

    Source: Flickr (Ewan McIntosh)

    Source: Flickr (Ewan McIntosh)

    If you recently exhibited at a lead generation virtual event, then I’ve got some tips for you.  While most exhibitors consider the program “complete” at the conclusion of the live virtual event, your work is just beginning.  Outhustle your competition and you’ll generate more ROI, beating them to the punch on shared sales leads.  There are two primary strategies for generating a higher return on your investment:

    1. Leverage your existing investment to generate net new sales leads
    2. Better convert your existing sales leads

    Leverage Existing Investment

    1. Convince the virtual event host to light up the environment – most virtual events remain “on demand” for 3 months after the live show date.  During those 3 months, you’ll see intermittent activity – some attendees return to visit your booth – some new leads sprinkle in, 1 here and 2 more a few days later.  Your event organizer should be incented to produce another “live date”, in which past attendees are invited to return – and, new registrants are invited to participate.  After all, the event organizer has fixed costs as well – and lighting up the show again means more revenue.  The organizer will want brand new content to draw users in (e.g. compelling Live Webcasts, like they used in the original event) – and you’ll want to leverage the same amount of booth reps to interact with attendees.
    2. Convince the virtual event host to support portable booths – you spent a lot of time getting your booth just right – selecting the right logo and Flash movie, finding relevant White Papers and producing some case studies just for the event.  Your booth is a great marketing vehicle and should be leveraged elsewhere – how about placing your booth on its own microsite – or, embedding the booth on your corporate web site?  The eco-friendly practice of re-use applies here as well.
    3. Syndicate booth content – for the White Papers, podcasts, Case Studies, etc. that you placed in your booth, syndicate them with the event organizer and related web and blog sites.  This broadens the reach of your content – and allows you to generate more sales leads.
    4. Syndicate Webcast content – if you had a speaking slot at the virtual event, ask the show host for a copy of the Webcast – then, host it on your corporate web site and syndicate it with the event organizer and related web sites.  Any content generated for the event should be re-used – it can generate new sales leads with minimal overhead or cost.
    5. Syndicate the supplemental Webcast content (in different forms) – convert your Webcast into an MP3 audio podcast and make that available on your web site along with the Webcast.  Syndicate the podcast as well, in case your target audience prefers the convenience of a download over the viewing of a streaming presentation.  Take the Q&A of the Webcast and transcribe that into a PDF or HTML document – and place this on your web site as well.  You get the idea here – spread your wings, without thinning the pocketbook.

    Convert Existing Leads

    1. Find those Top 10 leads – whether you have an automated system or need to do this manually, comb through the wealth of engagement data that a virtual event provides and find those Top 10 leads.  These are the folks who Sales must call now.  Perhaps they downloaded 10 of your White Papers – or, perhaps they did a text chat with a booth rep and requested that a sales rep call.  Either way, they need immediate attention.  If you know the sales reps who should handle these leads, don’t be shy about personally walking the leads over to them and providing the details as to why the leads as so hot.
    2. Get the basics right in your follow-ups – if Inside Sales is following up by phone with some leads, make sure the reps have a script that covers the correct name of the virtual event – and arm them with some important details of the event (e.g. date, topics, speakers, etc.).  For email follow-up, be sure to include the virtual event title in the Subject line.  Always be sure to reference the context of the event in all of your touchpoints.
    3. Build customized follow-up paths based on prospect activity – again, whether it’s automated or manual, factor in the prospect’s specific activities within the live event and tailor the follow-up touchpoints based on that activity.  Study the 5 White Papers they downloaded and recommend a 6th that brings it all home.  Study the chat transcript with your booth rep and send an email follow-up that ties up any loose ends.  Believe me, the prospects will appreciate the personal attention and the value you deliver to them.
    4. Use the virtual event platform to faciliate your follow-up – your show host is keeping the environment open for 3 months – so it would be a shame not to leverage it for all its worth.  When you do secure a follow-up appointment – consider complementing your phone call by meeting your prospect back in the virtual event.  There, you can do text or webcam chat in an environment s/he is familiar with.  And perhaps you place some additional content in the booth for your prospect to review.
    5. Send small prizes to highly engaged prospects – not everyone could win a prize during the live event – so, find those top 10 leads – or, top 10 most engaged users (in your booth) and send them a memory stick or webcam.  As discussed, reference the context of the event in your communications.  Perhaps the memory stick contains additional White Papers that may be of interest.  Just make sure the touchpoint is personalized – and don’t send the prize just for the sake of sending something.

    So there you have it.  Don’t forget that your campaign doesn’t end at the conclusion of the live virtual event.  That signals the starting point of the important phase – the one in which you’re head to head with the competition.  So make sure you score a higher ROI than they do.


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