As the current pandemic continues worldwide, tradeshows are being cancelled and manufacturers are getting very creative with their marketing efforts in order to keep their businesses in front of their customers and prospects. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic tradeshows were large, but necessary, parts of your yearly industrial marketing budget. The most valuable asset of a traditional tradeshow is the ability to network and generate leads but without in-person events generating leads can be challenging. If done correctly, a virtual tradeshow can be an even more powerful lead-generating tool than a traditional in-person event. Why and what will you need to plan and have in place?
Getting Started – Define Your Goals
Before you jump head-first into setting up your own virtual tradeshow you will want to define what your ultimate goals will be for the show.
You will want to consider things such as:
- What is the objective for your virtual tradeshow? (i.e. Are you launching a new product or service? Lead generation only? etc.)
- What problems or pain points are you trying to solve with this virtual show?
- Who are you targeting with this event? Current customers? New prospects? Both?
- What number of attendees, “booth” visits, asset downloads, etc. will make the event worthwhile for your company to host?
- Why would someone attend your virtual event?
- What will the attendee take away from your event?
- What speaker or speakers will you have at your event? What do they bring to the event?
- What is new or different about your event?
- How do you plan to spread word of your event? Will you leverage your existing customers, partners, and networks to help?
- How do you plant to promote it? Will you use social media ads, email campaigns, internal promotions, referrals, etc?
Put Together a Plan
Once you have your goals clearly spelled out it is time to put together your event plan. The plan will differ based on your target audience and your overall goals for the event.
There are a lot of things that you need to take into account, such as:
- Which platform would be best for our show to help us reach our goals?
- How can we provide the most value to our attendees?
- Which speakers could we have that would provide our attendees with the most value as well as help us meet our goals?
- How many sessions do you want to have? All in one day or over two or three?
- How do we give people the ability to network while attending the virtual event?
- How will we promote the event?
- What if there is an internet connection outage during the event? Do we have a plan B?
- What assets will we need?
- How will we follow-up this show?
- How will the follow-up plan drive maximum value for our attendees and for our company?
Select a Platform and Proper Equipment for The Event
The best platform to use for your virtual tradeshow will depend on your specific goals for the event. Some platforms offer more functionality than others, such as polling questions, Q&As, breakout sessions, recording & download functions, lobbies, separate rooms, and more.
Here are a few that you may want to consider:
- Adobe Connect
- Cisco Webex Events
- ezTalks Webinar
- RingCentral Meetings
- Zoho Meeting
- And many more
You will also need some quality equipment, such as:
- A decently fast computer with a current operating system
- Stable internet connection
- Good lighting
Select Interesting Speakers
You will need some exceptional content and speakers to grab and hold the attention of your attendees. Depending on your overall goals you may want to invite your senior staff, engineers, key people in other complementary companies, and even some customers to speak at your event.
A few thoughts to keep in mind when selecting speakers for your show:
- Pick the highest quality speakers you can find
- Arrange a minimum of 3 speakers to speak on different topics (this could be done in a series)
- Create appealing visuals for use during the speeches that will add value for the attendees
Marketing your Event
To achieve success it is very important that you aggressively market your event through multiple channels such as email campaigns, direct mail, social media advertising, public relations, Pay Per Click (PPC) ads, and other more personal channels such as partner companies and customer incentives. The more diverse your marketing vehicles are, the better the chances you have of reaching more potential attendees.
Make the Event Interactive
You need to be sure that your event is engaging and interactive for your audience. It would be incredibly disappointing all around if the attendees simply logged off after a few minutes. Plan out exactly how attendees can interact and engage with you as well as your speakers. Throughout your virtual tradeshow, have some call-to-actions that people can engage with. Have your attendees submit questions ahead of time. Allow people to really participate in your tradeshow.
ROI (Return on Investment)
A virtual event like this can really help fill the gap that cancelled tradeshows have left in your lead generation for 2020. The key to a successful virtual trade show is to engage your prospects in new, thoughtful, interesting, entertaining, and exciting ways. To really drive home your message and gain new business interest you really need to build influence around yourself, your company, your product, or your service offering.
These types of virtual events are marketing goldmines! The video, audio, and other visuals can be re-purposed after the event to keep new leads coming in for years. You can use materials from the event in things such as blog posts, social media posts and ads, ebooks, on your YouTUBE channel, landing pages, your company website, etc.
What can you do to make sure your virtual show is a success?
- Create an engaging topic(s) that your customers and prospects will gain value from.
- Have a solid plan in place to make the show interesting.
- Make sure to aggressively market the event – spread the word that you will be hosting a virtual trade show and encourage people to attend.
- Make sure that your speakers and visuals grab people’s attention, they entertain, and they educate.
- Make sure that your equipment is ready for the event to minimize technical issues.
- Quickly follow up on every single lead from the attendees of the show.
While face-to-face meetings are still important, right now they are simply not do-able. Consider putting together a virtual tradeshow and hosting your own next big event.
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