Virtual Trade Shows Versus Live Trade Shows And Conventions

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Real world conventions and tradeshows are an excellent medium that can be used to showcase your brand, product or service to a pre-qualified, targeted audience. Many companies spend a large chunk of their budget on marketing to make sure that the sale of their product or service continues to thrive. Whether the company chooses to host a local convention or travel to multiple locations to offer multiple conventions in different cities, the main goal is to increase the sales of their product or service. This is accomplished by offering a booth, or multiple booths that provide information and samples relating to the product or service for customers to review. The information and products that are presented should peak curiosity and increase sales.

Unfortunately, the complicated logistics involved in organizing in-person tradeshows and strict corporate budgets can limit the viability of the show and the number of prospective customers that can be reached. Virtual conferences and virtual trade shows allow for greater flexibility to reach a wider audience without the added hassle and expense of logistics, travel and guest speakers. Virtual trade shows are still a novelty and as such, are quite popular. Both real world and virtual trade show convention options have pros and cons that should be considered carefully prior to choosing which method to utilize to sell your product or service, as discussed below. Finding ready, willing and able buyers to attend your virtual trade show can be made simple with a strategic, aggressive marketing campaign.

Social networking sites make it easier than ever to disseminate pertinent information about upcoming virtual shows such as upcoming presentations and virtual door prizes for attendees. The growing popularity of social websites makes it easy for convention invitations to travel quickly among your colleagues, friends and customers, increasing attendance and ultimately, your sales. Sending group invites allows a group of people to receive information regarding your event, and they can RSVP to your event online. Others will see the RSVP and may decide to attend based on the social aspect of attendance. This can be used to the company’s advantage because it allows you to reach more networking circles.

Additionally, strategically placed banner ads, targeted email campaigns and pay-per-click campaigns can also help yield qualified leads to attend your convention online. News of upcoming virtual trade shows can spread like wildfire across a social or corporate network with minimal expense and effort. There are several virtual trade show and virtual convention options available to choose from. These online mediums offer advanced software that has a wide array of different prices and features. Some of these online conventions have different packages for you to choose from or better yet, packages that you can customize to suit your company’s specific advertising needs. You should consider your style of product presentation in order to help determine which software features are optional for your company and which features you absolutely must have. Optional features should be weighed carefully, as they can increase your expenses while eating away at your bottom line.

Virtual convention booths make it so that you don’t have to worry about shipping booth materials, fragile signage, hiring guest speakers or dealing with the expensive logistics involved in making sure that your convention goes just right. Instead, you can spend your time concentrating on the content and information that you will be providing to your targeted customers once they arrive in your virtual convention. Most virtual booths are completely customizable in appearance, layout and color with just a few clicks of a mouse button. This makes it easy to add your corporate logo or to use your company colors for a polished, professional look.

Virtual shows and virtual conventions such as ON24 provide a variety of communication tools to enhance the connection between you and your prospective customer. Some of the features included in virtual conventions include group and individual chat, message boards, scheduled discussions and question and answer tools. Group chat enables you to host a discussion in a virtual group setting so that you can explain your product to a group audience and field any questions as they arise. This is especially useful when explaining technical products that may attract requests for clarification. A visitor would be able to ask you to elaborate on a point before the presentation continues so that they don’t become lost or overwhelmed with the information that is being provided. Having the opportunity to keep a prospective customer interested and educated about your product in a virtual setting is simple and beneficial to your company.

A downfall to this method of communication is the lack of personalization; you are unable to see your customers or gauge their reactions to the information that you are presenting. On the other hand, the slight anonymity of attending a virtual trade show may help liberate normally quiet or passive individuals and enable them to ask more questions. It has been noted that prospective customers are more likely to ask questions about pricing online because they are more comfortable in their own element. Attending live trade shows can be intimidating as the customer is put face to face with the vendor and may fear being singled out in front of a group. If they are afraid to be singled out, they may not volunteer to get the answers that they need to make a purchase decision, ultimately resulting in the loss of a sale.

Decreasing the intimidation factor helps increase communication and can promote more sales. Being able to engage these people by making them comfortable can open up the possibilities of more prospective customers. Being able to chat with a prospective customer in real time also allows the company the added benefit of having any specific or technical information available at their fingertips. This information can be provided to your audience easily, and in a way that casts your company in the best possible light. If you were asked a technical question in an in-person tradeshow, the company would be limited to the resources that they had on hand and the information that the speaker was given. When you hire speakers to represent your company at a live trade show, it can be difficult to ensure that the speaker will have every answer to every question that may be asked. The speaker may need to take time out to look up an answer or worse, may give an incorrect answer in an attempt to save face. With a virtual convention, all of the information you need is readily available at your fingertips and can be retrieved or verified behind the scenes without the customer noticing. All the customer will see is how you have all of the information and answers that they need to help make their purchase decision.

The downfall to virtual interaction, of course, is that it’s difficult to see if the customer is truly engaged in your content, or if they are doing other things while in your booth. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your audience engaged by asking questions and ensuring that the conversation is multi-directional. INXPO is another company that provides virtual trade show software that makes the concept of a virtual trade show as close to the real thing as possible. This virtual trade show can be set to last between one and three days and includes common trade show features such as exhibit halls, an auditorium, a resource center and a lounge. It even includes a prize center to help keep the show fun, and to encourage participation and feedback from your prospective customers.

You can even generate additional revenue when you sell some of your virtual booths to other exhibitors, if you choose. There are also sponsorship opportunities that can be created by the creative use of customizable banner ads. These options enable businesses with an additional way to create revenue that may not be available at a traditional convention or trade show. One of the nicest features that virtual trade show software offers is the ability to measure your ROI in detail by using information that is automatically gathered by the software. You will have the ability to analyze virtual booth visitor information, including how long the visitor stayed, the specific content that they viewed and how many times the customer visited the virtual booth. You can view this information piece by piece, or in report form for quick and convenient scanning. You can also customize these useful reports so that they present only the information you want in an easy-to-read format. Additionally, you can access transcripts of all email activity, live chats and other information exchange data so that you can review the communication exchange at your pace in full detail. You can learn more about the information that your customers are interested in, and tailor future trade shows based on this information.

Live shows make this valuable ROI data difficult to obtain, because to get the same information without virtual trade show software, you would need to ask each customer specific information that they may be hesitate to share with you. There is a fine line between asking questions to get to know your market and being overly pushy. High-pressure sales tactics can make your customer uncomfortable, which may cause you to lose your sale all together. The data collection tactics employed by software are non-invasive; the customer is usually unaware that you are collecting data from them, so they can conduct themselves naturally, allowing you to get accurate data. Unlike virtual trade shows, a live trade show or seminar usually has a high overhead cost. After you have paid for your booth space and your exhibits, you will have to consider refreshments, entertainment, prizes, giveaways, promotional materials and employees to man your stations. You must ensure that your company or service has a perfectly polished appearance that will be able to withstand being scrutinized.

With a virtual trade show, you have a little bit more room to relax because you will not be face to face on the floor with your customers for hours and hours. Virtual trade shows make it easier to channel your customers to your booth or exhibit by pre-scheduling times before the show. In a live trade show, customers are easily distracted by other booths and exhibits and may not give your company the full attention it deserves. Using virtual trade show software enables you to channel your audience’s attention where it belongs- at your virtual display booth. With the increase of online social and business networking, hosting virtual trade shows and virtual conventions is a very viable option for modern marketing. Social networking makes it even easier to attract show attendees to ensure that you have a great turn out every time. Virtual shows, if advertised properly, can have an excellent turn out that far surpasses an in-person convention or trade show. People are more willing to attend a virtual show and take a good look at your product because they don’t need to go through the hassle, expense and inconvenience of travel. Prospective customers don’t have to be concerned with scheduling time off from work or the added expense of travel and lodging. In fact, virtual shows are so convenient that it’s hard for anyone to find a good reason not to attend. It is also worth noting, that if a customer has to deal with logistical hassles of an in-person trade show, will they really be in a good frame of mind to make a purchase? Emotions play a large part in purchase decisions, whether the emotion is positive or negative. Attending a virtual trade show from the comfort of a computer or laptop can help the customer relax and enjoy their interactive experience with your company. A happy and content customer is one who is most likely to buy what you’re selling, which is why virtual trade shows are such a great opportunity for businesses to reach new customers and increase their ROI dramatically.

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