Event marketing has always been a powerful promotional tool for businesses. With the current shift in focus from traditional to inbound methods, virtual, participatory marketing events are becoming commonplace as an alternative to real-life events. But are they equally effective, or is there something about bringing prospects to a physical venue that makes for better results than online?
Humans are sensory creatures, and we like to see, touch and smell. There’s little that compares with being able to see or feel the quality of an item before placing an order. Physical events work particularly well in cases such as:
- Retail products, particularly highly personal items that require testing or fitting
- Local target audiences, where prospects can network in person with peers and suppliers
The benefits of holding a real-life event not only includes the tactile opportunities, however. There’s the chance to make a connection with and nurture individual prospects and to work your personal magic on them to close the deal. If you trade in high-value products this can be an excellent opportunity; if you’re selling $10 gadgets, not so much.
Everything in life has its disadvantages, and the main ones with live events are cost and time. You need to spend time planning the event, finding a venue, arranging for staffing, catering and any other services that you need. You also have to fork out quite a bit in funding for the hire of the venue and equipment, and none of this is dependent on success. You have to pay up whether it works or not.
In addition, there’s the disadvantage of having to try and get people in the door. Often, profitability depends on the number of attendees, and because of the high costs associated with a physical event anything less than optimal attendance can end up wasting your money.
The arrival on-scene of the Internet created the option for virtual event marketing, which many companies have used to benefit their marketing strategy significantly. Many people feel that it’s one thing to hold a digital conference, however, and another entirely to host something like a trade show or exhibition online.
That’s not necessarily true, though. With the sophisticated digital platforms that now enable a virtual environment to simulate a real-life one, it’s possible to:
- Plan a seamless exhibition of goods and services
- Access subject matter experts online and hold personal discussions
- Network with prospects and suppliers in your industry in a dedicated setting
Doing it this way expands the reach of your event to a global audience while saving on the cost of the venue, the staffing, travel, food and accommodation for the hosts and the attendees, as well as typical conference materials such as delegate folders, paper and writing tools. Convenience, plus savings in time and money are big when you choose a virtual event over a physical one.
Optimizing a Virtual Event
Cream of the crop when it comes to examples has got to be full-blown virtual events such as VoiceCon Orlando, which is an on-demand event that enables delegates to:
- Choose from a number of webinar-style presentation from industry thought leaders
- Visit an exhibition hall and browse the exhibits of sponsoring organizations
- Network with other attendees in a virtual lounge
- Submit questions during presentations or to exhibitors
- Create and hand out electronic business cards for future contact purposes
- Chat with colleagues about critical issues in real time.
You can also download the handouts from presentations, pick up electronic brochures from suppliers and win prizes. The only thing missing is the gala dinner at the end of the event!
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. Neither is it difficult to plan and execute, provided you have a professional with the right skills and expertise to project manage it. After that, all you have to do is sell the tickets, which you would have to do for the trade show anyway!
*Image courtesy of VoiceCon