Trade shows have long been an important staple for marketing products, services, and brands. They also serve as a unique opportunity to network and make connections with potential partners and customers.
Despite many businesses transforming their operations for a digital economy, trade shows are still an important part of the marketing mix. They’re an affordable way to generate leads, too. According to one analysis, the cost of a face-to-face meeting with a prospect at a trade show is approximately $142 compared to $259 to meet the prospect in their office.
Nonetheless, there is an increasing need to bring the trade show experience online. Teleconferencing can be effective, but it doesn’t capture the experience of walking the trade show floor.
Thankfully, companies can now easily transform a traditional trade show event into an interactive online expo known as a virtual trade show. Here’s how it works.
Key Tools and Resources for a Virtual Trade Show
A virtual trade show is an interactive 3D environment that attendees can enjoy remotely, from the safety and comfort of their office or home. It mimics the experience of a physical trade show in that attendees can explore a virtual space, interact with trade booths, and speak with other attendees.
To make a virtual trade show possible, you first need to assemble the right tools and technologies. Generally, you’ll need three key elements: a platform for hosting the virtual trade show, a solution for facilitating communications between you and your attendees, and tools to market your virtual trade show.
You may be able to leverage the marketing tools you already use for traditional trade shows. You can use landing pages, automated emails, and a CRM to obtain registrations. If you like, you can even use social media advertisements, banner ads, and other paid marketing assets to get the word out.
The platform you choose should be accessible to anyone who wishes to attend. For example, your attendees shouldn’t need a virtual reality headset just to visit your trade show. Instead, you can use augmented reality (AR) solutions to let attendees visit virtual booths, watch product demonstrations, and engage with your trade show floor using any device, such as their smartphone or laptop computer.
Finally, you need a tool to facilitate communications. Most trade show platforms will include such a tool, but you can also let attendees engage with each other through digital solutions like chat rooms, web conferencing tools, and direct messages
How to Convert Standard Trade Show Booths into a Virtual Setting
Naturally, the best virtual trade show ideas start with designing an engaging virtual trade show booth. Keep in mind that attendees will be engaging with your booth through AR. It should be as approachable as a real booth, complete with easy to read signage, logos, and product images.
But when creating a booth in a virtual trade show, you’ll need to include interactive elements to encourage people to pay attention.
The features of your booth should be responsive, meaning they react when your visitors interact with them. You can use auto-playing videos, interactive menus, scrollable images, and other elements to encourage visitors to interact. Give your visitors the freedom to navigate the booth on their own, just like they would at a regular trade show.
Finally, you need a way to replicate the presence of a booth attendant. You can create a virtual avatar or video to provide a product presentation, but you should also be open to direct communication with visitors. This can be accomplished with a live chat feature, an instant messenger, or even a video conferencing tool.
Marketing Your Virtual Trade Show
You can’t have a virtual trade show without attendees!
Most traditional trade show marketing tactics will be effective in gaining attendees, but you also need to be aware that virtual trade shows are a relatively new concept. Not everyone will fully understand how they work.
Start with an awareness campaign. You can use an introductory video, a slide deck demonstration, or a how-to guide to show prospects that virtual trade shows are nothing to be afraid of. Highlight the benefits of attending: They can join the trade show from wherever they are, avoid expensive travel costs, and save time.
After that, try the following marketing tactics to gain attendees:
- Create a landing page for registrations.
- Launch a paid and organic social media campaign.
- Feature the event on your website.
- Send out automated marketing and confirmation emails.
- Use SMS and email to send out pre-event reminders.
Harness the Benefits of a Virtual Trade Show
Some of the best virtual trade show benefits are the most obvious. Hosting a virtual event is a fraction of the cost of hosting an in-person one. You don’t need to rent a physical space and there’s no need for exhibitors or attendees to travel.
You can even increase access through a virtual trade show. You may have prospects overseas or in different parts of the country—they don’t have to miss out if they can attend your trade show online. Importantly, you can better ensure the safety of your attendees when they don’t have to travel to a physical location.
By hosting your trade show virtually, you can even obtain more data from your attendees. You can then use that data for lead gen or to do quantitative assessments of your event.
And finally, you can make AR a key focus of your event and demonstrate your products to a wider audience. Your attendees will be impressed by your capabilities, and they’ll get all the information they need about your product in an engaging format.