This week Business.com participated in our first ever virtual trade show, MarketingProf's Digital Marketing World Spring 2009. Unlike last week's Search Engine Strategies NY, this event didn't require any packing, security check points or jet lag. Our team didn't even have to leave their desks to man our virtual booth, attend sessions or network with over 13,000 registered attendees. Instead, they simply logged on, chose avatars and let their fingers do the talking.
As with any new event we sponsor, the Business.com marketing team looked closely at the audience composition, brand impact and ROI of DMW Spring 2009. However, we ultimately viewed this show as a bit of an experiment. After all, we've been monitoring the increasing interest in virtual events.
Last December, BtoB Magazine reported on a best-practices research study among 545 professional IT buyers. The study found that they are attending one virtual event per quarter on average. Eighty-two percent consider virtual events to be a valuable source for learning about new technologies, and 62% agreed with the statement, "They are an efficient use of my time, enabling me to see a variety of technologies in one place."
Attendees of this week's MarketingProf's event seemed to agree. The event rocketed to Twitter's #2 spot on trending topics the day of the event. For those of you still new to tweeting, this means the conference was the second biggest topic being discussed on Twitter on April 1st! According to event organizers, that equates to about 8 tweets a minute during the height of the conference. It probably helped that the keynote speaker was Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign Manager.
From an exhibitor standpoint, we were pleasantly surprised with the volume of traffic to our virtual booth. Here are some of our tips for B2B companies considering exhibiting at a virtual trade show:
Don't Over-Staff Your Virtual Trade Show Booth
Though many attendees will wander the virtual trade show floor and stop by your booth, most are looking to gather information and click on your offers/links. Don't take it personally if attendees aren't inclined to chat one-on-one. We found many people enjoy the anonymity of not having to get pitched at every booth. Keep in mind that many may not even know exactly how to engage in individual chats.
Do Provide Virtual Trade Show Booth Visitors with Links to More Information
We found click-though rates were strong on these five links: Special Offers, About Business.com, B2B Marketing Research, B2B SEM Newsletter, Read our Blog. Make sure to also include collateral (whitepapers, media kit, audience profile, etc.) in the event's Resource Library. Downloads of Business.com content numbered in the thousands!
Don't Miss Out on Networking in the Virtual Trade Show Lounge
We found it's a hotbed of activity. Not surprisingly, ROI on virtual events, the economy and social media were hot topics. Via a group chat feature, our staff answered b2b questions, shared resources and when appropriate, let folks know about all the benefits of advertising with Business.com. What would a trade show be without shameless self promotion?
The jury is still out on the quality of leads from this event but initial analysis looks good. In fact, we've signed up for MarketingProf's Fall 2009 virtual event. What's your take on virtual events - future of the industry or flash-in-the-pan fad?