The future of large trade shows and events is obviously uncertain at least in the near term, but pandemic or not, virtual events are booming while providing new challenges and opportunities, and it’s more than a passing trend. Just like we’ve all adapted to distance learning (kind of) and home offices (you know you love skipping the commute and working in your pajamas), marketers have adapted to fully digital processes to engage buyers, and they are seeing some surprising benefits, especially as technologies evolve in virtual environments.
Skeptics might say that virtual events can never fully replace a real sales conversation, but that remains to be seen. It should be easy to track effectiveness of virtual sales and marketing efforts with the right technology in place. Visitors to a virtual space shouldn’t be anonymous and you can track their buying behavior from first contact at the virtual booth all the way through to purchase.
This full picture of data along with cost savings without plane tickets and hotels will speak for itself once sales cycles that started in a virtual environments close. Even if virtual events don’t prove to be altogether better in the long term, they are currently the only events we have so working to make them excellent is a no-brainer. How effective they become at generating leads that close will be the deciding factor on how long they stay, even when quarantine ends.
“Stop doing that thing that’s generating all of those great leads.” said no marketer ever.
The key is to make sure your buyer's virtual experience is a great one for them and a valuable one for you. Getting people to participate online is a challenge and an inviting virtual space is crucial. If no one participates, you can’t help them evaluate and purchase your products (or market to them). This got us thinking about how we might use our solutions in a new way to meet this need, and we’re working on an exciting project combining a 3D virtual experience with lead capturing that integrates into CRM or Marketing Automation called Modus VX!
Go Green! Digital-First Content is Easily Recyclable and Often Evergreen
Marketing leaders are finding that one of the best lasting benefits of virtual events is the ability to easily recycle fully digital content into workflows and more. All of the impactful presentations at live events often make mediocre online content, but if a presentation is digital-first from conception built for a virtual event, that content will shine bright on all your sites and posts, and much of it can be augmented to be evergreen. This breadth and variety of fresh digital assets can have so many uses throughout the sales cycle. (Hint: if all that great content is getting hard to distribute, we can help you with that.)
Another huge benefit to virtual events and their dynamic content is that the barriers to global reach like the cost and hassle of plane travel across time zones are gone, or are at least easier to work around. Buyers also cannot attend anonymously (like the mysterious trade show booth visitor who won’t let you scan their badge) so it’s much easier to keep track of who has interacted. On demand virtual events can be used when live ones don’t make sense for a global audience. This kind of enhanced access to buyers has a lot of potential, but just like the chaotic pulling together of a killer trade show, it’s all in the execution. In a virtual environment that puts a lot of focus, not just on the effective content, but on the digital tools and how they integrate with each other.
Digital B2B Shopping was Already Here
Even when all interactions are forced to be virtual, customers and prospects still need to get connected to learn about your products, and leads collected and purchases eventually made are real and tangible. In today’s environment, marketers can’t rely on trade show leads to fill the funnel, but those buyers are still out there. And they’re almost certainly already doing online research about your products.
According to a recent Gartner study, even before the latest push to virtual, buyers are only spending 20% of their purchasing decision time with a sales rep, and that doesn’t even necessarily mean that time is with your sales reps, they are likely evaluating other products or solutions. Increasing buyer engagement outside of the sales conversation is critical to your success, and this has only increased the need for better online content and experiences.
Virtual Marketing is the New Digital Marketing
Although the logistical details make large events difficult to execute and attend, while virtual ones have fewer physical barriers, neither event is close to easy to execute, and neither can be successful without the right technology and engaged attendees. While we’re all stuck in some level of quarantine, smart adaptable and innovative marketers and technology providers will continue to come up with new ways to engage buyers online in virtual environments.
When live in-person trade shows and conferences eventually start up again, this interim time period where we all adapted and went virtual, a certain amount of the changes are going to stick. Especially as new solutions get implemented, budget-conscious finance departments see the shut-down travel savings, and leads keep flowing in. While no one is likely to say 2020 was a great year, weird as it is to say, it’s an exciting time to be a digital marketer.