Virtual Tradeshows: Horizontal Or Vertical Markets?

This post is by Dave Lutz, Managing Director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

If you’re a show organizer, you’re probably wondering how to best leverage virtual event technology to help drive revenue, engagement and attract new blood. You might consider a virtual event to incubate a new show idea, attract an international audience, bridge the gap between your live events or even help build excitement for an upcoming show. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of great data, handbooks or case studies on what will deliver the best return. We’re still in the early adoption phase, and we are all learning together.

Early data shows that the attraction and satisfaction for virtual events is driven more by educational content than through the virtual tradeshow floor or networking. Exhibitors are not realizing the same return that they receive from live events. Attendees aren’t compelled to spend significant time on the virtual floor. (If you are interested in learning more about virtual events, TSNN is conducting a free webinar on August 4, 2010 at 2pm EST. Click here to register)

I’m a big believer that virtual events, when done well, have the ability to help drive a brand and an attendee’s desire to participate in the face-to-face larger offering. Here are seven areas to consider when designing a virtual tradeshow business model that will deliver results.

1. Product

Multiple single-day, vertical virtual events that include education sessions and a virtual exhibit hall. Make sure the content is live streamed (video) and that it rocks! In the virtual world, not delivering relevance is a major fail.

2. Target Audience

Think segmentation of primary buying groups into vertical markets. Avoid large horizontal groups. Instead of trying to be the “industry show,” try to be the show for “specialist”.

3. Timing

Conducted 16 to 24 weeks before your main show, consider one a week or one every two weeks. Design content that is offered in two time slots as your main attraction with the tradeshow open the entire time. Limit education sessions to 60 minutes (less is better). The entire event should be no longer than three hours.

4. Partners

Solicit exhibitors that offer new products, show specials (like GroupOn Virtual Deals Of The Day) or content (whitepapers, e-books) that are not readily available on other distribution channels. You want to attract buyers and influencers. The incentive to visit booths should be readily apparent as opposed to winning something. Don’t sell booth space to just anyone, make sure that they have compelling information or offers for your target audience. Just like a brick and mortar show, ask your exhibitors to help you spread the word.

5. Marketing Strategy

Consider virtual tradeshows as opportunities to attract and qualify prospects, provide quality leads to your partners and grow desire to attend your live events. If profit is your primary motivator, you’re likely going to get too horizontal and fail. Require minimal demographics upon registration but just enough to know how to market to them in the future. Your no-show rate may be as high as 50% but having good data on your no-shows can be valuable to you and your partners. Use the virtual show as a tool to build your list and position your brand.

6. Funding

Your revenue model can include multiple components, including booth fees (put everyone on a level playing field), sponsorships (education, event, email marketing), banner ads, etc. Make attendance free for attendees/buyers.

7. Platform

With a multiple vertical event strategy, a platform with an annual, all you can eat, license. Ease of use trumps bells and whistles.

How could this model work for you? What recommendations do you have for others considering a virtual tradeshow?

This post was original published on TSNN Blog.

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