Five step guide to virtual trade show exhibits

I work with a number of clients who exhibit at a virtual trade show for the first time.  They find that once they complete their first virtual trade show, that each successive show is simpler.  However, for the very first one, they’re often in need of some guidance.  Here’s our advice on a five step plan to help you (as an exhibitor) achieve virtual trade show success.

I covered the same five step guide in a webinar with FOCUS.com titled “From Fad to ROI: How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows”.  You can view the on-demand archive of this webcast: From Fad to ROI: How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows


Now, on to the five steps.

Step 1: Define Your Mission Statement

The mission statement is essential, since it’s the basis for measuring your success.  Keep it succinct – 1-2 sentences will suffice.  Here’s an example, “Generate 15 engagements with the pharmaceutical industry, who will make a purchasing decision in 6-9 months.” Ensure that your team has agreed-upon definitions for “engagements” and “pharmaceutical industry”.

For instance, you may agree that “engagement” is an attendee who submits a comment in your virtual booth’s group chat – or, engages in a private chat with one of your booth staffers.  For “pharmaceutical industry”, you may develop a named account list of companies that you’re targeting in that industry. Finally, for “purchasing decision”, review the registration page used by your virtual event host, as they’ll often include qualifying questions that you provide you with this sort of insight.

Step 2: Assemble an All-Star Team

What’s the most important element of your virtual booth?  Your staffers, since they help shape perceptions about your company and can differentiate your products and services in a way that sales collateral cannot.  Make sure you have your best and most knowledgeable employees representing you in the virtual booth.

I recommend that many functional roles be represented: direct sales, sales engineers, product managers, product marketers, engineers and executives.  Direct sales work well with prospects at the very beginning of the sales cycle, while the Subject Matter Expert (SME) [e.g. product manager, engineer] can address challenging product questions posed by prospects deeper in the sales cycle.

Step 3: Build and Promote Your Presence

Be sure your customers, prospects and partners know about your virtual exhibition.  Promote your presence on your web site – and, leverage your social media presence as well (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.).  On the webinar, I was asked if Twitter or Facebook was better for promoting the virtual presence.  After speaking for a few minutes, I eventually said, “do both”.

Step 4: Engage With Prospects

Here’s the “make or break moment(s)” – how you engage and interact with prospects who visit your virtual booth.  Make sure your team is coordinated.  You do that by designating a coach (perhaps that’s you), who ensures that your “players” are all running in the right direction.  As the coach, you assign prospects to the right team members and ensure that no one’s questions go unanswered.

Step 5: Qualify and Follow Up with Prospects

Exhibiting at a virtual trade shows affords you with rich engagement data on your prospects.  Don’t waste this data by placing all leads into a generic telemarketing campaign!  Be strategic in your follow up activities by studying your prospects’ activities.  Their actions (e.g. number of booth visits, documents downloaded, chats with your staffers) provide excellent hints on what challenges they face and where they are in the sales cycle.  If you can decipher these clues well and follow up appropriately, you hand your sales team opportunities that are easier to close.

Conclusion

Virtual trade shows can be a dream for marketers.  Consider a five step plan like this one and you’re well on your way to success.  Drop a comment below and let us know what your step-by-step plan looks like!

dshiao@inxpo.com'

Dennis Shiao

Dennis Shiao is director of product marketing at INXPO. Prior to INXPO, Dennis served as Director of Product Management, Webcasts at TechTarget, where he worked with B-to-B technology advertisers on virtual trade shows. Prior to TechTarget, Dennis spent several years in Information Technology management, with responsibility for large scale web and server infrastructure.