Virtual trade shows offer lower-cost sales venue

Publication: Daily Herald
August 21, 2008
By Jim Kendall

With no travel costs, low-cost do-it-yourself booth design and an ability to quickly find the best leads among visitors to your booth, virtual trade shows present an interesting opportunity for small business exhibitors.

You may have to search to find a virtual trade show that fits your target market, but making the effort may be worthwhile.

“You can do anything at a virtual trade show that you can do at a physical event,” says Malcolm Lotzof. “You’re doing it online.”

Lotzof is CEO of InXpo, Inc., a Chicago producer and manager of virtual trade shows.

Here’s what you’ll find at a typical virtual show:

·          Snazzy, 3-D graphics that lend authenticity to the experience.

·          A virtual auditorium for breakout educational sessions, most often a live webcast with live Q&A.

·          What would be an exhibitors’ lounge at a physical show but in the virtual world is an online chat room.

·          An exhibit hall, of course. Virtual trade shows seek to make money, too.

·          Booths, staffed (online) by real people.

Building a virtual booth seems easy.

“Log onto our kit and use the wizard to create the booth,” Lotzof says. “You don’t have to know, or learn, html.”

He adds that “you can build your booth in about an hour (at about) 20 percent of the cost” of a booth at a traditional show.

The top benefit of an InXpo show may be your ability as an exhibitor to track leads.

“Everything that happens at a virtual event is tracked,” Lotzof says. “Every time (a delegate) goes to your booth, every time they open a PDF (your handout material),” InXpo knows. So can you.

It’s the ability to sort visitors to your booth and e-mail those who, for example, spent three minutes and downloaded two pieces of literature that Jeff Molander says is a major benefit of a virtual show.

Molander is CEO of The Partner Maker, LLC, a Chicago software company that makes affiliate marketing work online. The Partner Maker has exhibited at four eComXpo shows, an online show for e-commerce marketers.

Ideally, you or a staffer who shares booth duty with you should be at the virtual booth to answer questions whenever the virtual exhibit floor is open.

“But it’s unrealistic to think your booth will get 99.9 percent of your attention,” Molander says. “There’s the interruption factor, or you’ll get up and walk away.”

That’s where tracking factors in.

“Even if visitors don’t leave an e-card, you get to see who was in your booth and how long they stayed,” Molander says.

At the end of the day, for example, Molander can ask the InXpo system to “show me everyone who spent at least three minutes at my booth.” He also can ask what pieces of literature booth visitors clicked on and which ones they downloaded.

The best leads get the quickest e-mail follow-up.

Questions, comments to Jim Kendall, JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

© 2008 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.

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