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Managing Expectations in the Exhibit Hall | February 2021
By now, almost every exhibitor has had the opportunity to participate in a virtual exhibit hall event. There is no question they don’t deliver leads and sales the same way an in-person, traditional event does. Still, there is a lot of value in the data we capture at virtual events.
As exhibitors, we have a responsibility to recognize that things are different and that we need to manage expectations when exhibiting virtually.
Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean that we should accept failure. However, we just have to recognize that the process is very different and many of the benefits you acquire from a face-to-face meeting simply can’t be replaced virtually.
So far, PodiatryMeetings.com has had the excitement of creating our own virtual exhibit event, and we partnered with an organization to host the virtual exhibit hall for its annual meeting.
In addition, we’ve had endless conversations with meeting planners about their own events and challenges. Through this experience and conversations, we’ve learned that for virtual events, about 40% of registered attendees will actively engage in the virtual exhibit hall. This data can help you plan accordingly when you are calculating your goals and expected sales for the event.
As marketers and sales people, we know that a “sense of urgency” and “call to action” are crucial to closing the sale. This has become even more pertinent during virtual events. Think about it like this… you think of something you need. Maybe it’s a new coffee mug. It’s not a life or death situation, but you would really like to have a new mug. You go to Amazon, search through all the coffee mugs, find the perfect one, and either add it to your cart or add it to your list. How likely are you to actually complete the order and buy the mug right then, the first time you sit down to find that new perfect mug?
If you’re anything like me, you will add it to your cart or list, get distracted buy something else, and the next time you see that mug in your cart, you will either delete it or save for later. I do this all day long. However, I am more likely to complete the purchase if I see it’s on sale or a “limited time” deal. The sense of urgency is created and I know I have to act now or lose my deal.
The same concept applies for attendees shopping in a virtual exhibit hall. We know this, which is why we offer “show specials.” At traditional shows, this is usually enough to get people off the fence. At virtual shows, there are so many things to look at, so many vendors – each with their own method to place an order. It’s overwhelming.
Closing a sale directly from the virtual booth is unlikely. First you have all of the challenges just mentioned, PLUS, not every exhibitor has a strong method of making transactions virtually. Many are used to being on the floor and placing an order with pen and paper. We’ve all been kind of forced into being e-commerce businesses in a very short amount of time.
Now that we have an understanding of the challenges we will face as virtual exhibitors, how can we increase our chances of success?
First, understand that participating in a virtual booth gives your brand and product or service exposure and visibility to all attendees. This is a huge benefit compared to on-site exhibit halls where there are several DPMs who have anxiety about entering the hall due to the fear of having “hard sell” interactions, or plain and simple social anxiety.
When attendees have the safety of their screens, they now have an opportunity to explore areas they haven’t in the past – giving you an opportunity to showcase your brand. A recognizable brand often leads to consumer trust and future sales.
Second, know the value in the lead data you are given. An email address and/or phone number opens the door for you to follow up and gives you the keys to a long-term marketing program for that potential buyer. Follow up in a friendly, timely, personalized manner. Don’t just add the email to your list and forget about it.
Past experience tell us that 10% of active attendees will visit and engage with your booth.
Math: 200 attendees… 40% are active (80)… 10% of those will engage with your booth = 8 total prospects.
So – design an effective sales process and you will find enhanced success at virtual events.