Sunday, March 15, 2009

Virtual Events Are Enhancing, Not Replacing, Live Events

Savvy marketers are fine-tuning event ROI despite lousy economy and corporate travel restrictions.

Even in today’s crappy economic climate, live events are a cost-effective marketing and business building strategy. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, companies spend five times as much ($1,039 vs. $215) to identify and contact a prospect in the field as they do to meet face-to-face at a trade show.

As BtoB's Ellis Booker quipped in his latest Op Ed piece , businesspeople have a biological need to be around other business people in order to do business. “Make no mistake, events aren’t going away – even in today’s dismal economy. In-person gatherings are an essential step for moving business relationships and commerce along, not to mention educating audiences and collecting qualified leads. “
Booker is right. Business people are still going to be networking and shaking hands. They’re just going to be using technology more often, before, during and after events to open doors, close the deal and measure results.

Pre-event exhibitor scouting and due diligence can be done more effectively online. Many aspects of product demos can be done online. And hybrid events – in which live events broadcast to a larger audience at multiple locations off-site – can expose your event to attendees who never would have attended otherwise.
So while booth space, attendance and sponsorship may be down this year, the quality of attendees will be up (a lot more decision-makers and a lot fewer lackeys). That means fewer tire-kicker business cards to wade through if you’re an exhibitor and fewer inexperienced company reps to get in our way if you’re a buyer seeking a solution. Either way, that spells ROI and a lot fewer cancelled flights, bad meals and lost luggage.

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