Trade shows are expensive for exhibitors – even though they are among the most important lead generators most companies have. According to Forbes, the average traditional trade show exhibitor spends $25,000 per show, including travel, shipping, booth fabrication, giveaways and collateral materials. Considering that most companies participate in multiple trade shows each year, this can add up quickly. The average virtual trade-show exhibitor, by contrast, spends $5,000 to $8,000 to participate.
Cost, of course, is a factor, but if virtual trade shows don’t generate leads, then any investment is wasted. According to a study by Marketing Profs (and underwritten by On24, one of the best-known virtual trade-show hosting companies), virtual trade shows are the most heavily attended of any type of virtual event (compared to virtual marketplaces and online training). Plus, 84 percent of virtual trade-show attendees take some action as a result of their attendance, with 59 percent indicating that their action was visiting the exhibitor’s website.
The bigger question: Do these virtual trade shows actually generate real (not virtual) leads? The answer seems to be yes, if you know how to work the show effectively. As with any new approach, there are new rules. Exhibitors who understand that placement on the “floor” is just as important in the virtual world as on the traditional trade-show floor, and work the booth during event dates, do, in fact, generate real leads. They are able to do this even while they are on the road, IM’ing booth visitors and receiving contact information back. What’s more, these shows can run weeks and even months, in some cases, due to the reduced cost for the organizing entity, providing vendors with much greater visibility over time.
Many organizations today are opting to participate in both live and virtual trade shows to get more integrated results. This lets them have the best of both worlds, with the global reach and bold statement that a virtual trade show provides, and the ability to differentiate, demonstrate and connect with decision-makers at traditional trade shows.
The benefits of virtual trade shows for organizers are similar to what exhibitors gain, including better analytic information about attendees, time and cost savings, more flexibility in shifting format on the go, and longer running times.
Before deciding whether a virtual trade show is right for you, it’s frequently suggested that you visit existing virtual trade shows in your industry (most are free), visit booths and get a feel for the experience. There are as many different iterations of the virtual trade show as there are live trade shows, and finding the right fit is an individual choice that can require some exploration.