Digital Developments in B-to-B Event Marketing

Event marketing has long been a staple in B-to-B, where the face-to-face conversation enabled by a trade show or corporate event plays a valuable role in launching or deepening a business relationship. But these days, business events are taking off in new directions, empowered by advancements in digital technology. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the new developments, and happily share a few here.

Event marketing has long been a staple in B-to-B, where the face-to-face conversation enabled by a trade show or corporate event plays a valuable role in launching or deepening a business relationship. But these days, business events are taking off in new directions, empowered by advancements in digital technology. I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the new developments, and happily share a few here.

Harnessing attendee word of mouth. Event organizers can help registered attendees spread the word about upcoming shows with tools like Plancast, where members share news of their plans-both consumer and business-with friends and fellow social network members.

A private social network for attendees. Both Pathable and CrowdVine offer tools to help show organizers create a private social network, where event attendees can post their photos and profiles, search for connections and make appointments with people they’d like to meet at the event. This takes a lot of the randomness out of networking and lets attendees use their time more efficiently. A boon for exhibitors, who can interact with attendees in advance and follow up with them later, in a dynamic virtual environment.

Events designed for both virtual and live audiences. Some companies are moving in the exciting direction of “hybrid meetings,” where live content is concurrently streamed online, engaging both attendees on site and people at their desks. To pull this off, considerable advance planning is essential, says Pat Ahaesy, of P&V Enterprises, a NY-based event agency. “The hybrid event needs to be rehearsed and staged, with high definition video cameras. Speakers must be trained on how to engage with both audiences. And the content has to be terrific.” But the benefit is huge. You get double the audience, plus an archive of content that can be repurposed for years of additional value.

“Smart card” badges for richer data capture. Show badges built with “near field communication” (NFC) technology are gaining attention from organizers and exhibitors alike. Instead of scanning, exhibitors tap visitor badges using a mobile device, and the data uploads to the cloud in real time. So the post-visit message stream can begin right away. The attendee badges can even be loaded with money (remember, this is the technology behind Google Wallet) and followed up with a message like, “Thanks for coming to our booth. Have a macchiato on us!”

Bob James, head of marketing at ITN International, shares another interesting application of the technology: The satellite manufacturer Harris Corporation knew they’d have a busy booth at a recent show, and they were concerned that they might miss connecting with some important prospects. So they set up 22 self-serve kiosks around the booth, where visitors could tap their badges, request a case study or video, and indicate what kind of follow-up they’d like. A neat way to expand the reach of the booth staff.

Program book on your smartphone. I am always vexed at being handed a heavy conference guide to lug around, so I really appreciate the ShowGuide technology from RiverMatrix, which moves the entire show program off my shoulder and onto my phone. That’s including sessions, speaker bios, maps, the works.

Virtual events. After years of experimentation, virtual events still struggle to enter the mainstream. A study by the Event Marketing Institute says 93 percent of senior executives polled find value in virtual events. But Exhibitor Magazine’s survey suggests that 60 percent of businesses have yet to try a virtual event, even a webinar. Making the trade-off between the value of face-to-face contact and the cost savings of online interactions remains a challenge for B-to-B marketers.

Digital is making events faster, cheaper, better. What new digital developments are you seeing as part of the business event marketing mix?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Interact Virtually at InterACT!

I’m excited to tell you about a new virtual event that’s taking place on Aug. 23 produced by Target Marketing, DirectMarketingIQ and Printing Impressions, eM+C’s sister brands.

I’m excited to tell you about a new virtual event that’s taking place on Aug. 23 produced by Target Marketing, DirectMarketingIQ and Printing Impressions, eM+C’s sister brands.

It’s called InterACT! Virtual Conference & Expo, and it’s a free virtual event (attendees can access all sessions from their computer) that will explore multiple marketing channels, tools and techniques and how they work together for maximum success. Topics of discussion include:

  • multichannel lead nurturing — turning prospects into customers;
  • QR codes — scanning your way to success;
  • integrated marketing ideas (that work!);
  • augmented reality marketing;
  • social media case studies; and
  • so much more!

I’m particularly excited about a session I’m moderating titled Customer-Preferred Marketing: Data Predicts What Channels to Use Next. Stephanie Miller, eM+C blogger and vice president of email and digital services at Aprimo, will discuss how marketers gather, analyze and, most importantly, utilize demographic, behavioral and social data to improve the subscriber experience and earn higher response and revenue.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for attendees to interact with their peers via live chats and social networking opportunities, as well as downloadable resources and giveaways to be had. Register for this free event here.

I hope to “see” you there!

Social Networking, Meet 3-D Shopping

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Something passed my desk today that caught my attention: a press release about a virtual shopping mall called VirtualEShopping.com.

While I’m usually skeptical about these newfangled tools, I did check this one out … and it was pretty cool.

Here’s how it works: After going to the site and downloading the free mall software that’s required, you enter a virtual 3-D shopping mall that looks very realistic. Once in the mall, you can create avatars or personas to represent yourself, interact with other shoppers and view storefronts.

Here’s what really got my attention: Some big retailers are partnering with the site. A quick look at the website’s advertiser directory shows hundreds of retailers — from familiar ones like Apple, Best Buy and Foot Locker to less well-known online retailers such as PrankPlace, Preschoolians and ShopIrish — advertising their wares on the site.

The website offers retailers a number of ways to woo customers to shop, including the following:
∗ offer coupons;
∗ salesbots (or pop-up ads) and virtual salespeople in front of their stores promoting merchandise and specials; and
∗ storefront signage, mall carts, billboards and information kiosks promoting the same.

Special events like seminars, concerts, guest appearances and contests are held on the main stage in the mall atrium.

VirtualEShopping.com also offers social networking features. An “I Want It/I Got It” section allows shoppers to share images and links of their favorite items with friends. Other features include a special dates section that makes it easier for friends to remember gift-giving occasions; a shopping tips chat function; and a section to share favorite stores. The site also grabs a snapshot of a shopper’s mall persona to represent each user in the social networking section. Registered users can invite friends to meet them in the mall at a prearranged day and time.

VirtualEShopping.com appeals to many demographics: Gen Xers who like to socialize in malls; moms with young children who can’t shop during store hours but who like to shop with friends; and even tech-types who prefer a more robust interface.

Hey, maybe I’m partial to these virtual worlds since we’ve had some very successful virtual trade shows here at eM+C. (In fact, to register for the on-demand version of our most recent, All About eMail, click here. It’ll be up and running until Feb. 16.) But really, VirtualEShopping.com is cool. Check it out.

Virtual Worlds Marketing Is Kids Stuff

Remember virtual worlds? You know, those 3-D computer environments where users are represented on screen as themselves or as made-up characters and interact in real time with other users?

Remember virtual worlds? You know, those 3-D computer environments where users are represented on screen as themselves or as made-up characters and interact in real time with other users?

A few years ago, these online “other worlds” were the place to be for brand marketers. You couldn’t get through the day without reading about how such big brands as Cisco, Dell, Starwood Hotels and Toyota were plunking down a big percentage of their marketing budgets to be a part of the buzz — and hopefully get some returns.

These companies ran campaigns in these online worlds to build their brand names, test products and in some cases even sell digital merchandise.

The buzz around virtual worlds marketing has died down for sure. Many of these companies didn’t get the results they were looking for. The virtual worlds didn’t either. Second Life, for example, has even switched its business focus to training, promoting itself as a place where companies can hold meetings, conduct training, build product prototypes or simulate business situations “in a safe learning environment,” according to its Web site.

But despite the changes, virtual worlds marketing should not be ignored. Know why? Kids are now visiting these sites regularly, albeit not Second Life.

In 2008, eight million children and teens in the U.S. visited virtual worlds on a regular basis, according to a recent eMarketer article. What’s more, the online research firm projects that number will surpass 15 million by 2013. The report references an eMarketer report, Kids and Teens: Growing Up Virtual, which provides some more noteworthy findings.

The article estimates 37 percent of children ages 3 to 11 use virtual worlds at least once a month. By 2013, it projects that 54 percent will. In addition, 18 percent of teens will visit virtual worlds on at least a monthly basis this year; by 2013, that figure will rise to 25 percent.

What’s more, the article cited research from Virtual Worlds Management, which found that as of January, 112 virtual worlds aimed at children younger than 18 were already up and running worldwide, while another 81 were in development.

As a result, virtual worlds still offer tremendous opportunities for engagement, the article points out, such as offering marketers the ability to gain new insights into how consumers perceive and interact with their brands.

So, if you’re marketing to kids, why not give virtual worlds a try — especially those targeted to kids — either again or for the first time? You’ll be able to reach a captive audience with a unique marketing approach. You may even get a real ROI this time.