Should Your Marketing Mix Include Virtual Events?

Due to COVID-19, many in-person tradeshows and industry conferences have been delayed or canceled. While navigating this situation has been a challenge for both engineers and industrial marketers, it has also created an opening for the emergence of virtual tradeshows.

GlobalSpec recently conducted a survey of engineers regarding virtual tradeshows. The results showed that a slim majority of engineers have never attended a virtual event, but those that did found the event valuable.

  • Fifty-two percent of surveyed engineers have never participated in a virtual industry conference or tradeshow event.
  • Of those that did participate, 80 percent found the virtual event experience valuable.
  • Forty-nine percent of engineers said they find standalone webinars more valuable than virtual events. Twenty-percent preferred virtual events. The remainder were unsure.
  • Thirty-one percent of engineers said they would likely attend their favorite in-person industry conference or trade show if it were staged as a virtual event in 2021. Fifty-six percent said maybe they would attend.
  • When industry conferences and trade show events were canceled, the leading alternate sources engineers relied on for information and/or networking opportunities were supplier/vendor websites (63 percent), online trade publications (44 percent), publication emails/e-newsletters (43 percent), and vendor email/e-newsletters.

Recommendations for Marketers

The findings of this survey point to several possibilities for marketers:

1. Strengthen your webinar game

At this point, engineers prefer standalone webinars to virtual events. Webinars are shorter, more focused, and easier to host. They also provide excellent engagement opportunities. Furthermore, engineers are familiar with the webinar format and more likely to  commit time to attend them. This is particularly true if they trust they’ll receive high quality and relevant information.

Consider creating a series of short webinars (20 minutes or so) that build on each other but also can individually stand alone. You can also produce one or two foundational webinars that feature an analyst, industry expert, or customer who can tell a powerful and compelling story.

To increase interest and attendance, engage your audience through interactive webinar features such as live polls, chat windows, and Q&A sessions.

Here are eight tips for creating a successful webinar.

2. Refresh your home page

There may not be anything wrong with your website’s home page, but engineers are relying more on vendor websites during this time of COVID-19, and you should make sure your home page shines.

Don’t worry about having the fancy bells and whistles on your home page. Instead, focus on providing engineers with easy access to the latest detailed technical information and specifications they are looking for. Clear and simple navigation allows engineers to dig deeper and discover more.

3. Devote more resources to email

With in-person events shut down, engineers are relying more on email and e-newsletters from vendors and industry websites as alternative sources of information.

Continue to send regular emails to your house list. To reach potential customers not on your list and whom you might have connected with at tradeshows, consider advertising in opt-in industry e-newsletters that are targeted to your audience.

You can also work with a media partner to send custom, co-branded emails that can capture your target audience’s attention.

4. Seek a virtual tradeshow opportunity

You may have an opportunity to exhibit at or sponsor a virtual tradeshow or other online event. Of course, many such events are popping up, and some will be better than others. Event spaces, exhibitor profiles, registration, content library, support for live streaming, and lead retrieval are a few of the factors you must take into consideration.

While a virtual event can be an excellent networking and engagement opportunity, evaluate your options and choose an event that’s aligned with your goals and capabilities. Be sure to read this before committing to a virtual tradeshow.

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