News and Insights

Post-Pandemic: Will Virtual Trade Shows be the Norm?

August 25, 2020

Will B2B sales ever return to in-person selling?

The answer: It will be a hybrid.

Let’s face it, COVID-19 didn’t gradually stop B2B in-person meetings, it pulled the emergency brake. Business travel abruptly ended. Instead of shaking hands with customers, B2B sales professionals Zoom-call from their homes. Trade shows, those lucrative central marketplaces, where buyers meet sellers, were canceled.

To fill the vacuum, virtual exhibits and conferences have become the solution. So now, many B2B companies are scrambling to create virtual booths, yet many virtual exhibits look like brochures or embellished listings in trade show directories. With so many virtual exhibits popping up, there’s almost a glut of choices, so many fail to gain traction. The traffic is disappointing.

To succeed, B2B companies need to approach this virtual transformation strategically, not tactically. They need to realize that it’s not about getting prospects to attend or visit their virtual exhibit, it’s about getting prospects to participate and interact in compelling virtual experiences. These experiences must promise to be engaging on themes that directly focus on customer needs. To learn more, checkout: Where do you begin? When your Trade Show Goes Virtual

Yet, what happens, when trade shows begin to open again? In early 2021, in several geographies, trade shows are planning to return to live events, exhibits and conferences. The question is, will attendance and interactions return to pre-COVID-19 days?

Probably not; even if a commercially available COVID-19 vaccine is available, many business professionals will feel uneasy about flying and attending events. Trade shows will have fewer attendees, yet those making the effort to attend will most likely be ready to fulfill specific needs. Essentially, they will be high-quality prospects ready to buy. For this reason alone, companies should definitely return and exhibit in these events, because they’ll have even greater opportunities to capture new business and expand customer portfolios. Companies should also exhibit, as relevant shows open, to fortify their brands and demonstrate that despite COVID-19, their businesses have survived and are supporting customers better than ever.

However, exhibitors should take a hybrid approach, as shows reopen. Definitely, commit to being there on-site, as well as reinforcing the in-person initiative, with a dynamic, well-focused, interactive virtual experience. This engaging hybrid customer experience, which we call, HyFINN™ Experiences, leverages the power of a trade show’s brand equity, the power of a company’s professionals to interact in-person and the power of virtual technologies to engage with prospects unable to be on-site. To achieve success, B2B companies must change from tactical, to strategic approaches to effectively resonate with targeted audiences, generate quality leads and speed conversions to sales.

The HyFINN Experience focuses on creating value-driven experiences for prospects on-site as well as virtually, so that engaging discussions initiate, gain momentum and build collaboratively to “win-win” relationships. Before on-site booths and virtual components are created, the first

HyFINN action requires research/surveys of targeted audiences to effectively understand their major pain-points and challenges. Results from this effort will become the essence of building the HyFINN experience that will build quality prospect engagement in-person as well as virtually. 

For instance, if research finds that a major challenge facing prospects is “improving sustainability scores as well as increasing hygiene”, the onsite booth may have a series of live-presentations addressing each important topic. These presentations would also be streamed live on the company’s virtual experience platform. Also, to make the presentation at the booth even more dynamic and engaging, there could be live interviews with retailers walking through their stores providing credible insight on relevant consumer preferences. Or consider incorporating “live” streams from processing operations at customer locations or with designers and engineers at customer sites. Plus, as booth presentations take place, special effects using augmented reality and other fascinating technologies can be incorporated to demonstrate special machine features or give greater insight to material performance.

The virtual experience can even take place prior to the start of a trade show so VIPs from key global or national customers can get a sneak preview of the HyFINN experience. In addition, the virtual experience can be continued after trade shows to give special presentations and knowledge forums to interested prospects who want their colleagues and important influencers to participate to accelerate purchases.

B2B selling will certainly transform to strategic combinations of onsite and virtual experiences. To learn more how to create HyFINN Experiences to help you strategically propel sales, contact me directly, Alan Isacson, Global Leader of the Manufacturing and Trade Sector, FINN Partners,

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