For most life science marketing professionals, participating in trade shows and conferences is an essential piece of the lead generation puzzle. Yet for all of their advantages, live conferences aren’t always the most economical or convenient option.
Budget is one big factor: When you add up the cost of transportation, lodging, shipping, and exhibit space, conferences are a significant investment. Logistics are also a common hurdle for members of an organization who are traveling from varying locations. For these reasons and more, many organizations are looking to virtual conferences as an additional avenue for generating leads and developing meaningful customer relationships.
Virtual conferences offer many of the same benefits of a live conference, but with fewer costs and logistical issues — beyond the fact that you only need your computer to attend. Even without the buzz of live events, marketing executives are finding virtual events to be an effective new way to meet potential customers, collect leads, and deliver content via virtual booths and online speaking engagements.
Though virtual conferences are a relatively new form of customer engagement, they’ve gained popularity in a variety of industries — the life sciences in particular. BioConference Live, one of the largest producers of life science virtual events, reports that an average of 8,792 people log into each virtual conference.
What exactly is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference, just as its name implies, features many of the elements you’d find at a traditional, in-person event. Only here, the presentations, exhibitor interaction, and networking all occur online. Most virtual conferences feature a virtual show floor, virtual exhibitor booths, and even virtual networking lounges and education sessions.
Virtual conferences and live conferences differ in many ways; each has its own distinct set of benefits and drawbacks. But for many life science marketers, it’s not an either-or proposition — they choose to do both to varying degrees.
Here are some reasons why marketers might consider going the virtual route:
1. Lower cost. Anyone who’s been to a trade show knows how costly they can be. And costs aren’t just limited to the obvious expenditures. In addition to sponsorship fees, live conferences require you to budget for employee time, booth electricity and internet, shipping, travel — the list can grow painfully long.
2. Less hassle. Virtual event provider, ON24 reports that the most cited driver of virtual event attendance is convenience. Virtual conferences require no travel — that means no boarding passes to print, no bags to pack, and most importantly, no disruptions to your daily routine.
3. Trackable lead generation. Every interaction at a virtual conference is trackable — document downloads, video views, booth visitors, business card exchanges, etc. With booth metrics available in real-time, virtual event platforms ensure no lead falls through the cracks. In contrast, how many live conference conversations can you remember that ended in a lost business card?
4. Meaningful customer interactions. One major reason organizations might shy away from virtual events is the lack of in-person communication. While there will never be a true substitute for face-to-face conversation, many marketers are finding virtual events to be viable platforms for relationship development. According to a survey of 5,000 marketing professionals by ON24, 72% of respondents said they were equally confident interacting virtually, and 15% said they actually preferred it.
5. Fewer moving parts. Live conferences can present logistical challenges. From booking hotels to making sure your materials get delivered to the right booth, the stressors of a having multiple team members attend a live event are constant.
6. Lower environmental impact. Environmental sustainability is becoming a priority for many organizations. Virtual events reduce air and car travel — two major sources of pollution. Plus, companies can cut down on materials that would likely be thrown away after the event is over, such as handouts or event-branded materials. Unnecessary conference waste can add up; the EPA estimates that the average convention attendee produces 20 pounds of trash per day, whereas the average person sitting at home generates only 4.6 pounds!
7. More creative freedom. Because live conferences can be so costly, many companies avoid taking creative risks with their booth setup or marketing collateral. With so much money going into a live event, creativity is often out-paced by the more conservative ‘what-worked-last-year’ approach. Virtual events aren’t nearly as large of an investment. You’re free to push creative boundaries and explore new, exciting methods for engaging with your audience.
8. Continued access to booth content. Virtual event materials remain accessible to attendees long after the conference ends. Some virtual conference providers will house virtual booths for up to a year post-event.
With so many distinct advantages and a growing number of events every year, virtual conferences can add a powerful punch to your marketing strategy. And with the next virtual event only a click away, there’s no excuse for missing out on all the marketing benefits they can provide.
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How have virtual events played a role in boosting your integrated marketing campaign? Leave your answers below in the comments section.
Keywords: budget, content marketing, Digital Strategies, event investment, Lead Generation, life sciences trade shows, marketing goals, marketing to scientists, trade shows, virtual trade show