Live events and trade shows have long been a staple in most marketing plans. Though often taken for granted, they influence nearly all significant sales opportunities for many companies. After all, when it comes to networking and relationship building, it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of meeting in-person. In addition to developing rapport with new and existing clients, trade shows help organizations establish brand legitimacy and a positive perception in the marketplace, introduce and demonstrate new products, and generate qualified sales leads by capturing new contact data.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and live events were shuttered for the foreseeable future, it’s no wonder marketing teams were scrambling to replace the sales and marketing activities previously delivered through live trade show events.
Solutions for virtual trade shows
SoundOff Signal (SOS) is a leader in lighting and safety systems for the emergency vehicle market.
One of its primary customer audiences is police fleet managers. Every year, a large gathering of these individuals takes place at the Police Fleet Expo (PFE). The PFE has traditionally been the largest, most successful trade show outing for SOS. It is when and where SOS announces its new products for the year.
When PFE 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19, the SOS marketing team sought an alternative venue for achieving PFE trade show objectives (customer engagement, product education, and lead generation). That’s when they partnered with ddm to identify emerging technologies and new marketing tactics to adapt the SoundOff Signal trade show strategy to the pandemic environment.
Through a collaborative discovery process, SOS and ddm evaluated numerous tactics and technologies, e.g., broadcast events, interactive product demos, direct promotions, and virtual trade shows. After consideration of each potential live event replacement and its ability to meet SOS’ marketing objectives, it was determined a virtual trade show was the best alternative. It provides an easily accessed, interactive platform that offers robust product information at customers' convenience. It also creates various opportunities for customer engagement and lead generation, as well as the ability to add more features over time.
A custom online experience
Working in partnership with the SOS marketing team, we created a self-navigated online experience to express SoundOff Signal brand values and present key product stories to the PFE audience.
Designed for intuitive navigation of the virtual trade show elements, the landing page welcomes guests with a video greeting and directs them to explore product kiosks that contain more videos featuring the SOS sales team, as well as curated content. Personal relationships and service is a key SOS differentiator, so it was important to find a way to include many recognizable and friendly faces throughout the experience.
The virtual trade show at its core is a custom webpage built in WordPress. Using this platform allowed for ease of integration with the existing SOS website. But the use of WordPress doesn’t mean we stuck to a template. Our developers extended the functionality of WordPress to handle the complex relationships between products, product kiosks, and the main page of the trade show. At the same time, we needed to build something that could be easily customized and changed for future trade shows. That required a user-friendly administration page for customizing the backend of the site.
Another key objective of the virtual trade show was a prominent call to action to drive lead generation and opportunity for sales follow-up. Throughout the experience, visitors were encouraged to share their contact information via “scan your badge” on the intro page, a “contest entry,” and “contact your representative” features.
EMS trade show application
Even though this particular trade show design was crafted specifically for PFE, the template can now be repurposed for other trade shows. For example, we used the template to build a virtual experience for the EMS virtual trade show.
This is where our user-friendly administration page comes in handy. SOS was easily able to keep the video and content elements they wanted, while effortlessly replacing other content. For the EMS trade show, the background of the main landing page was changed to a skyline shot. And instead of a featuring a police cruiser, the page features an ambulance.
What makes the trade show template so valuable to SOS is that its internal team is able to add new content for different trade shows with little assistance from ddm. The team doesn’t have to start from scratch for every new application, saving them time and money.
The future of hybrid trade shows
While the first phase development achieved its objectives, the virtual trade show can be enhanced for future applications to include additional opportunities for visitor engagement. And as we all look forward to the return of live events, the virtual trade show provides the opportunity to create a hybrid event by augmenting in-person gatherings with elements of a virtual event, such as online platform, live streaming, virtual networking, and virtual Q&A.
Do you have a virtual trade show coming up?
If one of your key industry trade shows has gone virtual, or if it’s a hybrid event, let us know. We can talk through the best tactics and technology for your needs.