Challenge: Lead generation, brand differentiation and improved customer communication.
Solution: Add a virtual trade show while increasing the frequency of the physical trade shows.
Results: The first virtual trade show saw 1,300 registrants and more than 730 attendees, more than double the expected turnout. Matching physical show results, ASI experienced a 10 percent to 20 percent sales uptick immediately following the event.
Granted, Kent Tibbils had shown leadership by helping introduce a virtual trade show to ASI Corp.’s repertoire. But the marketing vice president thought the Barack Obama likeness, which his colleagues included as the avatar in his trade show chat window, was a bit much.
“There was a lot of changing of the avatars,” Tibbils says, laughing, adding that ASI staff pranked only one another during the otherwise serious first virtual show for the Fremont, Calif.-based distributor of computer components and peripheral products. No one changed customers’ photos during the May 14 event, he emphasizes.
Rather, ASI listened to its constituents when making the decision to incorporate virtual trade shows in the itinerary of conferences that the company moves around the country and hosts every couple months at one of its 13 branches, he says. ASI’s more than 20,000 clients—value-added resellers, systems integrators, retailers and original equipment manufacturers—wanted to see ASI representatives more often than every two years, when the physical conference would rotate to a city near them.
“And that’s a pretty big gap when you talk about how fast technology is changing,” Tibbils notes.
So in fall 2008, ASI contracted with San Francisco-based virtual events and webcasting provider ON24 to put on the day-long virtual conference and exhibition.
Two months before the May 14 show, ASI began sending the 14,000 e-mail recipients in its housefile the first of eight or nine messages. About 25,000 third-party addresses received three or four blasts.