Target Practice: Transforming Virtual Events into Powerful Marketing Vehicles

Trade shows and conferences have always been powerful tools in the corporate marketing toolbox.

It makes sense. Bring a bunch of people together who share common business interests and provide meaningful venues for interaction. Chances are that event attendees will find mutually beneficial ways to do business with one another.

During the pandemic, virtual events have played a key role in substituting for in-person trade shows that may have been cancelled or delayed. In fact, many marketing executives are recognizing for the first time that virtual alternatives to in-person events can play a role in helping organizations achieve their objectives. More than half of individuals working in sales that were surveyed by Wainhouse Research in a fourth quarter 2020 survey say they agree that “it is more cost effective to generate leads at an online event than a traditional in-person trade show.” 

cost effective virtual event pie chart

But while virtual venue platforms are already proving their worth as vehicles for lead-generation, the virtual event industry is only beginning to scratch the surface in terms of implementing technologies that enable even more streamlined ways to leverage online gatherings to boost brand awareness and sales opportunities. 

Essentially, when it comes to the world of virtual platforms and virtual event marketing, marketers are really dealing with a blank canvas. But they can look to today’s online advertising world for direction, because more than two decades of technical development and innovation have forged a slew of viable solutions. It’s up to marketers to identify ways in which virtual event marketing can be refashioned for effective implementation in the virtual and hybrid event realm.


Targeting Customers in Effective and Innovative Ways

Many of the tools that have long been used to identify and target prospective customers on the public web just now are beginning to be integrated into virtual and hybrid event platforms. As tools for presenting and targeting advertising messages in virtual venues grow more dynamic, the virtual event marketing value made possible via online event platforms will only increase.

Consider, for instance, the ability to present rotating sets of banner ads on the screens of virtual event attendees, with marketing messages tailored to interests identified by the attendees themselves while registering to attend the event. Further, consider the possibility of leveraging information collected from a user across a series of events, and using that data to craft virtual event marketing messages of relevance to that user. 

Virtual venues offer other tools that help marketers develop a better sense of their sales prospects. Integration of reward-based contests and games within a virtual event, for instance, can identify prospective customers who may respond to certain types of incentive programs. Other clues can be discerned from the topics of virtual event presentations that interest them most. 

Over time, it may even be possible to combine an attendee’s registration information with other relevant marketing information collected from other sources, such as their social media profile. Such data cross-pollination could offer marketers greater insight in identifying and targeting prospective customers.


Leverage Virtual and Hybrid Event Data for Marketing and Lead Generation

While the virtual event industry is just beginning to implement solutions that help event planners squeeze more marketing and lead-generation information from their online public gatherings, event planners should be aware of the potential to leverage this data in more robust ways over time. Event administrators should take a hard look at the product roadmaps of virtual event platform vendors to understand their level of commitment to the on-going development of tools that push the envelope in terms of attendee analytics.

The ability to generate advanced virtual event marketing data is only one of several technology categories subject to rapid innovation in today’s virtual and hybrid event marketplace. To develop an understanding of other capabilities poised to transform the virtual event experience, download a free copy of the new Wainhouse white paper developed in conjunction with 6Connex, New Vistas for Virtual Events: Infusing Innovation into Online Venues. The report is available below.


White Paper New Vistas for Virtual Events: Infusing Innovation into Online Venues


Steve Vonder Haar is a Senior Analyst with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at

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