Growth in Virtual Gatherings Offers Marketing Opportunities (New York Times)
Every few years a web-based business model garners attention for a unique offering that some believe will eventually be the next big thing. In the last 10 years, such web businesses as Friendster (social networking), Webvan (grocery delivery) and NetBank (online banking) were all labeled as the next big thing only to crash under the strain of poor execution, lack of funding, bad management decisions, changing technology or a host of other factors. Of course, other businesses would eventually learn from the mistakes made by these early entrants and turn these concepts into successful business models.
One recent web business to receive similar attention is Second Life, the virtual world where one can mingle with others often by masking their true identity through an avatar. While Second Life has shown some success in the gaming world, many have also touted the potential this site has for becoming an indispensable marketing tool. In particular, many feel Second Life is an ideal venue for businesses to promote products, conduct seminars and generate sales leads. However, this has never really panned out as most companies have not embraced Second Life for businesses purposes.
But, like others that failed, the ideas developed by Second Life are now being put to work with greater success by others. The idea of virtual meeting space is alive and well on several fronts. As examined in this story, more and more companies are finding real value in participating in virtual meetings. This method is receiving special attention from sales professionals, who are using virtual space to present products and also establish sales leads. Major firms, including IBM, Cisco and Hilton, are hosting virtual conferences. With physical trade shows continuing to struggle, many are predicting the virtual conference will someday be a legitimate alternative to the traditional trade show.
Like a physical counterpart, the virtual event allowed participants to start in a welcome area, with comfortable looking chairs (and businesslike avatars), and then hear and interact with company experts.
What advantages do physical trade shows offer that cannot be matched in a virtual show?
Image by Daneel Ariantho