Anita Nevins, founder of Direct Connection Advertising & Marketing LLC, provides marketing and communication solutions to insurance carriers, wholesalers and the industry at large. During her 25-year career in the industry, she has attended her fair share of association tradeshows, some of which have good participation but by many of the same individuals - those with the resources, time, and staff to travel to the various events our industry hosts. She began to look into how to reach those agencies that couldn't attend and deliver to them the benefits that one garners from a tradeshow.
The solution was to do what other industries were already successfully doing: Use technology to bring the tradeshow to agencies and other insurance professionals. In 2010, Anita and her company hosted the first "regional" Virtual Insurance Marketplace which saw nearly 500 attendees. Now with her third show this coming May 29-30, Anita is hoping to exceed the 2012 "national" tradeshow, which had about 1,000 attendees. This month's Virtual Insurance Marketplace is focused again on California Property & Casualty Agents and Brokers and Insurance Professionals, due to popular demand by the exhibitors, sponsors and attendees. Registration is free for attendees.
The Virtual Insurance Marketplace combines the latest technology in webcasting, online chats, video streaming, and avatar graphics to offer the components of physical trade shows: exhibitor booths, presentations, distribution of marketing literature and social "gatherings." It is designed to look and function like the real thing but that play out in real time in cyberspace.
"With the virtual tradeshow, you don't have the expense of travel, accommodations, meals, etc. that are part of attending a show," said Anita. "We're bringing the benefits of a tradeshow to a wider audience, providing attendees with the ability to click on an exhibitor's booth to download company information, watch product-demonstration videos and chat online with company reps from the comfort of their office."
The Virtual Insurance Marketplace is not intended to replace the industry tradeshows that take place throughout the country year-round; rather they can be used to complement an existing show by offering an opportunity to those that can't attend either as a participant or as an exhibitor to connect and network with colleagues, find out about products and services, learn from industry experts, and connect with markets. The virtual tradeshow also offers an opportunity for companies and associations to create a new show for those looking for different avenues to reach their constituents. In fact, Foremost Insurance Company will be the first property and casualty insurer to host a virtual tradeshow, "Foremost eConference", through Direct Connection Advertising & Marketing next month.
How does the Virtual Insurance Marketplace work
Exhibitor booths are set up just as like at a physical tradeshow with various ways in which to easily search and access each of them. Attendees can visit each both and download the material (brochures, videos, etc.) they'd like to an online briefcase provided within the menu. You can even download the entire exhibit booth into your briefcase. At the end of the show attendees can then "unpack" their briefcase with all the pdfs, etc. they chose to the desktop of their computer for later reference. "What's also of particular value to the attendees," explained Anita, "is that during the registration process we ask them to select the specific lines of business, marketing strategies, etc. they're interested in so that our exhibitors can deliver to them the information they need. In addition, this provides exhibitors with a digital footprint of those attending and their interests."
During the show, attendees can participate in live chats with the exhibitors - either in a group or privately. They can see who is "manning" the booth and interact with the exhibitors just as they would at a physical show. Attendees can also schedule a specific time with an exhibitor to chat while the tradeshow is live. One of the exhibitors is Neilson Marketing Services, sister company of ProgramBusiness.com. In addition, Mike Neilson, Vice President/Operations of Neilson Marketing, will be doing a presentation on telemarketing.
"You can log in and out of the show as many times as you'd like while it's live," explained Anita. "Once the show is over, it will be archived for 90 days so you can access the information you may have missed. The only difference is that during the archived period there are obviously no live chats."
Speaker presentations are available in "real time" and then available on-demand. The presentations will also be available for 90 days after the show is over. During a show, depending on the individual presenter, the platform allows for chat with him or her in a group Q&A.
To take a brief tour on how the Virtual Insurance Tradeshow looks and works, you can take a look at the three-minute video provided on the website by clicking here.