A method to the madness


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Other marketers also are experiencing rapid change when it comes to virtual events. Four years ago BlueLinx, a distributor of sustainable building products, communicated with its customers primarily via facsimile. Now the company is reviewing the lessons learned from its first virtual event and contemplating the creation of a perpetual online warehouse that would combine a virtual platform with interactive content, social media and a data management system to help better connect the wealth of information gleaned from the environment to the company's sales operations. “I know where my company wants to head, so I'm trying to pull together all of those golden threads,” said Shiloh Kelly, national sustainability lead at BlueLinx. “We're taking the virtual show farther. How can we leverage a 24/7 environment? We're trying to create a piece that we can use later as we grow and evolve.” The momentum behind virtual events does not signal the demise of the face-to-face market. Many companies are turning to a combination of in-person and online initiatives to deepen their reach into portions of the market they already serve. “While we know the companies that we sell to, we don't necessarily know all of the staff within those companies,” said David Liff, senior VP-product marketing for the mainframe business unit of global information technology management software company CA Inc. “The combination of the physical and virtual events is a good way for us to build up that understanding of who does what within those companies and start providing them with value.” CA this year will convert what had been a series of about 50 webcasts into a monthlong live virtual environment. May Mainframe Madness will overlap with the company's five-day physical CA World event and emphasize dialogue over new sales. But CA World content and presentations will not dominate the online offerings. Instead, the company is focusing on providing content customized to meet the needs of the 23 different types of customers it has identified in the IT world. “The virtual trade show environment gives us that flexibility,” Liff said. “We're choosing the content we provide for them so it gives them just what they need.” M
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