Virtual Cultivate’20 Pt. 2: Was it worth the investment?

Yesterday, we looked at how Virtual Cultivate’20 was overall and focused on the educational sessions. Today, we’re going to talk about the digital event’s trade show and whether it was a success or not.

Trade show better than expected for Virtual Cultivate’20

Even in the best of circumstances, we never know how well we do as a trade show vendor for months — sometimes years — after Cultivate. When growers need to make a major investment, like replacing an entire business system or upgrading machinery or adding greenhouses, these decisions can’t be made on the spot in a trade show.

With an enterprise system like Grower Vertical for Sage X3 that touches every part of a business operation, the implementation process must be timed exactly as not to interfere with the spring or fall seasons. We also have to determine if the system is a good fit for the potential buyer. We don’t want to set up a small IGC who is only looking for a point-of-sale system to be crushed by the weight of a software package designed for a large-scale grower.

Virtual Cultivate'20 digital booth

While it wasn’t perfect, the Practical Software Solutions booth at Virtual Cultivate’20 was an amazing representation of what our regular booth would have looked like — complete with the Columbus skyline in the background.

The good news is we ended up with as many leads during the Virtual Cultivate’20 as we would have scanned badges if it were an in-person trade show. That’s all any vendor could ask for and much more than I had anticipated. Doing a cursory bit of research shows some were in fact what we would consider to be a target demographic, so it was worth the investment from that standpoint.

The only thing I would ask to change would be how the leaderboard competition drove some false positives to visit us and download materials. I loved the idea of having the “scavenger hunt” and the participation credits for a chance to win some pretty nice prizes. However, it was easy enough just to look at the top of the leaderboard to see who was legitimately inquiring about Grower Vertical and who was looking to finish on top. I liked the idea that AmericanHort was trying to drive traffic to the virtual trade show, but maybe they could de-emphasize how many points people could receive for the competition.

Virtual Cultivate’20 was a success all around

I did hear there were a few glitches with Virtual Cultivate’20, but most of them seemed to have been with people having some issues with Zoom more than the platform itself. The folks at 6Connex did a masterful job of representing the conference environment, and should be commended on how well their platform holds up use in the real world.

The folks from AmericanHort always seemed so cheerful about how everything was going and how many people were participating from around North America — and some from around the world. The possibilities this show opened up for the future seem endless.

Already there were people talking about the idea of having future Cultivate conventions having a virtual companion for people who couldn’t attend. And as I said earlier, AmericanHort was already thinking about how they could expand the educational sessions if virtual conference remained a necessity in the future or just another way for people to attend.

We were happy to take a chance to participate in the Virtual Cultivate’20 trade show. For as low of an entry price it was for us, we received an amazing return on investment. I’m not just talking about how many leads we got from the trade show. Because we were able to participate in other areas of the conference, we learned some of the ways we can contribute to the industry just by talking to random attendees.

While most people who I saw had a hit of regret for not being able to go to Jeni’s Ice Cream, the Columbus Summer Wine Festival, or many of the great bars and restaurants around the Greater Columbus Convention Center, it was pretty much agreed AmericanHort hit a home run with their first attempt at a virtual conference. While we all hoped to see each other in person for Cultivate’21, there was a general agreement a virtual event is a suitable alternative.

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