How to Decide Whether to Exhibit at a Trade Show

January 24, 2011

 

Why Exactly Are You Going Around the World for an Exhibition?

It’s trade show season and across the world companies are asking themselves “Should we go to Broadcast Video Expo / CeBIT / Gamescom (delete or add to as appropriate)?” You get the idea.

It’s all too easy to go to trade shows for the wrong reasons and easy to stay away because the costs seem high. The following points might make it easier to decide one way or the other.

Reasons to Exhibit at a Trade Show

1. Your customers will be there. Not only will you have the opportunity to promote your company to them and entertain them, but you will exert a presence in an area surrounded by competitors.

2. The right potential customers will be there. Ask the organisers to send you a detailed breakdown of job roles and companies who attended the show last year and who have registered for this year’s event. Ask questions around the industry and find out whether the majority of ‘industry people’ are going to the show or whether it’s considered a turkey.

3. You met the right people there last year. Our memories can fail us. Think back and check your notes. Who exactly did you meet last year? What business did you close as a result of the event?

4. There are highly relevant talks taking place. This will indicate the type of visitors who are likely to attend. High quality, relevant talks will also provide added value and draw the right people to the event.

5. Consider the entrance costs. If the event is expensive to attend and in a place that it costly to travel to, you are likely to have fewer visitors but potentially they will be of a higher level. If the event is free and in a large city, there are likely to be more visitors but there will be some ‘tyre kickers’ along the way.

6. Check the date. Have the organisers considered the date of the event? Are the right people likely to be able to attend? For example, if you are promoting vegetarian food products at a large food fair, what other events or religious festivals might keep some key buyers away?

7. Do the numbers add up? If you think you could get perhaps three new customers as a result of the exhibition, and the value of these customers might be $100,000 each, then the cost of a trade show at $8,000 might be OK. If you think that you will not get any customers, or you will only get one customer at $2000, then it’s a waste of money.

Reasons Not to Exhibit at a Trade Show

1. Your competitors will be there. Ok, this might also be a reason to go, but first you need to consider why your competitors are attending. Is it simply because they have always attended? Don’t get drawn into other companies’ lazy thinking.

2. You are offered a good deal for booking early. Woah! Rein in those wild horses and consider the Reasons to Exhibit listed above.

3. The trade show is taking place somewhere nice. This is the worst reason of all. Book a holiday instead!

One last comment about exhibitions before I slide off to book a holiday at the NEC Birmingham ;o) Even if you attend an exhibition with the right delegates, book a great booth space, design a wonderful booth and meet lots of fantastic prospects, it means absolutely zip if you don’t follow up your leads. What’s more, the follow up needs to be within a week after the show. Yes really.


Intelligent Email Marketing

December 8, 2010

 

In Email Marketing, One Size Really Doesn't Fit All

Email marketing is becoming increasingly challenging. We’re all receiving too much email, bacn (unsolicited but not entirely unwelcome mail) and bad old spam. As a result,  spam filters are re-tuned and email providers are moving towards preference based email management.

Here are some thoughts on improving your success rate and staying ahead of the curve.

  1. Design and Copywriting. Ok, this will probably surprise you. Keep it to plain text. 38% of recipients read emails using a mobile device and not all of these can read HTML. Do you want to lose this many of your targets? Entice and engage with the headline and provide links to more graphical content.
  2. Browser Testing. Ensure that your email is fully tested across all browsers.
  3. Relevancy. Seek relevancy in your communications. Subscribers will be most interested in your services at the point that they subscribe, so keep your relationship going from there.
  4. Test Frequency by dividing your contacts into groups and sending different numbers of emails.
  5. Personalise. Drop the ‘one size fits all’ model and respond to areas of interest shown by patterns of response to your emails. Companies that hook onto patterns of interest such as Travelocity have seen a significant increase in their conversion rates.
  6. Use a Good CRM which will enable an automated response to patterns of consumer behaviour, or at the very least, the ability to keep track of all this data. Check out Strongmail’s CRM offerings.

For further thoughts on e-mail marketing, check out my previous post, Eight Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing. Apologies for not linking to the companies and posts mentioned above. There seems to be a problem with WordPress but I’ll resolve this as soon as I can.


Social Media – Should Companies Adopt Avatars?

December 1, 2010

For Some Brands, A Social Media Avatar Could Work Perfectly

I had a great meeting this week with a bright project manager who thinks that corporate social media works best if the company adopts a character, a sort of avatar, unique to the company. So rather than setting up a Twitter account in the name of a company, it’s even better to use a robot, a games character, or some other type of identifiable personality. The theory is that this makes the company more approachable and more interesting.

Here are some ideas for social media avatars:

  • A robot to represent a technology brand
  • A cartoon musician to represent a music company
  • A young girl to represent a fashion label

Here are the pros and cons of this approach as I see it.

Benefits of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It’s good way to manifest your brand values. Really it’s no different to finding a good and memorable actor to represent your brand in ongoing TV advertising, for example Nanette Newman for Fairy, Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury.

2. It removes complexity around using real people. Real people come and go and may say that wrong thing. A social media avatar is completely controllable by the marketing or PR operation.

3. It can be more entertaining. You can take more risks with a social media avatar but keep it fully in the scope of the brand.

Negatives of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It can feel a bit trite. Especially in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and PR, clients often expect a more mature approach explanation of messages.

2. It has to work with your company branding. If you represent a fun, perhaps technology driven brand, this could work really well.

3. It may work better with the younger demographic. Younger clients might find it more entertaining and interesting. Older clients might find it a distaction.

4. The copywriting needs to be good. If you start something like this, you cannot adopt a classic corporate copywriting style. The style needs to sound like the avatar speaking to its audience.

So in conclusion, the success of social media avatars depends very much on the brand and audience. I hope you’ve found this thought-provoking. I’m off to find my robot costume and get my picture taken. Anyone joining me?


Why Marketing is an Engine for Growth

November 17, 2010

 

Winners Only Need to be Slightly Better than the Competition

Sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details of marketing – why one strategy works better than another, whether to print a brochure or deliver it on line – when the true purpose of marketing is forgotten. The true purpose of marketing is to drive a business forward and act as an engine for growth.

So why would you use marketing at all? Why not be purely sales driven?

1. Sometimes people don’t want to talk to you but they don’t mind reading about you.

2. You cannot always reach the key decision-maker. They might be looking for your services online or in a trade magazine, for example.

3. It’s important to have materials that explain your offerings in support of your sales effort.

4. In a crowded market, it’s necessary to develop branding that sets your company apart.

Marketing can take many forms, from branding reflected in stationery, advertising, signage and even workwear, to direct marketing using email and print, and through to organising a company’s presence at a trade show.

Whilst marketing is changing, the principles remain the same and involve careful planning, budgeting and implementation. Research should show that any activity targets the right audience and that its costs are justified. Implementation should be professional and timely. All activities should be followed up and measured. Simple really.

Marketing needn’t be complicated. Just find yourself an expert who can help you through the basics and watch your company grow.


How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?

November 14, 2010

Strategy Should Define Marketing Spend

It’s not always simple to define the appropriate level of marketing spend for a business. However, here are some considerations that should make it a little easier to analyse.

1. How long has your business been established? If your company is well established with a good market share, it may be possible to operate marketing at a stable, but not aggressive level. However, this depends on:

2. What are your competitors spending on marketing? Although these calculations will never be 100% accurate, you should aim to spend more than your competitors.

How is Marketing Spend Calculated?

The most common method of calculating marketing spend is a term coined by IDC called ”MBR’ or Marketing Budget Ratio. MBR is essentially, a ratio of your marketing spend to sales revenue.

So What is Normal Marketing Spend?

Marketing spend varies by sector, type of business and other factors such as product lifecycle and competition. Technology companies’ marketing spend ranges from 1.1% MBR for IT service companies, to software companies who spend an average 6.5% of sales revenues. Yet there are some quite dramatic exceptions even within this band. Dot com startups seeking rapid growth and market share can spend as much as five times their annual revenues on marketing, although this is only sustainable through investment and with a view to establishing their market position as quickly as possible.

Business to business companies also vary significantly from business to consumer companies. In the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector, it is common to spend 50% of net sales in the first year of a new product, reducing this to 8-10% within a few years. Conversely, B2B companies will typically spend a few percent of their sales revenues on marketing.

Although it only covers media spend, you may enjoy Paul Dunay’s excellent blog on how major technology companies only spend 0.2% of their revenues on media. As he explains, the bigger the company, the smaller media spend becomes as a percentage of overall revenues, making it harder for smaller companies to compete.

I’ve mentioned the importance of tracking competitors’ spend. It is also wise to think about the platforms on which you will need to promote your company. The online space is becoming increasingly crowded; competition for certain keywords is high. It is best to consult with an expert in online marketing before setting marketing budgets if these areas are important to you.

Finally, rather than allocating marketing spend on the basis of what is affordable, it’s perhaps important to take a step back and consider what will really move your business forward. How can you flourish in the competitive landscape? What are the important promotional routes to gain exposure? If the budget is not available, it’s worth considering outside investment or a change of product offering. Unfortunately a good product is not enough. It’s about making sure the market knows you have it.


How To Grow Your Presence Through Co-Marketing

November 10, 2010

Partnerships Can Help You Grow Your Business

There are many ways to increase your presence within your target industry. However, co-marketing is often overlooked and can be extremely valuable.

What is Co Marketing?

Co-Marketing comes about through a partnership with a complementary business. For example, if your company sells printing services, it might be in your interests to form a co-venture with a finishing company so that both sets of services can be presented to a potential client.

This form of marketing is particularly popular in the IT and software industries where it is expensive and time consuming to create additional related technologies but where related software could be particularly useful to customers.

Benefits of Co-Marketing

  • Co-marketing allows you to present another company’s services alongside your own, giving your clients a more useful package of services
  • Your company can gain insights from working with another, non competitive partner
  • The industry is likely to find your partnership of interest, leading to increased marketing and PR opportunities
  • You may be able to share marketing budgets with your partner company, enabling you to promote your business at more, and possibly more expensive, events
  • Your venture, if well chosen, will demonstrate expertise in your industry

How to Explore Co-Marketing Opportunities

  • Carefully research any company with whom you are considering a partnership. Check their financial status, their market positioning, their products and their marketing
  • Ensure there are no areas of competition or anything which would conflict with client agreements
  • Discuss how you will present your partnership and agree protocols for joint marketing and press work
  • Ensure that both parties check all promotional literature that is issuedin their name
  • Look at long term objectives – decide how you want the partnership to develop and work out how to achieve this
  • Create a detailed marketing plan that you are both happy with
  • Ensure that the sales and marketing teams in both organisations fully understand the services delivered by their partner company
  • Use PR – press releases and social media – to spread the word about the partnership and generate additional publicity for both organisations

Co-marketing can be a very successful route to new sales for both your company and your partner’s. If it’s not something you have explored in the past, it’s definitely to be recommended.


10 Tips for Planning an Exhibition

November 3, 2010

Good Planning Makes Exhibitions Easier and More Successful Too

It’s exhibition season and this is the final in a series of posts to help you plan your exhibition presence. For further information on How to Buy a Trade Show Display or Designing Trade Show Displays, please consult previous posts.

This article gives some useful tips on areas to consider when planning an exhibition.

1. Consider your target market. Who do you want to attract to your booth and what do you want them to do when they are there? It is important to set clear objectives and ensure that everyone who will be present on the booth understands the exhibition goals.

2. Contact your contacts. Plan activity in advance of the exhibition to notify key customers and prospects that your company will be there. Get the sales team working to set up meetings. Design competitions and offers to draw people to the booth. Use emails and Twitter to keep prospects and clients up to date with your plans.

3. Use all forms of PR and social media. If you’re not using Twitter yet, you should be! Use Twitter to connect with your audience and link up with visitors to the show using the event hashtag. Use LinkedIn and TripIt to ensure people know you will be at the event. Find out from the organisers about promotional opportunities and use any that you can.

4. Use your website. Set up a special page or area dedicated to the show and direct traffic from your marketing directly to this area or page. This will help you assess the results of your exhibition marketing. Make sure there is a clear path from this area to the next stage of asking for further information or speaking to your sales team. Set up this area as early as possible to help with SEO.

5. Design your booth. Design your booth well in advance of the exhibition and use the most cost effective and secure way to ship it to the location. If you are using an existing booth, make sure that all content on the graphics is completely up to date and order replacement banners if necessary. Order any necessary furniture and lighting. Well lit booths always look better.

6. Plan your AV and electronic requirements. Where will you display any video content? Is there enough electricity for your AV and IT requirements? Do you have a countertop or kiosk for your computers? What about internet access?

7. Review marketing collateral. What are you going to give visitors to your booth? Do you have enough copies? Think about brochures, leaflets, DVDs, and business cards.

8. Organise product samples. Do you need to show any product samples on the booth? Are they available? Do you have permission to display them? Do they need any special display conditions or temperature control?

9. Plan your data capture. How will you capture leads? A simple lead form or a data capture wand? These can usually be hired from the organisers. Who will input the data into a spreadsheet or CRM system? Can someone do this at the event for speedy lead followup afterwards?

10. Plan travel and accommodation in advance. These get more expensive and difficult to procure the later you leave it. Be an early bird.

Every exhibition is different, but I hope that the suggestions above help you to successfully plan your trade show presence and achieve successful results. Have a great time – it’s the closest you’ll get to being on stage 🙂


7 Tips for Designing Trade Show Displays

October 29, 2010

Consider Overall Design Even While Planning the Detail

This week I wrote on How to Buy a Trade Show Display. This is a follow-on post to help you consider the best way to use the available space. Of course, you will most likely work with a designer to create the actual artwork, but an understanding of the key considerations of designing a trade show display will help you get the most from your relationship with your designer and create a better result.

1. Think about the Content. Consider the key pieces of information that should appear on your trade show display. Try not to include anything that doesn’t need to be there as this will just clutter the space. Remember that people will only skim read any copy on the display as they walk past, so copy should be brief and presented as headlines and bulletpoints. Use one piece of paper for each section of the display and use it to summarise the content that it needs to contain. Arrange the pieces of paper in a line from left to right and check that the copy is presented in right order for a booth visitor. (This arrangement may need to be different in non Western cultures).

2. Intersperse Copy with Graphics. Don’t make your wall panels too copy-heavy. Think about ways that your designer could explain your business visually and devote some panels almost entirely to graphics.

3. Beware of Topical Content. Unless you have the budget to change your trade show display graphics with every event, try to convey topical promotions in literature rather than on the booth itself. If you need to promote a topical offer on the booth, try to use one banner which can be changed for the next event.

4. State the Obvious. Visitors to trade shows get brain dead working out what businesses offer at exhibitions. Make it very obvious on the display graphics. For example, if your company makes car parts, make sure there is some prominent copy that says ‘Best Quality Car Parts’ or similar. It’s amazing how many companies feel they need to complicate their message and therefore make their offerings very unclear.

5. Consider Perspective. Think about the distance from which people will view your booth, and the angle. Make sure that all copy is readable and that key messages are at eye level. Make sure that anything particularly significant will not be obscured by AV equipment, tables, chairs or other furniture.

6. Consider Colour. It is important of course, to reflect the branding of your company, but try to use colour to add life to your exhibition booth.

7. Visualise the Design. Ask your designer to provide a 3D illustration of the booth artwork in situ. This will help you to spot any errors or inconsistencies. For example, if you are designing separate booth panels, make sure that the graphics are in alignment across each section.

These tips should make designing your trade show display a great deal easier. Good luck and feel free to share your experiences and tips.


How to Buy a Trade Show Display

October 27, 2010

 

A Great Trade Show Display is Possible with a Little Investigation

So you’re planning to exhibit at trade shows? What are the best ways find a tradeshow booth that maximises your budget and looks great too?

If you’re like most businesses, it is important to gain real value from your budget. It is therefore best to find a solution to your tradeshow requirements that will work time and again. Here are my suggestions for scoping out your requirements and getting the best deal.

1. Assess your Requirements. At which tradeshows are you planning to exhibit over the coming year? Work out the potential size booth that you will most likely want at each show. Contact the organisers and ask for a quotation for the space and for a specification for the booth. Find out the height of the ceilings and whether there are any restrictions on size.

2. Consider your Requirements. If you are looking for the simplest possible route, a ‘pop up’ booth might be the answer. These can be assembled in minutes, usually come with lights and tend to be very good value. However, they are not easy to use if you need to cover a large space which will change in dimensions each time. If this is the case, it is worth considering a modular booth. These are made up of a number of screens which lock together either in straight lines or at right angles. If, however, you have a generous budget and need to make a big splash, it is worth considering a custom made booth. These trade show displays are best used in situations where the competition is high and the potential value of a customer conversion enables a little more creativity.

3. Compare Prices. Trade show displays are now available from a number of suppliers, so it is worth comparing prices and ease of assembly. Some systems lock together very simply, whereas others need a certain degree of expertise! It is easier to get better prices if you start to plan for your first exhibition early so that you can look around comfortably.

4. Consider Reusability. How easy is it to get new panels printed to replace the existing ones?

5. How Easy is it to Transport? A good trade show display should come with carry cases, preferably hard ones that can be shipped internationally without damage. If you decide on a custom built booth, consider transportation in the scoping exercise.

I hope that you have found these suggestions useful. Please feel free to share your comments and experiences.


5 Ways to Market in a Recession

October 22, 2010

Reinvent your Business and Flourish in Recession

Recently I have reviewed nearly everything associated with my business in order to provide the market with the type of service that they need and want. At the same time, I have been involved in purchasing services for clients across a range of types and price ranges. I noticed how my own behaviour has altered as a purchaser and seen how clients now purchase marketing and other services. This was a very personal experiment and not something that I believed initially would be of any real value to anyone else. However, meeting with all levels of professional, from financial to media professionals, owners of startups to consumer businesses, I believe now that some of my experiences might be useful to fellow entrepreneurs and marketers.

How to Market to an Industry in Recession

1) Be Flexible

With more pressure on budgets, there is more pressure on purchasers to make the right decisions. Offer ‘tasters’, either free or for a one off charge, to  enable clients to try out your services. If they like what you offer and find that it is successful, businesses will be shrewd enough to consider buying a larger portion of your services. For example, I looked at two PR distribution sites recently. One enabled you to send one press release; the other only allowed you to buy a year’s subscription. I picked the company that allowed me to buy just one release at a time.

2) Be Measurable

Wherever possible, try to show how your products and services produce measurable results for your clients.  This could be clicks through to the client’s website, increased sales, more footfall within a store, increased covers in a restaurant. However, try at all times to tie your activity directly to the end result. For example a restaurant could issue a postcard with a coupon which could be redeemed against an online booking. This would offer complete measurability as to the success of the campaign. This is nothing new but it’s even more important when budgets are squeezed.

3) Be Transparent

Be transparent with your costs and demonstrate where the value is in your services. Take time to really understand your client’s business and in turn, this will generate respect for your company.

4) Be Innovative

Be innovative in the areas where you look for business. Enter new markets but research them thoroughly. Leave no stone unturned.

5) Be Dynamic

Consider how to improve your business. If your business is about supplying information, how can you offer better, deeper insights? If it is about supplying goods, can they be better quality? Here’s an example from this week. I was looking at online baby gifts for a friend. There were several sites offering excellent quality gifts at about the same price. I picked the service that provided the gift in a box personalised with the baby’s name. Well done Baby Gift Gallery.

We’re all working to keep our own businesses in good shape and I hope these suggestions are helpful. For further assistance with marketing your business, don’t hesitate to contact me.