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.

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.

Five Ways to Improve your Marketing

October 20, 2010

Improving your Marketing is Really Very Simple

We are living in times of thin resources, both in terms of time and money. It’s not always possible to have the team of marketing and PR professionals inhouse that you might prefer. So how, with limited resources, can you get better at marketing your company and improve your results?

Here is a guerilla-style guide to getting your marketing in better shape.

1. “My website isn’t performing well on the search engines” This is a common problem with many companies. The ranking of websites on the search engines is now an increasingly professional activity. It needs experts. Call in the experts (you can start with me if you like) and get your site reviewed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes. This will include a study of the way the website code is written, how the site is structured, the copywriting and design of the site. After this, there will need to be a study of the links to the site from other sites and a plan for how to improve the number of links. This is called Linkbuilding. For more information on this topic, please visit my blog post Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

2. “I’m not standing out from my competitors” It’s probably your branding. You may need some work on your branding to help it stand out from the competition. Branding is much more than just the development of your logo, it’s about the essence of who you are as a company. The colours, style and images used for your branding are really only a reflection of a deeper projection of your brand values. This does not mean throwing a bunch of ten pound notes at a wall to see what sticks with an expensive advertising agency, but it does mean developing a coherent approach to explaining who you are and reflecting this in your marketing.

3. “Our competitors seem to be everywhere” That’s probably because their PR and understanding of SEO is better. It’s important to develop an ongoing PR strategy that issues news on a regular basis. Trade press PR should be a monthly activity. Digital PR on websites and blog sites should be a weekly or biweekly activity. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) should be a daily activity. Sound a lot? Yes, it is quite a lot of work, but it will certainly help you get new customers.

4. “We need more customers” SEO should help significantly in this area. However, when you are trying to sell business to business services, sales activity is very important. There is absolutely no substitute for metaphorically ‘knocking on doors’, whether this means spending time at the right industry events, responding to online debates, phoning up regular customers and contacts or sending very personalised emails.

5. “Sales are so Patchy” That’s probably because like many companies, sales and marketing are not ongoing activities, but dipped into when business is quiet. Then -bingo! – it all comes at one time. Then goes quiet again. End your own personal cycle of boom and bust and give someone the role of seeking new customers on a weekly basis. Measure their output and performance and give them lots of support and encouragement. Make sure they are searching in different parts of the market and assess which areas are performing best.

It might be tough out there, but there’s no reason to let your competitors steal a march in these easy-to-fix areas. Good luck and feel free to ask any questions on the suggestions raised.

Five Considerations in Spending Your Marketing Budget

October 15, 2010


How Would you Spend your own Money?


About this time of year, marketing directors around the world are considering how to allocate their marketing budgets. Sometimes it is hard to decide whether the marketing methods you choose are reaching the right people and leading to new orders for your company.

Here are five considerations that may help you to decide whether the money is well spent.

1. Will it reach your target market? If you are in business to business marketing, as with B2C marketing, your target market will be those who have the need, and the budget, to buy your products or services. No one else matters. Awareness raising is all very well, but focus on the people who count.

2. Is it appropriate? If your business is selling car parts to automotive companies, your communications should reflect reliability and engineering prowess; if you are promoting your game development services to Electronic Arts, you are going to want to show creativity as well as technical ability. Does the route taken reflect your brand and people’s perceptions of it?

3. Is it measurable? There is often a way that you can make marketing activities measurable. Anything internet based can be easily measured and you should aim to select measurements that are as meaningful as possible. Also, due to the sheer glut of information available with a lot of website monitoring packages, try to reduce the number of stats you work to. Just pick the best, only use a few, and you will have memorable stats to refer to over time. For non internet based activities, try to think of ways to add in a call to action such as a website registration, a phonecall to your customer service team or a response paid postcard – or all three.

4. Is it creative? Even if you are using a tried and tested route, seek to be creative and different. Try to keep your branding moving on without destroying the brand ethos that people know and love.

5. Is it value for money? Read books on purchasing strategy and treat your marketing budget as your own money. Go the extra mile to get extra quotes and use more time consuming but cheaper routes. For example, if it will cost £1000 to airfreight an exhibition stand in three days but £300 to ship it by land three weeks earlier, plan ahead to make sure that this happens.

There are so many considerations to making the right choices with your marketing budget, but aim to get best value wherever possible. Try to imagine the route from an interested potential customer to the final order. How does it happen? What are the steps along the way? How can you make it happen quicker, cheaper, more creatively? We’re living in financially straightened times, let’s all get more creative.

How To Write a Marketing Plan

October 13, 2010



The Marketing Plan - Where Creativity, Marketing Expertise and Financial Responsibility Meet


Marketing plans are critical to the success of your marketing year and are the only way of controlling costs. As a company grows, it is essential to map out the intended direction of the company and how marketing plans and expenditure work in this context. If you have never produced a marketing plan before, October is a good time to start putting together your marketing plan for next year. In my next post, I will discuss how you decide which items are important to include in your marketing plan.

There are long articles on marketing plans and what they should include. I’m assuming that you do not have all the time in the world but need to create a workable document that can be built on year by year.

Here is a short guide to some of the elements that every marketing plan should include:

1. Introduction to the Marketing Plan

Even if this is the company’s sixth marketing plan since its growth from a tiny corporate acorn, it’s still important to summarise the objectives of your marketing plan. It helps everyone to focus and to put the plans and their associated costs in context.

  • What is your current market position? How much of the current market is serviced by your company? How do you rank against your competitors? Devote a section to each of your competitors and how you compare to them. Do a SWOT analysis.
  • Explain the company’s objectives. What is your desired position in the market? Where do you think it is reasonable to aim for by the end of next year? What are the longer term objectives?
  • What were last year’s sales figures? Where did you feel you succeeded and where is there room for improvement?
  • What were the results of last year’s marketing activity? Item by item, what would you repeat? How did your results measure up against costs?

Depending on the complexity of your product offering, it may be necessary to segment this section to cover progress across different products or business lines. This will help your company set targets and consider how marketing and sales can best work together going forward.

2.  Describe the Market

  • Estimate the size of the market for your services or products
  • Explain the approach that is needed to reach each target market in turn
  • Analyse the demographics and psychology of the market
  • Describe the motivation for purchasing your products or services and any key influencing factors
  • Explain the potential route to a purchase and where marketing can help to influence purchasers at each of these stages

3. Explain the Direction of the Plan

  • Summarise the key areas of the plan
  • Explain why you have chosen to favour particular activities
  • Discuss the results you hope to gain from them
  • Explain how these activities will be measured

4. The Plan Itself

  • Use Excel to create a line-by-line breakdown of all activity
  • List the activity and next to it, the budget in all relevant currencies
  • Show actual expenditure in a column next to the budget
  • Show the difference between real and actual expenditure next to the other columns, positive or negative
  • Breakdown bigger costs into smaller items. Where an item involves a large number of smaller costs, break these down on a separate worksheet and place the total on the main worksheet at the front
  • Total up all figures at the bottom of the spreadsheet so that you have a total spend in each currency, and over time, a total actual spend and total variance between the two figures
  • Set an agreed currency exchange rate. If you are working in different currencies, set an agreed exchange rate with your finance director

5. Managing the Marketing Plan

Over the course of the year, you should keep the actual spend updated and make a note of any items that you later decide not to proceed with. Do not remove them from the spreadsheet as you want to track your annual spend against budget – just put a zero against the actual spend for that item

I hope that this post has helped to demystify the marketing plan for those working in B2B marketing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

8 Ways to Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns

October 8, 2010


Improve your Email Marketing Campaigns or Disappear


Clients have expressed considerable concern at the challenges of delivering effective mail marketing campaigns in the current market. Yes, it’s a challenge. When I first started working on email marketing campaigns, so few people used them that a well put together campaign would achieve phenomenal results. Nowdays, most of us receive a lot of spam (or ‘bacn’ – legitimate but unrequested emails) and the ISPs are also working to filter email on our behalf. Google’s Priority Inbox is a good example of this, an optional feature that allows users to authorise Google to filter their messages by certain criteria.

Yet there is still a lot of very effective email marketing, and I thought I would share some effective tips to keep you in the inner circle.

Tips for Improving your Email Marketing Campaigns

1. Maintain a good list. This does not just mean a list of current addresses, but as much information as you can gather on who people are, why they might possibly buy your products, and their stage in the buying cycle.

2. Use email marketing software that gives you as much information as possible on who has opened and read your email, whether they have clicked through to your website, and then their route once they have landed on your website.

3. Ensure that for every email marketing campaign, you use a good landing page that is optimised for that campaign. Research has shown that customers feel much happier if they arrive at a website landing page with the same message as the email that led them there. Do not just route to the contact page.

4. Match your email campaigns to the current status of the target. Have they just signed up to your email list? Are they an existing customer? Map the behaviour of the target to your message – do they click through to read more? Have they ever requested more information? What is the potential timeline for a purchase? Where is the target in the buying cycle? Map all of this in your CRM system before you create any individual campaigns.

5. Use good copy. Employ the services of a professional copywriter if you can. I would recommend Laurence Blume at Freelance Copywriter.

6. Make sure that the design of your template looks and feels the business and that any images you use say exactly what you are saying in your copy, not just something close.

7. Test your email fully across all browsers and platforms.

8. Measure your results and follow up any hot leads in a timely manner.

I hope that the above suggestions to improve your email marketing campaigns have been useful. If you have additional suggestions, I’d love to to hear from you. There is plenty more to say on this topic, so expect further posts too.

10 Tips for Good B2B PR

October 6, 2010

PR is About Connections, through Every Channel including Social Media

PR should form a central element of any good business to business marketing plan. Here are ten tips for building a good PR strategy for your business.

  1. Not all PR is worth the time or trouble. Think about who you are trying to reach and be dogged in screening your target publications and websites. It might give you a boost to see your company name in the Isleworth Gazette, but if your target market is Germans in the manufacturing industry, frankly, what are you doing?
  2. PR has changed. You’re not just dealing with seasoned, or even unseasoned journalists these days, you also need to work with bloggers. Put together a target list of publications, websites and blogs that you are trying to reach, together with  contact details for the publications and websites, and website addresses for the blogs.
  3. Assemble your collateral. Ideally, your press kit should include some good photographs of your products or people at work and photographs of your key personnel. If possible, you should also produce video assets but these need to be produced closely in line with your PR strategy and also in close association with forthcoming features on trade websites.
  4. Put together a press plan for the next few months. Work with the company executives and colleagues to understand which stories can be covered and to find interesting pieces. There are going to be changes as events unfold, but make sure that you have a plan of activity as a starting point. Assemble a list of hot topics of the day. Work with your senior management to agree company views on these issues. Make sure thathey are in agreement with your press plan and understand the importance of the PR strategy. Ask them to be available for interviews and quotes when required.
  5. Create well written press releases, written in the third person, that accurately reflect the company in an unbiased style. Journalists hate salesy press releases.
  6. Send your press release individually to journalists and also release it via a PR newswire service. Follow up with the journalists to make sure they have received your release.
  7. Consider optimising your press release for the search engines and publishing it online on article sites. This can be tricky if the exact wording is critical but is beneficial for SEO.
  8. Interact with bloggers by posting comments against their articles. Make sure that these comments are interesting and make a real contribution to the debate.
  9. Engage in Social Media. Use Twitter as part of your PR activity. Post on a regular basis – about three times a day is ideal. See my article on Twitter for more guidance. Use LinkedIn (for B2B companies) or possibly Facebook in certain cases to establish your company identity and interact with your customers. Many of you are trailblazing in this area, but you may find something useful in my next post on maximising the effectiveness of LinkedIn as a PR tool.
  10. Measure your results after each campaign and measure social media at least once a month. Look at relationships generated with journalists, stories published and coverage in social media. With Twitter, be more concerned with the profile of your followers than the number of followers – it’s not a haggis throwing contest.

It is hard to sum up the entire discipline of business to business PR in one post, but I hope that these tips are a useful starting point. It would be great to hear any experiences from readers in this area.

What Makes Good Design?

October 1, 2010

Choosing Creative Partners is About a Fusion of Understanding

In these days of fast moving technology, it is easy to become so absorbed in deciding on the right communications channel that design and creativity get left behind. Yet creativity has never been more important. As we strive to make sense of messages on new platforms that are leading edge and experimental, creativity is the hit between the eyes, the glue that binds us to the message.

Yet it is also important to work with creatives who understand the needs of your organisation and how to extend basic brand guidelines into something much bigger and more exciting.

It is undoubtedly true that the best work comes from a creative individual or agency who understands your company and brand but has a fresh enough perspective to drive the message forward. It’s impossible to tell you what is good and what is not, but the primary concern should be whether the creative makes an impact in both the advertising space and against competing promotions. Would it leave you wanting to know more? Would it make you want to click through to a website, pick up the phone or take action in some way?

Here are some suggestions for those seeking creative partners for medium term assignments:

  • Check their technical capability. How do they go about the design process? Which artwork packages do they use? Ask for technical as well as creative references – what do printers and website developers say about their work? Are they able to provide graphic design only or HTML design for websites and digital advertisingas well? Pure graphic design is fine, provided it is executed with a good understanding of how the internet and websites work so that the designs can be effectively converted into HTML or other software at a later date.
  • Look at their work. How well have they interpreted a brief? How well have they understood or developed a core branding proposition for their clients? Is their work derivative or original? How have they extended a brand message across different media?
  • How do they handle the basic asthetics of creating an ad? Do they typeset well? Are the fonts in proportion to the images? Is the right amount of text on the right lines?
  • Ask for references and testimonials. What do their clients say about their work and approach to service?
  • Discuss charging models upfront. Ask for a quotation to cover a number of forthcoming projects and remember to agree copyright for any designs.

In summary, good creative is absolutely essential to driving home your message. Sweat the detail. Challenge any concepts that you believe need more work. Remember that as a client, you get the creative you deserve.

PPC and When to Use Paid Search

September 29, 2010

There are Right and Wrong Ways to Use Search

Paid Search advertising has its place in the marketing professional’s armoury. In fact, as search engines prioritise paid advertising more and more on their search results, it’s route that cannot be ignored.

However, it’s not a panacea and it is important to plan any paid search advertising carefully to avoid wasting money. It’s also true that search engines such as Google cannot be trusted to support your interests 100%. Ultimately search engines exist to sell advertising opportunities and it is best to seek independent and qualified advice.

Advertising with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft

This depends on your product, but in business to business marketing to which this blog is dedicated, the considerations are different from consumer marketing.

First the negatives. Theoretically paid search advertising is brilliantly targeted as only those who are interested will click on your ads. However, if your product has a narrow and complex business proposition, advertising on Google or Yahoo, for example, is likely to expose your company to time wasters. In addition, advertising rates are likely to be more expensive if your product cannot be clearly and easily defined. Whilst it is possible to pick up interested potential customers by advertising on the major search engines, it is important to remember that attracting the attention of the right people is sometimes hard.

On the positive side, there are times when advertising on a major search engine is the right approach. Business to business purchasers use search engines just like everyone else. Additionally, as a matter of course, companies should allocate PPC spend to buy their brand names as keywords. It is unthinkable to have competitors using your trademarks in their PPC campaigns and stealing the benefits of advertising you have gained elsewhere.

Where you do choose to advertise through the major search engines, it is worth utilising the services of an independent PPC professional in order to achieve the best results. A good PPC agency will spend your money wisely and will prevent badly executed campaigns from damaging your ratings with the search engines. Be cautious in using the services of a search engine representative as they may make searches too broad and increase your costs.

Tips for Advertising with the Major Search Engines

  • Don’t prioritise reaching the ‘number one spot’, as second and third positions often work just as well
  • Use ‘long tail keywords’ – that is, very specific search terms, to filter out time wasting clicks and reduce your Cost per Click (CPC)
  • Work hard at your ads to ensure that they are creative, original and reflect your product or services accurately
  • Ensure that your landing pages use the same language as your ad otherwise you will confuse and lose potential advertisers
  • Include the location of your company in your ads and use geographic targeting. Internet users like to know where suppliers are based. Taking this approach will increase your Click Through Rate (CTR) and save you money too
  • Use negative keywords as a filter to reduce unwanted enquiries

Facebook Advertising

Facebook is another growing advertising platform. However, Facebook’s ads appear depending on the location, age and interests of the member. It is not really ‘paid search’ advertising but paid contextual advertising. Great for the right products and services but not really a business to business proposition. Facebook advertising is best restricted to local and personal services.

LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn is another option and better targeted than Facebook. LinkedIn has 75 million members from a professional background and as the advertiser you can present your ads to very specific audiences. Again, this is not paid search but a very proactive form of contextual advertising which is ideal for business to business marketing.

Similar forums in Europe are Viadeo in France and Xing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In summary, PPC advertising is worth exploring but should be handled with care. It is too easy to become excited by the sheer number of potential customers on the internet and to forget about targeting. Essentially, the same rules apply online as offline – it is important to ask, “Who is looking?” and “Are they the people who will buy my products?”