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.


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.


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.


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 Google Instant Will Change Search

September 24, 2010

Google Instant Defines Where We Look

You may have noticed the evolution of the Google search bar to incorporate a form of predictive search display. This new technology, known as ‘Google Instant’ may be turned off to the right of the search box, but as this function is controlled by a cookie, if you clear your cookies it reinstalls.

Despite attempts by Google to downplay its significance, Google Instant is likely to have profound effect on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies. Google is marketing this feature as a timesaver but in reality, it’s a process of channelling our thoughts.

Essentially the predictive text element of Google Instant will narrow the search terms that people use to search for goods, services and ideas. This will increase competition for these search terms and the price that they raise on Google’s paid search service, AdWords. This is particularly significant combined with the increased prominence of paid search ads on the Google search pages, making it even more important to rank in the first few natural search listings.

From a marketing perspective this could mean the need to spend more on paid search with Google (we knew there was another revenue model in there somewhere!) and increasing competition for placement within this narrower group of search terms.

It gets even more interesting and esoteric when you start thinking about PR. It is now commonplace to optimise press releases for keyword terms. As never before, it will become important to build brand values around appropriate search terms and build these into our writing and corporate messages. The end of free speech? I hope not. It’s just a case of playing the game.


What’s the Scoop on Viral Marketing?

September 22, 2010

Viral Marketing Works - Sometimes

You know the kind of thing. An amusing cartoon, a game, a puzzle, riotous political humour sent to your mailbox. Maybe on a monday morning. It’s viral marketing, and whilst sometimes it can be associated with ‘just a good laugh’, in reality it has a commercial objective with the intention of getting us to change our minds, buy something or become active in some way.

In the faceless office buildings of Shoreditch, the funkier parts of New York, the media areas of Sydney and many other parts of the world, viral marketing campaigns are devised to influence us and to get us to spend our cash.

Do they work? More importantly do they work in business to business marketing, the focus of this blog? In rare circumstances yes, but it’s a more complex strategy than it first appears.

For one, you’ve got to come up with something really interesting. This is not as easy at it looks, which is why specialists are increasingly establishing themselves in this field; people such as Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed in NewYork, who is fascinating on the subject. According to Jonah, a critical aspect of making an impact in viral marketing is targeting the ‘Bored at Work Network’, a network which he rightly assets is bigger than the audience of any broadcaster. Fine, but is this the right way to find purchasers of business services? I’m not sure.

I did mention that viral marketing could work in some instances. I think it can potentially work in the games industry, the software industry and in certain situations where you want to break down expectations and deliver an element of surprise. Perhaps to amuse your audience and prove to them that you’re not as stuffy as they thought. One thing’s for sure though, measurement is very important. This isn’t a “chuck it out and see what sticks”. Like any form of marketing, you’ve got to trial your communication, measure and tweak before the next time around. The route that your communication takes will be all important. It’s not just about the big idea – think about how people will read and pass your message on, and don’t ignore the basics like testing the format to make sure that it works on everyone’s machines and mobile media.

So viral media is another option on the table. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it in B-2-B marketing and how it’s worked out. Thanks for reading this and have enjoy the rest of the week.