The Best-of-the-Best! Wait…Who?

Best-of-the-Best on the Show Circuit!

Best-of-the-Best on the Show Circuit!

Kind of a long post but filled with my Tradeshowgypsy pearls of wisdom!

Well gypsies we are in full-swing Spring show season! Shows have been phenomenal this year thus far. Industries are buzzing with new innovative technologies and products; and have a moving target market segment thing going on. Organizations from the Enterprise groups to Start-ups are engaging with everyone they can get their hands on to determine what the next steps will be and in what market segment. Watch out; here come the magic words! “Research & Development” (R&D). Yes, I said it, the words that have been put on the back burner for so long that everyone thought it was just an obscure part of the stove!

Research and development, future planning with those hit or miss ideas that are worked on behind the scenes and schedule of immediate products. For the first time in a long-time I heard the R&D phrase used by several larger organizations that are now speaking to the fact that teams are now formed, and working on not only the latest in technology but those long-shot ideas that may or may not pan out. Companies are looking to jump into markets no one ever thought they would be in, but investors and growth cycles are screaming for NEW ideas, not just NextGen products.

The NEW-R&D model is also being done through solicitations on social media. I am sure you have seen them on a variety of sites and blogs. Such and such company wants to hear from you, they want to know what you think about a specific issue or in general on certain technologies, projects or future needs. They offer all kinds of things for contributing viable ideas. Data mining online is in fast and frenzy mode, and why? You guessed it, one way it is used, is for R&D planning!

Shows are now adding a bit of extension to this by hosting Hackathons and Hands-On Labs to display working products or developed solutions generating that right on the show floor solutions excitement. The value-add is huge when you can display a great application of working product or solution and have qualified staff to answer questions! Shows are the perfect venue to get a demo out to larger groups and provide answers by qualified customer service staff. Get your participation off to the press to garner even more promotion. Some products/services do not lend themselves to this type of display, but a video trailer of working product and an appointment calendar do great! Check out your Hackathon teams to find the bright stars to bring into your company.

Though I am an occasional card reader/clairvoyant; ok most of the time they are business cards and “oh man here they come, I&D with that – your freight is lost look”!  I do know one thing for certain, people want to work and are creators at heart, and nothing can stop that from happening. Where there is a will there is a way, and in most cases, several ways; and by encouraging the best-of-the-best of those hardworking internal staff to contribute their ideas and reward them for them, is innovative and keeps the best staff working for your organization long-term and the wheels turning for growth. Companies know this; they just get caught up in the tangles of projected quarterly revenue and forget that taking the next step/next gen is only one way to keep moving forward. Taking the brainstorm sessions seriously with a variety of options is the way to go beyond having just the next step into discovering new directions and spinning up with continued growth momentum. Shows often are huge brainstorming sessions if you listen closely!

On the gypsy side attending/hosting/managing/working shows; getting to see and hear about all of this is exciting! Thus validating our tradeshowgypsy contribution to the world! Assisting companies to get the word out, and find the right people, products, services and customers to drive this creativity, and really put it into practice or on the shelves. The show floor is not only a great medium to “market” but to learn, so here are the other ways the best-of-the-best can bring more value to their organizations through shows.

Sales and Business Development staff, who really pay attention and make a show more than just sore feet and the “same old thing” can bring in new dollars and growth information. Often sales and BD go to a show because they are sent, or feel they “have” to go because it is within their territory. They attend with no real incentive to add any extra effort to just being there as a body in the booth. Unless, they are some of the few who know the secret to really taking advantage of the magic that occurs on a show floor!

Companies rarely train staff in this area, and feel it should be intuitive, or a part of the J.O.B. Errr…guess what? You are wasting your money sending people to shows who don’t want to be there; who would rather talk about the internal company issues to their co-workers than to engage with the customers walking by their booth; who complain they could be more effective making calls or back in the office; and often rely on a few leads from people they already know. Big surprise here, staff who think this way are probably right, they have set their expectations and their level of effort so the results are what they expect.

However, best-of-the-best staff who know how to work shows, know the more people they talk with, the more NEW business they can generate! The diamond leads at a show are often in camouflage of a general badge – yes they do that! When you engage with them and give them your full attention, they will fess up and pass on a real card with genuine contact information.

Encouraging sales teams with rewards to get a sale off the show floor; or see who gets the highest number of quality leads; or certain product leads; any of these ideas can be a great way to spark that competitive spirit and generate some excitement in your booth. Sounds silly or non-professional? Watch two sales staff go after a game (darts, checkers, cards, video anything, doesn’t matter) they are a competitive lot! This is a skill! Encourage it and incentivize with a reward and watch your shows become much more effective. This will help keep sales staff from just showing up for booth duty like a death sentence! This also generates what I call “Booth Buzz” that feeling of enthusiasm when you walk up to the booth and you know the people there are not only welcoming but happy you walked in and are ready to find out what you do and tell you what they do! This creates a viral effect, people congregate where they see more people, just a natural state of human tradeshow behavior “show sheepness” (yes I know, not a real word, but you know what I mean!)…it just happens.

The people who represent your company at the shows should be your best – the kind of people who can form a TAG-TEAM and go after everyone who walks past the booth, having people who are technical in nature, who are sales and know a real-customer, who are qualified to talk to analysts/investors/press; who can work with and respond to the general requests and marketing inquiries. Sending BD or product marketing to the talks and listen closely to the opposing perspectives, take notes, talk to speakers, and take into consideration what is going on internally for your organization. This may require show staff to take turns because it can be grueling, especially if the speakers are bad.

The key is to gather as much information as the show has to offer. This can be 2 people; they just have to want to be there and do a little due diligence and be ready to switch off to make the most out of the show. Not saying it is easy but it certainly is easier when staff know why they are there and want to be there.

A RED FLAG issue – SEND SPEAKERS WHO ARE DYNAMIC – if the speaker is your boss and they are let’s just say a little on the lessor side of dynamic – help them out! Send them YouTube videos of competitors who might be good speakers and let them know they will be there; or find a motivational speaker encouraging good speaking habits. If you feel weird about doing that and think they may be offended. Send them a video of a Customer who might be there who may have a video giving a talk (hopefully a good one) and let them see the energy of the person in action. All of this can be found on the web either on YouTube or often on Company sites! Let your high-level speakers know who their peers will be on the stage so they are prepared and ask organizers for stats on attendance for speakers so there are comparable numbers you can provide.

Video their presentation too, so they have something to work with the next time! This is just a good way of planting the seeds to get a little enthusiasm going before their presentation and gives them a little background for the show and the presentation. This can become a standard practice of doing a little extra for them so they have something to generate interest and energy for their presentation. This also helps keep them from having to watch the hall clear when it is their turn to speak as they pull out their 30 slides of 20 bullet points each! Also keeps your gypsy head intact!

Pull the team together at the end of the show (get away days are notorious for everyone bailing before the end of the show, if this is the case do it the night before), preferably in a group as you get a lot more feedback than through an after the show meeting as people rarely take notes and will provide minimal information. This feedback is crucial to making the decision to not only invest and return to that particular event, but to check into new possibilities of product development, pricing, promotion, product release planning; you name it, the information is valuable if it doesn’t just go by the way side or in a folder called; yes we attended this show; or, this show sucked!

Don’t let staff skate by on generalities, find out why, if they say we didn’t see new customers; find out what they did to invite people they wanted to see; or if they scheduled a side meeting. Who did they meet at the show that they didn’t know prior? Could anyone they may have met be a partner/supplier? What are attendees doing in their businesses and could it be a new area we should be looking into? Some of this can be programmed into lead machines but rarely do teams take the time to get real details entered? Let staff know this is going to happen and to keep track of who and what was said. Get the goods before you leave the show; this also helps generate ROI for the event and value for the company.

The key to making this all work is to spread the lessons-learned throughout the organization; generate a show report and bring it up for group discussion and real consideration with all levels in all departments. Often organizations just want the numbers of leads to go into the funnel of lead generation after a show – there is more value to a show, you just have to do the work to make it viable and not rely solely on the leads. Shows are costly and having real participation and engagement with all the best company resources is the way to make those dollars work for the company. Get the staff inspired and send people who enjoy working the shows creating a win-win for everyone. Then spread the word, often there are many value driven connections that occur and really do tie back to a financial conversion through a conversation at a show.

Well gypsies, back home to the wagon circle to regroup and sort through my own notes, leads, and do laundry! But get ready this is not only spring show season but spring break for traveling families and college students! Lots more folks in airports and hotels, give yourself the gifts of leaving early, a little bit more patience, and maybe some noise cancelling headphones!  Travel safely gypsies!

Monkey Innovators! Wait…What?

Get ready to get your Innovation On!

Get ready to get your Innovation On!

Are we running or flying in 2014! The afterglow of the holidays did not even get a chance to occur before I was flying to the first show of the season. I hit a smaller show which was as well attended as ever even with all the weather delays and cancellations. Next on to the big decider for the year!

Yes attending CES for 7 years in a row has proven my theory! Tradeshowgypsies are great watchers and purveyors of the show scene and energy, even with the said, 150,000 in attendance. All the hustle and bustle and booth antics come to a stop when that eagle eye of tradeshowgypsy takes over, to not only see what is going on but feel the energy! Yup, it was buzzing at a high-frequency and in vivid HD-3D-with voice commands! WOW! What a great start to the year!

What does this mean? It means hold on to your magic bag gypsies it is going to be a wild year of “innovation” new 2014 buzz word! There are so many great start-ups who have grown and are now in the running with everything they can get their hands on to either be a part of or support the large food chain of electronics. Granted this is one show and it has an international appeal and maybe your market is not quite there. It doesn’t matter, the fact is that once innovation hits, it is like wild-fire, everyone gets inspired and the energy changes and companies who have had R&D back in the depths of your trade show equipment closet, are now asking you to move your stuff, they need the space to “innovate” or get left behind.

If you get into the 100th Monkey Effect; which some say is a false set of data, etc. etc., and can be found on Wikipedia (such a valuable resource of somewhat correct information) with several people cited as saying, yes or no if you have not heard the theory. Basically the gist of it is, one day said monkey washes his sweet potato and after a time monkeys on an island start washing their sweet potato too. How does this happen? I think that when innovation and inspiration spark it lights more than one candle! But as a gypsy, what can I say, I am with the Monkeys! As an observant tradeshowgypsy, watching one company design a (whatseewhoozit); and traveling to Europe to see a similar (whatseewhatsit) sitting on a counter of a start-up; well could be copying, could be the nature of the product and the industry next step; could be anything, but no matter what that innovation is moving!

That is how my year began! This week is still moving at warp speed – this time it is me who is in the innovators position!

I wish you health, happiness, luck, and a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT trade show and event year!

(Image used in this post is from http://www.hundredthmonkey.org/)

2013 Is Really the New 2014!…Wait…what?

Are You Kidding ME!

Are You Kidding ME!

The show season is not winding down contrary to popular perception. More events are moving into the November/December timeframe as it seems there is a surge in “let’s get ahead” mentality. As the holidays all get shifted earlier and earlier and overlapping all over the place, the same thing has happened with tradeshows!

Organizers have figured out that hosting events November/December are no longer for that particular year – they are giving their sponsors and exhibitors the jump on the next year! Exhibitors and sponsors alike are using that platform to promote the next year’s “available soon” products; or announcing the new product taking orders NOW! The end of Q4 which tended to be the lagging month for some has now become the Q1 intro to business revenue! Garnering clients who they can get to before the first of the year!

Your booth is hanging on by its last bit of floral wire and duct tape and now you have to make it look new with little to no budget left; and make the best out of products that have been packed and repacked 20 times over and handled like unpacked toys on the toy aisle! Now we have to make things look like we are progressing to the next year with a fresh look!

Yup, can’t get engineering to give you one more thing, budgets are on lock down, and you will be using whatever you have left even if chewing gum and super glue are in the mix!

Well, here is one little idea that might help get you through this year with the shift already taking place – generate show buzz! Take a little note from all the movies that are promoted – send out short snippets through social media channels to get those teasers out there for Q1 products. Get your most dynamic speakers on that platform whether it be in actual speaking sponsorships or in your booth with scheduled meet the expert time invitations! PR needs to step it up here and get those press appointments on the show floor! Lead generation can be significant if you are targeted with your invites and promotions. Your ROI will be much more direct with this kind of promotion than if you leave it to the organizer to draw in target clients who you would like to see in the coming year.

With all of this shifting around of product promotion/placement/pricing – many will say, “yeah this has been around for years”. Well, not in every industry and market segment and certainly not as aggressively as it is right now in 2013, check out the show line-up for the end of the year in whatever industry you are in and you will find many more events in those last 2 months than ever before. 2014 is definitely already aligning with even more fever; just ask any organizer working to get a venue!

How to work with this little nuance “wrench in the ringer”? Well gypsies here we go, AGAIN! Need a new potion for this one. So we will throw in a little “new” into the mix to kindle the fires for next year until we can rearrange the graphics, budgets, new booth, marketing campaigns and that little thing we call a marketing plan! Sit down with your management, sales, BD, engineering, and marketing teams and get the word out the tides have turned and let them know that you need something to feed the restless early adopters as the holidays are not the only dates that are jumping way ahead to gather business early!

Oh, and keep track of how you make your miracle because end-of-year reviews will want to know how you made the company money! By saving them money of course!

You can do it gypsies – you are the magic-makers of the company!

Giving It All You’ve Got! Wait….How?

One month – 15 shows
4 people Instead of 2
… We Got This!

Well Gypsies it has been awhile since I have posted my pearls of … trade show cents! This has been a very busy show season with many new shows that have come up. An interesting trend is taking place in that many larger companies have developed new industry supporting organizations that are now hosting their own meetings/events. This is in competition to the already established larger events and it seems everyone is converging in various parts of the country at the same time on the same topic.

However, the interesting and great thing about this is that the audience groups are different in many cases because there are different levels of staff going/participating in events and a whole host of partners who are coming that may not have been able to attend the larger events due to cost. The leads can be much more focused and the quality vs. quantity is taking place.

This new trend is creating a new challenge for groups, with recourse allocation. After pondering this, I have decided that there are a few ways to manage this effort, as I am hearing this so often on the show circuits; “We just don’t have enough physical resources to cover a show”. Well, here are a couple of ideas that might help in extending your reach wherever you may need to be globally. Come in as a non-exhibiting sponsor to set your brand and let the industry and major customers know you are involved, if you can get a speaker for a session if you don’t have anyone to speak, get your BRAND out there and get a link posted on the show site to a video of your product/services/company. Get your show organizers to publish your press releases and do one specifically for each show. Keep the ball rolling until show time by doing a virtual giveaway for attendees of the session. With social media being the name of the game, do your giveaway through Twitter or Facebook.

Would you really like to have a presence on the show floor so that you can also display your solution/service/product or just keep your competitor from talking you down! Hire help, there are enough contractors out there (speaking from personal experience – tradeshow gypsy for hire!), that work in these industries and are well-versed in technology or any industry service who can staff a booth for you, even if it is to run a “short video of your CEO talking the talk, Engineering Wizard talking tech, or latest in Visual Eye candy of your product line/industry (you know the fun stuff – fashion, real candy, travel, health, fitness…the list goes on and on!)” and take real leads and these people know enough about the industry to be able to get the leads to you in time to follow-up as a show specific hot lead. Don’t miss out just because your arms don’t reach and you don’t want to hire models or gimmicky presenters.

Take a look around at all the consultants or people out of work in your industry. These people want to work, and if there is a show for a week they can cover you can definitely generate an ROI with an industry experienced individual that knows how to speak the language and be responsible enough to work a booth. Worried you won’t get your monies worth? How many contractors would take the gig to mess up a possible long-term opportunity or recommendation from you? They are going to give you their best! How about adding in a hiring event! Show organizers love when companies are hiring and having this in your booth has so many benefits and you can possibly share internal costs between divisions!

What about booth costs and setup – get a small booth that your contractor can setup a few banner bugs a table some pens and a monitor (most expensive part) and voila booth; don’t feel like you have to shoot-the-moon or don’t show up.

These days being there is key and making sure your staff is not all gathered like cattle talking amongst themselves and saying how bad the show was! Get the staff that go out into the aisle and stand in front of your product and bring up your speaker. You know the, “Hi, how are you doing? What do you do? Let me show you what we do” the sales conversation starters. If you can supply a technical person that is helpful of course, but if you don’t have the resources, get a good contractor and your territory sales person to commit at least a few hours. You will get your speaker some traction (or be able to get on the speaker list for next year by supporting this year), your brand leveraged, sales leads and get a good feel for the show. This will help determine this is a great vertical for us, or a genuine lead grabber, or it could be an industry innovation venue where the industry really comes together and ideas are shared and new products are developed.

Don’t miss out just because you don’t have the direct hires for your company.
Let’s face it everyone is trying to sell to everyone in one capacity or another when you are on the show floor. Be helpful to everyone, you never know who talks to who and the whirlwind of company buyouts and staff changes and media/analyst chats! Make the show what you want it to be; get people engaged and excited about your participation with or at this event!

If you hire contract staff make sure you give them a prep talk even if it is through online briefing of the what and what not too’s – and send them plenty of business cards and materials. Make sure they have what they need to put your best information forward.

Well onward gypsies, fall show season is in full-swing! Pack an extra sweater and short sleeve seems the weather is a bit fickle this time of year; and of course your magic, and a pumpkin (bread) just in case the plane is delayed!

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SHOW BUZZZZZZZZZZZZ….Wait…Why?

Now that is SHOW BUZZ!

Now that is SHOW BUZZ!

I cannot stress enough about the value of creating show buzz! You know that viral little hum that you hear either prior to the show or on the show floor.  You want that buzz to be loud and attract as many attendees as possible. Having this sound also brings in media and higher-level attendees!

What generally happens is this task is left to show organizers. With pleading efforts to exhibitors/speakers/sponsors/media to help spread the word; this often falls on over-worked ears!  However, one way for organizers to help with the request to participants, is to have something ready for them to send out! Short-sweet and to the point. Where, when, why and big news.

As a recipient of the announcement, this should get in the hands of Business Development, PR, Sales Staff, and Newsletter lists.  This is often a one email blast from a marketing member.  The rest of the team should be targeting every one they can get their hands on, at every call, blurb at the end of the email; Come see me at “XYZ show/conference”. This also helps the staff members that may not have time to call everyone to set meetings.  Seeing that someone is going to be at the same event you are often sparks that quick “let’s set up something at the show”, text or email. I’ve seen/had this work numerous times on LinkedIn.

Organizers often do countless blasts, promotion at other events, and media trades to get the word out but often it is the true participants that drive the quality of attendees because they are working with these clients all time and/or know who they want to attend.  Customers, right? Yes, we say/hear it all the time, we want more customers! Great, who are they? I need names…departments and staff change like socks these days and only individuals working directly with these companies know who is wearing a new logo!  So send the organizers lists if you have them, often they will do the leg work and send invites.

Sales/BD teams:  When you are having a difficult time getting to see a client, use a show to meet-up. Find out if they are going if you can and if not get an invitation ready to personalize. Often times companies host a meeting room or have one on the show floor. Find out how they are participating and get on the list to meet with them.  Making that face-to-face introduction is invaluable and can set the stage for a more formal meeting.

Marketing teams: Invite media, your favorite writers/editors to see what you have and meet with them to discuss why it is important. Don’t be shy to go after the big guys, after all you want your business to grow, and take leadership positions. Having articles written/blogs posted/social media activated – you guessed it you smart marketing gypsies…. SHOW BUZZ and an extension of ROI for your shows.

Gypsies get out there…start the hum…! I love that sound!

 

Change It Up!….Wait…Why?

A Few Changes

New Look + New Outlook = Great Outcome!

Making changes is not always easy when you have the exact same setup with graphics, booth, products, and sometimes even staff, who also are quite grumpy about being at “another” show. A few little tricks that can help to give a fresh look are; change your carpet color, buy different flowers (daisies, roses, bird of paradise)…ok, that was Washington, California, and Las Vegas. If you have to wear certain logo wear, change-up the color for the staff if that is an option. Make note of what was worn if your shows stack up back-to-back,  just to make sure everyone is on the same page.

One little tip that I loved, from some gypsies that I have known for many years, was that the marketing and host staff (all women) wore company colors, but bought dress blouses, different tops with just a little bit of “bling” on the collars/neckline for each day. We were at a show in Vegas and this was quite appropriate and a hit! Yes it made a huge difference in attitude for the staff, and gave a more formal dressy look for their booth which showed attention to detail. Lilly, Angel, Nancy, and Tasha- you and your team ROCK!

Visual perception is huge on a show floor and this kind of little element, depicts attention to detail which carries forth for the company image. Having staff that look good and are happy and welcoming will have people stop that may not have stopped. This also will generate a crowd; if people can feel the high-energy from the staff, attendees will feel comfortable enough to stop, and that is how you generate BOOTH BUZZ!

Often staff come in from all over the map, and you have never met them, so you need tricks to keep up with everyone working in the booth. Have a pre-show meeting and make introductions to make sure everyone knows everyone even if you have to take phone photos to remember who is who, VIPs included!

I walked up to several booths this past week and asked for certain people who were at the show, but no one knew what they looked like and had no idea where in the booth they might be working. In one case I had met one of their customers at lunch and was going to introduce them to my contact, but I had to do the badge search because no one knew who the person was or what they looked like and they did not want to leave their post to find them. This customer felt very unimpressed with that process and did not start with a good impression of the customer service on the show floor. He mentioned it to my contact who by the way was the CTO, he was not happy that this had occurred and had the customer point out the uninformed staff. Nothing like an angry VIP on the show floor! EEEEK!

If staff is not engaged and have that look of boredom, or have their phone in hand, their face/body language says, I don’t want to be here and really I don’t want to talk to you either! If they are dressed with the folds right out of the package and looking like a raisin they are unapproachable, they didn’t take the time to prepare and obviously don’t care either. The chances of wanting to stop and even ask about products is very low when seeing that type of attitude on the show floor. What generally happens with this type of presentation? Low traffic, therefore it will be reported, “ that the show sucked” pardon my term, but that is what will be said; when really it had nothing to do with show traffic.

Don’t be duped by your attendees, you want as many people as possible to stop at your booth. Granted you have those that may just want the promo item but that doesn’t mean they won’t talk about you if you are nice and give them the general overview of your products. I have found, though they might not be your technical contact or your client, they like to “talk”, and sometimes they are the voice that a real customer hears at the lunch table and the seed is planted and that is how they get to your booth.

Speaking from experience here, as a sales gypsy, it is often that look of disappointment that comes over the marketing person when I am walking up to sell them another show. Worse yet that condescending look by the sales/tech person that discounts my position (FYI-We are Peers we are both selling a product). Keep in mind that people like me meet people all over the planet in all market segments and media outlets. We have a huge network, and yes, “we like to talk too” and I enjoy making connections for companies that are respectful and professional!

Viral marketing starts with a conversation,  I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, and customer service can make or break a company.

So change things up, get a great look, put out your best representation in not only your booth but your attitudes. Generate show buzz by having the most welcoming staff, and creating that positive vibration that will attract attendees over to you. This will not only make your company memorable but will also set the stage for great ROI from your event.

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