Pro-Tips For Rocking Your Next Trade Show

If you’ve ever worked a boring booth at a trade show, you’ve most likely been the victim of the “avoiders.” Those passers-by who liken you to Medusa and refuse to look your way for fear of being turned to stone. You notice them by the way they engage actively with booth 1145, take a quick glance at your booth with that lonely poster and brochure, and then, hurriedly walk past you with their eyes carefully averted. After enough of these avoiders, you may start to wish you had some of those smiley-faced, squishy stress-balls to throw at them.

This year, with some careful planning and a little creativity, you may be able to grab people’s attention and keep them engaged without resorting to assault and battery. Obviously, the lengths that you go to create interest at your booth may be limited by your budget, so it’s important to think about what this trade show means to your business and how engaging 10, 50, or even 1000 target individuals may bring more work your way in the coming months. Once you’ve got your budget ironed out, you can start getting those creative juices flowing.

Get Out Your Lasso

You know from experience that the hardest part of working a trade show booth is getting people to look at you, right? What if your booth looked like they just stepped into the hottest casino in Vegas? Or, they’re stepping into a game show hosted by loud and enthusiastic individuals? Being active and/or unconventional is key to attracting attention. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and here are some favorites to get your mind flowing:

o Superhero or celebrity photo ops. Invent a superhero to represent your company and have him or her available for photo opportunities with booth guests. It may seem a bit corny, but it works. The same is true for celebrity look-alikes. Be sure to get their card so you can send them the pic after the show.
o Wheel of Fortune. Nothing screams “come here now” than the chance to win fabulous and exciting merchandise (or your services).
o Create a treasure map leading to your booth. This may require some cooperation on the part of the venue, but placing arrows or words on the floor that lead people to your booth can create intrigue and bring people in.

Whatever you decide, make it fun and interactive. Think Disneyland for adults.

Build Excitement in Advance of the Show

Regardless of what genius idea has emerged from your mind, it’s important to create a sense of anticipation among your clients and prospects. Sending out formal printed invites or periodic emails revealing a little something more about what’s in store for them when they visit will get them chomping at the bit to visit your booth.

Have Quality Informational Products to Hand Out

You get very few chances to make an impression once you get people into your booth. Once they’re there, make your efforts count by providing them with unique, high-quality informational products that will not just stay in the bag in the closet when they get home.

Follow-up After the Show with Everyone

Hopefully, your venue will provide a mailing list of all of the participants so you can send out follow-up correspondence to those you saw and those you missed. If no list is provided, be absolutely sure you get business cards from the people you talk to and connect with them ASAP! The more opportunities you have to make an impression, the better.

Print Marketing – What Was Once Old is Now New Again

Recently, a prospective client said they wanted to get customers’ attention through non-traditional marketing using printed products. Who knew that in 2016, the printed word would be considered “non-traditional?” Non-traditional? We’re saying this about a medium that was developed back in the 1400’s by Johannes Gutenberg! While Webster’s (of dictionary fame) mind might be little blown by this reference, when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.

For the past two decades, digital media has been rapidly replacing many of our formerly traditional ways of doing things, from watching television, reading the newspaper, to yes…print marketing. With the democratization of information that the internet has brought, more and more people are consuming this information digitally. Social media and search engine algorithms target our interests and bombard us with advertisements directed at those interests, to the point that we’ve become immune to the ancillary advertising “noise” that surrounds the article that we are reading online. Ad-ridden blogs and online media are now considered traditional.

Getting Attention With Quality Print Marketing Materials

A well-designed print marketing device can effectively break through the noise and grab your customers’ attention. Print marketing can take on many forms, including:

oBusiness Cards: Different shapes, sizes, die cuts, and formats grab people’s attention and make for some great talking points that help build relationships.
oInvitations: Having a grand opening or special occasion? Send out printed invitations and make people feel they are connected.
oPostcards: Whether for direct mail purposes or periodic sales or coupons, postcards can bring in a surprising amount of business.
oMenus of Services or Products: Printed on high-quality paper with excellent design and copy, these types of marketing products add personality to your business.

Poke Your Customers Periodically to Keep Yourself on Their Minds

Marketing doesn’t end when the sale is made. Customer retention is a key part of a successful marketing plan. Following up with the customer can increase retention and build loyalty. Sure, you could send them an email, but really, email is where messages come to die. Consider instead a few timed mailings to keep them engaged, such as:

— Thank You Cards: Sending out a card thanking them for their purchase and providing a time-limited discount on their next purchase makes customers feel appreciated and welcome.
— Seasonal Postcards: Consider seasonal postcards with loyalty discounts on relevant seasonal items.
— Referral Cards: Create loyalty and more business by sending out referral cards to encourage your customers to spread the word. You could also offer a discount to both the existing customer and the new customer they bring in.
— Stickers: Put your logo, tag line or a branded and relevant inspirational quote on a sticker to put on cars, computers, water bottles, and other personal gear.

Obtain Thought-Leader Status With Print Magazines or Newsletters

While many of the more traditional news magazines are transitioning to digital-only formats, the fact of the matter is, 80% of individuals who read newspapers read them in print. People actually trust written content more than they trust online content. This is true of both information and of advertising. So, depending on your industry, it may be a good idea to create a periodical print magazine or newsletter to give your customers or prospects informative and entertaining news and information that they will be excited to get each month, quarter or year.

Regardless of what type of print marketing you use, telling people a good story or giving them useful and entertaining information will make them loyal customers.

Google’s New Cohort Analysis

If you are already heavily into online marketing analytics, this may rapidly become one of your more valuable marketing analysis tools. If you are a newbie to marketing analysis and are not yet familiar with Google’s new tool, here is some help in understanding what it is all about.

First of all, cohort analysis is not new. It is Google’s tool that is new. A dictionary definition of a cohort is simply a group or band of people. That notion is at least as old as Ancient Rome, where a legion of soldiers was broken down into ten cohorts. In its more current usage, cohort analysis has been performed for many years. Insurance companies, for example, have used this idea to create data for actuarial tables, mortality rates, etc.

Simply put, cohort analysis is the breakdown of populations into smaller, easily definable groups. The purpose of analyzing the characteristics of these sub-categories is to determine common behaviors usually specified in relation to a time period in the buying cycle or a specific date. The patterns discerned can show a business how its customers relate to the product in the early stages of experience with it, as opposed to how customers relate to it later in the buying process.

Cohort analysis provides the ability to tailor marketing to these specific sub-groups. There could be a cohort of customers at the time of checkout, for example. Another cohort might describe the behaviors of customers who responded to a specific advertising channel that was presented over a short period of time. Common metrics that can be revealed include the date your customers first clicked on your link. Others are when they bought from you the first time, or the second, or third time.

If a cohort reveals, for example, the trends common to your higher-paying customers, you can then tailor your next marketing channel to their specific interests and needs, thus encouraging more higher-paying sales.

Google is still tweaking their cohort analysis tool, so more options for its use are likely to appear in the near future. For the time being, you can access the tool and use it to familiarize yourself with how it works. Here is how to do that:

If you do not already have an analytics account, sign up for one at Google.com/analytics. Once you have an account, sign in and click YOUR VIEW. From there, select REPORTING, then AUDIENCE, then COHORT ANALYSIS. From here, you can tailor your forthcoming report options.

At this stage of tool development, your choices include the acquisition date, cohort size, and date range, for example.

o Acquisition date can refer to the first time your customer does whatever it is you are exploring, such as first visit, first purchase, etc.

o Cohort size permits you to select day, week, month, quarter, or year, for example, to find out how many users did something during that period.

o The metric refers to the data you see, such as the number of page views, purchases, etc.

o The date range, obviously, is the period you are exploring. If your cohort size was designated as a day, you get information for each day in your selected date range.

Play around with Google’s new tool for a while to get used to what it can show you. As is the case with all good tools, practice with it now will make using it easier when its functionality is increased as more options are added.

Using the cohort analysis report is an option that can improve business performance through better understanding of your customers and their patterns of behavior. The more you know about your customers, the better you can meet their needs and increase your bottom line.

Endurance Can Make All the Difference

Entrepreneur and author Matthew Paulson has characterized entrepreneurship as an endurance sport. It is true that sometimes if you see you are on the wrong track, the best course of action is to abandon the original plan and start in a new direction. However more times than not, just sticking with it can often make all the difference between success and failure, winning and losing. Famed cinematic genius Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “The difference between winning and losing is most often …not quitting.” In another famous quote referring to the opinions of pessimistic critics and detractors he said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

He should know. Walt Disney achieved some of the most spectacular success anyone has ever reached in cinema, winning 22 Academy Awards and more awards and nominations than anyone else in history. He did so by overcoming rejection of his ideas and doing “the impossible.”

Disney’s most profound idea, the notion of feature-length animated films when nothing but shorts had ever been done before, was widely criticized as foolish and destined for failure. He persisted, though, and we all know how that turned out. Disney’s endurance in the face of blanket rejection made the difference. By comparison, what a sterile and vacuous world we would have had if he would’ve listened to his detractors and bailed out on his plans.

Long before he was laughed at by Hollywood studios, he learned the value of endurance from other so-called failures that might have derailed an otherwise imaginative career. Early on he was fired from a newspaper for not having any original ideas and for lacking imagination, of all things. His first feature-length animation was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it became the most successful film of 1938, earning the equivalent of 134 million in today’s dollars. That’s not too shabby for someone who lacks imagination. The world is far better off because he had the endurance to see the project through.

Distinguished writer Malcolm Gladwell outlined a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of work on a business to really know what you are doing, to make it a success. That is five years of full-time work–in other words, endurance.

David Weber and Kenny Lao hatched an idea for a food bar built around dumplings as a primary menu item. Their idea actually placed second in a New York University Stern School of Business competition, after which they launched the brick-and-mortar Rickshaw Dumpling. Becoming a bit too ambitious, they launched a second store and stretched their resources far too thin. Nearing bankruptcy, they abandoned the second site and started a mobile food truck, instead. This proved quite successful and saved their business, becoming a well-known icon in New York City. Their endurance–as well as their ingenuity–provided them the vehicle they needed to succeed.

In business and in life, we can allow rejections and other circumstances to rule us, or we can take charge and continue unhindered by those circumstances. An anonymous line states that calm seas do not a skilled sailor make. The rougher the sea, the more practice you get at handling problems. Walt Disney, David Weber, and Kenny Lao stuck it out. The example provided by people like this is an inspiration for us all.

It is said of mountain climbers that they do what they do simply because the mountain is there. But, without endurance there would be no successful climb. In business, the best formula for success involves the endurance of a mountain climber–just because your goals and objectives “are there.” Endurance can and frequently does make all the difference.

Employee Engagement: The Most Important Aspect of Your Business You’re Not Paying Enough Attention To

As a marketing professional, one of the core qualities that drives success in nearly everything that you do ultimately comes down to creativity. The employees that you’ve hired have to be free to let their creative juices run wild, turning in the types of materials that establish a direct link with your target audience in bold and innovative ways on a daily basis. Making sure that they have the tools necessary to unlock that underlying creativity is no doubt something that you think about daily. A related point that is just as pressing (if not more so), however, is just how engaged those employees are in the first place.

You could hire the most objectively creative or hard-working employee that you could find and it ultimately won’t make much of a difference if they are actively disengaged from the environment they’re working for in the first place. Employee engagement, in general, isn’t just one of the most important things to concern yourself with, but it’s arguably the MOST important thing for a number of fascinating reasons.

The Employee Engagement Problem

Many recent studies have been done that were designed to provide valuable insight into not only how important employee engagement is, but what happens if you’re a business owner with an uninterested workforce. According to a study that was completed by Dale Carnegie Training, only 29% of workers in the United States are actively engaged with their jobs. Roughly 45% are not engaged in any way and, to make matters worse, a full 26% are actively disengaged.

When you’re dealing with a disengaged workforce, you’re dealing with people who aren’t giving 100% of their time, energy, and creative effort to the task at hand. You’re dealing with people who aren’t doing their best because, to be quite frank, what’s the point? You’re also creating a situation where you can’t hope to accomplish your own goals and the goals of your business because the people you depend on don’t see the same value in moving your business forward. Rest assured, this is a problem that you need to address at all costs.

How to Fix Employee Engagement

According to another study that was conducted by Towers Watson, 79% of highly engaged employees also reported that they had both trust and confidence in the people who were leading them. A survey given out by the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program (PHWP) indicated that employees who felt that their contributions were truly valued by their employers were 60% more likely to report that they were doing their very best inside and out of the office on a daily basis.

If you’re a business owner with an employee engagement problem, it stands to reason that the first step to take involves looking inward for the solution. Employee engagement is almost intimately tied to morale, so what is the true nature of the issue you’re dealing with, here? Is it that your employees feel like you don’t know what you’re doing? Do they feel like you have unreasonable expectations? Do they feel unappreciated?

These are the important questions that you’ll need to answer in order to drive employee engagement as high as it will go. Employee engagement is absolutely the key to unlocking the true productive workforce that you need and to create an environment where “creativity” is the name of the game, thus allowing you to create the best possible marketing materials and establish the best possible connection with your target audience moving forward.

The Power of You: Keeping Things Personal in Business

In the world of business, one of the most powerful assets that you have is the deep, emotional, and very real connection that you’re capable of making with the people around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a prospect or a client or a superior or someone in between, and it certainly makes no difference what industry you’re operating in – this connection is everything. The key word here, however, is “real.” If you talk to someone and see them as little more than a line item on a balance sheet, they’re going to be able to tell and your relationship with that person is going to suffer. This is where the power of “you” comes in handy.

Putting the “Relations” Back in “Relationship”

To boil this concept down to its essentials, think for a moment about how irritating it is to write an impassioned letter to a business expressing some important concern or criticism that you have only to receive a standard form letter in return. You poured your heart and soul into this issue, making sure to detail every last grievance you had and that every word got the importance of your message across loud and clear. In exchange, you got a letter that has been sent out 1,000 times before that was probably sitting on a server somewhere, just waiting for an intern to swap out [INSERT NAME HERE] with your actual name.

It doesn’t make you feel good and it certainly doesn’t make you feel appreciated. It might even make you think twice about doing business with that particular company again. Though this is a simplification of the issue you face when you keep everyone at arm’s length, it is actually quite an apt example and is something that you absolutely need to keep in mind moving forward.

“You” and the Customer

There are a number of different things that you can do to help deepen this emotional connection, even if you aren’t actually speaking directly to someone. It’s all about the language that you use and how you’re using it. Consider a promotional poster outlining all of the great features that a particular product brings with it into the marketplace. You could have the best product in the world, but if you’re just listing features in a series of bullet points it will still come across as a bit cold and distant. That emotional connection just won’t be there.

Now, consider what happens when you re-frame the exact same message to directly address the reader. “X feature helps YOU solve Y problem in your life.” Suddenly, you’re sending forward the exact same message, but in a way that doesn’t seem like he’s being recited by a faceless corporation. It sounds like it’s coming from a friend. Ultimately, if you want to instill loyalty in your customers, that’s exactly what they need to think of you as – a trusted friend that they know they can depend on and turn to in their time of need.

We believe that this is one of the many ways that “you” will come in handy. Remember that everyone you deal with, from the customers who buy your products or services, to the vendors and suppliers that you depend on, to your own employees and more, you’re dealing with unique individuals who always deserve to be treated as such. It doesn’t require a lot of work to keep things personal in the world of business, and the benefits will pay dividends for a lifetime.

Email Marketing: Is it Right for Your Small Business?

Any kind of marketing in an economy that is still sluggishly recovering is not easy. But if you think marketing a profitable business is tough, imagine how hard it is for a non-profit that is completely dependent on donations. Dreams4Kids is one such non-profit that succeeds primarily with email marketing. Their motto is “replacing charity with opportunity,” and they do just that by stimulating participation and community involvement.

The most famous quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Dreams4Kids is this kind of forward-thinking small group, and its success is directly linked to its marketing campaigns. While Margaret Mead’s quote bears remembering, it is also true that the engine that drives such successful enterprises is marketing, and with non-profits, donors are the spark that runs the engine.

Marketing through email has been around for quite a while now. It is basically the online version of a direct mail letter–the electronic counterpart to postal letters, fliers, and brochures that have been used and are still being used so successfully. Combining your print marketing with your email marketing just makes sense.

Some of the advantages email marketing has are obvious. Emails are fast and cheap. They can deliver your message almost immediately at almost no cost, and have literally no negative environmental impact. That is quite a bargain. But there are some less obvious benefits, too. With email, you can track whether your mail is getting opened or not. That is valuable information for any marketing campaign. After all, the trick is still getting your message opened and read. If you can determine which messages are getting opened, you have a head start in adjusting the campaign.

What actually works?

How does a non-profit like Dreams4Kids successfully market using email? They follow some easy guidelines that any small business can employ.

1. Decide what kind of campaign you want. Emails can be regularly scheduled newsletters or more sporadic announcements linked to specific events. Both are beneficial and should be considered. But, if you try the latter, be sure your timing is appropriate. The reader must have time to react, but not too much time.

2. Know your target audience. This is an important step in getting those emails opened and read. Whatever is in your email, it has to be relevant to the clients’ interests or you are wasting your time.

3. Provide value. Once it is open, your email must provide something valuable to the reader, whether it is a discount coupon, an announcement of a product launch, or some other information that the client has an established interest in. This is where the mantra comes from: Content is king. The content must have value. Determine what your customers’ questions are and then answer them before they are asked. That provides value.

4. Be brief and to the point. Rambling messages rarely get read completely today. One such email could doom all your subsequent emails to the delete button without being opened.

5. Use images to attract the reader’s eye and maintain interest. A picture really is worth 1,000 words.

6. Use a mobile-friendly email template. If you still think today’s technology is mostly limited to desktop computers, think again. Technology statistics website Statista.com says that Apple Computer’s iPad sales top $1.6 billion quarterly. Worldwide tablet sales by all manufacturers are now over 50 million units quarterly. The days of the desktop’s supremacy are now well behind us. Your emails have to be easily read on tablets and smartphones or your campaign is doomed from the start.

Using email in conjunction with your print marketing really can work for you so that your business becomes part of your customers’ conversations. If Dreams4Kids can effectively use email to attract donors, you can use it to attract and keep customers for your business.

From Puce to Cerulean – What Your Brand Colors Say to Your Customers

Do you ever wonder why so many fast food restaurants use red in their logos? Or why so many hospitals and healthcare organizations use the color blue in their logos? This phenomenon is hardly random. Psychologists have spent years studying colors’ effect on human behavior, and you can be sure that the results are worth understanding when you’re choosing your brand’s colors.

Hungry Anyone?
Besides being associated with love, energy, and vitality, the color red stimulates our appetites. It’s no wonder fast food chains such as McDonalds, Carl’s Jr., KFC, Wendy’s and Popeye’s have integrated the color red prominently in their logos and trade dress. If you’re developing a logo and brand identity for your restaurant, food or beverage products, incorporating red may not be a bad idea. Caveat: Remember when your parents would ask you, “If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” I know, some of you said yes, just to be obstinate, but don’t doom your product to a lifetime lost in a sea of sameness just because the research says it’ll make people hungry.

Starbucks founders Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker clearly didn’t follow Jimmy off the cliff when they created their iconic green and white logo. Their caffeinated clientele aren’t looking for any more stimulation beyond that which is provided by the aroma of ground coffee beans in the air. What they are looking for, and what the color green represents, is harmony, tranquility, and calm. The founders’ goal was to create an environment that would encourage people to sit back, relax and drink their coffee with friends. By luring customers in with the green and white siren and surrounding them with warm, natural tones, they created a movement.

Trust Issues Anyone?
Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, AT&T, Forbes, Ford and countless other corporations all use the color blue predominantly in their brand identities. It’s not just because blue is hands-down the favorite color of the majority of men and women, but rather, blue is associated with calmness and peace. Psychologists have found that when people view the color blue, they feel confident, comfortable and trusting. Of course, healthcare providers, purveyors of information, and one of the oldest car manufacturers in the history of man would want people to associate their products and services with trustworthiness and dependability.

Plucking Personality from the Rainbow
The colors that you choose for your brand need to reflect not only your product’s personality but also the personality of those you wish will buy your product. You want them to feel a certain way when they think about your product, and while not all colors will universally affect everyone in the same way, statistically speaking the odds are ever in your favor. With that said, here are some handy guidelines to understanding color when picking your brand colors.

Yellow – evokes feelings of optimism, clarity and warmth
Orange – brings up feelings of cheer, confidence, and friendliness
Red – arouses the senses with excitement, passion, and love
Purple – imagination and creativity are the hallmarks of this color
Blue – tells a story of trust, strength, dependability, and calm
Green – associated with health, nature and peace
White – linked to purity, calm and balance

Additionally, colors like gold, silver and black are often associated with luxury items because they conjure feelings of sophistication and wealth.

Remember, always keep your audience in mind when choosing your colors and avoid getting caught in the sea of sameness.