A quick look at some of the reasons that it might be time for you to finally take a serious look at tradeshow marketing:
Okay, that’s pretty broad. Too general. What do I mean, “what matters most.” In what? Business? Personal life? Reaching your goals, whatever they might be? Life in general?
I’ve been thinking about what matters most. Lots of people say lots of different things. I’m slowly making my way through James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and I like much of it. Good ideas. Change your habits. Yes, definitely, having control of your habits and creating good habits and getting rid of bad habits is great.
When I say what matters most, I’m really referring to the personal goals you may carry. Those personal goals may relate to business, such as creating a business, or growing a business, or snaring that big client. Or a personal goal may be more, well, personal: losing weight, hiking 100 miles, running a marathon, writing a book. Something that shows you, and perhaps the world, who you really are. But it’s more for yourself, not the world. It’s to show you what you have.
Steve Prefontaine, the famous Oregon runner who died in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1975, famously once said, “Most people run a race to see who’s the fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.” Steve said a lot of things (just put Steve Prefontaine quotes in your search box), but that one resonates a lot. It tells me that everyone has something inside of them, and they may not even know it until they’re challenged.
Let’s say you’re really challenged to do something. Maybe it’s something you’ve never done before, or something you’re familiar with, but at a much higher lever. What does it take? What matters most?
In my opinion and experience, it boils down to three things:
Determination comes from knowing how much you want something. I’ve been telling myself for years that if I just put my mind to it, I could write a novel. Really. It can’t be that hard, right? I kept saying “someday…” Then I ran out of excuses, and finally gave myself permission to proceed. What’s the worst that could happen, right? But determination kicked in, and that was that. I wouldn’t let myself off the hook. It’s astonishing what you can do if you don’t let yourself off the hook, if you’re determined to see it through.
Focus. The flip side of determination is focus. Knowing that you will be laser-focused on the task at hand. To me, that meant, making a decision and keeping that decision. I would write every day. 500 words. 1000 words. An outline. A plot point. A potential scene. A character sketch. I would also find out how it’s really done. And that’s the great thing about this day and age: it’s all there online. You can find advice from people that have done it before. It wasn’t long before I got hooked up with several newsletters from writers who have published dozens, maybe hundreds of books, between them. They had been down that road. Learning what it took, what the process involved, was a big part of the step. It’s part of the focus that comes once you are determined. Focus lets you learn what you need. I’ve watched dozens of videos of successful writers sharing their secrets on Masterclass, I’ve read dozens of blog posts of strong story structure, how to create good characters, to know what motivates them, and so on. It’s all there. Just find it, soak it up and apply it as necessary.
Commitment is another side of the coin of Determination (maybe it’s a three-sided coin). Determination is one thing, but staying committed, knowing that no matter what, you’ll see it through, is a valuable piece of the puzzle. Commitment means you won’t quit. A commitment is an obligation to yourself (or others) that you won’t let yourself (or others) down. In a sense, discipline is
There are many other things that come into play when you try to find the essence of what matters most. Motivation, ambition, desire, the willingness to fail before you succeed. It’s all-important, but to my mind, the combination of the triad is most critical: determination, focus, and commitment.
The great thing is the three are applicable to both personal and business goals, large and small.
Life In A Day is a film project that invited people worldwide to submit footage of what they did on July 25, 2020. I kept seeing the hashtag trending online leading up to Saturday, so just for fun, I shot a bunch of video of what I did and assembled it into a short film. That #LifeInADay film is included in this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee.
Given that there is quite a bit of footage without narration, and a lot of background music, I’m not posting the audio version on Soundcloud. Join me next week when I should have a guest.
Another quick look at an aspect of tradeshow marketing. This time it’s the inside game. What exactly is that?
A few recent newsletters that have popped up in my inbox have gotten me to thinking about B2B in the age of a pandemic. The tradeshow world is virtually shut down. Conferences aren’t happening. Events are 99.9% gone. Many of the writers behind these newsletters offer insightful observations about how business is now being done: what’s changing and what’s not.
I’ve compiled several of these thoughts and added a few of my own.
“Zoom Fatigue” has become a meme. But connecting via digital is about the only way to connect. Yes, you can pick up the phone – and I do – but a video call is more personal. Of course, there’s an extra step involved: you have to agree on a time and schedule the call and send the link. But taking those steps evinces a commitment to the meeting you might not have otherwise had.
Email: staying in touch is a little harder in this day and age. Many of the contacts I have are either working from home or have been laid off. Others are in the office only part time and their presence at work is not a given. Every company is dealing with the situation in their own way, and if an email isn’t answered in the time it typically would be, try a phone call.
Beyond Zoom, email, and phone calls, create short videos that address challenges a typical customer might have. A recent Orbit Media Studios post examined what happened when they added video to their content strategy. It’s led me to create short videos every week to see if they get attention.
Bottom line on Digital
Be present online more than you ever have been before.
Know your priorities.
What’s important for your company? For you? For your employees? I spoke with a handful of distilleries in Oregon this week to see if they were making hand sanitizer, as many of them did at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many had made the product and were still making it but it was not a priority. A handful of them, though realized that there was a market there and it was going to be there awhile and were actually ramping up production. Others felt it was not their core business and they would rather be known for their high-quality distilled products.
Understand your customer’s priorities
Every customer is going through something different. Find out from as many as possible what their biggest challenges are. Segment them. And if you can help them, do it. Some might need to wait another month or two or three.
Find and form valuable partnerships
Partnerships can take you places you couldn’t go on your own. Manufacturers, builders, factories, processing plants. Keep an open mind to what the possibilities are and ask good questions. You might uncover an opportunity that you had no idea existed a few months ago.
Communicate clearly to everyone
It boils down to listening twice as much as you talk. Find out what’s important to other management members, employees, team members, clientele, prospects. But make sure to let them know what’s important to you as well. We’re all in this together, and communication will be the key.
Remove friction whenever possible
Just like forming a new habit, the easier it is, the more likely you’ll form that habit. It’s like saying to yourself that you’ll put on your running shoes each morning and run around the block. There’s not much friction in putting on your shoes. Once you have the shoes on, it’s easy to go around the block. After you do that a few times, it’ll be easier to run a half mile. Then a mile. Then two, five and so on. By reducing the friction to get anything done, both for you and your clients, the easier it will be to get bigger things done. Start small where there is little friction.
Acknowledge that it’s not business as usual
The final piece. We all know that, but many of us are acting as if it’s still 2019. Are you? It’s not. We’re in the future to stay. And it’s a different world. It’s not business as usual.
Here are some of the resources that helped inspire this collection:
What’s it like to be a tradeshow exhibit manufacturer in the age of a COVID-19 pandemic? Turns out there are a number of creative things that can be done with exhibit building blocks. Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits joins me on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee to discuss the world of exhibits:
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.” The sixth and final season is now available on Netflix.
Custom tradeshow flooring can do wonders for branding and helping you stand out. Check out this short video:
We can get caught up in an imaginary world pretty easily. Just try following the stock market as it bounces and bounces. And bounces. See your IRA value go UP. See it go down. Yes, it’s real money, and yes, you are hoping it does well, but until you decide to actually pull the money out and put it to use, such as retirement, it’s not real. It’s just numbers on a screen or monthly statement. No matter how much your Tesla holdings have increased, until you sell and put the cash into a bank account, it’s a (mostly) imaginary world.
Same in the world of tradeshows. You can dream and plan and work towards your next show, but in these days of COVID-19, the actual date might not set. Your flight tickets are not purchased. Your hotels are not reserved. Your booth space may not be finalized. Your booth graphics will change, but until you know exactly what products you’ll be promoting at the show, it’s hard to plan much without knowing when the show take place. Or if it’ll take place.
What to do?
You can play ‘what if?’ There’s nothing wrong with a game of what if. It’s how ideas are brought forth. How they’re measured and assessed. Discarded or amended. Set aside for the future.
What if the show doesn’t happen until 2022? What if everything changes and suddenly, we have to have a new exhibit ready in three months? Playing what if doesn’t take much time, and it doesn’t commit you to anything. But it does allow you and your team to look at the various paths ahead that may or may not open up. It allows you to look at multiple contingencies. Yes, you may already be doing this, but try doing it and expanding the horizon. Try to imagine things that before may have been unimagineable.
We’re living in unprecedented times. Today you may be busier than you’ve been in months. But tomorrow you may have time to play a game of what if.
Any creative endeavor requires more than just inspiration or an idea and a burst of activity. If it’s to be seen through to a successful end, the creative act must be wrapped up in discipline. In this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I riff for ten minutes or so on creativity and discipline:
Also on this week’s podcast: a reference to an article by Jeff Goins: Rules, Discipline and the Paradox of Creativity.
Follow these four simple steps to make sure you bring solid leads back to the office after the tradeshow is done.
A quick shout-out to Richard Erschik, who enumerated the five things you need to know in lead generation during a great podcast interview here.