One of my favorite weekly newsletters arrives every Monday morning. It’s called the Monday Morning Memo. Clever! Roy H. Williams of Austin, Texas, the Wizard of Ads, sends out an informative and entertaining missive every week that grabs my attention and makes me think. If only all writers could do that.
This past week he told the story of submitting several writing samples to have IBM’s Watson computer analyze them. He was noting that no matter what writing samples he submitted, the analysis was very similar. Conclusion? It’s pretty accurate.
David Spark’s new book, “Three Feet From Seven Figures,” takes a look at the interaction between show visitors and booth staff, and takes the position that it’s the most critical element of successful tradeshow marketing.
Hard to argue with that view.
Going through his free sample at Three Feet Book.com, it’s easy to see why he feels that way. You also get a quick glance at his potential solutions. For instance, David outlines a 7-step process to create the most positive qualified engagements:
Break the Ice – find a point to begin engagement
Create a Rapport – find a business reason to keep engaging
Qualify the Person Quickly – is this the right person for your business?
Tell Your Story – Qualified or not, everyone should know your story and be able to retell it
Go grab the free sample for 5, 6 and 7…you’ll be glad you did!
As he puts it, “we put too much reliance on everything but the people.” Yes, you can have a great booth, but people don’t stop to talk to a great booth. It’s just a framework for the people inhabiting the booth and representing the company. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because all of the booth elements are terrific that you’re going to have a successful show.
I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter in the last several months about my book-in-progress, including at one point running a Survey Monkey poll asking people to chime in on possible titles. Thought it might be fun to post an update on where the book is and when it might be released.
After working steadily since Fall 2014, the manuscript is virtually done. It’s been edited, cleaned up, spiffed up and it feels like it’s well-organized and flows pretty damn well! I’ve been working with, among others, editors at CreateSpace who, once they see the most recent version, will move into formatting the book. Then we’ll insert the title pages, index (with accurate page reference notes – one of the last things to be completed), upload the cover and send it to press (update 7.28.15: manuscript is now in the formatting stage).
This is without a doubt the biggest writing project I’ve done. Or at least seen this far through. There was that movie script ten years ago. And at least three unfinished books that are still sitting around. But this is important to me. Not only to finish it and get it out there, but to spread it around. I think it’s good. I’m involved in every aspect, from sourcing the illustrator for the inside drawings, to mocking up the cover (although the final cover will be done by someone who knows what they’re really doing), to putting marketing material together (again, getting some help here!).
So what will it be called? We (my helpers and I) have gone through at least a dozen or more potential titles, trying to land on the one short and sweet and ultimately pointedly descriptive title that tells potential viewers at a glance exactly what it’s about.
It’ll be called “Deconstructing Tradeshows: 14 Steps to Tradeshow Mastery.” It’ll show the 14 steps, from organization, budgeting, booth design, booth staff training, in-booth professional presenters and more, that I feel an exhibitor needs in this day and age to succeed – really succeed at tradeshow marketing.
The book grew out of my frustration at seeing exhibitor after exhibitor spend thousands of dollars on really nice exhibits but come away from the show wondering why they didn’t bring home more leads or connect with more people. Turns out that they really were missing many of the critical steps that successful exhibitors don’t miss.
Even though it would be fun, I can’t consult with everyone. So writing the book was my way of sharing all of this important stuff I’ve learned in nearly 15 years in the industry.
When? How about September? If not September, perhaps October. In any event, it’s getting closer. Want to be notified when it comes out so you can latch on to your own copy? Just subscribe to my newsletter by filling in the form here.
When it comes to promotion products, you gotta know what you’re doing or it could end up costing you a lot. Not only in terms of money, but in terms of brand damage. Or maybe brain damage, if you waste money AND do damage to your brand by giving away cheap, breakable SWAG.
Heidi Thorne aims to change all of that with her new book SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business. (disclosure: Heidi is a tradeshow marketing online friend of mine and she offered me a review copy of the book for free).
It’s a brisk read – I went through it within an hour on a recent plan flight from Portland to Houston – and put together this review! And it’s packed full of useful, common-sense information designed to help anyone that’s intending to come up with the ‘perfect’ promotional item to give away.
Heidi covers more about finding and choosing promotional products than I knew existed. She goes into green products, sourcing of products, the shelf life of promo products, how to avoid promotional products PR disasters, how to handle holidays and much more.
Chapters are short and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. There’s no fluff – this is all good, useful and actionable information.
Erik and Kyle show how to use today’s social media platforms to attract new business and job opportunities you’ll never find any other way. Erik discusses some of the common mistakes people make in using social media, how to get job leads and projects through friends and followers and much more.
I’m halfway through a little book called ‘Branding Basics for Small Businesses’ by Maria Ross, which is full of helpful information, and while reading the book, it occurred to me that there is no better place to showcase your brand than at a tradeshow.
Virtually everything about your company comes into play: image, interaction with the public, products, sales team…it’s all there.
And when you think about branding, don’t mistakenly believe that your brand is just your products and services and your logo. Or your advertising.
Everything about your company transmits and broadcasts your brand.
In the book, Maria gave a great example of how a brand is shouted out by the small interactions.
“My husband and I want to love and support a local bookstore in our neighborhood. Based on location, name and visual identity, the store offers a warm, personal book-buying experience unlike the big box bookstores. Unfortunately, my husband was turned off by an incident that didn’t seem important at the time. One day when we entered the store, someone behind us left the door open as we walked in and they walked out. The clerk glanced up, saw the open door, and headed over in a huff to close it. Her body language told us she was miffed and assumed we left the door open. She nearly pushed us out of the way in her haste to make a point and shut the door.”
As she continues, because one clerk didn’t live up to the promise of the store’s brand, her husband is left with a negative impression of the business – and doesn’t feel like going back.
This little eye-opener should help you focus on the little things: is your staff always smiling and helpful? Do you have enough free samples if you’re offering them? Is the floor of your booth as clean as possible? Do you have staff purses, coats and other personal items stacked haphazardly in plain view of visitors?
Any little thing that’s ‘off’ can create a negative impression. And that negativity echoes through a visitor’s mind long after the show is over.
It’s your company. It’s your brand. Everything from your logo to how you answer the phone to how you interact with people at a tradeshow must be derived from how you would like people to perceive your brand.
At your next tradeshow, pay careful attention and see if all that a visitor sees is a positive representation of your brand. If not, find out how to fix it.
In my preparation for speaking at the Exhibit Designers and Producers Associationannual conference in Jacksonville, Florida in a few weeks, I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media and how it can be used in coordination with event marketing.
Not that all of those stories will make it to the final presentation. It’s hard to cut good stories out – but there are time constraints and a goal of covering the actual topics of the presentation as advertised:
Everybody’s talking about social media. And you just nod and smile–but have no idea what they’re talking about. Get a detailed breakdown of the ‘four’ main social media platforms and how to best use them–as well as how to get started if you’re still on the sidelines. Learn how to leverage social media for your own marketing, but more importantly how to talk social media with clients who want it baked into their exhibit programs.
Given that I’ve spoken in public numerous times over the last several years, many times about social media and tradeshow marketing, the challenge isn’t so much putting the presentation together. It’s making sure the information is relevant and important to the audience.
Speaking about social media brings up a lot of challenges. As Steve Farnsworth (@steveology on Twitter) told me earlier this year, ‘social media is still the wild west’ in a lot of ways. Some companies really get it and are neck-deep in their social media engagement. Other companies have a lot of political resistance to even the thought of getting involved, viewing social media as ‘kid stuff’ or toys of some sort that an honest-to-god serious marketer shouldn’t even consider.
Crafting the content then becomes a balancing act between getting the neophytes interested enough to seeing the possibilities and helping the folks already engaged with tools, techniques and examples of how to engage.
Along the way I’ve had the good fortune to stumble onto three books which have been invaluable to crafting the presentation.
Nancy Duarte’s two books on presentations, “Slide:ology” and “resonate” have offered an enormous amount of guidance and I cannot recommend them enough (yes those are affiliate links; one book – ‘resonate’ – was given to me by Nancy and I purchased “Slide:ology” but I would recommend them anyway because they’re both excellent).
John C. Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” has also proved to be extraordinarily helpful in the preparation of the final presentation. I can quibble with a few of his cut’n’paste examples of communication, but his message and a majority of examples ring true.
If you’re working on a presentation, or ever have the opportunity to put one together, you would do yourself well by grabbing any or all of those books.
As for Jacksonville on December 2nd, well…we’ll see if they helped me as much as I hope they will!
Now that I’m 95% finished with Peter Shankman’s“Can We Do That!?” I can safely tell you it’s one of the most inspirational business-promotion books I’ve ever found.
Peter, if you’re not familiar with him, is the founder of The Geek Factory PR Agency in New York City in the 90s. He’s since sold the business (but kept the naming rights) and runs Help A Reporter, the largest free source repository for journalists anywhere in the world, where anyone can sign up to be a source on any topic and get quoted in major media.
Now, to the book: a brisk read; I’m a little more than a week into it and have just the last chapter.
The most useful part of the book to me was to lift the hood on a handful of major successful promotions Peter and the Geek Factory pulled off, including the great skydiving adventure, the knitting shop promotion and his 30th birthday party in 2002 (among others).
For someone who’s never done those types of promotions from scratch, it’s great to see how they were hatched and ultimately executed.
Yes, this fun-to-read book gave me a ton of ideas, and I’m still making notes to incorporate some of those ideas into current promotions that I have on the drawing board.
A critical section of the book looks closely at how to deal with a PR crisis: what to say (and what NOT to say) to the media, how to keep the company employees in the loops, how to create a list of contact information for the key players in any company (no, it’s not just the company management).
In other words, when you get that 3 am phone call – which I agree with Peter are NEVER good – you know what to do, step-by-step to avoid becoming the latest company to get chewed up by media…who after all, are just following a story.
I’m almost sorry I will finish the book later today. Guess I’ll have to keep it handy for reference. Yup, I give this valuable little book 4 stars. Add it to your library soon:
UPDATE August 2017: I’ve had the pleasure to be a member of Peter Shankman’s Master Mind Group “Shankminds” for the past several months. It’s an active group of over a hundred people who either are their own boss, or are working towards that end. Worth checking out.