Sometime last year our shop foreman told me “We can do anything….they just gotta bring us an idea and we’ll figure it out.”
And yes, I’ve seen it time and time again. It’s true. The designers and fabricators at Interpretive Exhibits CAN and DO do amazing stuff all the time. Of course, much of it doesn’t relate directly to tradeshow exhibits. We do outdoor interpretive signage, museum and visitor center exhibits, custom built-in cabinetry for businesses and residences, large-scale digital graphics…the list really DOES go on and on.
So I thought I would sidle up to the guy at the Shameless Plug Department and ask if it was all right to toss out a free PDF listing of the stuff we do. Sure, why not.
So here ’tis: a one-sheet, easily downloadable and printable, of what we can help you with here at Interpretive Exhibits. Yes, it is a shameless plug. But every now and then you gotta blow your own horn.
The following is a guest post by Roger Pike, VP of Corporate Training for Communication Steroids, a public speaking/media training company. Roger is a long time public speaker, radio news director, and currently Communications Director for the Marion County (Oregon) Democratic Party.
Public relations professionals, marketers, ad executives and visionary business leaders see it coming. Every day consumers become more dependent on information they get on-line. A lot of that information, and soon most of it, comes through social media. People are asking their friends what they should buy. And folks are blogging, tweeting, and posting to their Facebook page their reactions to products, and the service they get when they go to buy. It’s adapt or get left behind, for, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changing.”
Great challenges lie ahead, though, because, even those who recognize the growing relevance of the interactive internet often approach it’s idiosyncrasies with a traditional mind-set. Unfortunately, the new game will be played by new rules. It’s time to leave some of our preconceptions behind. Social media marketing is different, and companies and entrepreneurs must think differently to use social media effectively. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the brave new social media world.
1) It’s personal. Traditionally, it’s about brand…and creating the link in peoples minds between that brand and good results. But in the new interactive world it’s more about relationships. Social media is about reaching out and touching someone, personally. People won’t pay as much attention to your company logo in your social media effort, they’ll see YOU. Yes, branding still matters, even in the social media. But not as much as in the past…and certainly not as much as the personal touch.
2) Everybody tweets. Social media marketing is different than traditional efforts because EVERYBODY represents your company. The guy in the back you hired for exceptional accounting skills is just as much part of the company image as that fresh scrubbed young marketing rep you hired for their people skills. EVERYBODY tweets, or at least, can tweet, so, in a sense, your marketing department just got a whole lot bigger…for better or worse.
3) Pay Attention at all times. Traditional campaigns did their market research, chose the strategies to reach their demo, designed the campaign, launched…then sat back and waited for the metrics. Now the response from your clients is ongoing. You can tweak based on the reaction you get instantly through the social media. So, LISTEN, really listen. Don’t just say your going to listen. Do it. Really.
4) Start now, begin anywhere. The old strategy relied on the “tried and true.” But it’s a brave new world. You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines on this one. You’ve got to get into the game. Big, small, young, or old the social media is the town square of the future. It’s where people talk, it’s where a huge and growing number get advice. It’s where they decide. Conversations about your brand and products are happening all over the web. You need to go hard or go home.
Learn a new meaning for ROI. Everyone knows ROI means “return on investment” and the suits make traditional ROI the centerpiece of their decision to refuse a commitment to social media. Let’s adopt a new definition for the acronym. Let’s call it “risk of ignorance.” Ignore the social media at your peril.
Tunisha Hubbard is a tour manager and brand spokesperson for various live corporate and ‘guerrilla’ events. We met on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and I asked if she would do a brief podcast interview to discuss how she works tradeshows and other promotional events.
Her website bio describes her as ‘engaging, friendly, and enthusiastic, she loves that her job lets her interact with people, whether it is one person or fifty.’ Her enthusiasm is evidend in the interview as she discusses her various appearances and corporate promotions she’s been involved with.
With social media becoming a hub of connection in both business and personal worlds, it’s a good time to look at how you’re planning and implementing your online social media strategy to connect with your customers and potential customers, whether you’re a B2C or B2B entity.
Just being on Facebook, Twitter and your own online website, whether a blog or a static site, is not enough. Writing blog posts and tweeting about them is not enough. Sure, all of that is good – but if you’re just putting a few random online tactics into action your overall strategy will likely suffer. (
Depending on the situation and the size of your company, you may be the only person that handles the company’s online presence and social media activity. Or there may be a concentrated group that works together.
Among the main areas to focus on:
Overall editorial/marketing social media strategy
How to tie those and other social media entities into your tradeshow schedule
Create a brief plan for the year, which might look like this:
Objectives: a) sales, b) connecting with current customers
Objectives: a) lead gathering, b) adding to our e-mail list
Objectives: a) new product launch, b) new branding/look (new booth or graphics)
Objectives: a) sales of new product, b) introduce company to new area of country
and so on.
Once your plan is outlined, start filling in the holes, and answering several questions that relate to your Social Media efforts:
Who’s going to lead the charge?
Who’s on the front lines Tweeting, updating the blog and Facebook pages? What will the tweets consist of? What will you do online to draw booth visitors?
If you are going to put up videos on YouTube and your blog, who’s going to write, shoot and produce (and upload)?
Once the plan is finalized, who will need to sign off on it? Who is required to implement the plan?
Moving your messaging for the company across all of those various platforms, online and offline, in a unified manner is not simple or easy. In fact, there are very few companies that get it right and consistent across all platforms, so don’t feel bad if you are missing some components.
Internal coordination and communication will be essential to carry off the plan – a hard enough challenge even when all hands are on deck and aiming for the same objective. This is where double-checking and back-tracking will pay off in ensuring the appropriate messages are going out on the right channels.
Another important aspect of your social media is listening. What is the marketplace saying about your products, or similar products from your competitors?
In a recent Twitter exchange and recaptured in a blog post, Steve Farnsworth of Digital Marketing Mercenary asked that question of his followers:
@Steveology: What are some of your favorite social media listening tools?
* @IanBragg: Twhirl, IceRocket.com and Hashtags.org. For Facebook, I use my own profile, not a 3rd party.
* @chadhorenfeldt: addictomatic, tweetdeck, Google Reader
* @kkmett: We have been using Filtrbox, not as fancy as Radian6, but easier on the budget.
* @SashaHalima: I like Twitter…a lot. Treat it like an RSS/wire thing sometimes. It’s what I use the most, followed by FB.
* @DannyBrown: Social Mention (http://socialmention.com), Google Alerts, Twitter 🙂
* @Aerocles: Tweetbeep for brand mentions & Hootsuite’s ow.ly for link tracking and stats…those are the 2 that i use the most
* @ginidietrich: My fave social media monitoring tools are here! (Click To Read Her Post)*
Listening to your market’s conversation about your products and services should be a continuous process because the conversation is always changing. Sifting through the various conversations using keywords will take some getting used to. Could be this is one area where you might really considering bringing in a pro.
Being hesitant to be proactive about social media strategy is what holds many companies back. After all, it’s new. Fitting it in with the hundred other things you do daily can take away from your current focus.
But there’s always going to be something new. It’s just that this is a ‘new’ thing that your current and potential clients are engaging in and embracing with a passion.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Or ask for help from other people in the company, or if appropriate, outside the company such as consultant or adviser.
Are you spending time or money on social media? Are you seeing a return on that investment? My guess is that it’s hard to tell. It could be that you’re not looking at it the right way or doing the right things in your company’s social media world. Some companies get it. Others don’t. The rest of us are flapping our wings in between, trying to get some loft out of this new entity…or…whatever it is.
Whether you’re putting resources into your marketing (tradeshow or otherwise), you should find this short (about 4 minutes) video fun, enlightening and perhaps even a bit intimidating when you consider what some of your competitors are already doing with social media…
Interview with Heidi Thorne of Thorne Communications in the Chicago area. Heidi is an expert in promotional products and discusses the hottest current products – as well as those that have fallen out of favor.
In the meantime, see where your company compares to other survey respondents:
95 percent are involved in social media (no surprise)
80 percent use social media to promote their tradeshow appearances
60 percent of companies have an active blog
70 percent have a Facebook page
85 percent of companies have someone representing the company on Twitter
Only half have a YouTube channel and most do NOT post regularly
80 percent are either experimenting with ways to drive tradeshow sales or are heavily involved and looking for more ways to use Social Media in conjunction with tradeshow appearances
I’m not surprised that almost all companies are involved in some way, shape or form of social media. Ya almost gotta be today. Of course, the survey was online and promoted through e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, so you would think that people on those platforms would be involved in social media. Offline and in the ‘real world’ I continue to run into people that are NOT into social media, but are curious about it. Or not.
Also, glad to see that most companies use SM to promote their tradeshow appearances.
I did not expect quite the high numbers of respondents to say that their company has an active blog and a Facebook page. I suspect in the real world that stat is probably reversed. But companies that are online realize that FB and blogs are where the action is.
It appears that posting video online has a significant hurdle. While half report having a YouTube channel, most don’t post videos more than once a month – if that.
My guess is that part of that is somewhat of a technical barrier, but it’s probably more of a content barrier – ‘what do we put in the video?’ Anyone can get a Flip video camera and post videos with good content.
I have a hunch that a typical brick-and-mortar store doesn’t have the expertise, time or interest in posting videos. But if there is someone in the store that is interested, it would be a pretty easy matter to come up with a string of informational videos that would show off the company’s expertise.
I’ll post complete results in a week or so; I’ll leave the survey open through next Wednesday the 25th of November if you want to leave your reponses – I’d love to see what you have to say!
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.
The latest issue of Exhibitor Magazine hit my mailbox last week, highlighted by their annual look at industry cost averages.
Now I’m not going to throw all of their numbers out for you. If you want ’em all, check out their website or buy the magazine. They usually release the current online version a few weeks after the paper version has been out.
But I do want to take a gander at a few of the numbers in general terms.
A few of the main figures that we always work with our clients and prospects here at Interpretive Exhibits are: industry average cost for custom booths, inline booths, and design and fabrication.
Several years back I compiled a short list from various sources, and the averages were something like this (figures from 2000 – 2002):
Average cost for new, custom construction:
Island: $130 per square foot
In-Line: $1,230 per linear foot
Average cost for exhibit design (hourly): $80 – $85
Average cost for graphic design (hourly): $70 – $75
According to the figures just released in the November 2009 issue of Exhibitor Magazine, rates are up approximately 25% since the beginning of the decade, or less than 3% per year. According to data from InflationData.com, the yearly average from 2000 – 2008 is 2.89%.
The figures through September of 2009 shows mostly negative inflation, and those figures were not included – but obviously they would pull the 10-year average down.
Conclusion: Nothing really surprising here – actually I would view the figures as somewhat encouraging as some of the basic costs of designing and fabricating a custom booth are in line with inflation.
Without giving out the actual figures compiled by Exhibit Magazine – after all, they did the work and until they post them online I don’t think it’s fair to jump the shark with their specific numbers – it appears that the key figures we track in the exhibit industry have risen in line with other prices.
PS. When Exhibitor releases those numbers online, I’ll look to post a link do you can review all of the figures.