Tradeshows Will Never Die

The following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

A lot of marketers think tradeshows are dead.  Yet, seventy-two percent of US manufacturers plan to invest in Tradeshows/Events, according to MarketingSherpa’s Business Technology Benchmark Guide 2006.9 Now that almost everything can be done online or virtually, it is easy to assume that the tried and true industry tradeshows are less important.

Not true, according to Tradeshow Week’s annual report of consumer show statistics, which measured an increase of almost 16 percent in
2006. That means that 16 percent more consumers attended shows like the well-known Consumer Electronics Show as well as niche shows like Design Automation Conference, Wizard World, and SuperZoo (I didn’t make that one up, I swear). These shows are still very product focused. Potential customers can see, touch, hear and even taste the products they are interested in.

You can’t get that kind of experience online or in a virtual tradeshow. Yep—virtual tradeshows are a concept being tested by several online companies. For example, eComXpo is a virtual tradeshow for interactive, online marketers. The show is completely virtual; which makes sense since their entire industry is focused on virtual experiences. For more traditional industries, the idea might not fly.

Like other marketing tactics, Tradeshows need to be part of your overall plan. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish by participating in the show—what is the objective? If you’re trying to increase awareness and generate leads then Tradeshows are a great vehicle. If you’re trying to convert leads to sales then Tradeshows are not the best choice.

A popular trend these days is to structure “events within an event.”  These events are more about building relationships with customers, suppliers and partners (sound familiar?). Many companies are using the tradeshow venue to meet with customers and to do in-person product demonstrations, simulations or other experiential activities that you just can’t do online.

Smaller vertical trade events and niche conferences are becoming more popular because they tend to produce more qualified leads—25 percent more according to a MarketingSherpa study. In general or broad-based events, the qualified lead ratio was 27.6 percent whereas the vertical events had a qualified lead ratio of 40.7 percent.10 Pretty good uplift, I’d say.

Another benefit to participating in vertical events is the relative ease with which you can engage in multiple aspects of the show. In fact, you can almost “own” these shows if you want to. Marketing Transformation Services (MTS) is a boutique consulting firm specializing in marketing resource management (MRM) strategy and implementation. The principal, Beth Weesner, is very well-known in MRM circles because of how she leveraged a semi-annual vertical event—the Henry Stewart Marketing Operations Management Symposium. Ms. Weesner gave the keynote address and hosted a panel discussion.
Several of her clients were featured speakers. She hosted an invitation- only cocktail reception for existing and potential clients. Pre and post-event marketing was negotiated with the event managers to build on success of the event. The leads generated from these events fill the MTS pipeline and keep the name visible between events.

Tradeshows and events are still a credible and viable element in any marketing mix. Whether they are small vertical trade events, in-house user groups or general business conferences, they are here to stay.

A Launch is a Process, Not an Event

megaphoneThe following is an excerpt from the Amazon best seller, 42 Rules of Marketing.

One of the biggest challenges for marketers is “the launch.” Whether it is the initial company launch, the launch of a second-generation product, or a launch into a new market segment—the process is similar and the results are equally important.

“Launch” is one of those tricky marketing words. If you ask three people for a definition, you will get three different answers. I define launch as the beginning of an overall integrated marketing campaign. When a launch is planned as a stand-alone event—a big party with industry press, analysts and customers—you will usually see a spike in press coverage. That spike will generate awareness and demand, which leads to initial sales. But then it tends to flattens out.  This is when people start to second-guess their revenue forecasts. Sales starts to question whether Marketing is doing its job. Marketing starts to question why Sales can’t close the deals.

Every launch has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If planned well, one launch will lead right into the next. A launch can take many different forms. It can be a “big bang” or “crescendo” where activities lead up to or are triggered by a specific event. It can be more like “rolling thunder” where activities are happening over a period of time. The key here is that a launch is not an event. It is a series of related marketing activities focused around a single purpose—achieving your business objective.

Planning your launch so that each activity is integrated with the next takes teamwork, organization and patience. I like to start by picking a launch date—you have to start somewhere. Remember the launch isn’t an event, but it is always helpful to have a deadline.  The date can be tied to an industry event, a holiday or season, or basic product availability.

Once you have your deadline, the launch date, you can begin to develop a launch plan by working backwards. List all the activities you have planned for the launch. Identify the dependencies. For example, you need creative content from the landing page to include in the email campaign; you need the messaging before you create the datasheet; you need a customer testimonial for the website and the sales presentation. Based on the timing of each activity, create a timeline of when each item is due, and who is responsible for getting it done.

Your plan should have three main sections. First, activities leading up to the launch date like developing the messaging, creating the webpage, sales presentation and datasheet. Second, specific activities that occur on the day of the launch like when and how the website goes live, the email campaign begins, the press release is issued. Finally, activities to continue the excitement like feature articles, customer webinars, sales contests, email and viral campaigns.

Steve Larsen, CEO of Krugle, used participation in the DEMO conference as one element of his plan to launch Krugle in 2006. Larsen’s goal for DEMO was to get 1–2,000 users signed-up for the beta product. Three days after the conference, Krugle has signed up 35,000 users. The follow-up communications became a critical element in Krugle’s marketing plan. The event was only the beginning. The real work had just started.

Your launch plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It does need to be a living launch plan. Things have a way of changing. You need to be able to adjust quickly as you learn more, and identify the impact of changes on other activities. Having everything written down helps you identify the impact of changes across all elements of the launch.

It also helps minimize the “oops” factor—that tiny little detail that falls through the cracks, and that your boss and colleagues will remind you about for years to come.

Book Excerpt: Deliver what you promise

a-christmas-storyThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

There is a classic holiday movie that my family watches every year after Thanksgiving dinner—A Christmas Story. Set in the 1940s, the movie is about a young boy, Ralphie, his mother, father and little brother. There are a dozen memorable scenes in the movie. Ralphie’s friend gets his tongue stuck on a lamp post in the dead of winter after another friend “double dog dares” him to try it. Ralphie asks his mother for a “Red Rider BB gun” for Christmas to which she replies “You’re gonna shoot your eye out.”

There is one scene that is especially relevant for marketers. Ralphie and his brother are big fans of the “Little Orphan Annie” radio hour. As part of a promotion, the listeners were encouraged to send away for the secret decoder ring, and they would receive a secret message from Annie herself.

Ralphie could hardly stand it. He ran home from school everyday to check the mail, only to be disappointed. Then finally, one day, there was a large envelope addressed to him. It must be his decoder ring. He could hardly wait. He ran into the house and locked himself in the bathroom. He sat down and began to decode the secret message from Annie herself.

Letter by painstaking letter, the message appeared. He couldn’t work fast enough. He had to know what Little Orphan Annie wanted to tell him. D…..R…..I….oh, the anticipation. N….K….come on. M….O…R….E…O…V…A…L…T…I…N…E. You have got to be kidding! “Drink more Ovaltine.” Ralphie was crushed. He threw down the decoder ring and never felt quite the same about Ovaltine or Little Orphan Annie.

The lesson I’ve always taken away from that scene is that it is your responsibility as a marketer to deliver what you promise. There is nothing wrong with creating an environment of anticipation. It is a great strategy and can pay off big time. But the experience better pay off. Otherwise it can backfire big time.

What about poor Ralphie? The makers of Ovaltine sponsored the Little Orphan Annie radio hour in order to sell more of their product. Unfortunately their promotion had the opposite effect. It alienated a poor little kid and probably turned him off Ovaltine forever. Not exactly good for business.

Book Excerpt: Plan a little so you can do a lot more

42_rules_marketing_3d1The following is an excerpt from the Amazon bestseller 42 Rules of Marketing by Laura Lowell.

After much observation and questioning, I have come to classify marketing people into two groups: Planners and Doers. This may seem a stereotype, and it probably is, but bear with me.  Most people I talk to can definitely place themselves into either one camp or the other.

The Planners: You know these folks. They are endearing for their need to always “have a plan.” They think, analyze, request more data and then reassess their assessment. Then something changes—ugh! After a moment of panic and deep breathing, they get to work. They go back to the plan and test their assumptions, review their contingencies and are quite proud to report that the plan is still workable “with a few tweaks.”

These folks plan and plan and plan but actually  don’t do very much. Planners are important and we need them. Without them the Doers would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off! Remember the hit series Friends? The character Monica, played by Courtney Cox, was the epitome of a Planner. She had her life planned out from the time she was 12 years old.  Not only did she plan her life, but her friends’ lives as well. Everyone loved Monica because she was practical and you could always count on her to “have a plan.”

The Doers: These folks, on the other hand, must be doing something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they are “moving the needle” and “making progress.” They have great ideas, and are excited and energetic. They are generally fun to be around. Because of the infectious spirit of the Doers, others jump on the bandwagon and everyone starts doing things.

The issue is whether the Doers are doing the right things. Are they consistent with the strategy and business objectives? Are they integrating with other activities going on? Are their activities repeatable? Can they grow over time? Back to the Friends example—Phoebe, as opposed to Monica was the quintessential Doer. She did whatever came to mind, whenever it came to mind. Everyone loved Phoebe because she was spontaneous and full of energy.

The point is, you need both Planners and Doers in order to get things done. Not everyone can walk the tightrope between planning and doing. And that’s the biggest issue—the lack of balance between strategy and tactics. Thanks to the Planners, companies can develop brilliant strategies— on paper at least.

Thanks to the Doers, companies can spend a lot of time and money without much to show for it. What the lucky ones quickly learn is that developing a strategy is very different from executing one.

When companies try to implement their strategies, they run into obstacles such as channels, partners, technology, infrastructure, competition, or lack of resources. The reverse is also true. Companies can spend so much time executing that they lose sight of the business objective.For example, they might end up with an awesome website, but no incremental sales (See Rule 2.) To be valuable, strategy must be practical, and tactics must be integrated.

Planners and Doers tend to have difficulty connecting the dots between their plans (strategies, objectives, etc.) and their actions (tactics or activities). Lots of time, resources and money get wasted. This is a luxury of days gone by and one that business today can’t afford.

My Mom used to tell me “if you slow down, you’ll go faster” and she was right. How many times do you wish you’d just taken a minute to think something through before you jumped in? How about you? Are you a planner or a doer or maybe a little of both?

Gobbledygook Manifesto – the what?

The following is an excerpt from the Gobbledygook Manifesto, by David Meerman Scott.

Oh jeez, not another flexible, scalable, groundbreaking,  industry-standard, cutting-edge product from a market-leading, well positioned company! Ugh.  I think I’m gonna puke! Just like with a teenager’s use of catch phrases, I notice the same words cropping up again and again in Web sites and news releases—so much so that the gobbledygook grates against my nerves and many other people’s, too. Well, duh. Like, companies just totally  don’t communicate very well, you know?

So few marketing and PR people write well. Many of the thousands of Web sites I’ve analyzed over  the years and the hundred or so news releases I receive each week from well- meaning PR people are laden with these gobbledygook adjectives. So I wanted to see exactly how many of these words are being used, and created an analysis to do so.

First, I selected words and phrases that are overused in news releases by polling select PR people and journalists to get a list of gobbledygook phrases. Then I turned to Factiva from Dow Jones  for help with my analysis. The folks at the Factiva Reputation Lab used text mining tools to analyze news releases sent by companies in north America. Factiva analyzed each release in its database  that had been sent to one of the north American news release wires it distributes for the period from January 1, 2006, to September 30, 2006. The news release wires included in the analysis were Business Wire, Canada newsWire, CCnMatthews,, Market Wire, Moody’s, PR newswire, and Primezone Media network. The results were staggering. The news release wires collectively distributed just over 388,000 news releases in the nine-month period, and just over 74,000 of them mentioned at least one of the Gobbledygook phrases. the winner was “next generation,” with 9,895 uses. There were over 5,000 uses of each of the following words and phrases: “flexible,” “robust,” “world class,” “scalable,” and “easy to use.” Other notably overused phrases with between 2,000 and 5,000 uses included “cutting edge,” “mission critical,” “market leading,” “industry standard,” “turnkey,” and “groundbreaking.”  Oh and don’t forget “interoperable,” “best of breed,” and “user friendly,” each with over 1,000 uses  in news releases.

Read the rest of David’s manifesto here…