The Role of PR in the Marketing Mix

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the words: “PR”? For some it’s Press Release. For others it’s Public Relations. But for all companies, PR is a Marketing necessity.

Consider what PR can deliver for you that advertising can’t.

  1. Credibility: That’s right. I don’t mean that you should go hog-wild and issue press releases every other day. What I mean is that, done properly, the relations you build with journalists, bloggers, editors and analysts can ultimately propel your brand/company/product to the front lines. Nothing says credibility like a good review, a headline in a newspaper, or a positive nod from a blogger
  2. Messaging: PR people spend more time working with words than just about anyone. Well, I’m not counting the folks who write documentation, or legal contracts. I’m talking about the words that get into the public eye. Who better to help finesse your messaging than the folks whose livelihood it is to get the attention of the media?
  3. Media and Analyst relations: PR folks are known for their rolodexes and for their ability to network, schmooze, and develop the right relationships with the right people. They can quickly ascertain who you need to be in front of, and how to make it happen.
  4. Pitching: I’m not talking about baseballs. I’m talking about pitching tightly crafted article outlines (know as abstracts) to a target list of media, journalists, bloggers and analysts. The result is INK. That is what you want: ink on paper (or pixels on a screen). You want someone to write an article, comment on a press release, ask for an interview and basically put your name in front of the world.
  5. Media Database: This ties into #3 & #4. Your PR team/person will develop a database of the publications and contacts relevant to your target market and product/service. This becomes your go-to resource for pitching media and analysts.
  6. Editorial Calendar: Think of all the publications in which you would love to be published. Well, the majority publish an annual calendar of topics being covered. Your PR person will take all the calendars, decide which articles are relevant, which abstracts meet the criteria, marry that to the proper media contact and pitch away. If they’re successful, you get ink, which enhances your credibility and increases brand awareness. You see, it all comes full circle.

So, before you dismiss PR as “just a press release”, take a step back and look at the whole cycle.

Print vs Email – Leverage both for a compelling ROI

The most important facet of any direct marketing campaign, whether it be print or online, is getting the reader to open it up. Now I’m not talking about bills and statements. These fall under a completely different category and the rules are changing daily as to how they are used for marketing purposes. What I’m talking about is good, old-fashioned direct mail.

When it comes to email marketing, you must have a compelling subject line. When it comes to print, you have to get the envelope opened. But then what? You’ve either gone to all the trouble of crafting the perfect subject line, one that is not blacklisted, has just the right amount of words, and is compelling and catchy, even on a smartphone. Or you’ve designed a stellar envelope, with an engaging creative element that grabs attention and entices the recipient to open it and see what’s inside.

Once you’ve captured someone’s attention you need a reaction. You need them to ACT. But how? Are you sending your prospect to a PURL (their own personalized webpage)? Do you want them to contact you via email or phone? Are they downloading content? Are they signing up for an event? Are they participating in a contest? Are they scanning a QR code or filling out a form?

The choices are endless but the objectives are the same: Generate interest and turn a prospect into an opportunity.

There are people out there who will say that print is dead. There are also people out there who will profess that people’s inboxes are saturated and messages are being lost and ignored.

I agree with both statements. And, to that point, I believe that there is a place for both tactics in your direct marketing arsenal.

Clearly there are pros and cons for each. First off, email is relatively cheap. There are no printing costs, no postage costs, it is very simple to test a variety of messages and measuring results is almost instantaneous. Plus, you can schedule your email down to the minute and day that it is sent. On the other hand, print is tangible, so you can touch it and hold it.  It is relatively simple to cultivate an address database since you don’t need personal email addresses, and it has staying power. There are endless varieties of envelopes, colours, sizes, and formats at your disposal and most printers are only too happy to work with you to develop the optimal printed piece. However, in many cases print can be cost-prohibitive, time consuming, and nearly impossible to track open rates.  So why use print?

Because it works. When executed properly, print is the perfect complement to email. Is it the be-all and end-all? Of course not. But as I mentioned, people’s inboxes are inundated with offers, newsletters, spam, contests, jokes, etc. It’s getting more and more difficult to cut through the noise. But print, that’s different. I’ve run simultaneous campaigns, where the creative, the messaging, and the call-to-action were identical between print and email. And you know what? The response to the print campaign was significantly higher to that of the email.

Yes it was in a colourful envelope and mailed during the holiday season, when folks are expecting to receive mail. But I ran the same campaign again, when it wasn’t the holidays, and it still outperformed its email counterpart.

Results vary between industries, geographies and target audience, and you need to be diligent with your testing and tracking. But if you’re not using print as one of your direct marketing tactics, you could very well be undermining your efforts and missing out on opportunities.

Putting your signature to work for you

Companies today have a lot on their plate, from the skittish economy, to the ever-changing landscape of social media “must have” trends. It’s difficult to keep up, let alone get ahead, whether you are a small business or large enterprise organization. And each company has its own unique set of needs and challenges.

There is, however, one thing that we have in common. And that is our email signature.

One of the first things a company invests in is its stationery, particularly business cards. One of the last things, unfortunately, is ensuring a consistent, compelling, and brand-centric email signature.

Think about it. When was the last time you changed your signature? Are you still using the default setting on your smartphone? Compare that to the last time you sent out an email campaign, or tweaked your website.

If you’re nodding your head and realizing that you have an untapped resource at your fingertips, you are not alone. But before you jump the gun, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Ensure that you are using the most current and appropriate company logo and/or tagline. If you have a marketing department they can help you with that. Make sure to hyperlink it back to your company’s website.
  2. Lead with the most important information: name, title, phone number, website
  3. Add newsworthy items, such as upcoming events, recent press releases, awards, etc. by using a hyperlink.
  4. Does your company have a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile? Be sure to include them. One caveat: DO NOT link to your own personal social media pages. You are representing your company, not yourself. Save those for your own personal emails.
  5. Don’t include large images….these can often take a long time to download and annoy the recipient on the other end
  6. Check your signature settings in your email client (i.e. Outlook). I often use the full “kitchen sink” email for new messages only. But for replies or forwards, I create a simplified version, with no logo, but with links to the website, etc.
  7. Finally, as is the case with all things, TEST, TEST, TEST. You’d be amazed at the weird line breaks, funky images, and oddities that can occur when you cut-and-paste text into an email signature field.

Once you get the hang of having a branded signature, you’ll realize the reach and potential. You can customize it with departmental promotions. You can tailor it to link to landing pages. You can drive open rates for content such as whitepapers or webinars. The opportunities are endless. What are you waiting for?

Tradeshows – 6 tips for a successful event

I admit it…I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to Tradeshows. On one hand, I know that it’s important to attend, at some level, if you want to make your presence known in the market and, more importantly, if you are an established brand and “can’t afford” to not be seen. However, like all marketing arsenal, there is a time and a place.

The Tradeshow “hey day” of the 90’s is long gone. Yes, we all mourned the loss of Comdex. But lately, I’ve noticed a resurgence, dare I say a renewed excitement, for the tradeshows of today.

If you’re a B2B company, here are 7 tips I will share with you, coveted over nearly 20 years of attending shows as either a delegate or an exhibitor. So, even if you got stuck with a 10×10 booth in the bowels of the show floor, or your neighbours are lacklustre and unimaginative, you can still be successful if you bear the following in mind: 

1 – Know Why You’re There
Are you a new company or is this the first time attending the event? If so, you are probably looking to fill your pipeline with contacts (notice I didn’t say “leads”). Tradeshows are great places to fill your database with a multitude of potential prospects. Marketing will want to nurture the contacts; Sales will want to build pipeline. Both can be accomplished with patience and an understanding of what constitutes a lead. (see point #2) But be warned, some really did just come for the t-shirt. Are you an established company? (more than 5 years of consistent participation at the show). Then you are likely looking to connect with prospects already in your pipeline to move them along the sales cycle. Tradeshows are a great opportunity to meet with customers and prospects and grow the relationship.

2 – Make Sure Sales and Marketing are Aligned
When it comes to whether or not a show is successful, ensure you have established the criteria BEFORE you commit to the event. What marketing considers a “lead” and what sales does can often rival the Venus vs Mars analogy. As far as I’m concerned, Marketing’s job is to nurture any and all contacts for viability. If there is a real opportunity, intent to purchase, and budget allocation, then the “lead” can be handed off to Sales. Otherwise, let it stay in Marketing’s capable hands! Marketing will nurture that contact, provide them with information, content such as whitepapers and case studies, invitations to webinars, etc. Sales need not waste their valuable time on the “t-shirt” grabbers. When agreeing on your success criteria, establish whether participation in the event is to: foster existing relationships, generate leads (assign a number), strategic presence, competitive research. And when the show is over, do a post-mortem and document the results. I often find sending a simple feedback form to the folks who worked the booth is a terrific gauge. And it will make next year’s decision to participate much easier. Finally, agree on who shoul work the booth. In my opinion the ideal mix is 1 salesperson, 1 product/marketing person, 1 technical pre-sales person (depending on the audience, of course).

3 – Drive Traffic
If you don’t make a memorable impression, then all your efforts will be for naught. Are you doing a draw at your booth for a large ticket item (i.e. an iPad)? Are you giving away 200 “tchachkes” (i.e. pens, stress balls, etc.)? Are you running a contest? Do you have dynamic presentations and presenters? Are you issuing a press release? Most importantly, are you communicating this well in advance to your prospects? Find out if there’s an official #hashtag for the event and use it in your social media efforts. (see #5 for more)

4 – Integrate Your Messaging
If you have an Events section on your website (and really, who doesn’t these days), post your participation in the event as soon as possible. Make it prominent in your newsletter. Add it to the front page of your site the week before the event. If you’re issuing a press release, get the show’s media list and notify them in advance. Share the release under embargo if you can. Do an email blast to last year’s attendee list. If your budget permits, do a print campaign (yes….people open envelopes if the message is compelling). Run a contest. Use Social Media. Assign someone to tweet while at the show, take pictures, post them to your company page on LinkedIn and Facebook. Engage your prospects!

5 – Be prepared
I am amazed at how many companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on events, that don’t bother to spend the time ensuring that their presentation is clean, free of typos, and has been well rehearsed by the person delivering it. When you ship all the materials down, allow room for mishaps (see my post on “what can go wrong will go wrong” for more tradeshow pitfalls). Ensure your booth staff have time for bio breaks, competitive research, etc. Take the time to give them the show agenda so they know when to expect heavy traffic on the event floor. Arm them with breath mints and water. Invest in a lead scanner (or be prepared to scan/hand-enter potentially hundreds of business cards). Give them all the return shipping way-bills in advance. Make it easy for them to focus on a successful show, not all the minutae best suited to your events co-ordinator. And for goodness sakes, check the booth BEFORE you ship it. Are all the panels in tact? Do you need light bulbs? Is the messaging still accurate?

6 – Follow Up
After you’ve spent all the time, money and energy preparing for the show, marketing it, developing materials and presentations, don’t lose sight of your valuable “contacts”. Get them into your CRM database (or whatever you use to manage leads) ASAP. Yes…even the business cards that the salesperson insisted be put into their pocket for follow up (just be sure to return them to said salesperson!) Ensure the lead source is listed as the tradeshow. Have a follow up email ready to go, with a piece of content that was not available at the event, sent to them within 72 hours of the last day of the event.

So there you have it….my top six tips. To thank you for getting this far, I will now offer a bonus tip: Do more than exhibit. Are there speaking opportunities? Sponsorship opportunities? Can you partner with the Event Organizer to produce a webinar in advance of the event and get yourself in front of their attendees? All of these should factor into your decision to exhibit.

Good luck! And if you ever find yourself overwhelmed with upcoming events, if you need help implementing some of these tips, or if you simply want to bounce some ideas, please contact me at:

10 reasons why being an entrepreneur makes sense

I’ve always admired entrepreneurs.

When I was out on my own as a typesetter and graphic designer over 25 years ago, it was called “Freelancing“. Today, I am a “consultant“. But am I an entrepreneur?

I spent the last 20+ years working in the corporate world. I’ve worked for small business owners (entrepreneurs) and large enterprise organizations (founded at one time or other by….an entrepreneur).

Not everyone has what it takes to start, run, manage, sell, market, produce and deliver products and services. You have to be able to sell yourself, have a bit of a thick skin, and recognize when it isn’t working and to pack it in. It takes passion, dedication, organization, energy, time, courage, and of course MONEY.

It takes money to start a business. It takes money to sustain it as you build up your client base. It takes money to buy supplies, pay your staff (if you have one) and support yourself and your family. But if you can tackle that hurdle and set realistic goals for yourself. If you appreciate the benefits of being your own boss and doing what you are passionate about, then maybe, just maybe, you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Here are my top 10 reasons why I chose to go out on my own:

1 – The commute: I used to travel 1.5 hours each way to get to and from work. That’s 3 hours a day! Now my commute is 8 feet

2 – Wardrobe: As much as I love to shop, I must say I love the fact that I get to work in yoga pants and a t-shirt

3 – Cost Savings: I have saved money on makeup, gas, coffee, eating out and clothes (see #2)

4 – Exercise: I can go to the gym whenever I want. Typically, I go for a cardio workout in the morning and am back home, showered and at my desk by 9. On days where I am meeting someone for lunch, I will opt instead to go later in the morning, and head straight to lunch freshly showered and wearing REAL clothes. The bottom line is…it’s up to me

5 – Healthy Eating: Although some people may find the opposite, I find I eat better at home. I have a proper breakfast, a decent lunch, and a home-cooked dinner. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I choose to eat frozen yogurt and berries for lunch…but I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than if I made that choice and had to purchase it from a foodcourt!

6 – Time for my kids: Most days I am home when they get home from school. I can find out how their day went and give them a hug. And then I can kick them out of my office and continue working until it’s time to make dinner.

7 – Time for me: I don’t have to do grocery shopping on Saturdays anymore! I don’t have to worry about the number of personal calls I make during the day. I don’t have to worry who’s looking over my shoulder if I want to check my Facebook status! And I can set my alarm for 8:55 am on the mornings that I don’t have to get my kids off to school! (see #1)

8 – Fewer politics: As a consultant, I don’t typically get embroiled in the office politics, the office gossip, the idle chit chat and the frustrations that can set in on a team that is strained and overburdened. That doesn’t give permission to be arrogant. On the contrary. I value and respect the people I contact and have the privilege of working with.

9 – Variety: I am a person who thrives on variety. Even if all of my clients want the same thing (i.e. a lead gen strategy), each is different. Different products, solutions, audience, offer, budget, goals, etc. It keeps me on my toes and keeps the creative juices flowing.

10 – Pride: I get to do what I love and share what I’ve learned the last 25+ years with people and companies who appreciate and value what I bring to the table.

Of course there are always days when I wonder what will happen if my proposal doesn’t get accepted, if my prospects dry up, how I’m going to cover the medical expenses with no benefits, whether I made the right decision to go out on my own while we are still in the tenuous process of recovering from a struggling economy. And I suppose for the foreseeable future I will often have those doubts.

But then I remember how I felt when my first proposal was accepted. When my first article was published. When I received payment for my first consulting job. And how proud I feel when I receive gratitude from a client and a referral to someone new. I also think of the amazing people I know made the very same decision I recently made and have thrived.

So, whether you consider me a freelancer, a consultant, an entrepreneur, or simply self-employed…at the end of the day…I am happy! (…and yes, I still have a rolodex of recruiters close by….just in case!)

How do IT Professionals use Social Media?

I’ve been tasked with an interesting project. Truthfully, it’s not all that different from what I’ve done the last 5 years but, what is interesting, is my initial reaction. I actually said “I don’t think social media will work”! Can you imagine that?

I have been preaching the benefits of using social media since I attended my first #MESHmarketing conference in 2006. I didn’t know much about it. I didn’t blog. But I got it. I knew that I was bearing witness to a changing tide in Marketing.

So I began to learn. I attended online Social Media summits. I started following key influencers. I got a Twitter account and began to tread the waters. I installed Tweetdeck and learned ways to leverage hashtags and lists. And I began to implement a social media program at the company where I worked.

And I learned. And I’m still learning.

Social Media is a strange beast. In its simplest form, it is merely one more tactic in a marketer’s toolbox. But it is rarely looked upon in its simplest form. Because it has become very personal.

Social Media is about community. Social Media puts you smack in the middle of everything. It enables you to communicate with peers, express your opinion, research products, socialize globally with like-minded individuals and yes, even follow celebrities.

But for many businesses, especially public companies, Social Media is daunting. It is a new territory of criticisms, unhappy customers, and an arena where you can’t control the content.

Social Media represents a new era. An era where, instead of giving people the information you want to receive, you must learn to share the information they want to get. The whole sense of community is a foreign concept, and not one easily embraced.

But the tides are shifting and businesses are starting to realize the value. Not all businesses, mind you, but many more B2B organizations are incorporating Social Media into their marketing mix than they were 5 years ago.

But there is one group of individuals who, in my opinion, are still not convinced. And if you’re a B2B marketer in the tech space (of which I am one), then you may find yourself wondering what to do next?

You see, most IT professionals and developpers scoff at the notion of Social Media. There. I said it. They hate it. They see no value in it. They don’t “do twitter”. If they use Facebook at all, it’s for purely personal reasons. Same for LinkedIn.

So I ask you, as marketers, how do you include these individuals in your community? How can you reach out to them and share your carefully-crafted IT content? You know, the whitepapers that you struggled to ensure don’t smell like marketing collateral. The webinars you know they would attend if they knew about them.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some very smart people over the years. And as far as I know, their “social media”, their “community”, consists of forums and groups. Yes, the same communities that they’ve participated in for years. Long before social media was the cool new buzzword. But I wonder if that is beginning to change. Are IT people starting to embrace traditional social media venues? Are they on twitter? If so, what hashtags are they using? #ITpro and #ITprofessional seemed to be fairly active, but there wasn’t a lot of meat behind the tweets.

We are all trying to reach this elusive group. And they know it. My question is, is this why they stay away? I certainly hope not. Because that would be unfortunate.

If you’re an IT Professional who is embracing social media please share your thoughts. And if you’re not, please tell me why.

When did Marketing become a TV show?

I know, I know….I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Believe me, I have many posts written. In my head. But yet I never made it to the computer. Something always came up.

I can blame the fact that I lost my job in the spring, or the fact that I’ve been busy with kids and school and holidays and birthdays and looking for a new job. And all would be true. But here I am!!

And on that note I bring you today’s post.

I was going to write about the LEAD (you know….marketing’s 4-letter word). Then I was going to write about how you need a Fedex degree in order to fill out their forms. And I suppose one day I will get around to those topics. But for today, I want to focus on a trend I have noticed recently. A trend that, in my mind, has married the marketing world to the TV world. A world where executives are quick to make decisions without considering all options. A world where a show is axed after 2 episodes. A world where instant gratification supercedes tried and true marketing techniques (such as AB testing) for knee-jerk reactions to poor results.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for “going with your gut”. I am a firm believer that playing it safe and successful marketing do not go hand in hand. But, more importantly, I believe that marketing is about learning. It is about figuring out what works and what doesnt. And then tweaking your program for optimum results. I know that what works in Canada doesn’t work in Europe (and vice versa). That Canadians will accept American spelling but not vice versa. I know that, for some programs, a short form is more successful than a long form and, as a result, you have to sacrifice some of the information you collect.

I’m not trying to be arrogant. I KNOW these things because I’ve tested them. Not always intentionally, mind you, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the facts.

The facts are that marketing takes time. Sure, you can crank out programs at the drop of a dime. You can create email campaigns that generate hundreds of “leads” (yeah…this goes back to the 4-letter word topic). You can go to tradeshows and make a huge splash. You can create the best press release and get tons of exposure.

But then what?

You see, in my opinion, it’s what you do next that matters. Because for every successful email campaign, there is a flop. For every amazing webinar, there is the one where only 3 people actually dialed in. And for every great ad-word campaign there is one with tons of hits, but no click-throughs.

But then what?

If you’re a good marketer you will look at the results of ALL your programs. Figure out what worked. Try to replicate it. Does it work again? Great! Do it again. But don’t abandon what failed! Maybe you sent out an email campaign on a religious holiday that you hadn’t considered. Or maybe your offer/call-to-action (CTA) wasn’t compelling. Or maybe it was simply too long. Or too short.

If you work with a company that’s been around for the last 10 years or so, remember that a lot has changed! Google, Twitter, Linked-In, SEO, keywords, blogging…the landscape has changed. That campaign you ran 5 years ago that was a huge success? Try it again. But also try the campaign that bombed.

The results might just surprise you.

Don’t fall victim to the “ratings war”. Give yourself, and your team, permission to learn.

Want me to answer the phone? Read on

Call it cold-calling; call it telemarketing; call it sales; telesales; call it lead nurturing. At the end of the day one thing remains common: you want to connect with the person at the other end of the line and sell them something.

Now I’m in a unique position as a marketing professional. Not only do I have the pleasure of working with “inside sales” and developing programs, scripts, etc., I also have the pleasure of receiving many of these “cold calls”. And although I am not the typical persona to whom my company markets, I still feel a kinship, heck even empathy, for those folks who are on the other end of the line/email when it seemingly appears out of the blue.

I have made it a personal rule over the years that if I don’t recognize the incoming phone number, it goes to voice mail. If I do happen to pick up the phone, in a momentary lapse of judgement, you’d better be on the ball. I can promise you, no matter what time it is, I DON’T have a few minutes to spare right now. Offer to book a time and send me some information in advance.

If you REALLY want to talk to me then I need to see the value in it. How will you make my job easier, my day better or my campaigns more successful? Know who you’re talking to, both from a business perspective and a persona perspective. Understand my challenges and offer a differentiating alternative.

On the other hand, I do tend to sympathize more than others, since I too am measured on the success of outbound marketing and lead conversion. This means that yes, I may fill out your survey, I might listen to your pitch, I will review (skim) the material you send me and I will probably visit your website.

I’m sure everyone has their own checklist of sorts, but here is my list of do’s and don’ts if you’re trying to elicit a response from me:

  1. Do speak slowly and clearly. Spell you name and/or company name if you have to. And for goodness sakes don’t whiz through your phone number!
  2. Do tell me why you’re calling.
  3. Do send me a proper calendar invite when I agree to a call. Make sure your contact details are included should I need to reschedule.
  4. Do spell-check your email and any attachments you send me.
  5. Do have a compelling subject line for your email and make sure the 1st paragraph supports it.
  6. Do make sure you know my name and the name of my company. I understand that Xenos may have been “different”, but Actuate is not a difficult name.  Yet I’ve heard it called Activate, Acutate, and even Acutane. C’mon people!
  7. Don’t leave a voice mail that says you want to discuss an “opportunity” without giving me some clue as to what it’s about.
  8. Don’t leave your whole pitch in a voice mail. If 10 seconds has passed and you’re still droning on, I will hang up.
  9. Don’t tell me you have done work with IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Apparently everyone has. It doesn’t differentiate you.

What’s on your list?

So you’re in Marketing! What is that exactly?

This happens to all of us at some point in time. You’re either at a party, or you’re meeting someone for the first time, or perhaps it’s your kids that ask the question: “What do you do for a living”. Now I don’t know about you, but some professions are a lot easier to explain than others. I mean if you’re a bus driver or an electrician, heck if you’re in retail sales for a shoe company…it’s pretty straightforward. But Marketing? Not so simple.

Everyone has their own conception of what Marketing is all about. “oooh…you get to travel and do tradeshows!” (and ftr…if you think that’s glamorous, take a peek at my previous post dated November 10). Or ” you get all the cool tchachkes (aka premium incentives).  Or the best: “you get to be on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn all day long!” Some people think all I do is write press releases. And yes, that has been known to take up a fair share of my time, but certainly not all that I do.

If you say things like “Well actually, I manage the brand”; or “I developed and maintain the social media strategy”. Yeah…makes marketers all stand up and take notice, but makes the average Joe’s eyes just gloss over. Especially when you try to be specific and add “I’m in B2B marketing for the tech industry”. Huh?

So I’m here to set the record straight: Marketing produces the stuff that helps the sales guys sell.

Yes, I write press releases (and datasheets and direct mail and case studies and web copy and scripts and promos….)
Yes, I work on websites. I develop site plans and work with the design team
Yes, I do creative “stuff”. I work with designers and tweak layouts and finess line breaks and help design templates
Yes, I work with vendors. All kinds. Printers, Magazines, Premium Incentives, List Rentals, Tradeshows, etc.
Yes, I produce webinars
Yes, I am on as many social media sites as possible
Yes, I am constantly doing research on trends, and best practices, why this or that is the best new lead gen “thing” out there
Yes, I develop demand generation programs (aka leads). And we help nurture those leads so that the sales guys can focus on closing deals.
And yes…I attend LOTS of meetings! Budget meetings. Sales meetings. IT meetings. You see, as a Marketing person, I need to interface with just about everyone in the company. I need to explain to THEM what it is the marketing department does. Because let’s face it; most people haven’t a clue what the marketing department does for their company….except spend money.

We make it look effortless. We get it done. We bitch and complain and gripe when there aren’t enough hours in the day, or when our computers are down, or when somebody uses the wrong PowerPoint template. But we are passionate about what we do. We are sticklers for detail and we make it look easy. We tweet, we create, we produce, we deliver. When an analyst gives us a rave review, or we get an article published, we smile. When sales basks in the glory of a great quarter we give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. When leads aren’t converted into opportunities we take the hit. We are Marketing.

How about you? How do you explain what you do?

What can go wrong WILL go wrong… welcome to the world of tradeshows

It never ceases to amaze me how, with all the technological advances that have been made in the last 2 decades some things NEVER change.

  1. The printer will always jam minutes before an important meeting, keeping in its grasps the document you  need for your presentation
  2. After double and triple checking your email to some very important people, you realize you forgot the attachment the second you hit the “send” button
  3. No matter how far in advance you ship your order, customs will somehow manage to keep the one box that is critical to the success of your booth

Now, let’s examine that 3rd point. I have been doing this shtick long enough to know a few basic facts when shipping items for a tradeshow or large event, particularly if they are being shipped over the border between Canada and the US. Have all your paperwork in pristine order. NEVER ship anything chocolate. In fact, food of any kind is dicey these days, but chocolate is the worst. If you do ship anything edible make sure it’s shipped separately in case it gets held up at customs. Same goes for pens. Yes, pens. Because they are filled with ink. And we need proof of where the pen was manufactured and where the ink came from. If at all possible don’t ship monitors; either buy cheap ones when you get there or rent them from show services. Label all your boxes clearly, 1 of x, 2 of x, etc. Send a “toolkit” that contains all the emergency things that you may need, including masking tape, pens, stapler, staples, scissors, business card holders, notepads, etc. I used to include gum and mints but I’ve learned my lesson (see above).

But somehow, no matter how well everything is prepared, something always goes amiss. I recall doing Interop in Vegas several years back. We had a huge booth. We had everything prepared. We were giving away a car! We had models hired to sit outside with the car (a BMW Z5 convertible no less) as well as to help out at the booth. Suffice it to say we had produced a LOT of collateral (in those days we weren’t very green…nothing was handed out on USB stick cuz they were still a premium giveaway). We had t-shirts. The whole nine yards. So of course as we’re setting up the booth and getting it ready it hits. None of our collateral arrived. NONE. None of 4-coulour postcards we were planning to hand out directing traffic to our booth. None of our datasheets. None of our entry forms.

So we did what any respectable marketing team would do (once we stopped hyperventilating). We went to Kinkos and had it all reproduced. It cost us $5000 US dollars to do that, but we had no idea when our material would arrive. We were up until the wee hours of the morning, but we got it done. It didn’t look as nice as what we had originally produced, and of course it was double the cost. But we’re marketing. We have to do whatever it takes to ensure a successful event.

The end result: We generated nearly 1500 contacts at that show, and it was the most successful event in the company’s history. And yes, our shipement finally arrived 2 days later, completely destroyed.

There will always be a scramble to track down a shipment, a late-night run to Kinkos, or a run to WalMart for pens, power cords and anything else that mysteriously never arrives. All we can do is make sure we’ve done our best to ensure a successful show. Because in the end…it’s Marketing’s fault 🙂

What about you? Do you have any Tradeshow horror stories to share or advice to give? Post your comments please.