Tradeshow 101: Be the Party

Each year thousands of people flock to Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans and hundreds of other cities to attend conventions.  For them, it is the highlight of their year.  Every day they grind through their 9 to 5 – working well more than 40 hours a week.

But once a year their company sends them to some convention where they are expected to ignore their email and learn something.  But for the attendee this is half learning – half vacation.

So why would anyone want to talk to this guy on their vacation?

Image result for boring tradeshow booth

As the one running the booth it is your job to be the party.  People want to hang out with the fun people.  Don’t be boring.

Here are a few things I do in order to attract those looking to have fun:

  1. No cell phones.  Put them away.  You don’t need them.  Whatever it is can wait.  Your company has dropped thousands of dollars on this event.  Be present and hide your phone.
  2. Get a song stuck in your head.  If you have a fun song stuck in your head it will keep your energy up.  The faster the tempo, the better.  I actually dance at my booths to the song in my head.  People give me weird looks, but it’s usually like “I want whatever she’s having.”  Their on vacation.  Why wouldn’t they?  You would not believe how many people will walk up and start dancing with me without an invite.  My go to is “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine.  Find one that works for you.
  3. Smile.  It seems like a simple thing, but I see it all the time.  People flew across the country to represent their company at the conference and they look miserable.  No one wants to party with the depressed guy who only smiles when you walk up.  Smile like you’re having the time of your life and people will literally cross the room to say hi.

Remember, they’re there to learn and blow off some steam.  So be the party and they will come to you.

And now, for some dancing inspiration…

Tradeshow 101: How to Jedi Mind Trick Someone to Come to Your Booth

Between shipping, giveaways and printing, you can easily drop tens of thousands of dollars on a tradeshow.  Other than television commercials or forgotten PPC campaigns, they are one of the most expensive things a B2B marketer can do.  So generating a positive ROI is paramount.

How do you do it?

To start with, you’re probably going to need to get some leads at the booth.  In order to do that you need to get people to go to your booth.  But everyone is walking by, avoiding eye contact and refusing to come say hi.

Here’s how you get people to come to your booth against their will.

Image result for jedi mind trick gif

“You want to hear my elevator pitch.”

You can jedi mind trick someone into stopping at your booth in 2 simple steps:

  1. Say hello
  2. Shake their hand

It’s that simple.

Step 1: Say Hello

Visualize the convention aisle.  It is wide and most likely you’re facing a similarly sized booth on the other side.  Now cut it in half.  Any person walking on the opposite side of the aisle is off limits.  They’re too far away.  Let them go.

Everyone on your side of the aisle is fair game.  They are in your territory.

Stand at the edge of your booth’s carpet line – one arm’s length from the aisle.

Pro Tip: No one sits at the booth.  Ever.

Image result for compliment memeAs people walk into your territory (directly in front of the carpet), compliment them.  Say something specific and honest.

“I like your shoes.”
“I like your dress.”
“Sweet tie.”
“You are owning that hat!”

Whatever.  Make it genuine and specific.  If you can’t do that, you probably shouldn’t be working the booth at all.

People will instinctively stop, examine whatever you complimented, and then make eye contact to say thank you.  Test it out if you don’t believe me.  Tell someone at work, as their walking past, “I like your [insert piece of clothing].”  They will stop, look at what you are complimenting, and then look at you to say thank you.

Why?

People examine what they’re wearing because an unexpected compliment makes them Image result for compliment giftake pause to see why they are receiving it.  Many won’t remember immediately what tie they wore that day so they have to check.
Then they look at you to say thank you because they’re mamas’ would smack them up side the head if they didn’t. They were raised that the proper response to a compliment is “thank you”.

Step 2: Shake Their Hand

Image result for shaking handsAs soon as you have made eye contact it’s time to stick out your hand. You have their attention.  Time to reel them in.

Stick our your hand as if to shake hands and wait.  Don’t move.

You can experiment with this at the office too.  Stick out your hand to a stranger and see if they shake it.  I’ll bet you a dollar they do.

Why?

Because since you were a baby people have been walking up to you and shaking your hand.  It is so ingrained in your day-to-day routine that it is motor memory at this point.  It is considered painfully rude to ignore someone’s outstretched hand and you do it unconsciously.

So just wait.  95% of the time, they will shake your hand back.  It feels weird not to.

Then you can direct them onto your booth carpeting and go into your elevator pitch.

Don’t believe it works?  This is me pulling in 7 people at once by doing exactly this.  Say hello and shake their hand. Repeat. Works like a charm.

NWCDC Booth

Bringing in a crowd

Tradeshow 101: The Most Important Thing to Buy for Your Booth

Image result for exhibit hall picture

“Dear Hannah,

I am a marketing manager with a non-existing budget.  This year my company wants us to have a booth at a major industry tradeshow.  We have a tabletop, backdrop and podium.  It’s enough to fill up a 10×20.  With limited funds I’m not really sure where to put the bulk of it?  Should I invest in giveaways or a better booth or something else?  If giveaways, what are your favorites?

Sincerely,
Tabitha”

Tabitha,
Tradeshows happen to be one of my favorite topics.  In fact, in response to your email I’m going to write a series on my top tradeshow tips.

I know all too well how expensive tradeshows are and how unrealistic marketing budgets can be.

Here is hands down, the #1 most important thing you should buy for your booth:

Carpet Padding.

Image result for carpet padding tradeshow

It is the most under utilized, under valued and most important thing a marketer can spend money on for their booth.  More than giveaways, more than the booth itself, more than collateral… carpet padding is king.  And best of all, it’s cheap.

Carpet Padding can accomplish 4 critical things:

  1. Entice people to come to your booth
  2. Entice people to stay at your booth
  3. Keep your team’s energy up
  4. Make you look like an event marketing genius

1. Entice People to Come to Your Booth

Let me paint a picture for you.

Image result for professional woman outfit plusKelly works in an office and rarely gets to do something fun as part of her job.  Maybe she travels to other offices, but it’s rarely a good time.  For the most part she works at her desk, rarely has time to eat or exercise properly, and hardly ever gets to rub elbows with her company’s executives.

Her company decides that she will join several others at a conference in Las Vegas – now they’re talking!  She will be joining her VP and a few directors.  She decides to pack her cutest, professional outfits – which include heels.  Kelly doesn’t think about the fact that she’ll have to walk a mile from her hotel room to the convention hall.  She doesn’t realize the convention call is all concrete slightly covered by carpeting.  It never occurs to her that 3,000 exhibitors means spending an entire day on her feet in the exhibitor hall.  After 2 hours, her feet and back are killing her – and she has another 3 days of this.

Then Kelly walks past your booth and you complement her on her amazing heels and state Image result for feet are killing you“… but your feet must be killing you!  Come enjoy some carpet padding.”  She will shake your outstretched hand and come join you on the carpet, just to be polite.
Then Kelly’s eyes light up.  OMG!  Double carpet padding is instant relief.  Triple carpet padding feels like a cloud.

It sounds crazy, but it works 4 out of 5 times.  This is true of men and women alike.  Men’s shoes can be just as terrible, especially when you’re carrying a few extra pounds and are not used to this much walking.

2. Entice People to Stay at Your Booth

When they feel that relief, they are instantly in a better mood and are happy to listen to your elevator pitch.  If you opt for the triple padding, some people may actually take their shoes completely off.

They will tell you their life story for 3 minutes of relief from their feet and back.  Then you can better qualify them at the booth and hand them over to a nearby sales rep who can more expertly answer their question.

If people are running away from your booth, chances are you haven’t given them a good reason to stay.

3. Keep Your Team’s Energy Up

Image result for ready okayNo one should be sitting at the booth.  It is a hard rule at my events.  No one sits.

It is exhausting smiling, standing and being completely “on” for 8 hours 3 days in a row.  I get it.  If you expect your team to be “on” and on their feet, pay for the extra carpet padding.  Chances are they didn’t pack the right shoes either.  They will thank you.

4. Make You Look Like an Event Marketing Genius

geniusMarketing gets a bad rap for spending too much money (see a previous post on the topic), but you can reverse that when you demonstrate how much traffic you’re bringing in without having the nicest booth and coolest gadgets.  Point out to your team how other booths are not doing the same thing.  They have the coolest booth in the world and people are picking up their goody and leaving.  No valuable conversations at all.

When you’re team observes this, you can point out that you spent 1/3 of what the others did and we’ll probably get double the traffic.

You’ll look like a genius.  You’re welcome.

If anyone has any marketing questions feel free to email me at hlhoward71@hotmail.com.  I’m all ears and you may get a shout out on the blog.

 

3 Ways to Dominate a Department of 1

Image result for stranded on an islandMarketers often find themselves on an island.  No, I don’t mean wonderful President’s Club trips (we’re never invited to those).  I mean working alone.  This is one of those skillsets we just have to master.  But we’re not alone.  A ton of B2B roles find themselves alone, especially in smaller companies.  Field sales, HR, accounting, legal – they can all be stranded on an island, expected to do the work of 12 people with the accuracy of IBM’s Watson.

But the big question is how do you do that?

This post is not about how to get your boss to hire more people or how to lower expectations.  It’s about truly dominating your field – all by yourself.

Image result for marketing plan funny1: Make a Plan

If you’re going to be stranded on an island, you should probably start making a list of what you need to do.

  1. Build a shelter
  2. Find food
  3. Figure out how to make fire…

You get the point.

In work it’s no different.  For marketing, that plan is fairly straight forward.  Their called “marketing plans” and you spent 4 years in college doing nothing but preparing for them.  In large organizations marketing plans are usually a luxury.  They are time consuming, cumbersome, and the only people who care about them are the people on your team.  Many small or medium B2B companies will tell you they are a waste of time too, but don’t listen.  When you are doing everything on your own, your marketing plan is your saving grace.

A well crafted marketing plan can do many things.

  • Create buy-in from executives on time spent, budget, priorities, etc
  • Define where you want to focus your efforts
  • Show exactly how big an undertaking many campaigns can be
  • Document your value to the company

It doesn’t have to be the massive business document you designed in school.  When you’re a department of one, you can skip a lot of the pageantry and get straight to the point.  Here is the outline I use:

  • What I accomplished last quarter/year.
  • My goals for next quarter/year.
  • Marketing Mix
  • Budget
  • Calendar

I don’t need to go through SWOT or Competitive Analysis.  I can just speak to those when asked.  The only people who ever read those are marketing anyway.  I dare you to find a small business executive who wants to read marketing’s SWOT analysis.  Go on, I’ll wait.

The other thing I highly recommend is writing them on a quarterly basis.  Business moves too fast for an annual marketing plan.  It normally takes about 3 months to throw them out anyway.  Do them in 3-6 month increments and they’ll be much more useful.

2: You are the expert – Act like it.

Image result for expert funnyIf you are running a department by yourself, it is your job to execute.  No one wants to babysit you and no one has the skill set to help.  You are the expert – act like it.

This is one of the reasons I love my quarterly plans so much.  I can take the time to think through what I want to do and why, rather than being put on the spot every 30 seconds when someone has a question.  Planning breeds confidence, which breeds trust.

Pro-Tip: Ultimately the trust of those around you enables you to dominate a department of one.  If they don’t trust you, you cannot lead.

Keep one thing in mind.  Experts don’t know everything.  They just know more than everyone else in the room.  I am not the world’s foremost expert on marketing.  But I am the expert on my team.  And if I don’t know an answer, my expertise tells me how to find it.  And 99% of the time, that’s good enough.

3: Know Your Limits

I had a VP once who called me “Wonder Woman”.  The nickname was so prevalent that for secret Santa one year he actually gave me a pair of Wonder Woman pajamas (they are insanely comfortable).  He gave me this nickname mostly because of the sheer volume of work I could churn out in a small amount of time.  This ended up being my downfall.  I got overconfident and determined to do anything and everything to succeed.  I over committed.  I made mistakes.  And because I moved so fast, it took a while before anyone (including me) realized.

Image result for exhaustionIt was embarrassing, but the entire experience taught me a very clear and simple lesson – know your limits.  Had I simply pushed back and told him I was going to start dropping balls if I took on any more work, he would have probably backed off or taken something off my plate.  Just because I’m the resident “expert” does not make me a superhero.  I can make mistakes and I can forget things, just like everyone else.  Part of being an expert is knowing how far you can go before you have nothing left to give.  It’s a hard lesson, but a critically important one.  Especially when you’re all alone.

Working alone does not have to be a death sentence.  You have all the creative and prioritization freedom in the world.  The question is whether you will rise to the occasion.

All marketers do is spend money… and other stupid crap people say.

Image result for eye roll memeI have no idea why marketing gets such a bad rap.  I’m sick and tired of it personally.  I can only guess that people are jealous because marketers have an awesome job where we get to throw parties and design cool stuff and don’t have to talk to customers every day.  I would probably hate me too.

But here’s the thing: No one’s job is a walk in the park.  Here are a few of my favorite stupid things I hear from non-marketers about marketing.

All Marketers Do Is Spend Money

I’ll admit, marketing can be expensive.  Especially at organizations that struggle to pay their employees regularly.  But here’s the thing.  Good marketers pays for themselves.  Marketers actually hate spending money, because we know we have to prove an ROI for every dollar we cost the company.  I have never met a B2B marketer who’s like “I have this massive budget.  I can’t wait to burn it on display ads and liquor!”  It just doesn’t happen.

Image result for marketing dilbert

If you have a marketer on your team that you feel “only spends money”, most likely they have fallen victim to a few shortfalls:

  • They didn’t state the projected return before spending the money.  Doing this results in two outcomes – (1) Stated goals keep them honest and (2) Helps them get everyone on board with the expense beforehand – which avoids uncomfortable discussions later.
  • You are making them buy crap for no reason.  (Yes, this is a real thing)  Don’t get mad at marketing for low ROI when you insist on buying thousands of pens to put at your $60,000 tradeshow booth that costs $20,000 just to ship.  No wonder your event marketing isn’t working.  You are setting it up for failure.
  • They’re not tracking or reporting their return in KPIs that mean anything to you.  Marketers speak marketing.  “KPI” stands for “Key Performance Indicators” and if you didn’t know that chances are you don’t speak marketing.  If marketing insists their campaigns are working and you’re not seeing evidence of that, most likely you have a failure to communicate.  Explain to marketing exactly how you define success and ask them to explain to you how they define success.  Without an agreed upon set of KPIs, you’re likely going to have a tough time understanding their value.

Those who can’t do, teach.  Those who can’t sell, market.

Image result for marketing liquor and guessing

I understand how this misconception would come to be.  I tried direct sales.  I did not enjoy it one bit.  I’m not talking about the cooshy stuff most B2B account reps do.  I mean I literally walked around Home Depot for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week trying to get people to sign up for in-home kitchen cabinet refacing consultations.  I was paid $25 a lead.  They called it “direct marketing” – I called it bullsh*t.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t sell.  I have been told by many sales directors over the years that I have the personality and ear for it (whatever that means).

However, I don’t like being called 400 times a day to see if I’ve moved the pipeline $2 further than yesterday.  I also don’t like to be in constant competition with the people on my same team. The stress of doing sales day in and day out is miserable.  But somehow the puzzle of click-through-rates is exhilarating.  It’s not that I can’t do your job – I just don’t want to.

Marketers are the drunk frat boys of the business world

Image result for marketing dilbert

Screw you.  We all know that’s sales.

Marketing isn’t a real business discipline

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Marketers have a bad rap for being stupid.  People claim we don’t know anything about how business is done and, I’ll admit, I’ve perpetuated that stereotype from time to time to get out of boring meetings.

But the fact is that statement doesn’t make any sense.

I graduated from one of the most prestigious marketing programs in the world, Penn State.  (WE ARE!)  At the time our marketing program was ranked 16th in the world – THE WORLD!  But they wouldn’t let me graduate with a business degree without also studying managerial accounting, finance, statistics, calculus and a host of other classes every business student studies.  I just took a few more marketing classes than you and a few less [insert discipline] classes.  That doesn’t mean I don’t understand business and you sound like a moron by saying that.

In conclusion, haters gonna hate.  Marketers are going to continue to be professionally awesome.  Also, I love Dilbert and you should buy all of their products.  (No they did not pay me to say that.)

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 

What is MDF and why every B2B marketer should know about it

Image result for marketing budget memeIf your marketing department is like most, you probably beg, borrow and bleed for every dollar you receive.  This is a guide to getting more money.

Do I have your attention now?

MDF stands for “Marketing Development Funds” and it is the bomb.com! (Yes, I just dated myself)

Image result for blew my mindEssentially, think of it as free marketing budget from another company.  Is your mind officially blown?

Why would some other company want to give you money to throw events and write whitepapers?

Answer: They have a vested interest in your success.

Here’s how MDF works.

Your company sells a solution to the market.  You – as a marketing manager – market said solution.  Sometimes it’s a physical Image result for supply chainsolutions, sometimes it’s software, sometimes its a service.  Regardless, your company pays other companies in the supply chain for pieces to make your solution. Thus the supplier has an interest in you selling more of your solution.  The more solution you sell, the more you buy from them to sell more solution.

Let’s break this down another way.

Example #1: Your company has a SaaS solution.  It lives on servers somewhere.  The bigger you grow the more servers you have to buy to run your SaaS product.  The server manufacturer wants you to sell more software, so you can buy more servers.

Example #2: Your company does pharmaceutical testing.  You buy tons of equipment and test tubs to do all this testing.  The more testing work you get, the more equipment you buy.  It’s in the equipment manufacturer/distributor’s best interest to help you get more testing orders.

I could go on and on.

How to get these companies to fund your marketing?

  1. Pull a list of the vendors with which your company spends the most money annually to deliver your product/service.
  2. Schedule meetings with them to discuss your marketing vision and how they can benefit from your growth.
  3. Ask if they have an existing MDF program – note that it may have a different name.
  4. If not, see if they would be interested in partnering with you in the form of MDF dollars (pounds, euros, whatever).  This could be in the form of a spend commitment or shared lead generation or something completely different.  Get creative.

Things to keep in mind

  • Expect more than 1 logo. Most companies footing the bill will want their logo on anything they pay for.  That usually comes in the form of co-branding.
  • Bring your A-Team.  Be sure to pull in your accounts receivable and accounts payable teams so that everyone is on the same page – depending on how deals are structured.  Legal is also a good person to have at the table.
  • Image result for marketing budget memeBe vigilant about communicating the value of the program.  If your MDF partner is not used to doing this type of engagement it will be important to meet with them semi-regularly (I’d say once per quarter) to discuss how the program’s going and it’s ROI.  Remember that they have bosses to answer to too.

 

Getting funding for your projects can feel like hunting sometimes.  Hopefully this gives you a new weapon.

1 surefire way to make a marketing job application stand out

Image result for job application meme

I despise job searching.  During the summer of 2015 I was laid off and must have sent my resume to 200 companies up and down the Front Range and around the world.  After 4 months I started to lose hope. At month #5 I was struck by inspiration.

That summer was one of self-reflection and improvement.  I went to yoga every day – since I didn’t have anything better to do.  As a result, I lost 20 lbs!  (Don’t worry.  My desk job has caused me to gain it all back.)  I also had plenty of time to volunteer with local dog rescues – a cause that I take very seriously.

Around month #5 two interesting job listings came on the market for Denver-area companies.

One was for Sports Authority (RIP), working on their website’s customer experience.  Since I’d lost a ton of weight recently and now lived in yoga pants, Sports Authority had become a favorite spot to loiter and the role seemed very enticing.

The second was at Kong – the company that makes those red cone-shaped dog toys.  They have “office dogs” and employees get all sorts of dog-related perks.  What self-respecting, crazy dog-lady wouldn’t want a job there?!

I had applied to both companies multiple times already, without so much as a phone screen with HR.  Resumes were not working.  My online portfolio got clicks, but not enough.  I had to do something different – make myself stand out.  I was a marketer for crying out loud!  Certainly I could come up with Image result for brilliantsomething brilliant.

I thought about my experience.  What is something I could do to get their attention and highlight my strengths?  And then it hit me.  I will build a website specifically to show them how much I want to work there!

Okay, that’s not exactly true.  

My (now) husband sent me an article about a girl who wanted to work for AirBnB so badly that she did a special project and built an entire website to deliver it to them.  AirBnb was so impressed that she got an interview.

I thought, “I could do that!”

And I did.  I made each of them a custom WordPress website to talk specifically about how much their companies meant to me.

I talked about my weight loss journey to Sports Authority and included before & after photos.

beforeafter1

I also talked about ways I thought they could improve their website and what I was seeing in the market.

hannah-sportsauthority-suggestion

I told Kong about my lifelong devotion to their product lines and included photos of my dog, Delilah, playing with their toys.

hannah-delilah2

I also included a section on how I thought Kong could improve by targeting the millennial market more effectively.

kong_what_missing

It was aggressive and heart felt.  I put it all out there, desperate to make an impression… and it worked.

What actually happened

I tweeted, emailed, facebooked, and LinkedIn’d (that’s a verb, right?) both websites directly to their respective companies.  Somehow someone was going to see them.

Kong actually picked up the phone and called me.  Although they did not want to bring me in for an interview (they wanted someone more senior), the VP of Marketing did apparently see the website and was extremely impressed.  I will note that I was shocked they didn’t at least bring me in to meet me, but they politely said they’d keep my resume on file in case something more appropriate became open in the future.  Blah, blah, blah…

Sports Authority, however, did bring me in for an interview.  They were so impressed with the website that they sent it to the recruiter managing the account, who phone screened me.  When she was satisfied I wasn’t a crazy person, I was actually brought in for a face-to-face interview with real hiring managers at their physical headquarters.

It was obvious that the team was taken aback by me and my unexpected website application.  It definitely made an impression.  Someone let it slip that they were going to give the position to someone internally, but when they saw my website they had to meet me first.

Long story short, I didn’t get the job.  In honesty I wasn’t quite right for that job either.  But I got in the door and that was the whole point.

As marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about pipeline development and how to increase opportunity volume.  In a way job searching is very similar.  The more opportunities in the funnel, the more likely you are to get a job.  But first you have to get in the door.  And sometimes that requires a degree of creativity and willingness to go above and beyond.

In case you’re worried, I did eventually find a great job – and it only took 6 months.

Image result for got a job