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IBS 2016: “The New Big Thing” Is…

23 Feb

My Key IBS Takeaway for Building Products Marketers

IBS 2016

We’ve talked a lot about the 2016 International Builders’ Show (IBS) throughout the course of the last few weeks. You might even say we’re a little obsessed. But the reason why is that, for building products marketers, trade shows are a big deal. And there is perhaps no bigger one—or more important—than IBS. Every year, IBS represents where the building industry is going, from products to design trends to marketing. And every year, it’s at IBS where you can find “the next big thing.”

For me, the next big thing in trade show marketing is pretty clear: experiential booths. For a long time—too long, in fact—boring and uninspired booths have ruled the roost. Matt Hillman, our creative director at ER Marketing, even recently went as far as to describe the majority of booths as “brochures you stand in.” Not far off. But things are changing. In his post, he discusses some of the booths at IBS that delivered much better experiences for their audience. The common theme was that these exhibitors need to put on a “show” for their audience.

I think this is true no matter what trade shows you attend. In fact, it sparked my thinking on some other trade shows I’ve been to that have exemplified the experiential booth marketing that was such a hit at IBS. Here are some of the standout booth experiences I’ve had attending trade shows—experiences that should become the model for B2B marketers in the building products industry:

  1. At the Food Equipment Show, a commercial sausage making company proved the power of their product by doing multiple demonstrations using Play-Doh. This created a colorful (in more ways than one) experience for attendees.
  2. A simple product demonstration that proved effective was a window company that let attendees experience their good, better, best product offerings. By placing single, double, and triple paned windows in front of heaters, visitors could simply touch the glass to feel the difference in quality.
  3. A house wrap company had an innovative approach to showing their product’s resilience. By pulling their house wrap taut and placing it next to competitors’ products, they were able to demonstrate which was the strongest—by having a professional pitching machine shoot baseballs at the wrap.
  4. At the Deck Expo, one company created a competition in which attendees attempted to break their product with a hammer. If they were able to break it, they won a huge prize. It was simple to execute, and best of all, the loud noises of people attempting to break the synthetic decking drew a crowd.

IBS proved that the next big thing for building products marketers is creating an experience attendees will remember and breaking from tradition to do it. But that’s not exclusive to IBS—these examples demonstrate that it’s a change happening at all trade shows. B2B marketers in the building products industry need to do better. Your average, boring trade show booths are no longer effective. Worse, they’re very likely a huge waste of your money.

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6 Trade Show Marketing Do’s & Don’ts

11 Feb

Building Products Marketers, Take Note.

IBS 2016 Showroom Floor

In the world of building products marketing, trade shows are a big deal. (Don’t believe me? My business partner and I have only been blogging about it here, here, here, here, and oh yeah, here.)

There is perhaps no more important trade show for building products marketers than the International Builders’ Show (IBS). This annual event is where the biggest and best in the industry present their biggest and best products, services, and offerings. It sets the tone for the year to come, establishes future trends, and in short, it’s just kind of a big deal.

While I was at IBS this year with several members of my team, I saw some amazing showings, and some not so amazing showings. Things to emulate as a marketer, and things to never do in a million years. I’ve compiled a list of some of my top do’s and don’ts seen at the show that can apply to any B2B marketing at any trade show in any industry:

Do:

  • Stay somewhere close to the convention center. Avoid distance and distraction. It will save you time, help you avoid waiting on busses or transportation, and prevent you from having to lug around all your gear. More time spent at the show, whether as an attendee or exhibitor, is good for you and your business.
  • Institute a “30-minute rule.” It doesn’t matter if you’re an attendee or exhibitor, you should probably have several meetings, presentations, or activities lined up ahead of time. But you need to make sure to keep a 30-minute gap between each. Consider your physical location and how long it will take you to get where you need to go—some event centers, like at IBS, are unbelievably huge.
  • Know the flow of the convention center. While at IBS, I noticed more than a few booths struggle by assuming there would be traffic just because they were close to an entryway. But if the doors by your booth are located far from the main entrance people actually use, your “prime location” might prove to be anything but.

Don’t:

  • Put any text below eye-level. I’ve discussed before how important it is to carefully consider the experience of your booth (for specific instructions on text/design height and spacing, download my whitepaper), but the basic gist is: just because you have space on a wall or pop-up banner doesn’t mean you need to fill it with text or design. By the time your visitor has backed up enough to read that text, they’re already out of your booth. Just sayin’.
  • Staff your booth with uninvolved or uninformed people. You’d be amazed how many booths I saw where people acted like they didn’t care when visitors came by, had uncharismatic staff, or put their junior-most employee in charge of manning the booth. And then there were the people eating at their booth or spending all their time talking to their coworkers…don’t even get me started on that one.
  • Offer giveaways just to offer giveaways. We’ve all fallen guilty to it here and there, but don’t offer a random, trending item just to do it (ex. an Apple Watch just because it’s the hot new thing). If it has no tie to your company, the marketing approach at the event, etc., then it comes across as random at best, desperate at worst. Plus, it creates no link to your company in the minds of your prospects. Instead, look for more natural connections for giveaways, even if they’re less “sexy” than the trending stuff. (Ex. a kitchen company making cookies at KBIS.)

My team learned a lot at IBS this year. This show has a ripple effect throughout the entire industry, whether you know it or not. For more insights from this year’s show, read more here, here, and here.

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10 IBS Insights You Need to Know (Part 1/2)

27 Jan

Part One: 5 Building Products Marketing Lessons from IBS 2016

This year, several members of the ER Marketing team and I attended the annual International Builders’ Show (IBS) and KBIS in Las Vegas, NV. As anyone who has ever attended can attest to, this is a big event that can be overwhelming. We’re not talking your average trade show. It’s one of the biggest—if not the single biggest—event of the year in the building products industry. While there, you see all the cutting edge technology that will be setting trends for the coming years….not to mention educational sessions, model home tours, and more. And hey—as a bonus, it’s in Vegas. Who can complain?

While there, the ER Marketing team was using #IBSDoubleTake to share all the things that made us do a double take at the event—the things that really caught our attention. Here is a quick list of the top 5 marketing lessons those in the building products industry need to know.

Top 5 Marketing Lessons from IBS 2016:

  1. When it’s not easy to explain your products or services in a booth, sometimes it’s a good strategy to go all in on your brand. ARCAT did that well with their booth.
  2. When you can manage it, taking your booth from product showplace to play place can work well. CertainTeed’s wall climbing demo and celebrity guest, Mike Holmes, proved it; they had high traffic and buzz throughout the event.
  3. If your product is easy to install, don’t just say it—show it. Plastpro doors drew a crowd with some fundamentals of door installation. It just goes to show that good lessons are always interesting to those in building.
  4. Speed is now a matter of trustworthiness. Whether in marketing or customer service (and some would argue those lines are getting blurry), responding quickly is proven to increase trust with your audience.
  5. Booth tech makes a difference, especially when prospects can engage with it. Johnsmanville had a spray foam simulator at the event that felt a little like a game. We competed, using the actual install gun, virtually pointed at a screen so users could spray the fill area with a virtual, 3-inch expanding insulation. What a smart way to showcase this product!

If you want a taste of what it’s like to experience the IBS show in person, we also put together a short walkthrough video. You can view that video here. (Dramamine recommended—we cover a lot of ground.)

Look out for part two of this blog series—coming this week. We’ll be discussing the Top 5 Design Trends from this year’s IBS that building products marketers need to be aware of in 2016 and beyond.

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Don’t Let Words Overpower the Message

21 Jan

Avoid These Marketing Buzzwords in 2016

Buzzwords

When I was at the B2B Marketing Forum this past year, we played a little game called “marketing bingo.” Some of you might be familiar with it. You play by creating a card of marketing lingo, slang, and overused words, and then you work to fill up your board as you hear these words used throughout the conference. And you’d be amazed to learn how quickly those bingo cards fill up.

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about how marketers need to focus on being classic rather than trendy. Reports show that as marketers are trying more and more to push the envelope to keep up with the latest trends, they’re missing some of the fundamentals of marketing. I believe that a lot of the time, marketers are too focused on who can throw out the most marketing buzzwords in a conversation rather than having a substantive discussion of the deeper issues at hand.

That’s why I was so excited to come across an article from Marketo last week discussing some of the top buzzwords that marketers should retire this year. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites:

  • Email Blast: A shotgun blasts, an email doesn’t. If anything, as marketers we should be looking for more and more ways to personalize our emails—not “blast” them out to the largest group possible.
  • Low Hanging Fruit: Aiming low is always a great way to get results, right? No. If you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, I can almost guarantee that you already have it—and it’s rotten.
  • Thought Leader: This one is tricky, because I use it myself. But the reason for not using it is strong—essentially, any content you produce should come from a place of leadership. Too often, though, this word comes from a promotional place. Aim to help, not sell.

As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in whatever the latest buzzword is. And it’s not inherently bad to be aware of the concepts, but it is if it comes at the expense of actual deeper thinking. Don’t let the words overpower the message and don’t let fleeting trends override long-term strategy.

If you want to see the full list of marketing buzzwords to avoid in 2016, read the article.

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10 Trade Show Tips That Speak for Themselves

22 Dec

Be in the Know Before the Show

Trade Show Gift

When you’ve been in the building products industry for long enough, you learn some valuable lessons about attending a trade show and making the most of your time there. That’s how I know that every year, January marks more than just the start of the new year—it’s also the start of what we in the building products industry call “trade show season.”

Trade shows are fun and an  teffective way to meet prospects; they’re also hectic and crazy. Over the years, I’ve lost count of all the trade shows I’ve attended, but the lessons learned have stuck with me.

I’ve compiled a quick list of tips for attending a trade show that need no further explanation:

  1. Follow all the handles/hashtags for the event to keep current—before, during, and after an event.
  2. Visit the website before the show to view the map against the schedule of speakers you’d like to attend. Don’t be that freshman who schedules back-to-back classes across campus.
  3. Download the app for the show beforehand (if they have one).
  4. Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking. Hint: if your feet are hurting, seek out the booths that paid extra for carpet padding.
  5. Bring enough business cards.
  6. Have a plan for how you’re going to follow up with the prospects you meet. Then, follow through with it.
  7. Pack a backup phone battery and bring it with you. Thank me later.
  8. Don’t be that guy who eats your lunch at a table in a booth. Sit with prospects and meet new people.
  9. Know how long it takes to get to the nearest bathroom and back so you don’t miss something important.
  10. Wi-Fi isn’t always a given. Plan accordingly.

I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way—but follow these tips and you won’t have to. Consider it my trade show season gift to you.

For more trade show tips and tricks, see my last roundup post here.

Bonus tip for those who made it to the bottom of this post: If you take nothing else away from this, remember that the Lowe’s booth always has fresh-baked cookies. Just be careful not to burn your mouth if they’re fresh out of the oven.

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