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5 Best Practices for Choosing the Right Trade Show Technologies

19 Dec

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Trade show marketing just isn’t what it used to be. It seems like just yesterday that trade shows depended on paper registration, hard copy promotional materials, and exhibit booths featuring static displays of data and graphics. Thankfully, times have changed…for the better.

These days, trade show marketers and exhibitors have countless cutting-edge technologies at their disposal. Applications and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions improve everything from the initial registration experience to digital marketing, data analytics, lead retrieval, and real-time customer engagement. Once inside the event, technology extends to advanced audio-visual solutions like kiosks outfitted with touch screens, video walls, and high-definition 3-D displays. And for those looking to stay connected, venues and events are equipped with mobile device charging stations and mobile event apps. The technology is seemingly endless.

With so much technology readily available, ensuring a good ROI on your trade show technology investments can be a tricky process. Here are a few best practices to consider before making the leap:

1. Step outside your comfort zone.

It’s easy to stay on board with the technology solutions you’re familiar with. The trouble is, once you’re comfortable with a certain platform or application, it can be difficult to move on to something that might be more beneficial to your business.

Keep in mind that today’s event attendees have the most cutting-edge technologies available to them 24/7. By virtue of their smartphone and the mainstreaming of the wearable internet of things (IoT), consumers are constantly surrounded by innovation. Embracing new technologies is no longer an option—it’s a necessity for businesses that want to stay relevant both at trade show events and in their digital marketing plans. Consider incorporating high-definition LED video walls, high-top charging stations, and mobile event software to keep attendees interested and engaged. To get the most from your technology investments, leverage Big Data in the form of lead retrieval software and beacon software designed to extract value from behavioral data to further enhance the attendee experience.

2. Choose a reputable event technology solutions architect.

When selecting an event technology specialist, focus on finding a firm that offers solutions architects who will work with you to design and customize services that best suit your needs. Be sure the firm includes field technicians to provide initial installation support and training to ensure that you’re up-and-running well in advance of the event date. Lastly, confirm that the firm offers ongoing tech support should you need help during event hours.

3. Get social.

These days, the value of a prominent social media presence can’t be overstated.  Be sure your displays and exhibits have a social networking component that helps attendees share trade show news and information with their contacts.

Ultimately, social media sharing by attendees will help your business grow its social media following long after the event has wrapped up.

4. Go for the WOW factor.

Don’t be afraid to use technology to create excitement and reinforce your brand. Today’s beautiful 4K and LED displays can be linked up to create a video wall for storytelling, product or service highlights, special events, and key marketing messages. Consider offering interactive kiosks that showcase project videos, games, and contests while telling your brand’s story.

5. Make sense of the data.  

All the data in the world isn’t going to help your business if you can’t extract value from it. Explore machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) software-as-a-service (SAAS) to gain valuable insight into your trade show attendees. Not only will this allow you to gather leads and generate demographic data, it will help improve the customer experience at trade shows and in your business over the long haul.

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The 5 Immutable Laws of Reputation Management

6 Apr

 

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A search on Google doesn’t just bring up your website anymore. It brings up your site, your Facebook profile, and every single review site that has comments about your brand. To protect your reputation online, never forget these five immutable laws:

1. Listen first.

Problems can sneak up on you if you are not listening to what your customers are saying online. People expect to hear back from a brand within a few hours when they detail a problem on social media. If you aren’t listening, you can’t respond.

Listening first also gives you an idea of the conversations people are having on a specific platform and the etiquette there. Many brands have made embarrassing mistakes by jumping into a conversation before they understand what it is about.

2. Keep a cool head.

No matter how unfair, inaccurate, and wrongheaded a negative comment is, do not go on the defensive. Look at it from the point of view of other posters: the complainer is just a customer expressing their mind. You are the big, powerful brand. When you respond negatively or angrily, it makes you look mean and bullying.

3. Know when to answer and when to stay quiet.

A number of brands have found great benefit to doing their customer service right in their social networking channels. Not only do they get to rescue a relationship with a customer; they get the chance to demonstrate their high levels of customer service to everyone who reads the interaction.

There are also times when comments from a brand can do more harm than good. As we described above, answering when you are angry and defensive is never a good move. It is also a good idea to keep out of sensitive subjects. Brands who have attempted to use these in a promotional manner have seen it backfire.

4. Remember that the customer is in charge.

We are well past the time when brands controlled the conversation. In the modern digital world, everyone has the ability to have their say. Do not attempt to delete negative comments. Things that are posted online have a tendency to live forever; you never know when someone has screencapped something for posterity.

5. Provide excellent service.

The most fundamental aspect of reputation management involves doing everything you can to earn a sterling reputation. See the same complaints from a number of customers? Do your best to address these issues so that future customers have a better experience.

Public sentiment can be hard to manage. However, by working to be responsive and helpful online, you can better ensure that the people who find you there will be happy with what they see.

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5 Doable Steps to Maximize CMO B2B Engagement

16 Mar

 

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Your sales team is doing its job, but you have yet to land the whale that will take your profits to the next level. Higher level communications tend to get big projects done with less bureaucracy. Here are 5 steps you can take to maximize communications between your Chief Marketing Office (CMO) and the customers that really matter.

1. Staying Agile

Strategic leaders within a company have the ability to look beyond immediate targets and short-term objectives. You can land the whale by simply staying on your toes in terms of industry trends. Instead of responding to hot RFPs for companies that are high in demand, you can do business with a strategic partner who will provide you profits far down the line. You spend less because you are doing your deals in the off-season, and your partner is validated because you recognized long-term potential instead of following short-term trends.

2. Continuous Relationship Building

Your sales team should have no problem initiating contact with their counterparts across companies if the C-Suite has already made an acquaintance. In contrast with a low-level salesperson, a CMO taking a potential partner executive out for a round of golf creates relationships throughout the entire chain of command. In effect, the CMO becomes the lead salesperson rather than the “man behind the curtain.”

3. Creating a Humanized Entity

You can save tens of thousands of dollars in marketing spend by creating a humanized relationship across companies through your CMO. The decision makers from other companies will not have to view your high quality advertisements in order to understand what your company is about. They got that information firsthand from your CMO during the trade show mixer.

If there are no industry events that give you an excuse to put a human face on your operations, make one. CMO is also head of PR, even if you have outsourced PR to a third-party specialist. Get in their business to make business.

4. Becoming the Organizational Storyteller

As the CMO, you have license to talk to people about your company in a way that no one else does. You can look at the Chief Marketing Officer as the Head Storytelling Officer if you have trouble remembering exactly what you are supposed to be doing out in the field. Your future partners want to understand how your company connects the dots internally and as it moves into its partnerships. As the CMO, you are the link between R&D, marketing, distribution and IT that can explain all of these connections with a human touch.

5. Challenge Your Industry

No one knows better than you what your company can accomplish. If you extend your position as leader of the company into your industry, you can set the challenges that potential vendors and partners respond to. In essence, you are creating a problem that you are the best company to solve.

Speaking engagements at industry events are always a great way to direct the trends of your industry culture in an advantageous direction. However, you can also do this on an individual basis, because you have access to all of the decision-makers in your industry. Do not waste your time with them, but let them know about how your company is moving your industry forward and why they need to get on board today. Once you have set this tone, your salespeople can work out the details later.

No less than Xerox CMO John Kennedy has stated on record that B2B marketing is more about personality than ever. Use the above tips to arm your CMO for the front lines, because the C-suite has to lead from the front in this business generation!

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Excellence in Marketing and Customer Experience

29 Nov

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I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and saw something on my hotel receipt that got me thinking about the true definition of excellence in marketing and customer service.

The bottom of the receipt simply asked, “How was your stay?” It continued with, “If you cannot rate your visit as excellent, please let us know.” A generic customer service email followed, along with the general manager’s name.

I thought about my stay. It was fine. The hotel met expectations with a clean room, an okay view, decent restaurant and lounge, and respectable meeting rooms. But it wasn’t excellent—it was fine.

Webster’s says excellence is a talent or quality that’s unusually good and surpasses ordinary standards. Other sources define it as superior, remarkably good or possessing outstanding quality.

To me, excellence is something special. It’s when you exceed my expectations by a significant amount. It’s when a product, service or customer experience is good enough for me to talk about with my friends, family and colleagues.

I wondered what it would’ve taken for me to rate my hotel stay as excellent. What could they have done to elevate my experience from fine to excellent? How could they have exceeded my expectations to ensure I told my friends so they stayed there, too, on their next trip to San Francisco?

Then, I turned the table and asked myself the same: What could ER and the building materials industry do to ensure an excellent customer experience? Would we have the guts to ask that question on every invoice or receipt? Are we brave enough to ask that question at every customer touchpoint?

My sense is if we received a negative response from a customer, most of us would take steps to fix the problem right away. But I wonder how many of us would act with the same urgency if a customer said their experience doing business with us was just “fine.”

“Fine” is a C grade on a college term paper. “Fine” doesn’t get people talking about our business. “Fine” is quickly forgotten.

Are you brave enough to ask customers at each touchpoint about their experience? Will you act with urgency if feedback reveals you’re perceived as ordinary? And, most importantly, how can you elevate your customer experience from one that’s fine to one that’s excellent and gets people talking about your business?

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Top 5 B2B Social Media Marketing Myths

26 Jul

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Social networking is a large part of most people’s lives. But we don’t always know how to make it a part of our lives as B2B marketers. If you are not on social media or if you are not having strong results, you may have fallen prey to one of these common social media myths.

  1. Social media marketing isn’t for B2B. 

There are social networks that are expressly for B2B communication, such as LinkedIn, SlideShare and, to a lesser extent, Quora. There are also social networks that you should consider just because they are a huge part of most people’s day-to-day lives, such as Facebook and Twitter. Remember that businesses are made up of people; go to the networks your people are most likely to be on and you will find a way to connect.

  1. You need to be on every network.

Joining every social network that comes up will lead to burnt out employees, too much money spent networking and not a lot to show for it. Every network is different and has a different audience. LinkedIn is a place where professionals gather. Quora is a good place to hang out if you have a lot of knowledge to share about your industry. YouTube and Instagram are great for sharing visual content. There are many customers for building materials on Pinterest. Pick two or three networks and work on building out robust presences there. Don’t worry about the rest.

  1. It’s never okay to automate.

Automation can give you a chance to connect with people who you might not otherwise reach. If you have an international customer base, automating a few posts to show up while you are in bed and your prospects are up and at the office or job site can mean access to people you might otherwise miss. Automation can also allow you to keep posting consistent even when you are away from the office or otherwise tied up with other tasks.

  1. Automate everything!

It’s easy to go too far in the other direction. Have you ever posted on Twitter and immediately been hit by an @ message from a Twitter bot triggered by a phrase you used? No one else likes this any more than you do.

  1. Social media marketing doesn’t work.

Every year, hundreds of think pieces come out claiming that social media just isn’t the place for business. The figures prove these people wrong. According to HubSpot, two out of three companies with a presence on LinkedIn have gotten a customer from there. Businesses that use Twitter have twice as many leads as those that don’t. The benefits of a social media presence are measurable and powerful.

Social media marketing success does not come overnight. It can take a while to find your niche and your audience on social media. When you have gotten into the groove, you will find that you have better relationships with customers, a better-known brand and more business by using social media well.

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