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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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There’s a Word for Doing Something Just to Please Yourself…And It’s Not “Customer-Centric”

6 Nov

Content Marketing Must Be Customer-Centric, Not Company-Centric

You know what I just love? Reading content by a business about their business. In my time as a marketer, I’ve learned that most of the world’s best writing comes when the writer completely disregards the audience’s needs. If I can read an entire history of a company in whitepaper form, I feel like I’ve won the lotto. And I think most people feel the same.

Did you detect any sarcasm there? Because you should.

Self Centered

Here’s why: company-centric content sucks. You would think that enough B2B marketers would have figured that out by now and I wouldn’t have to state the obvious, but here I go: the only good content is content that solves a problem—not sells a product. (Customer-centric means “Help, don’t sell.”)

And yet, a recent survey by B2B Marketing and the UK-based agency Tomorrow People, found that only 38% of marketers consider their content to be “customer-centric.” Let’s think about that for a second, because that means a full 62% of marketers admit that they basically created content to please themselves. (I think there’s a word for that…)

And considering the survey is based on self-reporting, the problem could be even more widespread than the numbers indicate.

How many of us are ignoring our customers’ problems to talk our companies up via content marketing? It’s hard to know exactly, but here’s one thing that isn’t: as B2B marketers, we must start focusing on the Buyer 360—that specific combination of understanding your audience via Buyer Personas and understanding their challenges via the Buyer Journey—if we hope to make an impact with our content marketing efforts and close more sales.

For full findings from the study, read the article at Business2Community.

 

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Not Ready to Speak? Try Listening.

25 Aug

With Building Products Social Media Marketing, Start by Listening

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I hear constantly from building product marketers that social media doesn’t apply to their business—that it’s “a B2C thing” or that it’s “for Millennials” and has no use when it comes to generating marketing qualified leads and closing sales. But when someone says this, what they’re really telling me is they’re not ready to use social as a platform to talk. My suggestion is this: if you’re hesitant about incorporating social media into your marketing plan, start instead with listening.

Quick story. I was at a trade show two years ago when a UPS delivery truck left behind a package containing my client’s pop-up booth. While an account coordinator at my agency tried frantically to get through to someone to talk to on the phone, I tweeted at UPS for help.

In the time the UPS social team responded to me, contacted the nearest store manager, and had the truck re-route to come and pick up the package, the account coordinator still hadn’t even reached an actual person on the phone.

These are the kinds of opportunities companies miss when they don’t at least listen to what’s happening in the social space. But there are many more benefits to social listening beyond just customer service. A recent article I read outlined a few that GE Lifesciences experienced when they began using social listening tools to monitor their industry:

  • Understanding language and terminology prospects were using
  • Learning the topics their audience was most interested in and creating content based on this information
  • Creating keyword search repositories for SEO and website taxonomy

Not every building products company is ready for a full social media marketing plan. I get it. 68% of CMOs openly admit their companies aren’t ready to fully incorporate social media into their strategies. But just because you’re not ready to use social as a platform to market your products doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to listening to what your audience is saying.

At its heart, the building products industry is still about people. And as generational dynamics shift (hint: they’re already shifting), you can bet that those people are going to be on social media. One day social media won’t be optional—start listening now so that when that day comes, your company is prepared to speak.

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B2B Marketing: What’s Easy Isn’t Necessarily What’s Right

6 Aug

Is Your Marketing Making Life Easier for You or Your Prospects?

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There’s a saying that doing the easy thing is not the same as doing the right thing. It’s definitely true for B2B marketers—what’s easy for us to produce might not be what is right for our audience to consume.

But we like easy; as children, we were taught that practice makes perfect. We were taught to do the same thing over and over and become an expert at it. We were taught that the more you do something, the more successful you’ll be—and the easier it will get.

All of this is ingrained into our very being from a young age. And yet as B2B marketers, everything we know goes against this way of thinking.

Case in point: for many years, B2B marketers (especially in the building products industry) knew what their audience wanted—simple, sales-focused materials like brochures—and we gave it to them…in excess. We practiced it until we perfected it. And we did the same thing over and over until we were experts at it. The more we did it, the more successful we were. The easier it got.

We were practically crapping brochures. After all, what better way to showcase the features and benefits of your product than a document that does so in exhaustive detail?

In 2015, the answer to that question is: content that helps, not sells. Sure, your sales team might still need a brochure, but a brochure is little more than a “kiss ‘em goodnight” add-on to leave a prospect with—it’s not a way to start a conversation, and it’s certainly not going to generate leads by itself.

Interesting, then, that a recent study by the NetlLine Corporation and the CMO Council discovered that brochures are still the most commonly produced materials by B2B marketers, yet whitepapers deliver the best leads when it comes to B2B content marketing strategies. So where’s the disconnect?

Simple. B2B marketers are doing what is easy—what they know. And in doing so, they’re ignoring the very clear numbers that prove this is not the content their audience (or sales team) needs when making a buying decision. They need materials that help—not sell: whitepapers, calculators, apps, quizzes, etc. Unfortunately, these tools are more complex, time-consuming, and expensive to produce, so some B2B marketers opt for brochures.

For B2B marketers, making sales-oriented materials that focus on features and benefits of what we want to talk about (like brochures) is easy. We’ve practiced it, perfected it, become experts in it, and even had success with it. But what is right is giving your sales team the content they need to generate leads and giving your audience the content they need to feel comfortable making a purchase—content that educates and helps.

Be the B2B marketer who does what is right—not easy.

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B2B Email: Only As Good As the Inbox It Lands In

16 Jul

Simple Tips for Email Deliverability

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You’ve done the unthinkable: you’ve crafted the perfect marketing email. A stunning design, perfect CTA, and breathtakingly relevant content.

And guess what? None of it matters if it doesn’t land in an inbox. Email deliverability is one of the most important things to keep in mind as you engage with your audience. And yet, it seems like it’s often overlooked. This article from Marketing Profs talks about the importance of email deliverability and a few tips on how to improve it. Here are a few of the best tips from the article:

  • Personalize Your Emails: The more personalized your emails are, the more likely your audience is to engage with it. This will produce a more positive sender reputation with ISPs, who can make or break sender reputations. This should be a “gimme.” In fact, we’ve recently discussed the importance of producing personalized content based both on Buyer Personas (who your audience is) and the Buyer Journey (where they are in their sales journey). But according to this article, even simple customizations like variable first names and region-specific modifications make a big difference. There is even evidence that some users will sacrifice online privacy for personalization—in other words, they’re giving up one of their most precious online commodities simply to guarantee that the emails that land in their inbox are actually relevant to them.
  • Optimize Email for Mobile: Sorry, B2B marketers—this applies to you just as much as anyone else. Mobile open rates are growing for B2C and B2B industries alike, and B2B marketers will need to adapt their email code accordingly. Shockingly, only one-third of content publishers say their emails are mobile-optimized. This is unacceptable; since emails are usually opened once, marketers have one chance to make a first impression, and that means creating a content environment that the audience wants to participate in. So maybe it’s not just about personalizing based on where your audience is in their Buyer Journey—it’s about personalizing based on where they are literally reading the content. Don’t let your email deliverability suffer because you’re not willing to optimize for mobile.

These are just a couple of the tips from the article. For the full list of email deliverability best practices, read it by clicking here.

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