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SMX West Recap

22 Mar

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.33.19 AM

Lessons Learned from One of the Best SEM Conferences in the Industry

CoreyMorris3Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

SMX West (Search Marketing Expo) is one of the premier events in the search marketing industry and is hosted yearly in a significant location for the search community—in the heart of Silicon Valley. I’ve been involved with SMX for many years. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak on technical SEO at this event. This year, I was able to catch up with colleagues, absorb as much new information as possible, and even make my first visit to Google HQ in Mountain View.

Coming into the event I anticipated several things, such as:

  • The reintroduction of the Google Dance (more on this below)
  • Industry reaction to the removal of right rail ads on Google
  • Insights and outlook on Google local search (since SMX West focused last year on details regarding the major shake-ups in the local search landscape, with local becoming much more like traditional organic search)
  • Specific details on how to harness added features and functionality in AdWords, including remarketing, customer audiences, and more
  • Seeing how the industry has grown and changed in the past year, as my focus has shifted to an integrated digital marketing model

SMX Google

Starting with the opening evening networking reception hosted by Bruce Clay, Inc., I realized that the buzz was definitely there. I’ve been to many shows in the industry (including West) several times, but this one had a different buzz about it. It seemed bigger and everyone seemed more engaged. Networking was at a different level this year, and while maybe it was just a perception due to the opportunity I had to meet a lot of great new people, I’d like to think that the industry has become more open and focused than ever before.

Key Insights from SMX West 2016

In terms of specific takeaways, I have more insights and perspectives in my notes than I can likely share, but here are some highlights:

  • Consider use of customer match remarketing in AdWords. This was rolled out last year, but most of us took a wait and see approach with this (as we do with many new Google features). Two specific case studies showed an average of 50% conversion rate with this tactic. It has been on my “To Test” list for a while, but has since moved up to a tactic to absolutely work into the remarketing mix and lead nurturing process for my clients. In basic terms, it allows you to upload your email list into AdWords and remarket to users that Google can match to their email address or Google account address.
  • A conversation that I had over a meal (that I can share) included a strong reminder to never forget that while search marketing is more widely accepted than ever before, that there are still skeptics out there (in US, Canada, and Australia…we have similar stories) based on the actions of a small minority and/or those that used shady tactics years ago. Search marketing isn’t in the silo that it used to be. Three of the six of us in our group did not come from search marketing backgrounds and are either new to the space or are working in companies providing the service as a value-add or new component (ex: printing company, PR agency)
  • Another takeaway is a great reminder to not lose sight of the basics in account structure and hierarchy in PPC. Advanced tactics and strategies are great, but you need to cut wasted spend and poor performers before scaling out into other areas.
  • The best slide that I saw in a presentation served as a simple, yet great reminder for PPC accounts:

ad-group-defnition

  • We received several very interesting insights from Google engineer, Paul Haahr, on the final day. I have a new vocab word in “shards.” The best insight from that session is that it’s rare to look at Google search results and not see an experiment. The oft-quoted stat that Google changes their algorithm over 500 times a year and the fun name associated with the Google Dance are strong reminders that nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re way beyond the days where results were somewhat static and we could see absolute ranking positions. Always be mindful that Google is changing—just like our competition is changing—and we’re (hopefully) also changing as we optimize our sites.

Google Dance

Google Dance

You may have started your reading here by scrolling down to see images of what a Google Dance looks like. Let me start with the
history lesson and detail that hopefully wasn’t missed by those that attended who are under 30. The Google Dance was agoogle-dance historical reference to the early days when Google would roll out updates to the algorithm at off-peak hours that would impact rankings and would often roll back the update (or continue a cycle of pushing out and pulling back updates). This garnered the nickname of the Google Dance from the SEO community.

Fast forward—Google started to hold an event for the SEO community (that Google refers to only as “Webmasters”) at the Googleplex in Mountain View. It was a great outreach event and stopped happening before 2010.

Maile OhyeThis was the first year that it was brought back for a VIP audience of 500 attendees at West. The whole experience felt special—food, drinks, trivia, a DJ, and even a cupcake bar. But the highlight for many was the brief return of Matt Cutts. Since he stepped away from the role of being the face of Google to many in the SEO community, it is now considered a treat when he makes an appearance. The night at Google rounded out with a great conversation that I had with Maile Ohye, a lead engineer at Google and a popular speaker at industry events—be sure to attend one of her sessions if you can, as they are very insightful.

Many items on my industry bucket list were checked off at SMX 2016 and I can’t emphasize enough the high quality of people I engaged with and both the validation of my strategies and supplement of new tactics that this event offered.

 

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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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Lessons From The Builders’ Show

18 Feb

An Open Letter To Trade Show Exhibitors

Dear Friends,

According to the Convention Industry Council, trade shows added more than $280 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, drawing more than 225 million participants. That’s a staggering set of figures and it underscores the importance these shows play. As marketers, we all know exhibiting at trade shows can be vital to our business—to see and be seen, to market products and services, and to nurture relationships.

Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of trade shows across numerous industries, the most recent at the building industry’s combined 2016 IBS & KBIS in Las Vegas.

And over the years, I’m struck by one constant of booths, regardless of time, region or industry…

Chances are, your booth sucks. It’s cramped, cluttered, and really boring.

While harsh, it’s also probably true. Worst of all, you probably know it. But take heart because you’re most certainly not alone in this. Everywhere, at every show, are long swaths of cluttered and uninspired landscape—overwhelming collections of shapes and colors, fixtures and messages, all masquerading as brand. It’s as pervasive and inescapable as it is predictable.

Why? When did this happen? When did it become okay to develop a trade show booth as if someone pitched the idea “You know what people will want to do after spending thousands of dollars and traveling hundreds of miles? To stand inside our 4×9 brochure!

Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality we’ve all seen time and again—and sadly, what we’ve come to expect and attendees to accept. Throngs of people shuffling past a booth, each scanning over it and moving on. And that’s after you’ve spent—what?—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing budget, ostensibly to get exactly their attention.

So now that I’ve pointed out the obvious problem, let me point out the not-so-obvious remedy. The secret, the greatest missed opportunity, comes down to a simple idea that the majority of exhibitors overlook which is…want a hint? Here you go: International Builders’ Show, Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, International Consumer Electronics Show, SHOT Show, Club Industry Show, Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show…

Notice anything in common? They’re trade shows. And what is a show? It’s an event, a spectacle, something to witness and enjoy. It’s active, not passive—and that’s the key. If you were invited to “dinner and a show” you’d naturally expect to be entertained, and yet at trade shows, we invite people to come see us and then reward them with opportunities to stand around and read something. Where’s the spectacle? Where’s the pizazz?

Face it, contemporary trade shows are overgrown ice trays of bland inactivity. But there is hope, bright morsels of brilliance among the milquetoast masses.

As recently as the IBS/KBIS in Las Vegas, I found a few who got it right and as a result, got noticed—some with every chair filled and some with onlookers clogging the aisle (drawing even more to come and see what the buzz is about). Others would do well to follow their lead.

CertainTeed

IBS Certainteed

If you have the budget, go big and use celebrities. CertainTeed brought in HGTV star Mike Holmes for an appearance and photo opp, plus constructed a climbing wall. What does a climbing wall have to do with their products? It was lost on a lot of people. But see the woman in the foreground…she’s capturing it on her phone, probably sharing it with others. She’s sharing images of a B2B trade show booth unsolicited. Money shot, indeed.

GAF

IBS GAF

Don’t have big budgets for big talent? Go traditional and use models and simple RTW giveaways. Your own team is paid to be productive experts, but hired talent is paid to be charming, inviting, and generally attractive. At the GAF booth—just inside a major entry point—a smiling woman with a bubbly personality was getting grown men to register to win stuffed animals. And it worked; in the few moments it took for me to grab this picture, two men asked where to sign up.

Plastpro

IBS plastpro

I walked by the Plastpro booth a few times and each time I did, people were standing-room-only to watch a pro install a door. To most people, this would be a punchline, but to attendees it was interesting, valuable, and yes, entertaining. The presenter was upbeat and personable…and he presented, not simply talked. I’ll admit, I stuck around and learned how to square a door much easier than I used to (and I’m not even the target audience).

Okay, so it’s great if you have the resources for a 30×40 booth with big events and headline talent and boxes of prizes. But what about the 10×10 along the back wall? What about those who spent a third of their marketing budget just to get it all to the show?

Bad Dog Tools

IB baddog

For more than 10 minutes, I watched two men at Bad Dog Tools do nothing but demo their product and answer questions. No brochures, no giveaways, no models. Yet people were constantly lined up on two sides of the booth to watch drill bits bore through everything from rasps to brake discs. Bad Dog Tools could have made a video of it and had it looping while two of their salespeople sat on bar stools and watched attendees shuffle by and not stop, but instead they made the product the show. Brilliant.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t settle, make a spectacle. Create a booth that’s a destination, or at the very least, an interruption. Remember that people can get information about your products or services at your website, so use your trade show booth to interact with them in a way you can’t otherwise—and in a manner that doesn’t feel like you’re pressuring them to buy a timeshare.

And here’s one final thought to consider…

“People will pay more to be entertained than educated.” –Johnny Carson

So come on, marketers. Show us what you’re made of.

Sincerely,

Matt Hillman

ER Marketing, Creative Director

hillman

 

 

 

 

 

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It Works If You Work It

17 Feb

3 Reasons Networking in the Building Products Industry Helps You and Your Business

Account Coordinator_LexiGuest Contributor:
Lexi Copeland, Account Coordinator

After moving from western Kansas (shout-out to Hays, America) to Kansas City more than two years ago, I initially felt like a very little fish in a very big pond. Starting off my career, I wasn’t sure where I could fit in. So rather than aimlessly float around, I decided to make a plan to grow into my new environment. What worked for me? I started participating in networking events hosted by a professional association specific to my field. My employment is a direct result of these efforts and I now hold a board position on the local chapter of that organization.

Have you ever heard that sometimes annoying phrase, “It’s all about who you know?” This is a universal truth when it comes to building your business and growing your professional and personal network—especially within the building products industry, where the relationships you nurture throughout your career could make or break a sale. Here’s exactly how networking can help you in more ways than one.

  1. Grow Your Business: When attending events within your industry, you are gaining an opportunity to be struck with inspiration and insights from members of the channel that you might not normally be exposed to. One of the owners of ER Marketing, Renae, just wrote about how Silestone’s team of “Trendspotter” designers are the perfect example of this. By interacting with a group in a different section of the channel, they have helped make their product better, in turn improving business and setting new style trends that will impact everyone in the industry. You also never know where new leads will come from. Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for a contractor looking for a new supplier to attend an event hosted by suppliers?
  2. Grow Professionally: An article recently published on attending B2B events emphasizes the importance of prioritizing new experiences because they help keep us fresh and creative. If you get so used to a daily routine that you never branch out, opportunities for new ideas and possibilities will pass you by. People also greatly respect those that position themselves as experts in their field but also share that knowledge with others. So also consider the speaking opportunities professional associations have to offer. In the world of building, it’s important to make sure you’re constantly evolving to meet your customers’ latest demands. Professional networking events and education sessions provide you with the opportunities you need to grow in that way.
  3. Grow personally: Relationships are essential to life’s happiness, and you may be surprised by the amount of meaningful connections that can be made through networking. Relating to others—inside or even outside of your industry—can give you a sense of fulfillment, perspective, and camaraderie not always possible (or at least easily accessible) in our normal day-to-day interactions. You should feel more energized, motivated, and inspired by your involvement. Not only that, but seeing what other people in your industry are doing can help you feel more rejuvenated during times when you might otherwise feel disenchanted with the ebbs and flows of your career—and the building industry.

It is also important to mention that networking is no longer just about saving business cards in a Rolodex. With today’s technology like LinkedIn and others, maintaining a network has never been easier. But access alone isn’t enough—your best chance at success will come from being real, authentic, and dedicating effort to helping others as well. In other words, don’t go into networking thinking only of what you can take or get from others; think of what you can contribute as well.

Here are a few of the best networking organizations for those in the building products industry:

 

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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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