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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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What Building Products Marketers Need to Know About Millennials (Part 2/2)

14 Jan

Lip Service Ain’t Gonna Cut It

Change
Last week, my business partner wrote about the changes coming to the building products industry as more and more Millennials step into a new role as homebuyer. It’s important for building products marketers to plan and adapt their marketing accordingly, but it’s equally important to consider how Millennials will impact the industry as employees.

In one of my presentations, I discuss how the Millennial values that mark their habits as consumers also have an impact on the places where they work. Those expectations, demands, and values translate in very real ways to their lives as employees. Here are a few of the most important things to consider as an employer of Millennials:

  • Millennials are on a mission to end the traditional 9 to 5; 45% choose workplace flexibility over pay. Flex time is becoming standard as a company benefit.
  • Millennials want to see a culture change away from traditional employee management to reflect their values; 60% who left their company indicated that the primary reason was “cultural fit.”
  • 80% of Millennials want regular feedback from their boss.
  • One of the top four qualities Millennials desire most in a leader is transparency.
  • 79% of Millennials want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts or contributes to society.
  • Evolving to Millennial-friendly, participative marketing models will usually require actual structural reorganization. With access to more information than ever, lip service won’t work for this generation.

Millennials are the most connected generation to date. They like to be involved in—and informed about—the world around them. That includes the companies they buy from and the brands they’re loyal to. They do their research, they ask for recommendations and referrals, and they’re extremely conscious of where their money is going.

So what does that mean for companies who prefer to stick to traditional methods of employee management? My thought—they may just see the impact of that decision trickle all the way down to the consumer. In other words, companies that don’t treat their employees in a way that reflects these new and emerging values will likely experience a disconnect with their Millennial consumers as well.

For more Millennial employee insights, view the PowerPoint on SlideShare here.

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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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The Times, They Are A-Changin’

1 Dec

Keep Your Eyes on Generational Shifts in Key Decision Makers

Decision Makers

I was recently asked to offer some insights for “2016 Trends in B-to-B Marketing,” an article in Marketing Daily. As you might expect from the title, they wanted to know what trends marketers should be planning for in the coming year, and they asked several veteran B2B marketers for their insights.

I went ahead and took it as a compliment to be included in the group—being asked to participate in a trends article means I must be a trendy guy, right? But I also took some time to carefully consider my answer. After all, I’m constantly using Navigate-the-Channel to blog about the latest trends in B2B marketing—everything from sales enablement to content marketing to social listening. There’s no shortage of trends I could have chosen.

But the more I thought about it, one thing really stood out for me. The trend I’m constantly monitoring these days is the generational shift in the key decision/owner role within businesses—especially dealers and lumberyards. As many Baby Boomers worked longer than they had planned due to the recession, they are only just now leaving the workforce—but they are doing so in greater volume than ever before. The new leadership of 30-to-40 year olds is starting to impact their organizations’ view on technology and adoption of new business services. This single change will have major ripple effects that impact the building products industry for years to come.

It’s not just that marketing strategies that may have been previously disregarded will suddenly be back on the table; it’s that the people at the top of the food chain will be looking at new pages on the menu. Hell, they might throw out the menu entirely and ask for online delivery. B2B buying will change (e-commerce is going to be big, guys, I promise); human resources and hiring practices will change (meaning there will be new ways of thinking at all levels); and B2B marketing could very well become a lot less buttoned up and safe (think of how many trade show booths now offer beer compared to a decade ago).

But hey, that’s just my perspective. There are plenty of different ones for you to read from the other contributors, so give the full article a read.

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