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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Content Marketing Predictions for 2018

14 Dec

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Content marketing is here to stay. According to a report by Smart Insights, content marketing was rated the most valuable technique for increasing incremental sales throughout 2017—and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Here are some key content marketing trends to focus on for 2018:

1. Original Content is Still Critical

Relevant, original content will continue to occupy the top spot in the digital marketing toolbox for 2018. Not only does quality content (whether video or print) help grow a business’s following, it keeps current customers engaged and connected. In order to stay relevant and competitive, businesses need to position themselves as thought leaders in their fields—and content helps convey that level of authority to customers in a way that other marketing methods simply can’t compete with.

Keep in mind that it’s never enough just to have good content—if no one is reading it, it won’t make a difference. Consider content syndication to get the word out about your blog, or invest in a white paper as gated content that you can promote through your blog or via social media. Gated content not only increases website traffic, it allows you to collect contact information for your customers that easily translates into leads for your sales team.

2. Brand Transparency is Essential

Today’s consumer is becoming jaded and desensitized with respect to marketing messaging. Millennials—the generation with $200 billion in buying power in 2017—will have the most buying power of any generation by next year. Millennials are particularly affected by brand honesty and authenticity, and they tend to be drawn to businesses that support charitable causes—as long as that support doesn’t seem forced or dishonest.

Because consumers tend to trust their peers more than brands when it comes to authenticity, influencer marketing has really taken off—but keep in mind that it can be a slippery slope with respect to transparency. The FTC, for example, takes serious measures to protect consumers from businesses who aren’t transparent in their marketing tactics: think back to the Machinima case in 2015, where the FTC cracked down on the gaming network for not disclosing paid endorsements for YouTube content producers.

The takeaway here is that brand trust is built on honesty and authenticity. To that end, a high level of transparency should be an integral part of your marketing strategy across all channels for the upcoming year.

3. IoT (The Internet of Things) Makes Off-Screen Content and Voice-Search Mainstream

Even as Google begins prioritizing mobile sites over desktop, content is no longer all about the smartphone. The Internet of Things has made content available to consumers across voice-service technologies like Siri and Alexa, to the point that optimizing content for voice search should be part of every content marketer’s 2018 strategy.

Think the IoT and voice-service tech aren’t major players just yet? Think again. Global organizations have already jumped on board when it comes to voice-service content. The American Heart Association utilizes Alexa voice technology to deliver instructions on performing CPR in a play-by-play format during an emergency, and Purina recently deployed its “Ask Purina” expert pet information service through the voice-service.

According to Gartner, with 8.4 billion connected devices in 2017 (up 31 percent from last year), the IoT brings exciting—and seemingly endless—opportunities for digital marketers to develop innovative content strategies in 2018 and beyond.

6. Pre-Recorded Video Content Takes a Backseat

Live video continues to overshadow pre-recorded content. According to Facebook, viewers engage 10 times more during live videos than when watching the pre-recorded variety.

Think your service or product isn’t particularly suited for live streaming? Consider taking an insider’s look at a business event from behind the scenes, or put together a light-hearted skit based on company culture—the opportunities are endless, and 2018 is right around the corner!

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Tactical Tips to Maximize Your Trade Show Presence in 2018

12 Dec

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Trade show planning for 2018 is in full swing. With budgets and strategy considerations on the table, we’re offering our take on tips to maximize your trade show ROI for the upcoming year.

1.  Technology is (still) king.

It goes without question that technology is a major player when it comes to trade show success. In 2018, trade show technology will continue to try to out-perform itself from years past, as attendees expect information to be displayed in innovative, interactive, and increasingly engaging ways.

Visitors want to be impressed and involved when they visit your display—and you’ll want to continue the engagement long after the event closes its doors. Consider incorporating touch screens, Bluetooth beacons, and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning Software as a Software (SaaS) to further enhance the customer experience while delivering your brand’s message both during and after the show.

2. Human interaction is critical to success.

While it is true that trade show tech is necessary for ultimate event success, human engagement is just as important, if not more so. There is no better way to reach your customers than through a good old-fashioned dialogue that allows them to communicate their pain points—to which you respond with your compelling solution. By properly staffing your exhibit with compassionate professionals who are well-versed in your brand story, you’ll facilitate the kinds of relationships that no amount of artificial intelligence can compete with.

The key here is to use technology to augment—not replace—you professional, human presence.

3. Incorporate the sentiment behind your unique selling proposition in your exhibit.

We all want to stand apart from the competition. Your customers have made the trek to the trade show and your exhibit likely because they are looking for a solution to a particular problem, or perhaps they’re looking for your business in particular. By focusing on consistency in your unique selling proposition (USP)—for example, creating a custom exhibit based on your brand’s unique voice and culture along with the environment you want to cultivate—you’ll have a chance to resonate with your customers at a level that increases their engagement, inspires brand loyalty, and encourages them to stay connected long after the event wraps up.

4. Keep your brand consistent across all business environments.

Consumers these days are bombarded with product information nearly everywhere they turn—and much of that information is regarded by the embattled consumer as outright noise.  By focusing on refining your brand messaging for consistency across all spaces, you’ll cultivate a rapport with your customer that allows them to feel comfortable and familiar with your solution. Think in terms of providing a cohesive brand experience by way of incorporating a recognizable color palette, familiar logos, and consistent graphics.

When your business—and thus your brand—is “on the road,” you’ll want to rely even more heavily on familiar visuals to reinforce your presence in an unfamiliar place. After all, a trade show exhibit is a mini-representation of your business as a whole—and you want your customers to feel at home regardless of the venue.

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Is the On Demand Economy Reducing Your Sales?

7 Dec

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The on-demand economy is growing exponentially, and the effects of this growth will be felt in every industry. If your business is not ready to change with the times, then you may suffer a loss in sales because of the new ways which business will be done. The now $57 billion on-demand economy is showing no signs of slowing down – as a matter of fact, more industries than ever are switching to an on demand model to satisfy the needs of their customers.

The Harvard Business Review reports that the on-demand economy brings in more than 22 million customers every year. The largest part of this economy is online marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay. People spend nearly $36 billion on websites like these. After this, transportation companies such as Lyft and Uber bring in around $5.6 billion in yearly spending. Third in line is grocery delivery services such as Instacart. Consumers spend almost $5 billion every year on food delivery.

A very telling statistic is that these on-demand services are being used by people of moderate incomes. Around 46% of the people who are using the on-demand economy have an income of less than $50,000. If the industry has already penetrated into the lower middle class, you can definitely expect it to expand far into the future. Savvy business owners are now looking into ways to incorporate the on-demand economy into business rather than fight or ignore it.

How exactly will the on-demand economy affect your sales if you do not jump when this new technology says jump?

First of all, if your business does not specialize in obsessively solving a universal problem for your buyers, you will have trouble making sales. On-demand means a higher degree of specialization. Not only that, but this specialization comes with a high degree of transparency, security, and convenience in the transaction. As on-demand expands into more industries, it will be virtually impossible to find a service that cannot be rendered immediately with a few clicks from a mobile phone or laptop.

Secondly, there will be an increase in the number of single service entrepreneurs. The on-demand economy is giving individuals the ability to scale to the level of a B2B company quickly. It is now quite possible for a single person with the right technology on his side to function just as well as a team of human beings. The customer, of course, does not care who is rendering the service as long as it is done correctly. These entrepreneurs are also highly skilled in very precise areas. If your business is in any way general, you will need to shore up your most profitable niche in order to compete with these niche ninjas.

The increased emphasis on entrepreneurship will also make it more difficult to find top talent for your business. As more people choose to work for themselves, you will not only be competing for customers, but also for talent. Your business will need to market its culture and the benefits that come with working for you in order to attract the human capital that you will need to stay ahead.

Personalization is now the norm. If your service is equal to that of your competitors, but you are able to offer a more personalized experience, you will come out on top 10 times out of 10. However, you will need to work quickly. Companies in every industry are moving towards personalization, so shore up your audience today.

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Branding

5 Dec

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hillmanGuest Contributor: Matt Hillman, Creative Director

You have a great product, great service, great people, great materials—and your brand still sucks. Competitors in the building products marketplace keep racking up sales while you struggle to get by. It feels like you’re trying to scramble up a muddy hill, expending time and resources with little-to-nothing to show for it. How does this happen?

Over the years, despite the emergence of game-changers like mobile devices, social media, and other innovations, most of the issues around branding still seem to fall into seven distinct areas—consider them the 7 Deadly Sins of Branding, and any one of them can sink your brand.

Wrong Message

Too many marketers rely on what they already know to build their messages. This echo-chamber effect reinforces what’s familiar and “safe” and can actually keep you from gaining the ah-ha moments you need. Think of it as trying to steer your car down the highway while looking only in the rear view mirror, more about where you’ve been than where you’re headed. Instead, you need to be continually surveying your customers—and your prospects!—for the fresh insights needed to build a message that’s relevant today, not just yesterday.

Wrong Audience

This might seem like a near-impossibility, but it can happen. Marketing your brand to the wrong audience is most often the result of marketing and sales teams not communicating effectively, with marketing working toward where sales should happen and sales focused on where they can happen. Having a clear, agreed-upon marketing plan is essential to having your brand pointed in the right direction. Yes, these are fundamentals that should be self-evident, but all it takes is for your brand to be strong with architects but being marketed to builders instead, and your brand isn’t going anywhere.

Wrong Tactics

One of the best cautionary tales comes from experience marketing to building products dealers. When offered the option to select their preferred method of receiving marketing communications, what do you think topped the list? Email? Direct? Text? How about…fax. That’s right, in our world of high-speed connectivity and mobile devices, the lowly fax was the leading way dealers wanted to receive information. Why? Because it fits how most small- to mid-sized dealers operate, with the fax machine right next to the main bulletin board. Again, surveying your audience will provide the insights to get the right tactics in play and to avoid wasting effort on the wrong ones.

Wrong Voice

If you’ve followed social media the past few years, you’ve probably heard of (or witnessed) the notorious sass of Wendy’s social media accounts. While some might think this was a bold or daring move, it’s actually highly calculated, the result of Wendy’s assessment of what brand voice would resonate best with their target. Where other fast food companies played the usual safe game, Wendy’s connected with their audience with a salty dialogue that not only aligned with the brand but helped share it more broadly online. Again, research was the key to cracking the code and connecting with customers.

Inconsistency

One way to think of branding is simply a single message delivered consistently and aligned with customer experience. And yet, time and again we see brands shift their message as if chasing sales trends, or worse, repeatedly reinventing the message to push an idea that doesn’t match the customer experience. If your name is One Day Printing and service takes two days, that’s a brand problem. Similarly, if you say your customer service is superior and then leave customers on hold for minutes at a time, that’s a brand problem. Determining what your brand is—and isn’t!—and sticking to that is critical to developing a strong brand over time, and over time is exactly how brands happen.

All About The Product

The brands that see the greatest strength in the marketplace are the ones that offer more than just a product or service—they build relationships with those who select and purchase them. Through content offerings, customer experience design, website functionality, social media strategies, sponsorships, and other interaction-based methods, the strongest brands take on a personality well beyond something being sold to buyers. These brands can have conversations with the public, growing and evolving through the choices made in messaging and positioning—all without changing what’s being produced or delivered.

No Differentiator

In the film Field of Dreams, we hear the iconic line: “Build it and they will come.” Unfortunately, all too many companies have followed this same advice when developing their brand—and have paid a heavy price for it. It is not enough to simply be available for purchase, there has to be a reason your target would take notice, have interest, and be willing to abandon their current relationship to gain one with your brand. And just as it is with products or services, your brand needs a unique selling proposition, too, something to make it different from the others. Is it more innovative, less complicated, focused on quality, easier to do business with? Identifying what sets your brand apart—and staying true to that differentiation—is critical to finding an audience that appreciates it. Trying to be all things to all audiences or simply showing up isn’t enough to get noticed.

Name + Logo = Brand

“We have a brand,” the marketing manager will say, pointing at a logo. “It’s right there.” Actually, no. The worn-down vehicle with your logo on it: that’s your brand. The customer left waiting hours for a delivery with no updates: that’s your brand. The defensive response to a highly critical customer review on Yelp: that’s your brand. The product that arrived dented: that’s your brand. Identity is all about a name and logo; brand, however, is about expectations and experiences. The strongest brands find success in designing and crafting the brand experience for customers, both new and current, and making sure everything aligns with that design. If it doesn’t align, it’s analyzed, adjusted or removed—why spend time and effort on something that only undermines your long-term efforts?

If you recognize any of these 7 Deadly Sins associated with your brand, have hope: Every one of them is escapable and repairable with honesty and effort. The common element to all of these brand issues is to take nothing for granted: conduct research and be willing to accept that your buyer isn’t who you think and may not think of your brand the way you do. But with focus and time, virtually any brand can find its own salvation.

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