The Trade Show Lesson: Using Traditional Marketing to Learn About Social Media

I attended a great presentation yesterday that was put on by The Essex Group at the GNHCC.  The topic of the presentation was Secrets to Trade Show Success.  To most in my age group, this topic may not spark much interest, and I would be lying if I said I couldn’t sleep the previous night in anticipation of attending the meeting.

However, thanks in part to the presenter, I became very interested in the business of trade shows, and the planning and effort that goes in to a few hours or a few days of promotion.  The lessons that were covered ranged from body language and tone to set up and booth location.  When the meeting was over I was able to go through some of the information that was provided and relate it to my line of work, social media.

There were some keywords that I took out of the presentation, and I am going to explain how they are significant to online networking (social media strategy) and offline networking (trade shows in this case).

Goals

Before you decide to enter the new media world you need to make sure that you have goals set, and you are not just jumping in with no idea what you want to gain from the work you put in.  In trade shows it is a similar situation.  You need to decide why you are there, do you want new customers, do you need market research, or are you there to introduce a  new product or service.

The key here is to set your goals and determine your message based on those goals.

Preparation

The main difference between trade shows and social media is the amount of time you should take to plan for the event.  The Essex Group recommended that planning takes between 6 and 9 months, and can take even longer for some shows.  If the preparation time to implement social media take that long you will start way behind the current trends.

There were some strong similarities in the preparation however.  These included the importance of budgeting, staff selection, and training.   From a budgeting perspective, though most tools in social media are inexpensive, there are costs involved if you want to do a good job, and do it right.  Staff selection and training are both an important part of branding online and offline.  Your company’s brand is tied directly to whomever is representing you, so making sure you have the right people and they have the skills necessary is worth the time or cost you put into it.

Engagement

The engagement at a trade show is literally shaking hands, smiling, and making eye contact.  Online engagement however, is a little different.  Online, companies need to make an effort to build conversations around topics important to their brand.  Companies also need to be prepared to respond to discussions about them that are going on everywhere online.

The Essex Group made a great point about engagement, and one that I could relate to.  They explained the importance of the Killer question.  The Killer question is that one question that will draw people in and encourage them to speak with you.  This works online as well, and the power of it online can create successful viral campaigns.

Follow Up

The follow up at trade shows is comprised of qualifying leads and sending out information that you may have promised them, or that they may have requested.  Online it is similar, but there are more opportunities here.  Qualifying candidates can be done in advance by finding them first, and then placing your brand and your information in front of them on a regular basis.  This can also lead to relationship building, and engagement.  The follow up is the most important part of the networking, and doing this online using CRM tools can make that process easier and more organized.

These are just a few connections I found between trade shows and social media strategies.  There is a much longer list that includes; contests, incentives, and measurement.

As someone that has little experience working the set up and execution of a trade show booth, I believe there is a lot to learn from the traditional ways of marketing, and there are many common themes with new media marketing today.

Hey Kermit! It’s Easy Being Green!

Kermit the Frog said it’s not easy being green. Well, according to kids in the greater Bridgeport area, it can be easy (and fun) being green.

One of the rewards of the public relations profession is seeing your hard work and events come to life. The client meetings, conference calls, concept sessions, brainstorms, media pitching and creative energy that go into it is hard work.

Then the big day happens. Event day. You’ve made your final calls to remind the media of the event and are confident, but still hope it will be covered. Such was the case for a recent client event, “Discover Green Expo“, that involved The United Illuminating Company (our client), The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, and the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. When all was said and done, we received coverage from WTNH (ABC), WFSB (CBS), News 12 Connecticut and half a dozen print and online outlets, including the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport News, Stamford Advocate, Danbury News-Times, and others.

It feels good when it all comes together. Clients are happy. The team here is happy and we congratulate one another on a job well done and move onto the next project and continue doing what we do.

However, the real reason I am sharing this story is that its got a great message about how we can all do our part in helping out a bigger client – our planet Earth. Who’s going to help the most? The kids and future leaders of tomorrow. Below is a news clip from Channel 8 (WTNH) and it really captures the story in a heartfelt way. Enjoy the show!

Peanuts! Getch’er Peanuts Here!

Imagine a world without peanuts. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No more peanuts at the ball game. No more Reese’s peanut butter cups. No more peanuts at the local bar. I know, it’s a big stretch, but the recent peanut salmonella scare made me go without peanut butter for a couple of weeks. Nine deaths and 677 sick people is a very serious crisis.

To convince the public that peanuts are safe to eat, the National Peanut Board hit the streets of New York City last week to sample peanuts with the major event taking place at Grand Central Station.

The strategy here was smart. The peanut board aligned themselves with farmers, chefs, peanut companies and anyone and everyone with a vested interest in peanuts. These were the people out on the streets handing out samples of peanuts, peanut butter smeared on fresh apples, Snickers bars, you name it. Grand Central Station’s main lobby was turned into a exhibition hall with tables of samples and peanut mascots. There’s no better way to get people to buy into your product than sampling – especially in the food biz. This was a gutsy move, but if you can convince New York that peanuts are safe, well… then maybe the rest of us will follow.

Take this into consideration. One of the things any brand should be prepared for is a crisis. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, health care, or especially the food industry, there is a need to have a crisis communications plan. It takes years to build up a brand, and only mere seconds to topple it. A poorly managed crisis can ruin your brand’s reputation and it can take years to build consumer confidence back up. Kudos to the “peanut people”.

“Peanuts! Fresh hot peanuts! Get’cher peanuts!!”

Happy Birthday Mac!

Close your eyes, make a wish and blow out the candles.

The Macintosh turns 25 this Saturday January 24, 2009. Apple truly possesses that “passion for the brand” in the greatest sense. It’s become almost cult-like with a worldwide army of brand enthusiasts that travel the planet for store openings, stand in line for hours on end just to be the first one to get a new product, and then there are those that even go as far to tattoo the logo on their bodies. Ouch 🙂

Rewinding back to the year 1984, Mac introduced itself to the world with a biggie. Back in my college days, we reviewed this commercial to pieces in one of my communications classes. Airing during Super Bowl XVIII for $1.5 million, it’s still considered by many to be one of the greatest commercials of all time.

And now, the ad. Here it is in all its glory. You be the judge. It certainly has a powerful message and if you ask me, it’s still spot on today.