March 18th, 2011
I attended the WCBS Small Business Breakfast with Jonathan Kinzler from American Interactive Marketing (www.americaninteractivemarketing.com) this past week in Greenwich and that was one of the best quotes from the brilliant Jay Walker, founder of Priceline.com.The breakfast was moderated by Joe Connolly, the Wall Street Journal reporter who broadcasts on WCBS daily and was kicked off by a visit from Governor Dan Malloy. Joe asked some excellent questions but Gov. Malloy stuck to his script. He is on quite a barnstorming tour of Connecticut these days and his message is basically: We’re over $3 billion in the hole and we’re going to need to raise taxes and win significant givebacks from unions across the board. Love him – or not – he is telling it like it is.
Jay Walker was a great speaker and he focused on providing us with ideas that we can use immediately to grow our businesses. He said one of the most effective strategies that you can use is to do a more creative and strategic job of getting your current customers to buy more from you. Another approach is to ask your current customers to help you with referrals. He recommended sending an article or another type of showcase for your business and ask your customers to send it to one contact that they think might enjoy reading the piece. Offer to make a donation to a local charity for each “pass along” article sent. I think this is a very cool approach and will let you build lots of good will in your community.
I loved his discussion about breaking out of the “commoditization” mold and making sure you are doing a good job of differentiating your company’s services or products. Even if your business is selling pens, make sure you have key messaging that makes your pens stand out from your competitors – whether it’s a wider range of color choices, functionality or fast service . This is really crucial because in a lot of cases, companies who have a lot of competition start to sell on price. That takes money out your pocket and is what I call “a race to the bottom.”
Jay Walker also talked about the importance of segmenting your customers to increase sales volume. I don’t think any of us do enough of this. He asked us to ask ourselves questions like: how many of our customers have bought in the last 30 days – 90 days – the past year? The bottom line is: what is the lifetime value of each of your customers and what are you doing to keep the ones that are the lifeblood of your business?
The morning was well worth the time and I captured a lot of notes that will benefit my own business and those of my clients.
Attending the WCBS Small Business Breakfast in Greenwich
February 9th, 2011
I attended a first-rate two-day sales training workshop this past week, which was led by Kent Reilly and Tom French at The Baron Group (www.barongroup.com) in Westport. For anyone in sales, sales management or any other client-facing role (that’s just about all of us!) I would highly recommend this course. Here are a few highlights that I picked up from the meeting, and if you want more insight, feel free to email me at: email@example.com. Also, if you like these ideas and want to learn more about The Baron Group, contact Tom French at 203-227-7907 and be sure to mention that you heard about their course from me.
Kent Reilly’s initial overview focused on how we set the tone – and increase the likelihood of success – for a new business meeting. In order to elicit the highest quality of ideas and to create a environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to state their needs and ask question, it is important that you – as the owner of the meeting – provide an agenda that everyone can adhere to. There should also be a scribe to take accurate notes and a “traffic cop” so that everyone’s ideas can be expressed without people talking over other people. The bottom line is that you want to create a meeting where people (both sales and prospects) will fill that they made productive use of their time. Also, be clear about the amount of time that the prospect has set aside for the meeting and be sure to adhere to it. If time is running out, alert the prospect and ask if the meeting needs to be wrapped up or if the prospect wants to continue. Doing this will increase your chances of being invited back.
Asking the right questions is probably one of the biggest challenges that salespeople face in the course of the sales meeting. Kent emphasized that you need to prepare your prospects so that they know to expect that you will be asking them questions to better understand their situation. Focus on open-ended questions rather than close-ended questions (the kind that can be answered with one or two word) in order to gather the kinds of information that will enable you to write a business-winning proposal.
Another great gem I picked up from this workshop: Take notes while you are meeting with clients. Don’t bank on your memory – you need all of the data you can get for your reference after the meeting. Some people questioned whether this wouldn’t put prospects off but Kent and Tom assured us that clients like feeling that you are capturing what they are communicating to you. Active listening was also a big topic since this can be a useful technique for making sure that you understand what the client is says. Reflecting back what the client is telling you is a great way to make sure you got all of the necessary points and will help you later on in the sales process when you present a proposal that addresses the needs they stated early on. It can be really easy to miss key elements of what is important to clients and asking the questions and saying: “….Did I get that right?” can go a long way to converting prospects into customers.
These were just a few of the many great ideas that I learned at The Baron Group’s workshop. Even if you have done sales training previously, then I encourage you to take a look at this training course – it’s a great jump start for the new year.
November 7th, 2010
I had a fascinating conversation with Joe Fabiano who VP of Events for TMC this past week about trends he is seeing these days for TMC’s many telecom-focused trade shows and conferences. Joe said that while attendance numbers might be decreased, he is seeing that companies are still investing in sending their key decision-makers to evaluate new products and plan face-to-face meetings with their suppliers. Quantity might be down but quality is definitely up.
Joe said it is more important than ever that marketing and sales teams connect when it comes to trade show marketing, planning and measurement. It’s one thing for marketing to generate ideas for driving traffic and getting attention at the show but it’s the sales team’s role to follow every prospect in order to capture accurate measurements for success.
The economics of trade shows make more sense than ever, said Joe. To make ten appointments (or more) a day at a trade show is far more time- and cost-efficient than sending your sales team on the road to schedule and conduct those same ten appointments. The trade show environment is a great way to bring clients to you. Joe said his team schedules up to 100 meetings over a three-day period at typical trade shows. Another great point: if you are not doing this, keep in mind that your competition probably is!
I asked Joe his opinion about giveaways vs promotions. It is his opinion that raffles with significant prizes can be more effective than small items like branded pens, note pads, etc. (I think there is a role for it if the strategy and the budget are right). One of his trade shows offers sponsorship opportunities for attendees to win a car. He has gotten great feedback about this promotion and said sponsors were happy with the exposure they received from all of the people who were drawn to the car since it always attracted a crowd and built excitement and media exposure. Sponsors said they often attracted prospects that they may not have met otherwise.
Tradeshows then and now: Joe said that in 2004 there were a lot more parties – as many as five a night – with lots of choices where you could meet industry professionals. In 2010, he is seeing that a most of the big parties are going away since there is a new sensibility in business. The companies that used to throw the huge parties are now just taking clients out to a nice dinner – and capturing more ROI for their presence at industry events.
Based on my conversation with Joe Fabiano, I am seeing that trade show strategies might be evolving but their relevance is in business is just as vital as ever.
October 25th, 2010
The CEO Roundtable (Vector Expo Group is a member) held its networking event at the Woodway Country Club in Stamford last Thursday night. Joe Connolly from the Wall Street Journal and News Radio 880 was the featured speaker and he was fantastic. He talked about some of the business trends he is seeing in the New York region and asked us (we were like a 120+ focus group for him!) questions ranging from how are we doing in terms of the recession (most companies said they were doing better than pre-recession levels), our opinions about social media and its role in B2B and B2C sales and marketing.
There was a very interesting conversation about whether Facebook has a role in building new sales for companies. Most people said they understood the need for consumer brands to use it as a way to launch products and build conversations with their companies. My opinion is that there is definitely a role for Facebook among B2B marketers – if it’s used correctly. After all, the first customer for Vector Expo Group found the company through its Facebook page! It’s a great way to stay current with your audience day to day and it can be a great traffic builder for pointing your customers and prospects to your website.
I met some terrific people at the event including a manufacturer of equipment for the broadcast industry who said he thinks the role of trade shows and trade show marketing is more important than ever for his business.
September 30th, 2010
I was making a reservation to stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago yesterday and was hoping to book two nights at the “special rate” for a conference I’m attending next month. The woman said: “We only have availability for that block on Saturday night – not Friday. Sorry.” I thought: Great. I’m traveling all the way to Chicago and now I’ll have to stay in two hotels in two nights (a road warrior’s least favorite thing). Then she said: “Let’s see what I can do for you. The blocked rooms are taken on Friday. However, we do have a room on Friday night at the regular that is $10 less than the conference block price. Do you want a king or two queen beds?” Hallelujah! This is a great example of meeting – and exceeding – expectations. How are you doing this for your customers in terms of your trade show sales and marketing? Here are three ideas:
1. When you plan your staffing for your trade show, always bring the “A” level sales team. Technology/engineering people are useful but not until the discussion has advanced to the next level of interest in your products and services. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to shows where I met the tech person first and walk away still having no idea how and why a company is better/different than its competitors. You can exceed prospects’ expectations by staffing your booth with people who can wow them with a great first impression.
2. When you plan your post-show communications, segment your “hot” leads and treat them right. A single phone call after the show is unlikely to turn your prospect into a paying client. Plan a systematic campaign to reach out to the worthwhile leads that might include: a follow-up email (within three days of the show), a pre-qualifying phone call (within 10 days after the show), a customized letter with product samples (within three weeks after the show), etc. Note: SendOutCards can be a great way to approach new prospects – you can send them a Starbucks card – or even brownies. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this.
3. Use technology to automate your lead management process. Up to 80% of post-show leads are not properly followed up. I talk to lots of companies who invest in their trade show presence and then lose momentum when organizing the leads they captured. Customer Relationship Management technology such as Salesforce.com (there are many others, as well) can help you automate this and make sure that you are talking to the right prospects at the right time in their buying cycles.
I would love to hear your ideas about how you are exceeding your customers’ expectations on an ongoing basis.
September 13th, 2010
I love “Mad Men.” I think it’s one of the best written shows ever. Also, in our nanosecond speed world of 2010, it’s good to get reminded every Sunday night that at the heart of every great advertising campaign is a good idea – one that resonates universally. On last night’s episode, Faye Miller recounts to Don Draper one of Aesop’s fables about how the sun and the wind are competing to get a man to take off his coat. The wind blows as hard as it can but it can’t accomplish the task. However, the sun shines on the man for all it’s worth and eventually the man takes off the coat on his own accord.
When it comes to attracting buyers to your trade shows, you need to give companies lots of reasons to make it a priority to stop by (and in the best case scenario) and make an appointment to come to see you. Statistics show that up to 80% of companies who exhibit don’t send an advance invitation to prospective buyers. I think this should be a cardinal rule in any trade show marketing program. You can’t take a “build it and they will come” attitude and not let buyers know where you are located at the show and why it will be worth their time to see you. It’s also worth your time to train your trade show staff to reach out to their customers and prospects since this presents a great opportunity to have your company showcase “what’s next.”
Back to the fable in “Mad Men.” Most buyers take the time and expense to attend shows because they are looking for what is new and how they can improve their profitability. If you take a little time to provide two to three compelling reasons why buyers need to come see you, then you are positioning your company in a smart way that turns up the heat and helps to persuade buyers to take off their coats at your booth and stay awhile. I would like to know how you currently do this in your trade show marketing. Please send me a post with your perspective.
August 22nd, 2010
You and your team work hard to prepare for your trade shows. Pre-show planning, booth design, collateral and giveaways are just some of the crucial elements that go into a successful trade show initiative. Statistics show that up to 80% of leads are not properly followed up. If this is the case for your company, are you leaving potential sales on the table because you don’t have a great follow up strategy? Here are five ideas that can help:
1. Take some time in advance of the show to define who is a good lead for your company. What level of decision-maker is best for your products/services? What size of company are you looking to do business with? When you meet visitors to your booth, try to listen for the clues that will lead you to the “right” prospects.
2. The first point of contact you have with a prospect at a show is very important. Automated lead retrievers are fine but we think you need to get better and deeper information from your prospects. Training your staff is a key ingredient to your post-show success. Your time is limited with prospects but if you plan to capture more information about who the prospect is, what level of decision-making they have, how and when do they want to be contacted, you will be in a much better position to convert them post-show.
3. After the show, sort your leads by levels A, B and C. The A’s should be defined as “hot”; the B’s as medium and the C’s as warm. All leads should receive a follow up call and/or email within no longer than two weeks after the show. After that, you will lose momentum and your investment return will be more difficult to recoup.
4. Communicate with your prospects in the way that they want to be contacted. Some prospects will never pick up the phone but will welcome an email. Only reach out to the prospects in the way that they request. Also, if they told you at the show that they would be looking to buy your kinds of products/services in six months, send them a customized thank you and make sure you call them when they have indicated they are ready.
5. Use a robust customer relationship management system. This is a real key to success since you can sort leads by categories. You can also use CRM to track the sales that were generated as the result of specific trade shows that your company has attended.
By using these five ideas, you will better position your company for capturing more and better leads and have a system in place for converting those trade show leads into sales.
August 17th, 2010
I went to the New York International Gift Fair this week and saw lots of great products and beautifully designed exhibits. The show was packed and there was lots of energy. I talked to some folks from Fred & Friends and they said they can’t fulfill their orders fast enough. Interesting case study: the company used to sell educational toys to the Zany Brainy’s and Imaginariums of the world. A decade ago, they saw most of their major customers close their doors and had to take a good hard look at the marketplace. They decided to reposition the company as a “housewares-focused” organization. Now they manufacture fun, innovative and useful items that gift stores snap up. This is a great marketing lesson for all kinds of businesses in the tough 2010 economy.
Other items I loved: Primal, a sugar based exfoliant that has been used mostly in spas and now is moving into the giftware market. The vanilla sugar smelled divine. I also thought EcoCup from Decor Craft was wonderful. They are porcelaine coffee cups that look like you just picked them up from your local deli – great colors and a great concept.
There were companies from all over the world at the show. One of my favorites was a company called Designs Abroad from Australia. They showed these gorgeous steel wall panels with delicate flower cut outs. The Zelco Itty Bitty Booklight (a classic) had a nice corner exhibit. Acme Studio makes amazing pens designed by prominent artists. The DayNa Decker fragrances line had incredible packaging – the photography of orchids, roses, etc. on the product boxes was so vivid, it jumped off the shelves. The Evoque and Trapp Fragrance exhibit featured special cork flooring that was very comfortable to walk on – I always recommend this kind of floor since attendees’ feet are killing them by the middle of the day and they are always grateful to find a booth that welcomes them with such a nice touch.
Of course, it’s one thing to have a great presentation…but it’s also crucial to have a system in place that promotes post-trade show lead conversion to drive sales. In my next post, I will provide you with five great ways to transform leads into paying customers.
June 27th, 2010
EXHIBITOR Magazine is reporting that up to 33 percent of exhibit managers plan to cut staff travel/lodging expenses in the year ahead. Many exhibit staffs are being charged with doing more with fewer resources. This can increase stress on staff and lower morale — just at the time when you need it most! Here are a five ideas as suggested by EXHIBITOR Magazine and Vector Expo Group to help you better cope with both internal and external pressures for your trade show planning:
1. Staff Education. Make sure the staff understands your policies regarding per diems and expense reports. Work with your staff to make sure that everyone is on board with the rules and will adhere to them. Treat this as a team building exercise so that everyone knows what is expected. You could even provide an incentive for the team to set goals for cost savings. You can also pool your knowledge so that everyone is clued in on baggage handling, overweight fees and other items that can increase your overall expenses.
2. Stop at a grocery store en route to your hotel. You can buy bottled water, snacks and other sundry items for a fraction of the cost that hotels or convention center concessions will charge. If you are supplying items for a number of staff, you can save some significant money this way.
3. Always negotiate hotel rates. If you are booking a block of rooms, you may be able to negotiate a better rate. Also, many hotels align themselves with upcoming conventions and if you plan sufficiently in advance, you can often save money. It is always worth your while to compare the prices for the block of rooms that you would typically reserve to the official trade association rates to make sure you are getting the best deal for your staff.
4. Book your travel to and from shows as early as possible. Last-minute decisions to attend and exhibit at a show can rack up hefty fees on both airline travel and hotels. By planning your trade show travel plans at least six months in advance, you can save significant money and decrease your stress level by not scrambling at the last minute.
5. EXHIBITOR Magazine’s Candy Adams recommends considering alternative forms of transportation such as taking the train or renting a car. With all of the hassle of airline travel (not to mention the security lines, airline fees, transportation to and from the airport, etc.), both of these ideas can provide you with more flexibility, ability to connect online, and usually lower costs.
I would like to know your ideas for how you cut travel-related expenses for your next trade show. Comments welcome!