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For many small business marketers, trade shows is only one of the marketing media that must be mastered.  Here's a few great tips from Marketing Sherpa on other media in the integrated marketing communications package.
Selena Blue

Top MarketingSherpa Blog Posts of 2013: 10 lessons in social media, content and email marketing

December 26th, 2013
After tallying up the number of times our audience shared posts, social media, content and email marketing are the areas to receive the most tweets from your peers. That means inbound marketing as a whole once again reigned supreme on the MarketingSherpa Blog, earning 10 of the top 15 spots of 2013. We’ll break down these three areas with key lessons we can learn and apply to our efforts in the new year.

And, since this list is all about the tweets, we’ll include some interesting ones about select posts. Carry on to learn the top 10 lessons of 2013.


Social Media Lessons

Lesson #1. Adapt your social content so that it is appropriate for each social media platform 

In his post, “Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?” Jonathan Greene, Business Intelligence Manager, MECLABS, used an unusual set of analogies to help marketers understand what tone and content to use on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read this post to learn about the personality each platform has, and how you can effectively put them to work.

Lesson #2. Be able to answer why customers should like or follow you

When it comes to social media buttons, you should ask yourself why your customers should follow you. This can be a tougher question for companies that aren’t natural content producers.

You must provide some value for customers in exchange for the privilege to show up in their newsfeed. Value can be ongoing, like exclusive discounts just for Twitter followers, or a one-time opportunity, such as a chance to win a prize.

Read more about this question, and three others, in the post, “Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons.” You can also use value proposition to better answer this question, as described by Jonathan Greene in this post, “Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?


Lesson #3. Add visual elements to your social media content

While a quote is just words, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a visual component to the content. The New York Public Library created graphics for an already popular content type –  celebrity quotes – to create a social media campaign with impressive results. Learn more about its efforts from Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS: “Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%.”

Interestingly, it seems this post was the most shared on Twitter for certain individuals:

Lesson #4. Go beyond the “like” to track your social media success

David Kirkpatrick, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS, broke down a chart covering social media marketing metrics tracking in the post, “Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI.” While social reach (e.g., “likes”) tops the list, some marketers are also measuring ROI, leads and conversion. See what other metrics your peers are using to benchmark success in their organizations.


Content Marketing Lessons

Lesson #5. Analyze your blog to identify areas for improvement

There are a lot of elements that make up your blog. When was the last time you stood back to evaluate if all of those pieces were working as well as they could?

In his post, “Content Marketing: An 8-point analysis for your blog,” Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, explained the eight points on which to focus your evaluation. From the frequency of your posts and their titles, to author bios and social media integration, you could have untapped potential waiting to be found.

Lesson #6. Use WordPress, or any tool, to its fullest potential

No matter what channel or platform you’re using, you want to get all you can out of it. For the post, “Content Marketing: 5 tips for WordPress blogging,” Erin Hogg, Copy Editor, MECLABS, broke down some ways she’s learned to improve a WordPress blog. Learn how to cross promote media with embedding, use basic HTML to improve the look and feel of a post, and more.


Lesson #7. Implement (and stick with) a style for your content

AP? Chicago? MLA? APA? There are many established styles, and one might work as-is for your organization. You could decide to create your own.  At MECLABS, we use the Associated Press Style Book as our foundation and supplement it with a set of our own guidelines.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stick with the guide for all of your content. Having well-proofed and consistent content adds to the credibility of your content and builds the authority of your brand.

Erin Hogg explained this and other tips in her post, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece.”

Email Marketing Lessons

Lesson #8. Don’t forget about current customers when designing triggered email campaigns

In the post, “Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages,” Daniel Burstein said nurturing current customers is one of the most overlooked automated email opportunities. He shared a list of triggered email types you can implement to strengthen relationships with you customers, including product education and upselling.

This post also features two other overlooked aspects of automated emails: customer lifetime value and the gap between what marketers should do and what they actually do.

Lesson #9. Test your emails to discover what really works for your audience

You could be using every best practice you’ve come across, but unless you know it’s best for your specific audience, then it might not be the practice you should be using. Testing lets you know what your audience best engages with.

Justin Bridegan, former Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, explained how testing revealed two segments of the MarketingSherpa email list prefer different email lengths. Read on to learn his other tips in the post, “Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa.”

Lesson #10. Consider the mobile design of your email

What percentage of your audience reads your emails on a mobile device? Are your emails optimized for mobile reading? A desktop design can cause friction for a mobile user, resulting in a potential loss in clickthrough and conversion.

In the post, “Email Marketing: 58% of marketers see mobile smartphones and tablets most impacting email,” learn the results one retailer saw after split testing a responsive design on its emails. You’ll also read about two other takeaways marketers can learn about mobile email marketing.


Related Resources

E-commerce: 10 case studies to help you excel in content marketing, social media and website optimization

#TwitterTips: 5 steps for a successful 140-character conversation on Twitter

Content Marketing: Finding the Goldilocks zone in your blogging

You have this "feeling" that you could be getting more from your trade show participation, but you're not sure what's working and what's not working.  That company down the aisle had tons of visitors.  What were they selling?  Maybe our product isn't the right fit, you think, or maybe they just had a great drawing.  In most cases, small exhibitor can improve trade show results by incorporating a few relatively inexpensive tactics into their programs.  This diagnostic lists the key tactics to consider.  If you are missing most of these tactics, you can look for quick and inexpensive ways to make them work for you.

Here's a great video at ExhibitorOnline that shows a variety of nifty small exhibit tips from the National Stationery Show.  

What is forced freight?  

If you have materials that need to be shipped from your exhibit space after the show, and they are not removed by the time the General Service Contractor (GSC) has to have the floor cleared they will "force your freight" which typically means have it moved to their warehouse.  The fees for this can be steep.  And most forced freight is not due to negligence on the part of exhibitors, but rather on miscommunication.  From an exhibitor's standpoint, freight is often forced because the necessary paperwork is not complete or turned in to the GSC desk.  If you have hired a freight carrier to handle these details, as Sandra says below, assure that they  understand the requirements for the show.

Learn more about trade show shipping in the Now What eGuide's Module F - Prepare for Exhibit Installation.

Thanks to Sandra Launsbach, Account Executive~Specializing in Trade Show Logistics at The Shaker Group, Inc. for sharing this information with the Exhibitor LinkedIn Group.

Just make sure your freight carrier knows their way around the "Exhibitor Manual". It will save you time and money on "Waiting Time" charges and getting your booth to the show on time. The exhiibitor does not have the time or knowledge to worry about the "real" check in time, the address to the marshaling yard (which you typically still have to check into when going Direct to Show). If you do not use a Carrier that specializes in Tradeshow Shipping, here is a quick guide on what your freight carrier NEEDS to know: 

I'll start with her last point first, since this is what you most likely want to know....

13. How do you avoid having your Freight Forced? 
Turn in the Material Handling Agreement (MHA) before the end of the show. Please do not leave the Material Handling Agreement at your booth. It must be handed into the Service Desk before you leave. Without this paperwork, any left-over freight will be 'forced'. When an item is forced, it will be sent to the show contractor's warehouse for storage and delivered COD using the contractors chosen freight carrier. This 'forced' service of course can come at a high and unexpected cost sometimes doubling or tripling the original cost of shipping.

1. What is the Description of your shipment? 
Provide an accurate piece count of the items being shipped, including weight, dimensions and type of freight (crates, cases, pallets, cartons, etc.)  Your exhibit supplier should provide this for you.  But if you don't have it computerized yet you can get a free worksheet for creating that list here:  Checklist F13 Exhibit Inventory

2. What is the Exhibitor Name, Booth # & Show Name?  Tradeshows have specific labeling requirements. 

3. Will your freight require any Special Equipment? Confirm any special requirements for loading or handling your freight. 

4. Do you require any additional Insurance? 

5. When does your freight need to arrive? 

6. Where will the driver be picking up the freight? 

7. Shipping to the advanced warehouse or direct to show? 

One of the most critical pieces of information is whether your freight is shipping to an Advanced Warehouse or Direct-To-Show. We'll also need to know if the venue provided you with an address for, or directions to, the Marshaling Yard. This information is located in the Exhibitor's Manual. Please keep in mind, if you ship "Direct to Show" do not expect your freight to be at your booth at your "Targeted Move-In Time". It is best to order labor the following day. Your freight is only guaranteed to be at the booth at the "Targeted Move-In Time" if you ship it ahead of time to the Advanced Warehouse. 

8. What is the Deadline for Shipping to the Advanced Warehouse & Direct to Show? 

9. Who is the Decorator or GSC (General Services Contractor)? 

The show's Decorator or GSC manages the advance warehouse, marshaling yard, and shipping docks. For the most part, we are at their mercy! But it helps to know who the Decorator is (Freeman, GES, etc), and acknowledge them on the BOL (bill of lading) in case there is more than one show at a venue. 

10. What is the full name of the trade show venue? To avoid confusion, especially in major cities where there may be multiple exhibition facilities, we'll need the full name of the venue or hotel, address and any pertinent, dock, hall, room, or floor information. 

11. What is the full show name, exhibitor name, and booth number? We need to make sure the Bill of Lading has all of this information, and each matches the show's exhibitor list and directory. Be sure to include the full name of the show as opposed to its acronym. There are many shows, and several have similar acronyms. 

12. What is the final destination of your freight? Is your shipment on a one-way trip? Or have you scheduled an outbound shipment - either back to origin or to another event? We want to help make sure your freight doesn't get "forced" at the end of the show! 

Many people exhibit at trade shows who have little to no previous experience in marketing, and make it work.  They're known as unconscious competents.  Those people who have an intuitive sense about marketing and getting their products out to the public - mostly entrepreneurs.  They don't know exactly WHY it worked, but they were successful.

Then there's the folks who get "invited" by a boss or new job description to take on the trade show function in an organization.  These might be people who are good at details, good at selling, or in some other area that managers see as a good fit for trade shows.  And they make it work, too.

Unfortunately, what can be missing for these folks is some simple marketing background that could launch a trade show program into a strategic marketing tool rather than just a one-time event. 

If you're interested in getting up to speed on some basic marketing concepts, take five minutes for each of the free videos here.  You'll learn about how the lifecycle stage of your product, as well as your intended positioning in the marketplace can influence key decisions about trade show participation.  These concepts are part of Module A Create a Plan and Select the Best Shows.

A2 Chalk Talk Video on Product Lifecycle Stages and Trade Show Marketing

Most of the time, for smaller companies, space amount is dictated by budget. " We can only afford....."  Let's face it, most small companies are making a stretch to purchase 100 square feet.  But if you need more than 100 square feet (say you are demoing large products, or need several product stations) there's an actual formula for calculating how much space you'll need.  Who knew.  

It's pretty straightforward when you think about it.  Start by collecting the information in the chart here, then follow the four steps below.  Bingo...optimum space size.

You can get this same information in a nifty worksheet that you can complete here.  

  • 12-15 is the average number of visitors a staffer can talk to in an hour.  However, the types of products displayed can significantly affect this number.  For technical products the average can be as low as 5-7 visitors per hour because explanations are more detailed and more questions are asked.  For commodity type products, the number could be much higher because interactions are shorter.

The four-step calculation looks like this:

Step 1  Potential Audience ÷ Total Show Hours = Visitors Per Hour

Step 2  Visitors Per Hour  ÷ Staffer Capacity = Staffers Required

Step 3  Staffers Required × Open Space = Total Open Space Required

Step 4  Open Space + Occupied Space = Total Space Required

ColorVerify demonstrates that as a small exhibitor you can still make a big splash at a show with a strategic social media plan. Thanks to Shelby Sapusek and ColorVerify for permission to reprint this blog post about their strategy.


Trading social media at trade shows


Last week, we demonstrated the ColorVerify process control solution at the International Sign Expo (ISA) in Orlando. We partnered with Mutoh America to develop and promote ColorVerify and they have provided us with space in their booth at several trade shows over the past year to help promote the new product offering.

We’ve also noticed that trade show and event coordinators have been using social media more actively and consistently to engage with attendees. We’ve been a part of that and we will continue to follow this trend for future events and trade shows.

To be effective, have a plan

Our social media strategy generally begins months before a significant event. After several email exchanges, phone calls and even onsite meetings, we come up with a plan together that will benefit both companies’ interests.

The ColorVerify plan resulted in a mix of print, social media and live demonstrations at the show. Then both companies cross-promoted the event across various platforms to effectively get the word out to a wider audience.

Video is vibrant communication

The inclusion of video in your promotional materials and coverage of events can be vital to your social media success. For our purposes, video is a large part of our marketing arsenal. We see video working best in these ways:

Promotional and/or training: Videos are great for “how-to’s.” ColorMetrix has its own YouTube channel and you can find several “how-to” videos about our products. The most recent video listed is the same one you can find on our home page and the one we played in Mutoh’s booth at ISA in between our live demonstrations. This time we even burned it to a CD along with some educational literature so that attendees could take it with them.

Quick and easy explanations: During ISA, we took a short, 30-second videoof the beginning of our CEO Jim Raffel’s demonstration. Those 30 seconds answered a very simple question: Why use ColorVerify? This video was posted on Twitter and Facebook during the show to let attendees know about the demos and explain quickly why they might be interested in stopping by the booth.

Sharing with those who can’t attend: We gave at least a dozen live demonstrations of ColorVerify. But what about people who might be interested in the product but couldn’t attend the show? There’s no need to worry because we shot video of the complete demonstrations as well and, as soon as it’s all edited, we’ll be uploading that to our YouTube channel too. (We wish we could share it with you today but we’ve only been back for two days. Social media takes time, folks!)

Cross promotion is great, but don’t spread yourself too thin

Again, we are fortunate to be partners with Mutoh because we were able to promote all of our products, services and announcements on our various networks. Working trade show booths is hard work. You’re on your feet for 8+ hours a day giving demonstrations and answering questions. It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to be able to post everything on every network.

Since Twitter is more immediate (and because ISA had an event hashtag to follow and a Twitter wall of postings), we handled that network on site at the show. However, photos and video with information were sent back to our home base and an employee who stayed behind posted them to our Facebook page. This strategy was part of our planning well before the event took place.

“Always be marketing.”

Our CEO Jim Raffel was heard repeating this mantra several times throughout the show. But what does it mean?

To us, it meant more than what we have already mentioned. Engaging with the show coordinators and attendees was also at the top of our priority list. Below are some examples.

Celebrating 60 years:Mutoh celebrated its 60th anniversary with a 90-minute party in its booth on the second day of the show. Attendees received free refreshments and lots of giveaways. Both companies tweeted out announcements about the party to ISA attendees, making sure to include the event hashtag so that they ended up on the show’s Twitter wall. We ended up with a great crowd at the party that afternoon.

Happy hour: Each day, ISA hosted a happy hour at the show and provided free beer at stations around the exhibition hall. It was a no brainer to help promote that.

You ran out? We have some!: ISA was so well-attended this year that they actually ran out of lanyards for attendees by the second day. We saw ISA tweet that out and knew Mutoh had plenty of lanyards at the booth. We let attendees know that they could stop by and pick up a Mutoh lanyard. It was fun to walk the show floor for 30 minutes on the last day of the show and notice all the Mutoh lanyards milling around.

New contests: This year, ISA had a best new product and best green product competition. Mutoh had a product entered in each. The awards were decided through attendee votes by texting codes to a certain number. At first, we tweeted out descriptions of each product with the code and number on how to vote. Then we designed a sticker (which Mutoh printed right there at the show) with all the information on it for both products. Again, it was fun to see these stickers floating around the show floor (and even on our marketing coordinator Shelby’s back!).

It’s not over when it’s over

ISA might be over, but we aren’t finished with it. We still have more photos to post, videos to edit and some general follow-up sessions to determine what worked, what didn’t and what we can do better.

What are your thoughts on using social media at trade shows?