Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Tips For Trade Show Success

Trade shows can be the perfect opportunity for your company to showcase its new products and make important business contacts. But they require careful strategic planning on your part, otherwise all the time and money you have invested into your booth will be wasted. If you’ve signed up for a big event, here are some things to remember that should ensure you make the best use of your time there:

The Right People: It’s very important that you find the perfect delegates to send to the trade show. If, for example, you’re looking to forge new partnerships or win new customers you should consider sending executives and key sales people. If you are targeting a niche market then you should send an employee who is an expert in this field. It also might be worth arranging for a team member to speak at the show in order to set your company up as an authority. If you do, then obviously you need to pick a member of the team with great public speaking skills.

Plan Meetings: Don’t just turn up at the show and expect to be overrun with new contacts. To help you hit the ground running you should have planned meetings well in advance with potential customers or business partners. In addition to individual meetings, a good idea for wider networking is to hold a cocktail reception or something similar in your hotel suite and give a brief presentation. Invite as many people as possible to this, and hold it early on during show so you can reap the benefits of those new contacts.

Marketing Is Key: If you’re not going to put as much effort into marketing your appearance at the show as you do into your strategy whilst you’re there, then you might as well forget it entirely. Prepare a press release about your presence and distribute it through all available channels – email mailing list, social media, industry portals and so on. This should highlight what you intend to be showcasing and where you can be found.

But in addition to pre-show publicity – and this is one thing that many companies forget – your marketing efforts should carry on after the show has finished. Have somebody there taking pictures or compiling video footage so you can post recap blogs or send out press releases after the event, reminding customers what you were showcasing and how successful it was.

Plan Your Booth Well: Pay attention to the design and placement of your booth. Ideally you want somewhere with a high level of footfall; but supposing you are not able to secure a great spot, you will still want it to stand out and draw people in. Make sure it’s large and eye-catching with some attractive visual displays. If you’re showcasing new products, they should be the focal point of your entire set-up and clearly and succinctly described. It’s a good idea to have some kind of interactive element to the product display so visitors can really come and engage with them. A few free giveaways never hurt as well, as they give a good impression and also serve as visual reminder of your company once the show is over.

Don’t Just Sell: This may seem strange given that the purpose of your presence at the trade show is probably to generate new business. But this is not the time to make a quick buck: visitors will quickly melt away if your delegates give the hard sell as soon as they get within a certain radius. The people you send should be your relationship builders – those who can network and secure good contacts to follow up on when they return to the office. Make sure you are listening to potential customers – asking about themselves, their business and their needs.

If you are not sure of all the marketing angles you should be promoting at your trade show or exhibition then search out an expert in exhibition marketing to assist you.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Growing Your Business

Have you invested a lot in getting your business off the ground but now feel as though it’s reached a plateau? 

Launching a business successfully is hard enough in this day and age but achieving growth once you’ve done this is something else altogether.

If you want to take your business to the next stage there are plenty of strategies you can use to achieve this. The ones you choose will depend upon what kind of company you are and exactly what kind of expansion you are going for. 

Here are some areas you might want to consider:

Form An Alliance: Setting up a partnership with a similar kind of business, or one that complements your own, can be a very effective method of expansion. To give an example on a small scale: if you’re running a wedding planning business why not form an alliance with a catering company? Yes, you may have to shell out some of your own money initially to make it happen, but in the long-term the synergies between your companies should increase your prospects immeasurably.

Expand Online: If you don’t already have an online presence, you’re automatically missing out on a huge opportunity for growth. You need a well-designed website with clear descriptions of your products and services. So many people these days would rather buy online but they will expect to be able to do so quickly and easily, so you should make sure that the check-out system you use is highly efficient. To ensure your website has good visibility, hire an online marketing expert to implement an SEO strategy and teach you about other effective strategies – such as email marketing – to make the most of your online presence.

Open Another Site: If you have one shop or office and it simply isn’t meeting your needs anymore, it may be time to expand elsewhere. This could be to extend to another area of the country, or simply to give you further space to take on new clients or stock more product lines. Yes, physical expansion is always a risk but at some point you will have to take a leap of this kind if you want to take your business to the next level. Just make sure you have a strong, experienced management team in place to run it, that you have created a solid business plan and that you have done your homework in terms of consumer and economic trends.

Diversification: If you have taken your existing product or service offering as far as it can go, it may be time to look at selling complementary products or services. As a growth strategy, this is a fairly safe bet as you are simply building on your existing success and client base. It allows you to have several streams of income to increase sales and profit margins, and well as potentially dealing with seasonal slumps.

Should You Be Spending Less Money On Advertising? (And More On Content Marketing?)

According to AdGooroo, Amazon reputedly spent $54 million on Pay Per Click advertising during the first half of 2012. However 96% of businesses that use PPC spend on average less than $10,000 per year, and many of these are now seeking alternative marketing methods to deliver ‘more bang for their buck’.

Today’s most successful companies (we’re talking businesses of all sizes here), are fast recognising that continuous engagement with their target audience is the best way to keep their brands front of mind.

Such organisations are only too aware that advertising is a one-way medium – a marketing platform which offers no direct engagement with the audience. And as such it can be an expensive experiment.

The alternative?

Content marketing – and plenty of it.

A New York Times article (published 17 October 2012), reported on the considerable impact of PPC costs on small businesses, with one insurance company revealing that their original bid of $1 on the term “life insurance” had increased to a prohibitive $20 per click over a 10- year period.

At the other end of the business spectrum, CNN Money reported that since 2010, Nike has cut back on its traditional advertising (TV, print, radio) by 40%, in favour of creating content built around digital communities and high-profile sporting events. This cost-efficient direct communications strategy has seen Nike’s net income rise by $500 million and its company revenues by $3 billion.

Tips for reducing advertising spend in favour of content marketing:

  • Set up a business blog and post new articles regularly (at least twice a week). Encourage your audience to post comments and initiate discussions.
  • Produce an ebook and give it away as a free download to customers who sign up to your list on your website or squeeze page.
  • Create your own YouTube channel and harness the power of video to attract more customers or clients.
  • Launch a digital magazine (premium or freemium model). Many online magazine providers like Issuu offer a free trial of their software.
  • Start a company newsletter (if your target audience is local you may wish to extend your offering to print).
  • Create a fun app for your business. You don’t need a large budget to hire a freelance developer online from oDesk, Elance or AppBooker. (Ask the developer to sign an NDA if you are concerned about your concept being shared).

These are just a handful of the dozens of ways your brand could engage with its audience on a weekly basis.

Whilst content marketing can never be considered a quick fix; done well it amounts to a long-game strategy that could pay considerable dividends. At the same time, no-one is suggesting that businesses should stop running advertising altogether – that would be foolish. Many successful companies combine several elements in their marketing strategy. Ultimately, any activity that works for your business is worth repeating over and over.

Acclaimed US author and online advertising expert Perry Marshall says on the subject of PPC versus content: “AdWords is still doable and reasonably profitable for local businesses or those that have narrow niches and high barriers to entry. But you cannot put all your eggs in one basket. The ultimate goal for any business should be to drive as much unpaid traffic to their site as possible.”