Archives for posts with tag: Marketing Advice

You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.

Hands up who doesn't give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

I’m going to keep it nice and tight today as I am still in recovery mode from my 46km marathon row up the Hunter River last weekend.  Any by recovery I do not mean massages, steam rooms and green juices.  No, my go-tos are chocolate brownies, alcohol and weighted lunges. But more on all that later.

On the start line for Head of he Hunter

On the start line for Head of he Hunter

So here it is.  Do you want to know why, after spending months preparing for your trade show, smacked down some coin on a good-looking stand, organised a roster so your best and brightest were there to help visitors and hell, you even had a (insert sharp intake of breath) a TOUCH SCREEN on the stand that your results, ROI or however you measure your trade show success is in the toilet?

Listen up: It is because you failed to follow-up leads and enquiries your acquired on the stand.

I have a perfect example. I attended Designex in Melbourne in late May I was disappointed in the quality of stand exhibits.  Designex used to be a high point in stand design with all sorts of funky and interesting stuff being done.  No more. It was a sea of ordinary.  So yeah, I can overlook ordinary if exhibiting firms want to show me so cool and interesting stuff. But my fellow design maven Shirley and I were shocked at how many exhibitors – and this was even within the first few hours of opening morning – were focussed on tapping out stuff on their iPads, laptops, smart phones and not engaging in the face to face marketing that exhibitions are perfect for.  Both Shirley and I both browsed on exhibitor stands, clearly interested in the products but even then we were ignored, the lure of the digital screen proving more important that two red-hot leads strolling about your stand.  Even when I finally made contact with an exhibitor and handed over my details (I gave out 12 business cards in all) to have follow-up information sent through, only one out the twelve got in contact.  Props to Forbo Flooring for following through but Dulux…James Richardson Furniture…hello?  Nah.  Not freakin’ good enough by a long shot.

You could argue that perhaps they lost my card – and if that is the case, then a new type of lead capture device is sorely needed.  You might surmise that they will still get around to getting in contact but seriously….2 months has passed and even a digital thank you note can be sent off before I have even stepped foot off the stand if the company cares enough.  And that’s the rub. Many exhibitors don’t care about the results or their customer and therefore don’t put in place the systems and procedures to gather leads on the trade show floor and then follow-up effectively.

You know, all this lack of lead follow-up is a good thing if you are an exhibitor.  This is a perfect opportunity to grab new customers and market share when so many of your competitors have a lazy approach to lead capture and follow-up.  Imagine what a superstar you would be if you actually do what you said you were going to do by getting in touch.  And sooner.  Like now.

Now I would normally share some photos of Designex at this point but they had a strict “no photography” policy plastered everywhere which blows my mind and not in a good way.  With so many ways to share information over the internet and amongst your tribe, I don’t know what muppet within the Designex organising team thought it was a good idea to ban links and buzz building through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc etc. But whoever the sock puppets were, get a grip and get with the times.  And also give your exhibitors some much-needed tips in effective trade show strategies.

So instead of Designex, I am going to share a photo of my Dad and I at the end of the 46km marathon and yes, this is him holding me up. As much I as I am awe of what my lady crew and I did by actually completing the race, I marvel at my dad for his involvement.  He was up at his Central Coast home at just after 4am on a SUNDAY, zoomed up the highway to Newcastle with a boot full of muffins, water and bandages and stood around keeping the mood up  with witty quips while we waited clad only in LYCRA in icy conditions for the fog to lift. Once we set off, he stalked us up the river stopping at five different locations to yell at us like those slightly unhinged types do in shopping centre carparks, phoned back GPS coordinates so my Mum and sister who were  manning ground control at home and could follow our progress up the Hunter.  And then finally, FINALLY when we reached the finish line, he fished me out of the boat and gave me one of the best hugs ever.  I hear a lot about women being in supporting roles to men doing stuff.  But our lady crew totally subverted that.  On our success team, we had Koach Kim, Nathan the demonic personal trainer, our coxswain Roberto the Unbelievable, General Len (what does Len do?  Generally pretty much anything and everything including rowing and towing) and my Dad. So this is big love to all the wonderful men who made our row that much easier and sweeter.  Go hug a man today!  (The fine print: Obviously not one of those recommended for sentencing in the NSW ICAC corruption enquiry, those dudes are NQR.)

I love my dad, he is holding me up!

I love my dad, he is holding me up!

Tune wise, I want to share one of my fav songs we had playing in the boat during the row.  It came on in the final 8 kms when fatigue is biting and the distance drags.  Madonna, her hot pants spurred and my crazy Dad by the side of the river waving his jumper helicopter style above his head spurred me on.

See you next week!

I’ve found recently that the subject of “having a balanced life” has come up for a bunch of my marketing clients. And then I was only asked last night how I achieve balance. Errrrrrr….I don’t. And I don’t seek too.

Here’s why. A few years ago when I swapped Melbourne’s lane ways for Sydney’s Harbour, I decided I was going to make the most the city swap with a full tilt launch into getting my life into balance. I was seduced by the claims of self-conferred gurus extolling the virtues of a life in balance. How serene I would be, how unrushed I would feel and how I would float from one obligation to the next. Most probably in a white lace dress from Laura Ashley and patting a white bunny. As I carefully and lovingly placed my business and my personal life on either side of the scales I waited for perfect alignment.

What tosh.

After nearly making myself blind with anxiety trying to spend equal time on all my interests, I gave up and here’s why you should too:

1. Most of my marketing clients are female and they have the full buffet of interests and demands on their time: kids, partner (or no partner but dating. Or not dating. Until George Clooney dumps his latest broad and comes-a-calling), a career, friends, family, activities, running a household and finding time for themselves like sneaking a look at Who magazine while on a flight to somewhere.  With all of that and more on the table, how could you ever hope to achieve balance?!? So let’s make a pact right now to give concept of balance the two-finger salute.

Go give balance the two finger salute!

Go give balance the two finger salute!

2. We’ve been sold a pup and a very mangey one at that. The “life in balance idea” goes that if you get all your stuff into perfect alignment, suddenly you will be calmer. Happier. Less harried. And less prone to eating only processed cheese for dinner. Look, I’m not here to tell you desiring all those things and self-improvement is not valid, they most definitely are. But the image of the scales is instructive here. To get either side in line, you have to use equal measures. Who do you know that have an equal amount of interests and commitments at any one time? No one! Life is fabulously messy and it can be dirty and as unyielding as a feral donkey so why would you take on the mammoth and ultimately exhausting task of trying to tether your interests to some out moded concept of balance?

3. Once I kicked balance to curb, I have found a super power. I can bend time. And I reckon you can too.  The act of bending time comes into play when you decide what you will devote your attention to and discard the white noise that is distracting. We all have the same 24 hours, right? So you have the freedom to decide how to allocate your time.  I’ll give you an example from my own life.  Right now I am committed to doing a 45km marathon row of the Hunter River at the end of July.  (And flat out trying to stage an alien abduction to get me out of it) To get the necessary training up to even function over that distance, I have parked some of the other things I like to do (brush my hair, extreme baking) so I can swing over extra time to get this rowing training done. I guess I see time as like an ever-expanding container where I can drop things in and take things out as I need to do.  Sure, the container can get pretty jammed up and look very close to splitting but it holds together and I know that even when I am pushing too many things to get done, it will only be for a short period of time and the stretching of time will soon snap back to something more manageable.

I am going to leave you with a comment from a one of my recent dates.  (Hey, I date and I vote!) He asked “Do you even have time for a partner?!?” after I described what a typical week look liked for me.  I thought for a moment and then said in absolute truth “ I will always make time for the things that are important to me, I will create space for that”.  So ditch the concept of balance and instead embrace life in all its beautiful messiness and trust that you will find – and make – time for all the important things that matter to you.

I recently tripped over the delicious Kathleen Hanna ex of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre being her bratty best with her new outfit The Julie Ruin.  Check out this slice of awesome with bonus points for female lead guitarist with kicky solo!

See you next week (and share this post with someone you know that is struggling with balance)!

When I am not designing and managing exhibitions and displays, I can be often found wedged in a fibreglass hull either training or competing.  This rowing thing would have the be the most barking mad sport of all time.  You can’t see where you are going, the time you need to train to perfect the list of 6,467 things you need to excel at in order to just scratch competent level in competition is out of all proportion and did I mention that this bulk of this activity happens at dark o’clock when most reasonable people are tucked up in bed?!?  But there is one person in out crew of 9 who really stands out in terms of contribution and commitment and that is our coxswain, or cox as we lovingly know them as. And while I hack my way through the water (one of the 6,467 things I am trying to remedy), I have had cause to pause and reflect on why coxes are the best marketers ever:

1. They see opportunities others do not

Fair play, they are the only ones facing the right direction in a crew but they are constantly assessing wind and weather conditions, other crew’s positions throughout a race, the crew’s ability to lift through key stages, the actual course and what can wander into your path (Police boats!  Sydney Ferries! Spectator Craft!  SWANS!!!!!!) and they try to steer the sharpest  and most direct line to the finish line.  This, all done under a 4 minute time frame. Marketers, like my beloved coxes excel at seeing niches to position their brand and see new fertile ground for opportunities.

2. They are the key drivers of moving a crew (or company) forward

How does a business get and remain successful? Hands down, it is generating sales and making profit, which is largely the function of the marketing team devising strategies to deliver sales.  Coxes are the same.  I am just some hack with a blade wishing I was on some lounge with a cheesecake balanced on my lap.  Until the cox fires me up and gets me and my fellow 7 rowers functioning as a crew, we are destined just to lope along with”OK” results and an empty medal display case.

3. Tactics, tactics, tactics.

Marketing mavens need to implement their marketing strategies using carefully placed tactics and so do coxes.  You can have all the sound marketing strategies you like but without the implementation of the tactics, well, you just have a lovely piece of paper.  My race tactics are pretty concise. Row like you stole it. Don’t freak out / fuck up.  The tactics employed by a cox are a little more elaborate “Right.  We do our start of 15 off on 38 and then after 15 strokes, settle down to 34 – 35 with no loss of power. I am going to call for pushes on the legs for 10, another 10 focussing on clean catches and then another 10 on finishes.  I will also call for pushes if I feel that the other crews are making a move.  Towards to end of the race, I will ask for a power push of 3, then holding for 7 and then stepping up in 10’s for the final 250 metres. At that point you EMPTY THE TANK”.  Christ, that took longer to write that it does to row…

I am reflecting on the marketing power of the cox as I am sad to say that I am loosing one of the best coxes I have had the insane thrill of rowing with.  Alison is returning to the UK to be with her family as they face a health issue and so the rowing gals and I are gathering to break bread (and crack open a champagne bottle of two) and see this lovely lady off in style.

In my first years of being coxed by Alison I was always bouncing around her like a frog in a sock.  Did we do OK?  How was the power in the boat?  Did we still get clearance when we upped the rating.  Truly, I was / am  / can be insufferable.  Rowing can be such a battle in your own mind, you need feedback like a crack addict to compare your own experience to. Over time, I have seen that Alison is like the zen master of coxswains.  She is super calm before and during the race and only gives you the feedback and instructions you need.  There is no yabbering on or streams of consciousness, she locks it down tight.  I have seen over time how this has helped me so much in the boat as my excitable foxy terrier ways have been smoothed out by her cocoon of calm and I am a better and a more controlled rower because of it. She has cheerfully carried our mascot Daisy the Donkey through training and races, steered us through the Sydney Harbour cauldron when whipped up through a strong southerly and has dispensed lip gloss, tissues, plaster, water bottles, hats through her amazing monochrome dream coat, all while crammed in a space that is the average size of a handbag.

Alison owns a fair proportion of all the medals I have won with the rest being shared with Koach Kim, the rest of the rowing squad, my demonic personal trainer Nathan and my friends and family for the ever strong support while I wail “I can’t DO this!”.  I am not sure how I am going to feel when I step in the boat again, lean over the side, look down the boat and not see her there. But I will have the memory of the last race I had with Alison coxing.  It was the recent State Masters and were in D8 amongst some pretty hot competition.  At the 500 metre mark I was aware that we had slid up along side the boat in the adjacent lane on my right.  Through each stroke, Alison encouraged us forward and we clawed our way along that nearby boat. I was level with 7 seat….I was now level with 5 seat….now with 3….and then final with 200 metres to go, our bow was clear of them!  You know that zen master Alison?  Forget that, she became a force of power! The nearby crew put on a surge but Alison got the jump on that and we found a new level.  Everything was hurting, but Alison called for one last push to ensure that they could not take our water and then…the sound of the finish hooter for first place…and THEN another hooter and OHMYFREAKIN’GOD, WE JUST PLACED SECOND!!!! We were just so, so happy and to perform and respond for Alison in her last race (for now) will stay with me forever.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

There is a saying that God made coxswains because he can’t be there and in Alison’s case this is doubly true.  And there is no way he would have carried our mascot Daisy. Heartfelt thanks and much love Alison!

Our mascot, Daisy!

Our mascot, Daisy!

The tune this week comes from one of my favorite “gee-up” tracks when I need to get the rowing zone.  Push it!

See you next week!

Setting a budget for a trade show program is fraught for most clients. So don’t feel like you are in the minority if you are burying you face in your hands or rocking in the fetal position.  After 18 years in the industry I would like to share with you four techniques you can use to set trade show budgets that will stop the angst and hair pulling (yours or someone else’s, your choice).

 1. Use a budget from previous years

I know, I know, this seems so Captain McObvious but since it really is SO apparent, it gets totally forgotten about. Here is what you do:

  • Look in previous years marketing reports to extract the figures from the trade show program of past years.
  • On average, add CPI (consumer price index) for each year since the last record of trade show spends. For example, if 2010 was the documented trade show spend take the base figure x 3 years x CPI and voila! There is your budget!
  • The fine print: Be real about this. For example, don’t include a touch screen in you wish list if high cost hardware was not a part of your past show budget. You need to throw a bit more coin in if you after this sort of high spend gadgetry!

 2. Use your spend for the floor space as a guide

I have seen this method work with taking both the square meterage and total cost as the key-determining factor. For example, if your stand space cost $100K, then clients sometimes allow an equivalent amount for the design and build of a stand. Alternatively, some clients use a dollar figure for each square metre. A quick and dirty guide: 6 x 3 (18 sq metres) stands allow $100-$150 per square metre for a custom stand. 6 x 6 (36 sq metres) allow $80 – $120 per square metre for a custom stand. Everything under 18 sqs: $120 – $150 per square metre and over 36 square metres: $120 – $200 per sq metre.

The disclaimer bit:

  • This is plus GST
  • This is based on a 1 off use custom design and build
  • This does not include 2 storey stands, catering, high-end technology, ponies (dude, they are HIGH cost and HIGH maintenance) and elaborate anything. This is a guide only, not something carved high on the mount!

3. Tie it back to your objectives

Say you had a million dollars for your marketing budget (steady now) and your objectives for this year include launching a new range of products that require in person demos with the intension to book meetings with key customers for a more detailed demo. The aim is to book 80 meetings with 20% of those visited buying your new technology product and placing orders within 60 days. Fantastic! Trade shows will serve you well and with such a major objective, you might allocate around 80% of your marketing spend to achieve this goal. But what if your major goal for the year was to launch a new website that was compatible across all platforms and showcases your entire suite of products. Now this a different beast and you would best tipping say 60% of your budget into a flawlessly built out website and the rest of that budget into promoting the shit out of it and yes, some of those promotion activities might include trade shows with your key audience in attendance. These examples show how important it really is to set clear objectives in your marketing plan as it provides a road map on how to achieve those aims.

 4. Make it up

No, seriously. Often when I see clients and I ask what the budget is, there is some nervous shuffling about and then those despair-inducing words are uttered, “there is no budget”. Hogwash. There is always a budget, it is just people might feel uncomfortable talking coin, they are worried that you will use every last dollar and want to see what they can get for less or they really don’t have much clarity around what a trade show stand might cost. So what I advise is this. As a marketer setting a budget for the stand, write down any figure you get an intuitive hit on. Now double that. How does that sit with you? Too much? Too little? Keep feeling you way through this writing down numbers, crossing out, dividing by 3, adding another 20% and so on until you get a figure that you think is a fair price for your stand brief. Next step is to tell the design firm that you partner with and they will – if they are solid operators – if you budget is too tight or super workable. Both extremes are met with raised eyebrows so this is no guide for which end of the spectrum your budget sits!

Hey!  Bonus infographic!

Set your trade show budget.  Stress free style!

Set your trade show budget. Stress free style!

Got a burning question about the budgeting for your own trade show program? Please leave a comment below or get in contact here and I would be happy to get my abacus out and see how I can help!

In my quieter moments I like thinking of who I would be in an alternate universe and when I saw this hot clip from MIA with ladies who are doing some hell-yeah stunt driving, I knew who I wanted to be this week in my alt-universe.

See you next week!

Back from Frakenstorm Sandy this week, I was head first in a series of meetings with my marketing clients.  Apart from the normal witty banter and the discussion of projects, what I am hearing over and over is from my marketing managers and coordinators is: “I need more time, I am under the pump, I am just overwhelmed”.  Ok, so you could take this as a good thing that marketing is ramping up and budgets are being resuscitated but while I think that this is correct to some degree, I am also seeing that the “busyness” of work life has reached a critical point and we need to get some sanity around this.  I might not be so concerned if my marketing clients look energised by this fast paced activity but they look worn out, grey and in need of a lounge and a sherbert.

Get on the lounge with a sherbet!

So here is my lifeline for marketers and in fact anyone else that feels like they are on the hamster wheel that is cranked to ELEVEN.  Some of these tips are Diva tested, others are in the experimental stage:

1. Asana

I only got on board to Asana train these past few months but I can tell you now it has given me back brain space.  It is on online cloud based project management tool that is FREE. If you are anything like me, I strut about with a whole heap of ideas and to-do whirling about in the grey matter that is set to repeat every 3 – 4 minutes.  Using Asana, I can do a brain dump into individual projects, assign others to complete tasks and place dates against the list.  You can even tick stuff off as DONE!  This is freakin’ GOLD and has given me back a sense of control of the 58 (that IS NUTS) current projects I am running.  Go here for Nathalie Lussier’s introduction into Asana.  Promise, this will help you claw back time and give you a greater sense of control over the projects and events you are running.

2.  Chuck anything – and anyone – superfluous.

Yeah, I get asked a lot about how I get through my workload.  No secret.  I don’t watch TV.  I read a lot of work based material but it is usually only a scan to pick up the news I need.  I live in a one bedroom apartment which controls the amount of crap I can bring in and then have to manage.  I have outsourced cleaning of the car and home.  I have a personal trainer so I don’t faff about at the gym leaning against the vending machine pretending that counts as tightening of the abs. I don’t watch cute cat videos on youtube. I have a regulated filing system so I know (mostly) where everything is.  When I travel, I don’t queue.  I am a member of Qantas Valet, the Qantas Club, Budget Business Club and Accor Awards so I am assured of smooth passage.  When flights are delayed, I don’t bitch, I get busy attacking the to-do list.  I have a calendar that all appointment both personal and business goes onto and if I start feeling like the week is starting to get overloaded, I start culling.  Now I am not sharing all this to show you how AMAZING I am at scheduling but to show what I give up and what I streamline in order to get what I really need ie. more time to spend doing things I love.  Here’s the thing.  We all have the same 24 hours and it is up to you, YOU on how these hours are spent.  You will have to get selfish about how you spend your time.  You may upset people that you have been accommodating to the past but you can’t afford to extend this luxury to them in the future.  No doubt, my scheduling is made easier by not having kids but don’t give yourself a pass on this even if you have kiddies.  If you really looked hard at your schedule I am positive you can find areas you can chuck.  If the whole idea of being so strict with your time sends you into a meltdown, just chill.  Think of it as scheduling the things you can and know about so you can free up space to…be free and spend more time doing the things you love!

3.  Time blocking

So – deep breath – this is going to be a new one for me.  I have always been available on email and phone for both suppliers and clients.  I will interrupt stuff I am working on to take calls and then get caught up solving that query, then I jump down a rabbit hole of distraction so when I come back to what I had originally been working on, sometimes 12 hours later I have lost the source of inspiration or have no idea where I was going with a particular idea.  At the tail end of 2013 I can see that I am getting burnt out and I want to change this for 2013. I will be trialling time blocking.  I have come to see that multi tasking is making me dumber and since I work in the creative field, I need to allow quite time to come up with the genius stuff.  I am going to try restricting the answering of emails to twice daily blocks.  When I am designing and doing working drawings, distractions are the devil so I will be secluding quite time for myself and hitting the do not disturb button on the smart phone.  I know this won’t be perfect and I will have to negotiate how this works when I have installs going in and need to be available to take queries on the positioning of last-minute graphics, if extra power is required for the client machine and where the hell the forklift key is?!?  But I have to give this a try, I think some of the best work I have done has been realised in the past few years and I want to keep dialled into that muse rather than running my brain down to slo-mo.

4. The great big no.

Ooooh, doesn’t that word just make you feel tighter.  We really aren’t allowed to say this often but I think it is key to claiming back your time.  So many of us are conditioned to say yes because that is who we are, we are obliging folk.  But what is yes have made us a prison?  Rather than be the first with the hand up, sit back.  Or, sit on your hand if you can’t trust your “Yes, me!” impulse.  If the outright no is too confronting, when given a request, buy some time.  Exhibit A: “My schedule is pretty stacked right now, I will take a look and get back to you”. The good thing about this is that you are already setting the expectation that you are not able to assist and you are giving yourself some time to see if you can really agree to the request.  Do not fear the “No”.  It is not a dirty word.  Unlike French Bulldog and Coldplay that are dirty, dirty words.

Alright, I am keen to hear from you if you have any other time-saving tips and techniques you might have so please leave your suggestion in the comment section below.

Now that you have given yourself some time back, we need to go to spin a tune.  When I free up myself enough time, I will be donning the sequined hot pants and lace tights and grooving to this (next life: I am coming back a female drummer).

See you next week!

I write this blog direct from my North American office – the Grand Central Terminal dining concourse, don’t cha know – and I am afraid I have a dire confession to make. I think I might have accidentally manifested Frankenstorm Sandy. I had always wanted an extended stay in NYC and looks like I got my wish. Ah, if only I could use my powers for good instead of evil. After being bumped flights a couple of times, I am now due out Sunday night to triumphantly return to Sydney on Tuesday in time to don a hat and back horsey No 5 in race 6 on Cup Day.  Disclaimer: That’s not a hot tip, it’s just the numbers I like.

So while I revel in my extended NYC stay, I have been able to reflect on what a great job NYC has done marketing itself during this heartbreaking event. Here is what I have admired:

 1. Communication

We hear it all the time but it really is key. Frankenstorm Sandy had been solidly all over the news in the days leading to landfall allowing time to prepare. On the Sunday before Ms Sandy’s arrival, I was attending an event and there were regular updates and a commitment to finish well before the subway shut down at 7pm. At the hotel I was staying in Midtown there were postings in the common areas and room drops. The news stations were predictably hysterical in their coverage – creepily, even predicting how many would die – but to solve that I turned off the sound and just took in the images and banner scroll at the bottom of the screen. Internet access at the hotel allowed me to stay online and get updates from SMH (bless you Fairfax) even while Sandy pushed my hotel a metre down town. At all times I felt safe despite the craziness going on around me. Mayors, governors, heads of rescue and even the Prez has been all over the news providing information and updates. And while so many others in the storm zone don’t have power or Internet access, the messages are being repeated and spread out across social media in the hope that the information can get passed through to those in the blacked out areas.  So in good times and bad, communication is the number one priority.

Nothing personal, but please shop another day

2. Be like a Boy Scout and prepare, prepare, prepare

I think in times of a crisis we all function better if we have stuff to do. On Sunday night before Sandy made landfall I washed all my clothes as a girl as to have clean gear even under locked in conditions. You let presentation standards drop and that is one slippery slope my friend. I made my grab and go bag (this mainly consisted of chocolate until I rethought it and added alcohol and Pringles), filled the bath so I had a water reservoir to lap from (!) and charged up the communication devices. Because I was so busy preparing I did have time to freak the hell out or be afraid. So it was a great move by authorities to give people a list of preparation to follow. The more you are engaged with a task, the less likely you are to be running through the streets pulling out tufts of your hair or panic buying s’mores.

‘Get your game on” letter form the Sofitel

3. Normal programming will resume as soon as possible

The thing that really struck me with Sandy is that people value and crave life’s rituals. From riding the subway to getting coffee at Starbucks’s, people are obsessed with getting their lives back to normal as soon as they can as it is a sign that life goes on.  I’ m so lucky to be in Midtown but about 10 blocks south of me is the lower Manhattan area where there is still no power in most parts. When people who live in this area are interviewed their main question relates to the resumption of power. If you have power, you have lights, TV, a fridge full of pop tarts and life starts feeling normal again. The sense of relief is palpable for those returning to work as it is another sign of normal service returning.  We do have power refuges everywhere throughout Midtown though. Any lobby, shop, cafe or bank foyer with a spare power outlet is crowded up with people charging up their communication devices.

4. I heart NYC

Like all great marketing, the aftermath of Sandy has revealed a very large heart at its core. Scores of people have either helped with the recovery or stand ready to. Strangers ask how you are doing and actually care about the answer. Even politicians have left a lot of argey bargey to the side while they get help to the people in need. The response is not perfect and there are still whole communities in dire need but it is hard to really fault the emergency services and community leaders when it is obvious they are doing there very best under pretty crazy circumstances.

I have always loved New York and the marketing of the city has always been top shelf. But I think Sandy has given her an added chance to show her proactive and caring side. I’ll be back for sure…I just have to leave first!

And for our weekly tune, what better song to pick than Hova’s love letter (with some killer marketing taglines) to NYC.

See you next week!

Interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 17 by Steve Colquhoun describing the high absentee rate amongst auto brands at this years Sydney Motor Show. Marques such as BMW, Chrysler, Jeep, Renault, Volvo and – hang onto your peals – Rolls Royce are all missing in action.  For one of the most prominent and largest crowd puller (200,000 paying punters are expected through the doors) exhibitions held in Australia, does this mean doom for the exhibition industry?

Nah.  More on that soon but there were some intriguing points raised in Steve’s article.

First up we had Edward Rowe from European Automotive Importers who distribute high price luxury brands such as Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus explain his absence from the show as “We have to sell cars in the most cost efficient manner. We’re not in the entertainment business”.  Steve, matey, I don’t mind you taking a pass on exhibiting at the Sydney Motor Show but the entertainment industry is EXACTLY the business you are in. The Ferraris and Maseratis all represent high-class, sexy motoring that will thrill both the driver and their social circle.

And then we had Clyde Campbell the managing director of Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Fiat saying about this about his brand’s non-attendance, “We think it’s more important to have direct contact with our customers, and our marketing has been working well,” he says. Sweet Jesus, exhibitions are all about-face to face marketing Clyde and if there is more direct form, I reckon there would be an “R” rating and Barry White playing in the background.

Those kind of comments get me a little bit cranky – not with the views held by Edward and Clyde – but with the exhibition industry.  We are doing a pretty poor job of explaining the value of exhibiting if the basics of face-to-face marketing and creating an entertaining and immersive experience is not understood.

Returning to the insider view, I was the project manager and part of the design team at Acumen Design for stands such as Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Maybach, Suzuki, Seat, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles from 1999 to 2005.  Back in the day, the Motor Shows were done as a circuit.  Starting in Sydney in October, it then cruised through Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and finished in Perth in May the following year.  At each capital city, the stands varied in size according to the venue, audience and my need for the lucky rabbits foot got less and less.  In those heady pre-GFC days, marques could not get enough space to display all the range of cars they wanted and they was much argy bargy about securing enough space. Space was generally awarded based on market share but the luxury brands that were recognized as a big crowd puller, were afforded a generous space offering.

So then the GFC happened, the world exploded, ice caps melted and dodgey bankers got bailed out.  The Motor Show circuit has been trimmed from a five city circus to yearly alternating between Melbourne and Sydney.  And everyone – not just car makers – are looking closer on the return on investment and how their marketing dollar is spent.  I know some people might gasp and reach for the smelling salts when figures like $1 million dollar investment to participate in a Motor Show is thrown about but how many cars do you reckon need to be sold by a marque to recoup these costs?  For your Holdens, Fords and Mazdas, quite a few as the average car they sell is in the low to medium price range so their markup is kept pretty lean.  How many cars does it take a luxury marque to recoup their investment?  Three.  That’s right.  Three. Back in the early 90’s in Brisbane, Mercedes-Benz sold 3 cars off their stand meaning they had a positive return on investment in the low hundred thousands.  And one of those cars was a scare-the-sheep purple colour!  I don’t doubt that the same returns would be on offer today for the car markers.

What the car markers don’t want to admit is that with annual car sales exceeding pre-GFC levels, the market got savvier and more segmented.  With the rise of internet marketing, the introduction of Asia car markers into the Australian market and new niche car types like SUV’s, hybrids and so on, it has made selling cars more challenging.

So why wouldn’t a car maker use an opportunity like a Motor Show to build brand awareness and do some really cool stuff rather than treat their stand space like a glorified show room?  Ford has been doing this really well since 2010.  Their stand has been flooded with punters as they use simple, engaging interactives to explain the behind the scenes design processes and safety features.  The punters are going nuts not only getting to see the latest Ford vehicles but getting a peek behind the curtain.  Ford totally got it.  It is all about entertainment.  If people hare handing over $19 to walk through the door with parking and a Gaytime ice cream on top of that, you’d freaking well hope you have got more to offer them that a car on a polished timber floor.

Ford @ 2010 Sydney Motor Show

Mercedes-Benz also got it.  While so many of their Motor Show attendees could not afford their mid to top end range of luxury cars, there were a large number of attendees that were aspirational tradies who could purchase the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle range when it was released.  By showing it at the Motor Show and adding the Mercedes-Benz bling to the display and promotion of it, the range was guaranteed a successful launch.

I am with Russ Tyrie, the director of the Motor Show and all round nicest blokes you could ever meet.  Motor Shows have a future.  And that future belongs to marques that deliver an entertaining experience that elevates it from the typical show room presence and justifies the effort and expense punters have put into getting their butts along.

In keeping with the car theme, here is what I am blasting on my Jazz’s stereo at the moment.  Fu Manchu’s “Squash that Fly”.    I am so going to have a problem with hearing later in life but hot damn, what a way to go!

See you next week!

Holy cats, I hope so! Otherwise I have hitched my wagon to a very sick and strung out donkey.  (More on the donkey later).  I recently wrote an article for the new Aspire Magazine “Why 3D marketing matters”, and this really got me thinking, if I was wearing the client hat & heels, would I still feel paid up and passionate about trade shows? And if I was sceptical about the value of exhibition participation, what would I say to the client version of me?  I, hand on the heart, believe trade shows and exhibitions still matter and I’m not the only one:

1. Seth Godin thinks so.

Seth, dubbed “America’s Greatest Marketer” by American Way Magazine was interviewed by Dave Egan on his blog “The International Centre for Exhibitor and Event Marketing” about his take on the trade show and event industry. While he feels that trade shows will suffer in relevance within 10 years due to online engagement, he acknowledges there is a great opportunity for the industry to drive the change and benefit from it.  A number of my clients are already using social media as part of their entire trade show participation including pre-show marketing, promotions running during the event and post show follow up.  The exciting thing about this the show that use to last only a couple of days, now has a lifespan well beyond the trade show floor, making the reach and penetration of trade shows that much more powerful.

But…(and there is always a cautionary tale)

The trade show industry will decline if we stay stuck with the current format of row after row of booths that all look the same, are staffed by the same disinterested sock puppet who drinks the free coffee from other stands and is only interested in texting his mates for the booze up at the lap dance palour later that night.

2. The government thinks so.

In a move to update New South Wales aging exhibition and convention precinct that no one will miss  (especially the loading dock that is the size of a typical one bedder apartment), the state government is spending $1billion dollars to develop new world class facilities.   We all know that all levels governments are bleating about the bare cupboards, tightening belts and conservative fiscal policy, so why would a government find $1 billion dollars behind the back of the lounge? Uh, that would be because it is estimated that the trade show and exhibition industry contributes around $200 – $250 million dollars a year to the NSW economy.  And NSW is not the only state to get on board the trade show train.  Victoria recently added a new Convention Centre to their exhibition campus area.

 But….(the government is involved, ‘nuff said)

Because the government is involved, they will most likely sell off the operating rights to the highest bidder so they can be seen to be recouping the investment for the NSW taxpayer.  And because the winning bidder has to make money on the rights they have bought, you just know there is going to be some crazy pricing of services.  It’s already going on.  I was quoted by a venue recently the price of $224.00 per hour for an operator, a garden variety juicer and some oranges so my client could have fresh juice to offer visitors to their stand.  After my client and I had stopped laughing, checked the price and started laughing again, we decided to ditch the idea and spend the money elsewhere.  Venues will continue to miss out catering options when their pricing fails the “Are you for real?!?” test.  The venue operators shouldn’t be sharpening their axes and eyeing off the pretty golden goose.  The goose is likely to get jack of it and go find another pond to paddle in.

3. You and your fellow marketers do.

From our industry body the EEAA for the period 1st July 2011 to 31st December 2011 a survey was held across the membership base and:

  • Venues hosted 92 new events, which represents 29% of shows held.
  • Trade events had an exhibitor base of 6,621 participants, attracting 202,688 visitors
  • Consumer shows drew 699,170 visitors with 4,309 exhibitors

That’s a lot of small, medium and multinational businesses that see value in exhibitions participation.

But…(it’s not all cupcakes and unicorns)

  • 73% of the membership expect decreasing exhibitor budgets to inhibit growth in the future.

I’m not paddling the doom canoe despite that nugget of information. I figure it is a great opportunity to get creative and find unique and interesting ways to work with a more streamlined budget.  Get lean and go crazy!

I am great company with the fellow trade show supporters I have mentioned above and I’d be happy to answer any query you might have on the state of play in the exhibition industry.  Go here to get in touch or leave a comment in the section below.

Now back to the donkey…hot damn! It was not a donkey, I messed up, it was a deer in the video I was thinking of.  With bonus Josh Homme & Dave Grohl on the skins!

Enjoy and see you next week!

We all get the funks. You think you have seen it all, done it all and heard it so many times before. Nothing is new and nothing lights you up. In both the creative and marketing worlds where business life moves like the perpetual hamster wheel, seeking inspiration can be like tapping the accelerator when your car is coasting on empty. In our on demand, dialed up world it is expected that creativity and innovation will just leech from you. Sure. I have days like this. But other days are full of blank paper freak out and hair pulling inaction, trying to will the inspiration to flow through your veins.  So if you are stuck fast trying to find different ways to engage your customers, write a compelling marketing proposal for more funds or generate marketing copy that does not suck, here are my favorite inspiration sources:

 1. The Cool Hunter

So many awesome sources of designed products, advertising, commercial spaces (the list goes on) in one handy location. Will you find a well-crafted marketing plan in there? No. But you will be so awed by the creations of others you will be drawn back to your challenge at hand and commit to finding an elegant solution to your problem.

 2. Seth Godin

Sorry to be Captain McObvious here but he has rad and reality based insights into the marketing world. Dive into his juicy blog that will demand more of you and your talents as a marketer.

 3. Google it

I often type my problem area into Google such as  “how do I repatriate a continuously barking dog” or “how do I stretch too tight but kicky on sale heels” into the search field of the worlds best and free assistant. It will blow your mind how many others share that exact same problem. Talk a wander through Google’s suggestions and see how others overcome the same sticky situation you are in.

4. Paddle in a different pond

My mum Noelene knows buggar all about exhibition design but she really has pulled some gems for me over the years. From suggesting turning the design upside down, to using more green to even – hold onto your heels – adding more feathers, it does pay to go to a different source for inspiration. If all you do is rock a problem between your marketing team, then all you can expect is solutions drawn from their background and experience. I yap at everyone when I am greedy for inspiration. The gals I row with. The taxi driver who picks me up at the airport. The dude at the bakery. Cast your net wide and you will pull a smart and knowledgeable fish.

5. Marketing Magazine

Content rich site guaranteed to almost have a solution or article from someone dealing with a similar problem to yours. The case studies are great too as the words and picture combination help flesh out the solution to a tricky  marketing brief.

6. Empowering websites

Sometimes inspiration is not lacking it is the feeling of tiredness, overwhelm and downright feeling washed out and beige that sucks your mojo.  Time to fire up those websites that will kick you into gear and get you on task again.  Here are my latest finds for self actualisation: (I admit this one is not about self actualisation but the writing is laugh out loud funny and humour is a MAJOR inspiration booster)

That’s my cheat sheet for inspiration, please feel free to share your own tips in the comments section below.

Now I also visit the Church of Rock when I need to amp up and inspiration level and there is none better that the High Priest of rock, Dave Grohl.

Enjoy and see you next week! Fiona x