What Is Engagement Marketing?

Posted by Andy Keeler on August 13, 2013
Trade Show Marketing / 1 Comment

Successful trade show marketing professionals see attendees as more than just passive receivers of marketing information, but active participants in the evolution of the company they are promoting. Engagement marketing attempts to connect attendees more directly with a company and its products by encouraging active participation, honest feedback, and real dialogue. The idea is that potential customers can’t communicate with the brands themselves, they must communicate with the people associated with those brands. Gone are the days when “keeping your brand in front of the customer” was critical to your exhibiting success, since “keeping your customers engaged with real people” has proven itself to be the more successful approach by any reasonable metric.

With the advent of social media, customers are able to connect companies with the people who represent them more easily than ever before. Potential customers want to trust human beings, cooperate with human beings, and build rapport with human beings, but those desires can be leveraged to generate positive brand association and brand loyalty. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow customers to engage directly with real people at your company, which works to build trust and rapport. Contrasted with other marketing methods such as email marketing, these social media giants allow information to flow in two directions, providing more opportunity for positive experiences on both sides.

A well designed trade show display is only one part of a successful exhibiting program. Engaging your customers and encouraging them to interact directly will (hopefully) lead them to have positive experiences with your company, which will leave a much more lasting impression than one way communication.

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Putting Attendees in the Driver Seat

The expression “in the driver seat” originated with car salesmen who discovered the value of putting their customers in control of the vehicle. These salesmen discovered that potential customers were much more likely to close the deal quickly when they were allowed to experience the car to the fullest extent. The experience of being behind the wheel of a car is more powerful for the potential customer than anything a car salesman can say.

If a sense of control is important to creating confidence in a person who is looking to purchase a vehicle, how can we apply this principle to the trade show environment? The answer to this question depends on the type of products and/or services you are selling, but one fact remains consistent: You need your potential customers to experience your product first hand. Simply describing it to them or providing information about your product will not be as effective as putting the product in their hands and under their control.

If you sell software or web-based computer applications, allow your customers to use the full version of your product at demo stations within your booth. By letting them experience the interface of your product first hand, they are much more likely to make a purchasing decision on the spot. Even the most effective brochure or sales pitch will leave the potential client with questions and doubts.

If you sell physical products (such as machines, gadgets, tools, or equipment), allow your potential customers to hold the product in their hand. If possible, allow them to use the product in an application similar to the way they would use the product in the real world. The tactile sensation of handling your product and using it in a practical application will reinforce a purchasing decision in your customer’s mind.

Trade shows are so successful because they afford companies the opportunity to meet their customers and potential customers face to face. If you only provide brochures, sales pitches, and branding material, you are not taking full advantage of the face to face interaction. You can send your customers brochures, sales pitches, and branding material by email, so why do that in person? The best way to take advantage of direct marketing is to put your products in the hands of your potential clients. You will be amazed with the results.

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Balancing Professionalism and Personality

No two companies are exactly alike, and every company requires a unique marketing strategy. Balancing professionalism and personality is a challenging task for a new company, but finding that balance could yield big returns on your marketing efforts.

Sometimes the industry itself demands a specific approach. A company that sells life insurance will probably maintain an air of professionalism, while a company that sells toys for young children would do well to create a more approachable feeling. As a result, companies are often forced into a particular mold that they cannot escape without doing irreparable harm to their image.

Some industries allow for a good deal of flexibility and creativity. As you shop for trade show displays, you’ll probably notice that exhibit retailers employ a wide variety of marketing styles. On some websites you’ll find pictures of staff members and their families and other personal touches, and on other websites you’ll find a rigid, corporate, and impersonal style. As a general rule, when there is less market research data available in a specific industry, marketing strategies tend to vary wildly. Companies tend to cling to something that works instead of asking themselves what works the best.

Striking a balance between professionalism and personality should leave your clients with the feeling that you are dependable, honest, and capable. Every industry is different, and you may need to be more professional or more personal to get the best results, but the only way to find out for sure is through trial and error.

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Industry Leadership

An industry is a group of companies that operate with the same end-users in mind. For example, the trade show materials industry is comprised of all the companies that are working to sell trade show displays and exhibiting accessories to a group of people who can be collectively referred to as exhibitors. The strongest companies always find themselves in a leadership role within their industry, while weaker companies spend most of their energies imitating the strategies of the stronger companies in an attempt to catch up.

Trade show marketing is no different. If you find yourself planning your trade show exhibit by trying to model your booth after one of your best competitors, you will probably find that your industry-leading competitor will have further distanced itself by the time you’ve adequately mimicked their exhibiting system. In order to take a leadership role in your industry, you need to step away from industry standards and norms and take a long, hard look at what end-users are looking for. Once you understand your client’s profile, you’ll have a clear picture of what marketing steps to take. Instead of merely copying your competitors marketing efforts, you will be able to define your own presence and set the tone for your industry. Your display may take an entirely different shape and style than any of your competitors, but that won’t matter if your look is exactly what clients have been searching for.

One way to spot a dying company is to look for responsive marketing practices. Do you ever wonder why Microsoft doesn’t respond to Apple’s constant jabs about the inferiority of Windows PCs? The reason is simple: Microsoft holds over 80% of the market share, and responding to Apple’s marketing efforts would legitimize them. While marketing campaigns should be flexible enough to respond to changing competitive environments, they shouldn’t be focused entirely on tearing down competitors. A marketing strategy that directly attacks competitors in an unskilled or tactless way only serves to legitimize your competition, and may actually drive customers away who want to find out what it is about your competitor’s business model that has you in such a tiff.

When planning your next event, think carefully about what will interest your potential clients. If possible, try to take your thinking outside of the context of what other players in your industry are doing. If everyone else in your industry is making unnecessarily large profit margins, your company will have a lot of success by offering lower prices. If your industry lacks a recognizable brand name, improve your packaging and placement to put your logo in the minds of your potential clients. If your industry is like most, there is plenty of room for improvement. Can you ever improve as a company if you’re constantly copying ideas and responding to the work of your competitors?

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Basics of Marketing

Posted by Lindsay Jenkins on October 23, 2008
Business Information, Trade Show Information, Trade Show Marketing / No Comments

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make before going to a trade show is showing up without a marketing objective. Marketing is a key part of business that companies can often loose site of what a good marketing strategy is and how it can be measured. Everyone considers the definition of marketing as something different. When some people think of marketing, they think of sales. Others may think of marketing research, products, and pricing. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

Effective marketing requires a company to identify the need and desire for a good and service. You have to present a value to the customer that your product or service is the one they should use to fulfill that need. This is where trade show marketing can be a very important part to a company’s marketing objective.

At tradeshows, if you choose the correct show to exhibit at, your company or organization is in front of customers who have a desire to fulfill a need that your company offers. During the show, excellent promotion and sales is your key to success by informing consumers of your organization’s product or service and convincing them of its ability to fulfill their needs and desires.

The second key to marketing is relationships. Today organizations should no longer be looking for a one time exchange with customers. Building relationships is vital to your marketing strategy for three reasons. First, companies have recognized that customers have become much more demanding in that they desire excellent service, support and quality. Consumers want the best service and support, quality product, a competitive price and ease of purchase.

Second, they want a product that can be personalized for their exact need or want. Customers like to see something that can be molded to fit their need rather than a generic product. The one key way to find out what customers need is to build a relationship. You will be amazed what you can find out from consumers just from a simple conversation.

The third reason relationships are important, is it is much more cost effective to retain your customers than look for new ones.  Although sometimes you might think that you spend so much money just trying to keep your customers happy or satisfied, this definitely outweighs the other option of spending money on advertising to find a new ones.

Before you go to your trade show, make sure you are exhibiting where your target marketing is present, your company has a strong marketing objective that will build value to your product or service, and you are ready to build relationships that will lead to a successful business.

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B2B Marketing Budgets

Posted by Andy Keeler on September 08, 2008
Trade Show Marketing / No Comments

According to Cahners Advertising Research Reports, business to business marketing efforts are primarily focused on trade publications and trade shows. At MODdisplays, we believe that trade shows are a valuable resource for businesses, and the continued growth of the trade show industry is great news for us. Take a quick look at the way B2B marketers spend their money:

•    Trade magazines 23%
•    Trade Shows 18%
•    Direct Mail 10%
•    Promotion/Market Support 9%
•    Dealer/Distributor Materials 5%
•    General magazine advertising 6%
•    Internet/electronic media 9%
•    Directories 5%
•    Telemarketing/Telecommunications 3%
•    Publicity/Public Relations 7%
•    Market Research 4%
•    Other 1%

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Business Card Swapping

For decades professionals have found business card swapping to be a useful way to gain new contacts at trade shows. Since you know ahead of time that potential clients and potential colleagues will be asking for your business card at your next event, you can master a few tricks beforehand that will help you make the most out of exchanging business cards. The vast majority of business cards end up in the trash can, and your goal should be to keep your business card out of the trash can.

As a general rule, you should not give your business card to just anyone. By quickly evaluating the situation, you can determine whether the person is genuinely interested in your products and/or services or if they are merely trying to collect business cards. Many people attend trade shows in order to create an email marketing list from the business cards they collect. In a recent post at LawyerCasting, the writer accurately points out that although it is common practice for spammers to create email lists from business cards they collect, giving someone your business card does not amount to opting in to an email marketing program.

Your business card should be designed with at least one side that can accept ink from a ballpoint pen. Slick, shiny business cards look great, but it has always been important for me to jot down little notes so that I can remember exactly which person is which when I go to contact them at a later date. This is especially important if you’re collecting leads at the event in the form of business cards, as it will be helpful for you to write notes on the back of your potential client’s card. When handing your card to an attendee, it may be useful to jot down what type of discount you have promised them, what type of products and/or services they are interested in, or any other particular information that you could not have printed directly on the card.

Business cards should be simple, clean, and stylish. The feel of your business card should match the overall feel of your trade show marketing program. Consistency is extremely important in any marketing program, and your business card is not an exception to this rule.Take a look at my personal business card, and you’ll see that it blends well with the overall feel of our website as well as our blog:

Andy’s Business Card

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The XRline Canopy

Modern exhibitors are interested in well-designed, packaged solutions as opposed to purchasing components from a number of different systems and combining them to work as a single unit. The structure of XRline displays is made from aluminum extrusions, which can accept a wide variety of accessories that are designed specifically to match the look and feel of your XRline booth. Whether you’re looking to showcase product, distribute literature, display multimedia, or create a demo station, you can do it all without having to resort to a random collage of exhibiting accessories.

The canopy of the XRline displays we offer is what separates it from other exhibits. Every XRline canopy comes fully equipped with pre-installed down lighting that is designed to cast the perfect amount of light on your graphics. The low-voltage, environmentally-friendly puck lighting system gives your exhibit a unique, modern look without sacrificing flexibility. As you can see in the image below, the XRline canopy will definitely make a big impact at your next trade show:

XRline Base Unit with Canopy Lighting

If you have any questions about the XRline systems we offer, give us a call at 877.663.3976 or email for more information.

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Leveraging Positive Brand Association Against Your Competitors

Posted by Andy Keeler on May 12, 2008
Exhibiting Strategy, Trade Show Marketing / No Comments

Major companies are ruthless when it comes to protecting their corporate identity. Consistency and brand recognition are important because they legitimize your company and help you to build long term relationships with your client base. In many cases, the difference between a good company and a great company is brand recognition and positive brand association. So what can you do to make your company stand out from the rest?

Apple set itself apart from competitors in the eyes of consumers using a very simple strategy. From the beginning, Apple aimed to produce high-quality products and invest in well-designed packaging. Although this strategy raises costs for the consumer, the finished product has garnered a reputation as desirable, durable, and marketable. Once positive brand association was achieved, Apple leveraged that energy into a campaign directed against its competitors. With the constant onslaught of negative Apple ads pouring in, Microsoft has been forced to sit back and stand still (acknowledging the ads or attempting to combat them would only serve to legitimize Apple’s message, but ignoring them leaves customers confused).

Exhibiting at an industry trade show is a great way to make competitors aware of your presence. It is important that your competitors perceive your company as strong and stable, because you will find that they will do a good deal of advertising for your company when they feel threatened by your company. Unlike Microsoft’s marketing team (which is actually doing a pretty decent job of combating Apple’s onslaught), your competitors won’t be able to resist legitimizing your branding efforts by attempting to attack your company. Remember that you are competing within an entire marketplace, and waging war with your most direct competitors is an indication that you are distracted from your overall goals.

Intel Trade Show Display

Intel is a great example of a company that has closed its eyes to the attacks of its competitors. The people at Intel simply put their shoulder to the wheel and push forward creating the most powerful computer processors on the market. It’s never wise to ignore your competitors, but as soon as you allow them to consume your thoughts, you’ve lost the battle. So do your best to take Intel’s strategy:

Make better products to generate positive brand association, and leverage that positive brand association to distract competitors and make them feel helpless.

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Building Your Brand

Posted by Andy Keeler on May 02, 2008
Business Information, Trade Show Marketing / No Comments

There are 6 billion human beings on this planet, and the vast majority of them would recognize Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Nike by sight. Chances are that you will never be able to elevate your company’s brand to this level of worldwide recognition, but by following some basic principles of branding you can build a strong identity for your company within your own niche market. If a potential client recognizes your company name or logo before they reach your website or dial your phone number, they are at least twice as likely to purchase your product or contract your services.


So what can you do to make sure that your company gains brand recognition within your niche market? Listed below are a few suggestions that are proven to work for companies large and small.

Suggestion #1 – Decide on your final branding images today and never change them. Many companies change their logo every time design fads change, which is an enormous mistake. You can never build brand recognition if your brand is always changing. The funny thing about design fads is that they always come full circle. If your logo is out of style today, it may be back in style tomorrow, so don’t change it.

I always recommend using a simple design with a few simple colors. The more simple and clean your design is, the less likely it is that your design will go out of style in a few years. Creating a timeless logo and sticking with it is the best way to increase brand awareness.

Suggestion #2 – Include your logo on every business-related document you possibly can. Any time it makes sense to include your logo instead of your company name, do it. This includes articles, financial documents, letterhead, envelopes, promotional literature, and catalogs. If you sell products, make sure you brand them well with your company logo. Many companies even choose to brand their employees by insisting that they wear polo shirts with the company logo on their chest. I probably wouldn’t take it that far, but be sure to use your logo once you’ve spent the time to design it.

Suggestion #3 – Promote your company’s brand at niche trade shows. There’s no better way to get your company’s brand out there in your industry than by exhibiting at a trade show. Find a trade show that caters to your target audience, and have a professional exhibit designer create a trade show exhibit that fits with your company’s brand. At the trade show, pass out business cards, promotional items, and trade show literature that is covered with your company logo. In a matter of days, everyone who is anyone in your industry will be exposed to your marketing material.

In Conclusion

Managing your company’s brand can be a daunting task. Many companies hire professional marketing firms to handle all aspects of their branding. Marketing firms understand the challenges associated with building a brand identity, and they can help you make a lasting impression on your niche market with a powerful brand portfolio.

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