03.07.2014

The Most Important Step in Marketing Your B2B Events

Dun da da dun!  At last, we've arrived at the final step of our event marketing checklist.  We hope you've enjoyed following along and maybe even learned a thing or two.  In this post we will explain exactly how to determine your event's marketing ROI.  ROI is often judged by a vague set of factors that aren't precise or even relevant to an event's bottom line.  By the time you finish reading today, you'll have the information (and a few magical equations) you need to accurately determine your event's success.  Let's do this thing.

 

Which Key Performance Indicators Matter Most to Your Business?

There are effectively two ways to determine the marketing ROI of your events:  anecdotally and mathematically.  For an anecdotal evaluation, you are simply looking to get an impression of how your event faired, relative to your initial objectives.  Were you able to increase brand awareness or enhance customer loyalty, and in what ways?  Did you increase sales or the number of leads generated?  Were you able to increase customer loyalty and provide valuable education to attendees?  Granted, this can be an imprecise way to grade an event that you’ve spent a lot of time promoting in very deliberate ways, but it does provide a valuable first impression of your results. 

For objectives like ‘improving brand awareness’ and ‘providing education’, which qualitative rather than quantitative, you might think of implementing a post-event attendee survey to calculate a more tangible measurement of your success in those areas.  If attendees respond favorably to questions about their impression of your brand and the quality of instruction, then you did well.  If they don’t, then you’ve got some things to work on.

Truly Understanding Your ROI

If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of how your marketing efforts paid off, you will need to do some math.  But don’t worry; it’s nothing you didn’t do in high school.  The bigger task is gaining access to the financial data you’ll need to perform the necessary equations.  If this information isn’t readily available, schedule time with your CFO or other powers that be so that you can be allowed access.

There’s a simple formula for determining the ROI of your events, and it can also be applied to your sales and marketing efforts in general.

 

 


Cost of Customer Acquisition (COCA):  As put in The B2B Social Media Book, “COCA is the ‘I’ in ROI.”  It is the cost to convert an account into a customer.  To calculate COCA, add up your marketing costs, including salaries, third-party contractor or agency costs (i.e., the fees for your event website, printed collateral, and any content or graphics that you didn’t create yourself), overhead (i.e., venue rental), and paid advertising.  To establish the total COCA for your business, you can also look at sales-related costs, including salaries and commissions, and operations costs (i.e., your CRM system such as Salesforce and other sales tools you may use). 

Total Lifetime Value (TLV):  TLV reflects the “R” in ROI, and refers to the average dollar amount your business receives from a customer over the lifetime of the relationship.  To accurately calculate your customers’ TLV, first find out the value of an average sale.  For a food distributor, for example, an average sale might be $750 per account per day, based on an average case price of $25 and an average order of 30 cases.  If the lifetime of an account is five years, then its total lifetime value is $1,368,750 ($750/day x 365 days x 5 years).

When analyzing an event independently from your yearlong marketing efforts, your TLV figure will remain the same but your COCA expenses will only account for the dollars spent toward your event.  Here’s an example of an ROI analysis of a food distributor’s trade show:

TLV:  $1,368,750 (factored above)

COCA:  $92,496

  • Event website:  $3,000
  • Printed materials:  $2,000
  • Third-party graphics and content:  $1,500
  • Marketing salaries during a 90-day event marketing cycle:  $24,996 (2 marketers  x  $4,166/mo  x  3 months)
  • Venue rental:  $51,000 ($1.70/sq ft  x  30,000 sq ft)
  • Miscellaneous expenses (venue wi-fi, security, swag, etc.):  $10,000

 

From the equation, you can see that this distributor had a 13.8% return on their event marketing efforts.  Whether an ROI is good, great, or below expectations will depend on the business and industry.  No matter the case, as a marketer, you always have the power to reduce COCA and increase TLV. 

Reducing COCA is relatively straightforward, and can consist of decreasing paid advertising spend in favor of organic lead generation, replacing printed materials with electronic media, and choosing a venue with more competitive rates. 

Increasing TLV is all about generating more return purchases through greater customer loyalty.  This can mean focusing more on leveraging technology and innovation at your events, providing more education and even better content at conferences and throughout the year, and creating more intimate relationships with customers through email and social media. 

Summing Up

You’ve determined your objectives, implemented your tactics, conducted your event, and then measured your results.  But as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the weary.  Because once you understand what was successful and what came up short, what else is there to do but apply your knowledge to an outline for your next event? 

So how does this ROI analysis stack up to your own?  Are there certain figures you look at that sum up the overall success of your events?  Let us know!  And in case you missed the rest of our event marketing series, you can find it here:  Step 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and 6.

 

02.19.2014

How To Market B2B Events:  Step 6

B2B events produce more data than many event planners know what to do with.  We recommend using the following steps to make your data actionable and to keep the conversation going after your customers have all gone home.  Turn your event into the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. 

1.  Review the data

A.  Evaluate registration totals

  • Online registrants vs. those that registered on-site:  Analyze accounts that registered at the event to understand why pre-registration didn’t take place.  Are your event emails not being opened?  Is the registration process on your event website clear and easy?  You can use your findings to optimize the process the next time around.  

B.  Look at attendance figures relative to last year’s numbers

  • Total customers:  Are you attracting more customers than you did last year?  What is the ratio of total customers in your database to total customers in attendance?  What can you do to get those hold-outs to attend?
  • Total prospects:  Again, how successful were you at attracting prospects to your event versus last year?  What tactics did you use to entice them and how fruitful were they?

C.  Understand your sales metrics

  • Total cases:  This figure will give you a high-level view of the transactional impact of your event.  It's put into even better context if your organization has determined an average case price.  Do you know yours?
  • Total new (non-historical) cases:  Before your event, decide if historical orders will be booked automatically upon customer arrival or if customers will need to visit each booth to place recurring bookings.  We tend to see more customer satisfaction with the former option, and vendors like it because they can focus on new products.
  • Total buyers:  Did any arrounts send individuals without purchasing authority to your event?  What can you do to ensure more buyers attend your events in the future?
  • Leads by sales region, district, and representative:  One of the single biggest complaints among trade show attendees is the lack of follow-up from vendors or the host following the event.  With that in mind, do you have a follow-up plan for customized lead fulfillment?  Identify the stakeholders in your fulfillment process and open the lines of communication before your event to make sure they are all on board.

2.  Look back at the dialogue

A.  Evaluate social media comments and conversations to uncover potential areas for improvement and ideas for future blog posts and campaigns.  

B.  Create blog posts highlighting important points from seminars, and post videos of the seminars themselves.  Add photos and videos of attendees, exhibitors, and your staff on your Facebook page and Pinterest board. 

C.  Use Pinterest to collect photos from attendees.  You can even gamify crowd-sourced submissions by awarding a prize for the photo with the most re-pins. (Tailwind

D.  Post full seminar presentations on Slideshare.  Slideshare makes it easy to embed the presentations in your blog.

By analyzing information generated before and during your event, you will gain a better understanding of what worked and what can be improved upon.  You also put yourself in better standing with your customers by listening to their words, actions, and resquests, many of which can inform adjustments to the marketing and sales strategy of your future events.

Are there any insights we missed?  What statistic is the biggest indicator of the success of YOUR events?

In the next and final post of our event marketing series, we will show you how to determine your event's ROI, including simple formulas to analyze your sales numbers.  Needless to say, your CFO will be impressed.  And in case you missed them, here are steps 1234, and 5 in our series.

 

02.03.2014

How To Market B2B Events:  Step 5

Now that you understand which event marketing tactics to leverage and how (or, if you don't, check out steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 in our series), it's time to create a schedule of your marketing actions.  We all know that planning an event can test a person’s sanity; a marketing timeline will ensure that important tasks and benchmarks are carried out without stressing you out. 

Here’s a sample: 

 

Pre-Event

  1. Establish objectives
  2. Conduct market research (Google the event)
  3. Define unique value propositions
  4. Develop event website
  • Written content
  • Graphics
  • Videos
  • Registration form and survey/questionnaire

        5.  Address on-site requirements

  • Commission guest speakers
  • Hire photographer and videographer

        6.  Monitor and engage in social media

  • Determine frequency of posts on each social media channel and begin to share event information.  [Keep in mind that a Twitter audience is accustomed to frequent posting, whereas Facebook/Google+/Linkedin followers tend to prefer fewer daily updates.]
  • Create Foursquare event check-in

At Event

        7.  Engage audience

  • Tweet key seminar takeaways as they happen
  • Respond to comments and posts on all social channels
  • Post photos and videos on Facebook and Pinterest

Post-Event

        8.  Distill and analyze

  • Review social media activity, including new followers and fans, key conversations, and total audience interactions
  • Analyze attendance, sales, leads, and survey responses

 

 

Once it's complete, distribute your timeline to all of your team members. Confirm that everyone is on the same page and is accountable for their share of the responsibility. 

In our next post, we'll talk about how to measure and share the results of your event.  Until then, we wish you happy, stress-free event planning!

 

01.17.2014

How to Market Your B2B Event:  Step 4

So far in our event marketing series, we've discussed defining an objective for your event, the importance of an event website and email  to engage attendees , and how to leverage social media.  In this post we'll discuss the role of your company website or blog, printed materials, and Google search.



1.  Your Company Website or Blog:                     

Although your focus will be primarily on your event website, your company website is likely where someone first encounters your business online.  Make use of the treasure trove event-related content by blogging about the benefits guests will receive by attending, your amazing guest speakers, the great ideas to be explored in your seminars and demonstrations, and the buzzing industry trends you will be spotlighting.  Post short video interviews with exhibitors and highlight the new products they are excited to share with attendees.  As always, include links to your event website inviting visitors to learn more and register.

2.  Printed Materials: 

A limited number of printed materials may be helpful in promoting your event, including postcards, brochures, and programs.  “Limited’ because the majority of your audience is likely well suited to online engagement, and online promotion is generally less expensive, more efficient, and better for the environment.

The materials you do print should contain the same brand voice and graphic elements as your online media, as well as your primary calls-to-action:  Visiting your event website, registering for the event, and becoming part of the social media dialogue.

3.  Search:

Have you ever Googled your event?  This is less about promotion than research, but it can certainly help you craft or refine both your strategic and tactical marketing approach.  Googling an event may surface articles, blog posts, and attendee reviews, and help you discover what people are excited about, what they took away, and what areas you may need to improve.  (Expo)


Now that we've walked through your event marketing tactics, our next post will focus on putting those tactics into a timeline.  Are we helping you do your job better or more easily?  Is there something we've missed?  We'd love to hear from you.


01.03.2014

How to Market Your B2B Event:  Step 3

2014 is the year that event marketing gets personal.  Is your strategy ready for the shift?

In a recent article, Mark Schaefer contended that while digital publishing platforms like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter have changed the way we market, they haven’t done so in the way that many experts would have us believe.  Rather than radically shifting the marketing paradigm, they have actually returned it to its roots:  People are again buying from businesses that they know and trust.

100 years ago, before the rise of mass media, people made purchasing decisions based on the quality of the merchandise, their relationship with the merchant, and the merchant’s standing in the community.  The digital platforms of today provide much the same opportunity for consumers.  As a result, they are seeking out a more personalized experience based on responsiveness, honesty, and social affinity.

Using social media to market your event means creating a more conversational, interactional dynamic with your audience.  You might be participating in not only two-way exchanges, but also three and four-way discussions as part of a string of questions or remarks.  Just be approachable, friendly, and helpful; this simple, human approach to “word-of-mouse” marketing has proven incredibly effective even for some of the biggest businesses on social media.

There are a number of different channels and tactics to consider when using social media to promote your events.  Here are our key recommendations for implementing a practical yet effective social media plan.  

An introductory word of advice:  Don't assume that you need to embrace every social network under the sun.  Determine where your audience hangs out and focus all of your effort on those networks.  If your audience is on Linkedin but not Twitter, don't spend time on Twitter.  It's that simple.

1.  Event hashtag: 

Hashtags are a way to connect conversations within social networks. Although they came to prominence on Twitter, they can now be used on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.  Google has even started to feature hashtags in search results. Create a unique hashtag for each of your events so that related posts can be easily monitored and responded to.  It will be especially helpful when you begin to analyze your interactions post-event.

You will likely want to feature the name and, for annual gatherings, the year, such as #nwfoodfest2013.  Be creative; just try to make your tag short and memorable.

2.  Twitter: 

Due to the volume of posts on Twitter, it’s advisable to tweet frequently so that your audience is sure to see your messages.

  • Tweet when registration opens and as accounts register (“Thanks for signing up, Jake’s Ice Cream Shop!”)
  • Tweet to countdown (“X days to #nwfoodfest2013, don’t forget to register!)”
  • Tweet reminders of the date and time (“Join us on March 7th from 10-6 for #nwfoodfest2013”)
  • Tweet about your guest speakers and promotions (“Don’t miss Bobby Flay’s tips for spicing up your menu!”)
  • To increase engagement and excitement, encourage live-tweeting at your event.  Stage a Twitter wall to showcase tweets with your hashtag or keywords as they’re made.  Tweetwally makes this a snap. (Convince & Convert)

3.  Facebook: 

In addition to regular reminders about your event, post teaser content like videos from your guest speakers.  This can help fence sitters commit to registering; just be sure to include links to the website.

Use contests to enhance excitement leading up to and at your event.  Give rewards to the first people to correctly answer trivia questions.  Conduct a scavenger hunt and post photos of prizes hidden around the show floor (Convince & Convert).  This can also be a great way to drive attendees to certain booths.

4.  Linkedin: 

Regularly post about your event in your ‘Updates’ stream.  Target your relevant LinkedIn Groups and provide the “what, where, and why” of attending your event.  Just be sure to link back to your event website to encourage registration.

5.  Meetup:

Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin may be the 800 pound gorillas, but don’t forget about Meetup.com.  Try partnering with a Meetup group to promote your event to its members.  Not only will you expand your network, Meetup automatically facilitates a lot of the marketing for you, including reminder emails a few days before the event. (Steam Feed)

6.  Foursquare: 

Create an event in Foursquare so that attendees can check in on their phones as they arrive.  This is a great way to generate referrals and leverage your attendees other social profiles, to which Foursquare is connected. You might also create secondary check-in locations for your seminars and demos to generate buzz around your speakers and educational opportunities.

7.  Pinterest: 

Did you know that visitors referred to your website from Pinterest will spend, on average, more than twice the amount as Facebook or Twitter referrals (Tailwind), and, according to Wishpond, 70% more than visitors from non-social channels?

As a highly visual social platform, Pinterest is ideally suited to event marketing. Not only can you pin photos, you are able to showcase videos, graphics, and even blog posts.  Partner with exhibitors to share images of their new products. Post graphics to highlight your promotions and images of your guest speakers.  Pin images of your event website and links to register.  

When designing and sharing content on Pinterest, keep in mind that 80% of its users are women (SocialFresh).  Content that appeals to a mostly female audience will likely gain more traction.

 

Stay tuned:  In our next post we'll address the role of your company website or blog, printed collateral, and search.  How are you liking our event marketing blog series so far?  Has your brain started to hurt from all of the new knowledge?  If not, we'll have to try harder! 

 

12.06.2013

How to Market B2B Events: Step 2

In our last post we shared the first step of creating a solid event marketing strategy.  This time around, we will be diving into tactics: What to accomplish with your event website and five best practices to guide your email marketing.

 

A. Event Website: 

An event website is the foundation of your promotional efforts.  The aim of the website is threefold:

1. First, it should deliver practical information about your event to attendees.  You may also wish to provide information for your sales reps and exhibitors.

  • Clearly indicate the name, date, time, location, and parking requirements.  Include a contact form or email address so that visitors can get in touch with questions.

2. Second, it should include a portal to register attendees. 

  • Online pre-registration expedites the check-in process and reduces lines the day of your event.  In conjunction with registration, it can be useful to provide survey questions to gather information about attendee/account preferences, interests, and seminar participation.

3. Third, it should get attendees excited about participating in your event.

  • Share information about guest speakers, seminars, and demonstrations.  If you are running promotions, highlight what giveaways or discounts are being offered.  Be sure to use lots of visuals like photos, videos, and call-outs to tell the story. 

 


 

B. Email:  

While email may have become something of a redheaded stepchild in the marketing universe, it continues to be one of the most effective ways to connect with an audience.  According to Experian, for every $1 spent on email marketing, $44.25 is returned.  How do you make the most of email to promote your event? (Tweet This)  We’re so glad you asked!

1. Choose your subject lines carefully:  For your emails to stand out in a crowded inbox, the subject lines must be compelling.  Here are five ways to make them inviting:

  • Use personalization:  Include recipients’ first names or locations to establish familiarity.
  • Include action-oriented verbs:  Inspire clicks by encouraging action.  Words like “Join”, “Learn”, “Visit”, “Boost”, “Gain”, and “Lead” are aspirational, and help recipients to envision themselves benefiting from your offer.
  • Make an exclusive value proposition:  Let recipients know exactly what they stand to gain by opening your message.  Are you offering, say, a 10% rebate on branded items to your attendees?  Then tell them in your subject:  “John, Attend Our Show for 10% Back On Our Brands”.
  • Be brief:  Try to limit your subject lines to 50 characters or fewer to make them easy to scan and avoid being cut off.
  • Avoid seeming “SPAMmy”:  Email spammers notoriously use certain words in their subject lines to increase open rates, and as a result email providers have begun to filter out messages that contain those words.  Avoid terms like “Cash”, “Quote”, and “Save” to make sure that your messages reach their intended audience.  And if you are wondering if your subject line could be red flagged, try using a free online testing tool like the ones from Litmus or Contactology.

(Hubspot, High Output)

2. Send messages on the weekends:  Studies show that click rates are higher on the weekends, when email volume is lower. (Adweek)

3. Send messages early in the morning or afternoon:  Engagement is highest in the mornings at 8 AM to 9 AM both for opens and click-throughs; and in the afternoons at 3 PM to 8 PM for opens, and 3 PM and 4 PM for click-throughs. (Get Response)

4. Include social sharing buttons:  Messages with social share links have a 158% higher click-through-rate (Get Response). 

5. Embed a ‘Register Now’ button:  Encourage recipients to register and gather information about your event not addressed in the email.

 


 

How are we doing so far?  Is there anything we should have added to our recommendations for an event website, or some additional/different email best practices?  What has worked for you in promoting your events?

In our next post, we'll delve into more tactics:  How and what to communicate through social media, the role of your company website or blog, printed materials, and how to leverage search.  In the meantime, we wish you happy event marketing!

 

 

11.22.2013

Marketing B2B Events:  Step 1

B2B buyers are more empowered than ever before.  Using websites, blogs, and social networks for research, it’s possible for buyers to make purchasing decisions with little to no direct contact with a seller.  For you as a seller, this makes it critical to create opportunities to establish relationships, build rapport, and earn the trust of your prospects and customers.  Hosting events—whether they are seminars, webinars, conferences, or full-blown trade shows—provides a valuable platform to connect your market.  When approached thoughtfully and strategically, they can also be an incredible medium for your business to differentiate itself from the competition. 

We’ve put together a checklist to assist the marketing efforts for your face-to-face events.  The points outlined are a combination of online and offline tactics to ensure that you reach each member of your audience in a way that suits his or her preferences and habits.  Every business is different, and no one knows better than you do what tactical mix is right for your industry and customers.  Our hope is simply to arm you with the best information to empower your decision-making.

Let’s get started.

STEP 1:  Determine Your Objectives:  Before you can market any event successfully, you must first define objectives to measure against.  The simplest way to do that is to think from the end.  After the event has taken place, what do you want to have accomplished?  Goals tend to fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Facilitating lead generation and/or sales: If there’s one thing show hosts and exhibitors can agree on, it’s the importance of lead generation and sales at events.  To generate quality leads and maximize sales, first determine your target audience.  If your events are structured around particular themes, topics, or product groupings, invite the customer and prospect demographics that are interested in that content (Marketo).  Segmenting your account database, and being selective about which accounts you invite, will increase the percentage of potential buyers in attendance and improve your ROI.  
  • Enhancing customer loyalty:  Businesses drive customer loyalty by offering unique value.  Given that for the past 25 years and counting, the #1 reason attendees have shown up at events is exposure to new products (CEIR), a big part of your value must be in showcasing the latest goods and trends in your industry.  Create loyalty by positioning your events as innovative, relevant, and up-to-the-minute.   Provide information and interactions that can’t be attained anywhere else.
  • Converting prospects into customers:  There is a recipe for turning your prospects into paying customers and you’re in a perfect position to use it at your events.  It includes one part ‘being informative’, two parts ‘being helpful’, three parts ‘being engaged’, a few big shakes of ‘establishing credibility’, and several dashes of ‘providing nurturing (not hard selling)’.  (In our experience, it also doesn’t hurt to provide the opportunity to negotiate rebates on the show floor.)
  • Improving brand awareness:  Two of the best incentives for hosting a business event are ownership of attention and the ability to communicate your brand identity holistically.   In trade publications and online, brand engagement happens alongside your competitors, who are as close as the turn of a page or the click of a link.  At events, your audience is quite literally captive.  You control the messaging, the experience, and, perhaps most importantly, the feeling (Marketo).  The feelings and ideas associated with your brand are its positioning; the emotional reason people would choose to interact with you and become a customer.  What kind of thematic graphical elements will communicate your identity and positioning effectively?
  • Providing customer education:  High-quality, highly relevant educational opportunities not only impart knowledge and skills to attendees, they also position your company as a thought leader.  When you help your customers improve their business, they begin to see you as more than just a vendor; they view you as a valuable partner who is critical to their success.

Once you understand the desired outcome of your event, you can decide which tactics will drive results.  We'll get into those tactics in our next post.  Until then!

09.10.2013

You Know You’re a Great B2B Event Planner When…

If you want to be a freediver, it’s safe to assume that you’ll need to be good at holding your breath.  Likewise, being a successful B2B event planner requires a specific set of skills--some that are learned, and others that are rooted in someone’s character or personality.  Through our collaboration on over 150 events annually, we’ve been able to deduce the five personality traits that help planners to produce the most thriving trade shows, conferences, and seminars.

In addition to outlining these traits, we’ve also provided a handful of statistics and inspirational ideas to assist in planning your next event.  We’d love to hear how we did!  Is there a trait you think should have made our list?


07.10.2013

Does Your Marketing Need More Kittens & Bacon?

Jason Miller at Marketo recently published an infographic about the fascinating, perplexing, seemingly boundless popularity of cats and bacon on the internet.  His observations are made in good fun, but suggest that marketers seriously consider getting on the kitten-bacon bandwagon to gain momentum in their campaigns. 

Could your marketing efforts be a little more cute and cuddly?  Maybe a bit greasier with just the right amount of crunch?  How would you incorporate these feline-porcine memes into your marketing tactics?  Drop us a line at info@dataconnectcorp.com and let us know.

kittens-and-bacon-why-they-continue-to-go-viral

05.29.2013

Customer Service and the Power of Social Media

Customer service has always been an invaluable asset to every business. A single interaction can bring customers back, maybe even with new business, or drive them away. Now with social media allowing anyone and everyone to share their thoughts or experiences with a simple click, customer service may become all the more important. Customers are the ones writing the reviews, posting comments, and sharing posts they have read with their friends. Word can spread very quickly, and depending on the circumstances can be a huge asset or a major setback for any business, as I myself have witnessed over the past few days.

A few days ago I was browsing my personal Facebook page when I came across a status update that had been shared by one of my friends with the simple message, “Hope her business crumbles…”. I was curious what had happened to cause such a reaction, so I read the rather long status update. To sum it up, the original poster had been in a spa with her friend when a mother brought her young son in for a haircut. He was upset and crying, obviously a little scared, but was not bothering anyone. She thought it was a normal and understandable reaction for any 2 ½ - 3-year-old child getting his hair cut, and mentioned the music being loud enough to cover most of the noise anyway. 

A woman then approached the mother and child and began to scream at them, telling the mother that her son was out of control and she could not have behavior like that in her business. She continued to berate her for a period of time, the rest of the spa patrons and employees watching in horrified silence. When she had finally finished yelling, the mother, who was now crying, apologized and said, “I’m so sorry, he’s autistic.” The woman, who turned out to be the owner of the spa, still made them leave. The hair stylist followed them out and finished cutting the boy’s hair on the front lawn of the building.

While the story itself was shocking enough, what I found even more surprising was how quickly her status had gone viral. The rest of the online community seemed to share her feelings about the incident and the owner’s unacceptable treatment of the customer. Since the original post on Sunday morning, just three days ago, the status update has been shared over 35,000 times. The spa’s Facebook page was flooded with hundreds of angry posts and reviews not just from local residents, but from people all over the country. It was receiving so much negative attention that the company was forced to shut down the page. Review sites like Yelp are also being used to spread the word about the incident, with recent reviews from users in seven other states. There have also been multiple stories on local news stations and websites, all citing the outraged customer’s Facebook status. 

The owner’s attorney released a statement Tuesday afternoon stating that the owner’s actions were appropriate due to safety concerns, and even went on to say that the Facebook post was inaccurate. There was no apology anywhere in the statement. Instead, the attorney decided to go on the offensive, saying, “The spa regrets that some have taken this incident as an opportunity to malign both the integrity of spa ownership and the spa's excellent business reputation, but out of respect for all parties involved, the spa will have no further comment at this time.” Not surprisingly, the statement was not received well. While an apology may not have made the problem go away, based on the comments the story has received it may have at least helped to ease some of the hateful backlash towards the owner.

The woman who posted the original status update did not know the mother prior to that day at the spa. The friend of mine who shared the status does not know the original poster, nor do I. I’m sure the majority of the people who have shared that post had never even heard of the original poster or the mother before. Yet in just three days, people all over the country know their story and have vowed to never visit that spa.

This is a perfect example of the power of social media, even if it is a negative one. A small business in a small town can go from virtually unknown to hated by people across the country in a matter of days. Even if the spa does manage to come out of this and get back on track, the damage has been done and it may never see the success it had in the past. Applying the spa’s lesson to your own business, it’s clear that impeccable customer service is a must at all times.  Customers and the online community have unprecedented power to control the message about your business, and it’s vital that their message be a positive one.  In the event there is a customer service slip-up, always, ALWAYS apologize, even if you defend your position in the process. You never know who might post about it.

Christine Haynes

chaynes@dataconnectcorp.com

04.19.2013

Of the Many ‘Takeaway’ Lists From Social Media Marketing World, This One is the Best

Or, You Know You Are a Marketing Nerd When You Get Star Struck Seeing Jay Baer Stepping Off The Party Bus. 

Earlier this month, the Data Connect marketing team descended upon sunny San Diego to attend Social Media Marketing World.  Hosted by Social Media Examiner, the conference provided three days of expert-led seminars covering everything from LinkedIn to likability.  Speakers included the aforementioned Jay Baer, as well as Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Mari Smith, Joe Puluzzi, Sally Hogshead, and Dave Kerpen, to name a few.  A thousand community managers, marketers, PR reps, and bloggers attended the conference; as one speaker aptly noted, if the ship were to sink during the networking cruise, the social media industry would never be the same again.

For those of you who weren’t able to attend, we’ve put together a shortlist of our biggest takeaways.  They do not include “Bring a coat to the keynotes because the room will be just shy of freezing” or “Be prepared to cry over a video about rice—yes, rice—during Dave Kerpen’s presentation on creating a relatable brand “, though they could.

Off to the races!

1.  Go Where Your Customers Are

Don’t spend time on social networks that your customers and prospects don’t use.  So often these days, businesses assume that they need to be present everywhere; this is something we are a bit guilty of ourselves.  They just unveiled platform to create even fuzzier-looking pictures?  Sign us up!  There’s a new network for sharing upside-down 2-second videos?  We’d better get the camera!

But does omnipresence really translate to more new leads?  Isn’t it better to focus on a few key networks with a solid strategy than to spread yourself thin trying to be everywhere? 

2.  Think About Podcasting

Right now you’re probably wondering if you just went through a time warp back to 2009.  As far as we know, there hasn’t been a rift in the space-time continuum, but there certainly has been a renaissance in podcasting for businesses. 

Unlike other content, podcasts have the ability to be experienced while the listener does other things.  Visual content like video, blog posts, and photos requires dedicated attention.  Podcasts, on the other hand, are well suited to our multi-tasking way of life.  They can be listened to while working, driving, exercising, or taking out the trash.  They go where other content can’t, and give marketers a unique opportunity to reach an audience in a way that fits busy schedules and diverse lifestyles.

3.  Newsletter Sign-Ups Trump Followers

This one kind of blew our minds.  Like many marketing teams, we spend a lot of time focusing on likes, follows, re-tweets, mentions, and every other social metric we can analyze.  But, at least according to Chris Brogan, there are only two metrics that matter:  Newsletter sign-ups and dollars in your bank account. 

For Chris, social metrics are just noise, and don’t often correlate to sales.  Getting someone to sign up for his newsletter tends to be a truer indicator of an individual’s position in the sales funnel, and actually leads to new business. 

That said, in order to get folks to sign up, you need A) A newsletter (just stating the obvious), B) content to share on your social networks that drives people back to your website or landing page, and C) a strong call to action on your site or landing page encouraging visitors to sign up for your daily/weekly/monthly missives.

Final thoughts:

By the time the conference drew to a close, we had added approximately 42,000 things to our marketing agenda, including a few of the items on this here list.  While our collective head still hurts from idea overload, we appreciate the opportunity to have participated in such a great learning experience, which showcased a diverse array of personalities and perspectives.  As a company that helps to manage 150+ events annually, we were impressed that this one is just in its first year.  Hats off to the team at Social Media Examiner and Right Hand Events.  Job well done.

If you are interested watching the sessions from the conference, you can buy a virtual ticket here.  You may also want to see what people are chatting about on Twitter by searching #SMMW13.  Word has it that SME has already started planning the 2014 event.  Hope to see you there!

 

03.01.2013

5 Lessons for Your First 60 Days Active in Social Media

Your kids are doing it; your in-laws are doing it; heck, even the (former) Pope is doing it. Social media has forever changed the way we connect with each other, particularly in business.  Traditional marketing alone no longer cuts it; inbound tactics that emphasize education and relationship building are becoming the new standard. 

With new event and trade show software on the way in 2013, we decided that it was high time to commit to an inbound marketing plan to extend our reach and strengthen relationships with our existing clients.   To highlight what we’ve learned so far, and to assist those of you wondering how to begin integrating social media into your marketing strategy, we’ve created a list of our five biggest lessons. 

But before we get to that, let’s first define what we mean by “active”, as referenced in the title of this post.  “Active” means daily social media engagement.  Most importantly, weekly (or in our case, bi-weekly, for now) updates to the company blog, and daily posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social profiles. Although entertainment is a vital social media component, that doesn’t mean sharing funny cat pictures or quotes from Jersey Shore. Content is everything in the digital realm and should be tailored to your ideal buyer persona(s) in order to achieve your desired effect.

Now, on with the show!

1.  Start from the End:  First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand what you intend to accomplish through social media.  For us, it was about connecting with the communities we serve (show hosts, event planners, marketers) to drive brand awareness and to promote a new product, with the ultimate goal of cultivating leads and strengthening existing client relationships.  This tends to be a pretty common scenario for businesses engaging in the social sphere. 

If you’re having trouble determining your social media goals, you might ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you hoping to generate leads at a lower cost than traditional marketing?  (First, you should know how to calculate your social media ROI.  Here’s some helpful reading.  And more here.)
  • Are you looking to promote your content and increase visitors to your website or blog? 
  • Are you intending to manage customer service through social channels? 

Starting with a clear understanding of your desired outcome will help you track your progress, revise your tactics, and perhaps even reevaluate your goals. 

2.  Know Your Audience:  Social media output should be made-to-measure for a target audience or buyer persona.   Each of our profiles is directed at a different constituent group, which means that we must curate content accordingly.  

Key questions to consider:

  • Who are you targeting and how do they consume content?  Do they prefer Facebook to Twitter?  Video to pictures?  What types of information are they interested in, outside of your product or service? 
  • Who in your industry influences your audience?  How do you connect with those influencers, and particularly those who might promote your content?

3.  Use Automation:  Finding the right tools to help manage your efforts will ensure your consistency, responsiveness, and sanity.  We use a couple of different applications:  Buffer and HootSuite.

Buffer is designed to make sharing easier and timelier on your social networks.  We mainly use it for Twitter.  It allows us to build a daily posting schedule and queue up posts as we go.  Posts are made steadily throughout the day; no bombarding followers with half-a-dozen posts followed by 24 hours of radio silence.  One of the coolest features is the browser plug-in.  By clicking the Buffer button on your browser, any page on the internet becomes sharable.   Buffer even shortens the url for you.  We like it a lot.

For more extensive social media management, HootSuite is one of the best applications out there.  It aggregates all of our social profiles in one place, providing better visibility and the convenience of not having to go into each platform to get the latest insights.  We can see who has messaged or mentioned us on Twitter, what events we have coming up on Facebook, and what updates are being made in our LinkedIn network.

4.  Don’t Be Shy:  It can be daunting to start making those first posts and to respond to articles or discussions.  What will people think?  What if we sound stupid?  What if we say the wrong thing? 

Most social media experts agree that it’s authenticity, rather than perfection, that paves the path to success.  Sometimes authenticity means being unpolished and imperfect.  Knowing just the right thing to say might not be as important as simply being present.  People like to know that there is a real person behind the avatar--someone humble and honest with whom they can identify.  And, yeah, sometimes a few feathers will get ruffled or something backfires.  But staying true to one’s beliefs and owning up to mistakes will go a long way toward creating intimacy with an audience.  So, start conversations, respectfully and professionally speak your truth, and know that everyone else in the social space has been in your position at one point in time.  We’re in it as we speak! 

5.  Have Fun: There’s a reason that a billion people have a Facebook account and 500 million are on Twitter.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not because social media is boring.  As a marketing team, we have never enjoyed ourselves or learned as much as we have in the past two months.  We’ve developed new marketing tactics, been introduced to some amazing experts in the social media field, gotten more in touch with what matters to professionals in the industries we serve, and have already seen some awesome results for our business.  Among other things, visitors to our website have increased by 75%.  That’s 75% in just 60 days!  There are, of course, some intangible factors that contributed to those gains, and some visitor behavior that we aren’t able to track, but we can’t help but attribute the improvement in large part to our social media activity.  What’s more fun than real results?

We hope that you found this post fun and informative, and encourage you to reach out with questions or to discuss what you will be doing to market your business in the year to come.  Call us at (303) 840-7477 or send us an email at info@dataconnectcorp.com.  And need we remind you to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?  Come join the conversation!

      

 

And MarketMyShow on Twitter!

      

 

02.15.2013

Combating Food Waste in the Supply Chain

Food waste is a global epidemic. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) recently published a report on the issue, revealing that of the approximately four billion metric tons of food produced each year, “30-50% (or 1.2-2 billion tonnes)… never reaches a human stomach.” Besides the obvious issue of wasted resources, this also poses a problem as the global population continues to rise. The United Nations predicts that the population will reach 9.5 billion by 2075—an increase of approximately three billion from today’s figure. With 870 million people currently battling starvation on a daily basis (Source: State of Food Insecurity in the World, FAO, 2012), programs must be developed to ensure that the number doesn’t increase as the population grows.

So why exactly is half of the food produced each year being thrown away? According to IMechE, the primary causes are poor harvesting practices, storage and transportation inefficiencies, and market and consumer misuse. These causes vary between various population groups, specifically:

  • Third World and Developing Nations (Africa, China). In these societies, “wastage tends to occur primarily at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain.” Due to less developed methods of harvest and transport, produce is damaged or goes bad before it can be sold.
  • Developed Nations (Europe, United States). Food waste tends to occur at the retail and/or consumer level in these societies. Marketing and appearance is more important to this demographic, so produce that does not meet certain aesthetic standards is thrown away, even when suitable for consumption. Buying in bulk is also a popular practice in these countries, allowing consumers to purchase large and often impractical quantities at a discounted price. Between 30% and 50% of food purchased in developed countries is thrown away.

How do we combat this issue now, before it gets even more out of control? IMechE has some recommendations:

  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization should work with engineers worldwide to establish better food storage and transport practices in developed countries, aimed at improving the percentage of produce that makes it to market.
  • Developed societies should change the way they market to customers. Instead of focusing predominantly on the look of the product, they should shift the focus to quality. Consumers should be encouraged to only purchase what they need, rather than buying produce in bulk.
  • Developing societies should take transportation and storage into account when creating their supply chain infrastructure.

Solving the problem of food waste is not just up to government organizations. What are some things that we as businesses in the supply chain can do to help?

  1. Grocery stores can offer more sales focused on items with upcoming expiration dates, instead of sales based on the quantity of a product purchased. This will move product before it has to be thrown away, and doesn’t encourage consumers to purchase more than they need.
  1. Vendors at food industry trade shows can donate all leftover samples to a local shelter, rather than throwing them away.
  1. Distributors can institute programs to eliminate overstock and short-coded merchandise.  In doing so, they can mitigate loss on the products, and provide helpful discounts to business owners, who can then pass along wallet-friendly prices to consumers.

What other ways can you think of to help prevent food waste? Is there anything you are currently doing to take on this issue? Send us your ideas! We can be reached at (303) 840-7477 or info@dataconnectcorp.com.

01.30.2013

Interview with Gina Rackers, Menu Maker Foods

We have awesome clients at Data Connect.  In our trade show division, we get to work with talented and savvy show hosts to implement ordering, registration, and other marketing services at their events.  In order to take advantage of this vast pool of knowledge, we will be publishing a series of interviews with especially high-performing show hosts throughout the year.   These individuals have agreed to share some of their tactical insights, tips, and tricks for running successful events. 

Our first interview is with Gina Rackers, Director of Marketing at Graves Menu Maker Foods, Inc.  Headquartered in Missouri, Graves Menu Maker Foods has partnered with Data Connect for its events since 2007.

Hi Gina!

  • Can you provide a brief professional bio?  My bio is pretty brief!  I came to Menu Maker right after finishing college. That was in December 2003, and I started as a marketing specialist.  I worked with my mentor Ken Goodwin, who introduced Menu Maker to Data Connect.  When Mr. Goodwin took a position closer to his hometown, after a few position transfers, I took on his role in the marketing department.
  • What are you doing to attract attendees and, even more importantly, buyers, to your events?  First of all, we have a phenomenal sales force.  They have relationships that you just can’t duplicate.  Customers want to come to learn how to run their business better. We have deals on the show floor.  And we have entertainment.  So it’s not just a place where you come to buy food; you can learn and be entertained all in the same day.
  • What tactics have been successful in generating new business and greater revenue at your shows?  We like to show new items through the suppliers, and place incentives on them.  We partner with suppliers to dig down into what customers are currently buying to see if there might be something better or more versatile to fit their business.
  • Which event trends do you think will fall by the wayside in 2013? Which do you simply wish would go away?  We try to stick with classic style in our events, which our customers appreciate.  We theme our show differently every year, and our products are different, but we try to stick with what works.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  What works works.

        However, the downward trend in the economy could go away in 2013!

  • Which trends do you think will play an important role in 2013?  Utilizing our [data] and analyzing it in such a way that we are able to offer the customer better, more targeted opportunities at the event would be our biggest push in the new year.
  • Is there a saying or philosophy that you abide by in your professional life?  Since I was born and raised in my professional life here, there is a saying that Mr. Graves [John L. Graves, founder of Menu Maker Foods] passed down to us:  “If you are too big to do the small things, then you are too small to do the big things.”  We are a family here so that kind of rocks us to our core.

Thanks for the great responses Gina!  And thanks for being such a great customer!

Stay tuned for more customer interviews throughout 2013.  As always, we are here to provide you with the tools and information you need to run your best event ever.  Please reach out if there is anything, big or small, that we can do for you.  You can reach us at (303) 840-7477 or info@dataconnectcorp.com.

Visit Menu Maker Foods at www.menumakerfoods.com.

 

01.15.2013

Three Little Words:  Our Goals for 2013

Since Data Connect began its partnership with GGOB last year, we have been more goal-oriented at all levels of the company. From personal goals to transform spending and revenue, to department-level mini-games, individuals at Data Connect have made a serious effort toward the overall betterment of the company. But, aside from goals set by employees and teams, what are Data Connect’s goals as an organization?

Because each department as well as individual employees have their own goals for 2013, it is difficult to merge them into something that can easily be applied to the company as a whole. Which is why when we came across Chris Brogan’s Three Word concept, we were all over it. The idea is that if you pick a few specific things to focus on each year, you are more likely to be successful in achieving both personal and professional goals. These three areas of focus may have layered meanings and thus several desired results, but having a single word that defines the intention helps to ensure greater success. 

So, what are Data Connect’s Three Words for 2013?

1.  Investigate

Data Connect is exploring new markets and rolling out products that meet new demands. To ensure we are going in the right direction, we need to make sure we’ve done adequate investigative work. First of all, which businesses would benefit from these products/services? Can we stay within our current customer base, or do we need to research businesses or services that are completely new to us? If we can first identify who would benefit from these new products, we can better understand how they should function to be of the greatest benefit.

Once we determine whom we are supplying these new products to, we can then determine how to supply them. We have begun to increase our inbound marketing focus, utilizing social media to a greater extent than in the past. Because our new products are web-based, we need to determine to what degree our marketing strategy will focus on online tactics versus how much we rely upon the traditional outbound sales approach. Understanding our target customers and how they do business will help us make informed decisions all around.

Finally, we need to determine whom from that target audience we want to engage with beyond the typical provider-customer relationship. Who is a thought leader in their field? Who is involved in projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities; projects that we may want to participate in, as well? We want to find customers who are more than just customers – true partners in business.

2.  Serve

Our second word for 2013 is a continuation of “Investigate”.  One of our goals is to serve our customers to the best of our ability. To truly serve, in this sense, means to enhance our customers’ businesses. As previously stated, Data Connect strives to be a partner to its clients. So this year, we want to improve our customer service by focusing on the core elements of our clients’ businesses: What are their goals, and how can we help to achieve them? Are there areas they are struggling with that we can assist with in any way?  Maybe we can’t help with everything, but perhaps there is another service provider that can assist with certain objectives?  The point is to leave no stone unturned. We truly believe that if our clients are successful, we are too. 

3.  Engage

Data Connect has always endeavored to stay involved with the community, whether it be participating in Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or helping to raise money for our local animal shelter. This year, we hope to step up our efforts in this area. Admittedly, we were less involved in outreach in 2012 than in previous years, so we want to get back on track in 2013 and get more engaged than ever.

In addition to increasing our involvement within our own community, we would also like to be more involved with the communities of our customers. If a customer is passionate about a cause we would like to contribute to, why not work together and double our efforts? And who knows, maybe if we help our customers in their community engagement, they will be willing to help us out with some of our endeavors, as well.  That’s a winning scenario for all involved, especially the cause being championed.

The Three Words philosophy is a new one for us. We are excited to see how these simple words serve as signposts throughout the year, and look forward to seeing our goals come to fruition. So now it’s your turn. What are your Three Words for 2013, and what do they mean to you? Tell us your ideas! We're available any time at either (303) 840-7477 or info@dataconnectcorp.com.

 

 

 

01.07.2013

5 Network Requirements When Using Trade Show Software

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has published a white paper about Wi-Fi and mobile bandwidth challenges in the events industry.  Highlighted in the paper are the difficulties faced by event organizers, exhibitors, attendees, and venues relative to the connectivity demands imposed by today’s Internet-dependent trade events. 

Today at a trade show, numerous types of Internet connections are being utilized.   A venue may have its own network infrastructure, with free Wi-Fi in public spaces and paid wireless and hard-wired connections in the exhibition halls; exhibitors may be availing themselves of service provided onsite or using their cell phones as a wireless hot spot in order to circumvent the fees imposed by the venue; attendees are likely connecting with their smart phones, laptops, and tablets to multiple access points throughout the venue.  

So why does this matter to you?  Because with an increased number of wireless users on the show floor, there are greater opportunities for network interference, slow connection speeds, and diminished application usability.  This fact is all the more important when critical aspects of an event hinge on strong network performance.

Running events in as many venues as we do, Data Connect is entrenched in the area of Wi-Fi and network connectivity.   When we provide our trade show software on Point-Of-Sale terminals or tablets to manage ordering at show, we implement our own wireless network infrastructure to manage the data.  As such, we work with a venue’s network service provider to ensure the optimal performance of our system.  We’ve invested in some of the most comprehensive signal monitoring software available today, which allows us to track connection strength and make adjustments to the data load carried by each of our access points. 

Even with the right tools and best practices we’ve learned over the years, network infrastructure is one of the most complicated aspects of what we do.  Beyond the technology itself, we sometimes encounter the costs associated with working in a venue with its own systems in place, and the conflicting goals of different parties involved in staging an event.   Being at the intersection of our clients, their venue, and their venue’s network provider, is sometimes a tricky spot to be in, but we always endeavor toward a winning scenario for all involved.

Below are five things relative to network requirements that we believe you should consider as you begin to plan your next show.

  1. Rental Fees Are Negotiable.  Try to negotiate network fees into your venue rental contract.  When utilizing trade show software that requires strong, uninterrupted connectivity to manage core components of your event like registration, lead generation, and ordering, it is imperative that your venue and its network provider work to accommodate your requirements.   Negotiating connection fees or a full network buyout is best done up front during contract negotiations, when a venue is still working to secure your business.
  1. Hotspot or Not?  A large number of wireless hotspots (20+) on a show floor can cause trouble for your trade show software or data management system.  If possible, keep an eye on how many exhibitors, sales reps, and attendees are using their smart phones as a hot spot to connect to the Internet, or restrict Internet connectivity to what’s available via your venue’s network provider.  Working alongside a venue’s infrastructure is much easier than working around each individual’s personal wireless connection.
  1. Video Relay.  Many professional video cameras use wireless technology to relay footage back to a computer or storage device.  If you are using a service provider that employs a wireless network to manage your orders, registration, or key marketing activities, be sure to keep cameras a safe distance from the show floor, or at least attempt to capture video at non-peak hours.
  1. Size Matters. The size of your convention hall relative to the number of attendees on the floor at any one time is an important detail to discuss with your venue and trade show software provider.  (Thank you for your patience during the following nerdy technical moment: ) Certain wireless standards (802.11b, 802.11g) are good for covering large distances with few access points (APs), but aren’t so good when their signal encounters water or water-based objects (i.e. people).   If possible, verify that your trade show system is using the ‘802.11a’ standard or, if that’s not an option, that an adequate number of APs is being used to maintain a strong signal throughout the hall. 
  • Fun Fact:  In addition to being utilized less frequently than the ‘b’ and ‘g’ standards, ‘802.11a’ also gives wireless devices a large number of channels to choose from, which further reduces the opportunity for interference.
  1. Wireless is environmental.  If your hall is unconventionally designed, intersected by multiple large columns or beams, in an all-metal enclosure, or located at the bottom of the sea, be sure to plan accordingly.  Because no two environments are exactly alike, it’s important that your trade show system provider be granted ample time to configure its infrastructure to meet the unique circumstances of your event.  Like number 1 above, this is something best researched early on in the planning process. 

We hope this post has given you some food for thought as you think about your next show.  Please reach out if we can answer any questions about network connectivity at trade events or how you can most effectively (and painlessly) ensure a satisfactory experience for yourself and all of your constituents.   As always, Data Connect remains committed to delivering your best show ever.  Give us a call at (303) 840-7477 or drop us an email at info@dataconnectcorp.com.

12.27.2012

An Interview with CEO Tim Hobbs

Here's one from the archives:  A 2005 video interview with Data Connect's CEO Tim Hobbs about its document management systems and Show Expert Systems trade show software.  Ah, memories... 

 

12.17.2012

Virtual Shows & the New Look of Face-to-Face Events

2012 has been an interesting year to be in the trade show software business.  The industry is in transition, with show hosts, exhibitors, and attendees questioning the value of large events, and some even doubting the sustainability of physical events all together.  In this article we will examine the relevance of face-to-face trade shows in an increasingly digital age, and how virtual technology is augmenting show organizers’ exhibition strategies.  Our hope is to provide insights that inform your event planning going into the new year, and give you something to discuss with your associates at the (literal or online) water cooler.

Right now, getting a clear picture of what’s happening in the trade show industry is difficult.  Depending on whom you talk to, the industry either had a banner or lackluster year in 2012.  CEIR, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, reported in September the eighth consecutive quarter of growth, citing more companies exhibiting, increased attendance figures, and, by extension, more buyers on the show floor (CEIR, September 2012).  This, after the nose dive experienced following 2008’s recession and the subsequent economic slump. 

These and other findings aside, some trade show professionals aren’t convinced.   They argue that the physical model has become obsolete, with travel costs on the rise, carbon footprints to consider, and geographic sales barriers overcome with the aid of the Internet.

Because we operate in both sides of the physical/digital divide at Data Connect, we’ve been able to glean a unique understanding of the current landscape, which can help put these arguments into perspective.  To begin, we’ve observed a number of changes over the past 12 months, including:

  • More companies are moving toward numerous small events and regional shows, tailored around specific products and audiences.  The strategy behind this shift is a logical one:  It allows show hosts to focus on new and promoted products with smaller audiences in order to capture new sales at a lower cost, thereby increasing margins.
  • Many businesses are putting more emphasis on virtual shows and promotions.  Much like smaller, more tailored physical events, virtual shows allow hosts to focus on key items with a smaller, more targeted audience, for less than the cost of a large physical event. Sales figures are rarely comparable to a physical event due to fewer products offered and the limitations of a company’s sales force to place orders online or adequately promote the event to their customer base.  But the lower cost of the event can mean a more easily attainable ROI.     

Which brings us to the next point:  No matter how you slice it, digital marketing has a few things going for it that face-to-face marketing events simply don’t:

  • Cost:  Virtual events have low to no overhead.  Since they are hosted online, show hosts forego venue rental, electrical and decorator charges, travel and hotel accommodations, and network fees. 
  • Immediacy:  What takes months or years of planning in the physical world can often be executed digitally in a matter of hours or days.  Virtual events can be planned and carried out quickly, and can capture sales like a physical trade event.  They are especially effective for targeted promotions and product launches.
  • Rich, Granular Metrics: Digital marketing has created more opportunities for data analysis than any marketing approach before it.  Marketers and event planners are able to evaluate each impression, click, and conversion; every visitor, page view, page rank, geo-target, open, bounce, referral, friend, like, pin, and reblog, in order to determine the ROI of a campaign.  With trade shows, there are only a few numbers that matter:  attendees, buyers, sales, and leads.  For underperforming shows, this limited data set can make it difficult to know how or where to make adjustments for future events.   

On the other hand, physical events do have benefits that are hard to replicate in a virtual environment.

  • Trust-building:  Most buyers don’t want to make large purchases online.  Prior to making a long-term commitment or buying something substantial or complicated like a refrigeration system or a piece of large equipment, they want to get to know the product and supplier, negotiate payment terms, and secure the best price.  These are all things best or only done in person.
  • Aggregation of Suppliers, Buyers, and Industry Peers:  Rather than traveling around the state or country to source the ideal product, trade shows offer buyers a convenient platform to make purchasing decisions.  And while show attendance may be down in certain sectors, companies are more serious about sending qualified buyers poised make purchasing decisions.  Trade shows also offer a way to easily connect and converse with peers and make unexpected connections, which virtual shows and webinars have yet to comprehensively replicate. 
  • Revenue Generation:  Here’s where the rubber really meets the road.  By capturing a wider audience, offering more products, and keying in on the excitement of a show floor, face-to-face events generate more sales and leads than virtual shows.  While virtual events have proved highly effective for new product promotions, specials, and new business retention, our analysis shows that the average virtual event generates only 35% of the revenue of a typical trade event.  For companies that depend on their trade show revenue, abandoning the format may be a hard pill to swallow.

Now that we understand that both kinds of events have unique advantages, where does that leave us?  Well, somewhere in the middle.  Our feeling is this:  As more and more of our daily activities take place online, the value of experience-rich, digitally-integrated, highly targeted face-to-face events will increase.  The kinds of events that have typified many industry sectors—hulking, broad, inefficient, and, frankly, old fashioned—need to and will disappear.  As they have begun to this year, some show hosts will react to this by experimenting with small event and regional show concepts. Others will integrate digital technology to maximize returns.

In order to leverage what virtual shows do well, and to create additional monetization opportunities, online tactics will increasingly augment physical trade events as we move into 2013 and beyond.  Hybrid shows, which combine online measures with elements of a physical event, will begin to occupy more of the landscape.  With hybrid events, a physical show may take place in standard fashion, but video from seminars and demonstrations may be streamed online for virtual attendees.  Online ad space may be sold to exhibitors, in this instance, allowing show hosts to generate additional revenue.  Other hybrid models may conduct a virtual sales event concurrent with or immediately following the face-to-face event.  The result of each of these scenarios is that show hosts capture as large an audience as possible.  Hybrid events make it easier for more buyers and prospects to connect with suppliers, while also allowing those that could not attend to take advantage of the educational opportunities available at the physical show.

At this point you might be asking how you, as a show host, can begin to integrate some of these new strategies into your events.  There a few things you can do right now to improve your show’s ROI without reinventing the wheel entirely.

  • Expand Your Reach:  Inform more attendees about your show through your company website, blog, social media channels, or dedicated event website.   Record video of your guest speakers and seminars and make it available online following your event.  This will give attendees an opportunity to review what they experienced at the show, and help market your event to prospective attendees, or your business to prospective customers.  Digital is unlikely to replace the physical, but can help maximize attendance and sales on each and every event you host.
  • Help Your Attendees Help You (and Themselves):  Provide online and printed resources so that your attendees know which booths to visit, which seminars to attend, and how to take advantage of any promotions or specials being offered. Uninformed attendees left to their own devices do not get the results they want or generate the sales you need from an event.

It’s important to realize that although it may be predicated upon different circumstances, much of what’s happening right now is cyclical.  Every five to 10 years, show planners seem to get restless and move away from larger physical events, only to return to the format a year or two later.  Awareness of what’s happening in your market sector is vital, but it’s more critical to understand the value that your events have within your company.  If your event accounts for a large share of your annual revenue, moving to an entirely new format may be unadvised.   That doesn’t mean resting on your laurels, but instead increasing the value of your event by taking steps to incorporate new digital tactics. 

We’ll end with some wisdom from Dr. Michio Kaku, futurist and theoretical physicist, who presented the keynote address at last year’s IAEE Convention in Las Vegas:

“Face-to-face marketing, powered by tech, will only get stronger. It’s a basic human need to come together to learn, buy, sell and grow. Share stories around the campfire. Show off the biggest kill. Bond. It’s in our DNA.”

……………………….

Data Connect’s Show Expert Systems trade show software facilitates everything from event marketing to attendee registration, lead generation and sales to target marketing, at both virtual and face-to-face events.   Speak with one of our friendly Customer Success Representatives to learn more about how to chart your event strategy in today’s transitional climate. Call us at (303) 840-7477 or email us at info@dataconnectcorp.com.  We hope to hear from you!

 

10.19.2012

The 5 Habits of Highly Effective Event Planners

You’ve likely read or are familiar with Steven Covey’s famed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  We thought we would apply his approach to show organizers, to highlight the “true north” characteristics that define the leaders in the field.  As the trade show software provider for hundreds of events annually, Data Connect collaborates with many talented event planners.  Even with such a stacked deck, some individuals stand out for their uniquely successful approach to managing their shows.  These individuals are committed to marching to their own drum.  They are dedicated to employing new strategies and tactics that set them apart from their competitors and provide the most ideal selling environment for customers and exhibitors.  

Event planners with profitable, must-attend shows are:                                          

 

 

Successful show organizers don’t think of an event as a marketing endeavor.  They see how it impacts each department in the company, and involve stakeholders accordingly.  These show planners work in tandem with their sales departments to devise a comprehensive pre-show, show day, and post-show strategy that addresses existing sales and drives additional revenue.  This may mean incentivizing sales reps to pre-order and target items for customers online, staging a contest at the show that awards reps with the highest sales volume, and then following up after the show with a sales-facing virtual event to retain new business.   

Understanding reporting requirements is absolutely essential for successful event planners, which is why they engage their IT departments at the start of their planning process.  This ensures that data is delivered in a format that can be easily uploaded into a backend system, and that it can be used to manage any promotions or contests being run over the course of a show’s lifecycle.

 

 

Creativity is what separates an average show from a great show; one that creates buzz, generates new sales opportunities, and excites attendees.  The best show organizers come to the table with better ways to tackle existing processes, and new ideas to drive better returns.  They might suggest how to make registration more efficient, ways to personalize the show experience for attendees, or concepts to engage buyers in show specials and promotions. Even if something seems like a pie-in-the-sky idea, they work to see it realized, more often than not with great results. Our trade show software incorporating features like Hot Deals and Attendee Flight Boards, Prize Redemption, and Ticket Printing is due to forward-thinking event planners like these.

                                  

 

 

As anyone with event planning experience knows, there are a million and one details that go into organizing a show.  Booth rental, electrical contracts, fire codes, pre-show packets, and childcare are just a few of the myriad areas that have to be addressed before an attendee steps foot on the show floor.  The most successful event planners don’t just wing it.  They have a defined set of objectives outlined chronologically, and work methodically until all requirements are met, like an actor reading from scene-to-scene a through a script.

Paradoxically, fulfilling this rigid set of objectives requires show organizers to be flexible.  Inevitably, something will arise that had not been planned for. The most effective organizers can think on their feet, and are often able to turn a challenge into an opportunity for a fresh approach.  Everything becomes a learning experience and helps to inform their strategy for future events.

Perhaps most importantly, beyond knowing what has to be done in preparation for a show, great event planners know why they’re doing it.  They have clear goals in mind, such as reaching a particular sales number, closing a greater number of new case sales, or turning more prospects into customers.  As such, their planning strategy is built in reverse based on the outcomes they intend to achieve.

 

 

Great shows do not happen in a vacuum.  The best show organizers understand that it takes multiple people and areas of expertise to run a successful event.  They have the support of their IT department, allowing easy access to the data that fuels show day ordering and marketing programs; they have staff to manage registration and to operate their information booth at the show; they have a second-in-command who can fill the gaps when they are not available. 

In a nutshell, you could say that successful event planners are empowered to make decisions.  They have the authority to make determinations without going through internal red tape, thus avoiding the delays and changes in direction that often result when decisions are made by committee.

                                             

 

 

Great event professionals understand that cost is not proportional to success when it comes to executing a show.  The best displays, catering, performers, and A/V technology do not ensure that an event will be profitable.  On the other side of that coin, these professionals also know that the cost of a service is not always equal to its value. 

As a service provider, we regularly have the cost vs. value conversation with potential clients.  Our role is to assure them that the ROI on our services is greater than their cost, sometimes doubling the revenue of an event over prior years (not to toot our own horn, or anything).  Determining if and how the spend impacts the return is both an art and a science, and the best event planners know how to strike a perfect balance. 

So, how do your traits stack up?  Do you think that you are among the best event planners in the industry?  Did we miss anything from our list?  We’d love to hear from you, and to share how our trade show software can make you shine in the eyes of your customers, exhibitors, sales team, and executives.  Call us at (303) 840-7477 or email info@dataconnectcorp.com to speak with one of our friendly customer success representatives.  We look forward to hearing from you!

10.05.2012

How to Set Your Show Apart in a Crowded Marketplace

To succeed in today’s saturated event arena, marketers and event planners have to think doubly hard about ways to differentiate their conferences from their competition.  This means not only creating a unique experience at the event, but also pre and post-event.  In order to illuminate some tactics we’re observing, we’ve put together an infographic.  We encourage you to evaluate how your show stacks up to these new best practices. 

Having the edge over your competitors can mean looking at inefficient processes that could be amended through automation. In so doing, you stand to improve the experience for your customers before, during and after the event.  Moreover, you stand to better the experience for yourself and your business through more new case sales (our clients often set sales records using our system), better order accuracy, improved booked vs. shipped percentages, and greater new business retention.  Show Expert Systems can make you a marketing superstar.  Call us at (303) 840-7477 to find out more.

09.13.2012

Three Things Every Show Host Should be Doing to Increase Revenue

We can all appreciate trade events as opportunities to connect with suppliers, network with industry peers, and be exposed to new products and trends.  But as a show host, the trade show experience boils down to one thing and one thing only:  revenue.    If the bottom line isn’t up to par, it doesn’t matter how much swag was disbursed or how many prizes were awarded or even how many attendees came to the show.   Growing your business is the name of the game, and there are three key things every show host should be doing to get the most out of their events.

1.  Make Sure Your Sales Reps Target Items for Each Customer.  Target marketing accomplishes three things:  1) It allows you to identify which items your customers are purchasing from your competitors; 2) It personalizes the show experience for customers, giving them an exclusive roadmap to navigate the floor as they seek out booths with the items that have been identified on their behalf; 3)  It acts as a built-in competitive measure for sales reps, allowing you to easily formulate a game around the number of targeted items sold and shipped. 

2.  Provide Exhibitors the Opportunity to Negotiate Rebates on the Fly.  Target marketing and show-negotiated rebates act as the one-two punch of trade show revenue growth.   When a customer seeks out a booth with targeted items, it’s important to give exhibitors the ability to provide the discounting necessary to secure the business.  Show-negotiated rebates will tip the scale on your new case sales.

3.  Follow up Your Physical Event with a Virtual Show.   After working hard to secure new business at your event, it’s vital to nurture it.  Virtual shows provide that opportunity:  a way for you to stay front-of-mind for your new accounts and offer specials that maintain their interest. 

Trade shows don’t have to be a passive experience.  Take action by incorporating these three tactics, and enliven your sales team, offer the best experience for your customers, and earn long-term business.  

Data Connect’s business is generating more revenue for its clients.  Show Expert Systems, our trade show software, is designed to generate more sales before, during, and after your event, while taking the work out of what would otherwise be cumbersome, error-prone processes.  Contact us at (303) 840-7477 for more ideas on how to conduct your most profitable event ever.

08.06.2012

The Lead is Dead.  Long Live the SALE.

Leads are the no longer the lifeblood of the trade show experience.  The days when it was enough to exchange a business card and the promise of a follow up call are drawing to an end. Show hosts and exhibitors are discovering that a trade event is one of the best possible scenarios to make real sales and directly impact the bottom line.  Think about it -- the conditions are perfect:

  • Buyers (customers) and sellers (vendors, brokers, or a distributor) are in the same place at the same time
  • Customers are looking to see new products
  • Exhibitors are primed to promote those products.  Exhibitors are already "selling" at the show--even if the sale doesn't happen until later
  • Face-to-face marketing provides exhibitors the opportunity to negotiate deals and special pricing
  • Giveaways  provide customers with the incentive to reach certain sales thresholds

Trade shows can be about providing attendees with more than just warm fuzzies, swag, and an afternoon's diversion.  With the right tools, they can be about generating revenue and long-term profitability for a business. 

Data Connect has those tools.

Our Show Expert Systems trade show software has generated more than $2.5 billion for our clients since 2008.  Show day services include electronic order placement, prize redemption, show-negotiated rebates, and target marketing.  And not to worry; for customers that aren't quite ready to make a purchase, we do still provide a lead generation feature.  After the show we deliver reporting packages to address any business need.  From reports tailored for executive review to those configured for immediate loading into a client's backend system, we've got you covered.  We also offer virtual selling events to maximize and retain the new business captured at your physical show. 

To discuss how to turn your leads-only event into a well-oiled selling machine, please call (303) 840-7477 to speak with one of our friendly Customer Success Representatives.  We look forward to hearing from you.

04.13.2012

An Interview with Lynda Tarufelli, Data Connect’s VP of Operations

In order to provide customers and potential customers with a glimpse “behind the scenes” here at Data Connect, we will be publishing a series of interviews with our executive team. These interviews will provide insight into the high-level decision-making that takes place here, as well as introduce you to the personalities that lead our organization.

Our third interview is with Lynda Tarufelli, our VP of Operations, who will discuss her history with the company, her thoughts on where the company stands today, and her ideas on where we’re headed.

Lynda, how long have you been with Data Connect?

I have worked at DCC since May of 1996 and I believe I was full-time employee number 5! At that time the office was in the basement of [our CEO] Tim’s house. I was responsible for support and implementation.

What does your role consist of today?

Today I am a shareholder, board member, and a member of the management team. I manage a great group of operations people that include: IT; document management implementation and help desk; trade show support; show workers; and the warehouse. I describe our group as the ones that make it all happen – sales reps sell and development creates but we deliver! Providing excellent customer service has been a passion of mine and I work every day to impart that to our wonderful staff.

How have you seen the company change over time?

We have always been a team of people that wants to do great things no matter what we are doing. We were building PCs and supporting small networks and just getting started in the document management business when I started at DCC. Trade show software and services weren’t even in our purview. Although the company address has changed a few times and the staff has grown, the one thing that hasn’t changed is our core valves. I am very proud to be working for such a great company.

How have processes and protocols improved over time?

We all did what we needed to do to get the job done for several years in the beginning. As we have grown we have had to define staff roles, hire for very specific skill sets and form departments. We are constantly working to improve our communication and process.

In what ways do you foresee the operations department evolving as the company grows?

This year we will see another evolution and realigning of job functions to keep up with the changing processes, products, and customer needs.

What sorts of things are you looking forward to seeing at Data Connect in the next 5 years?

I am looking forward to growing our Community Connect civic involvement. I also look forward to mentor our next generation of leaders, creating a global presence, expanding into new verticals and continuing to create a greater depth in our trade show software and other products.

Any words of wisdom for show hosts and event planners out there?

The key to a successful event is preparation and great communication!

 

03.30.2012

Pointers for Your Trade Show Social Media Strategy

The role of social media in a trade event continues to change and develop. With networks like Foursquare and even Pinterest becoming relevant to event marketing and promotion, it’s worth taking a closer look at what comprises the bigger social media picture in 2012. Thankfully, Northwest Creative Imaging has come up with a handy infographic to lay it all out. It provides tips and tricks for integrating social media into your pre-show marketing strategy, as well as tactics for show day and post-show. Via tradeshowguyblog

At Data Connect, our clients’ social media and digital marketing strategies have just been elevated with MarketMyShow. MarketMyShow is part of Data Connect’s Show Expert Systems trade show software suite, which has registered over 2 million attendees since 2008. The MarketMyShow online event registration and promotion platform has been designed to integrate with social media networks in order to provide show hosts and attendees with an efficient and unified experience prior to a trade event. Working with our team of event managers, show hosts are able to create a unique online registration website that also showcases their trade show. A website can include information on guest speakers and seminars, hot deals and giveaways, area attractions and hotels, as well as an exhibitor list and event agenda. With MarketMyShow, multiple critical processes are facilitated under one roof, saving show hosts time, money, and sanity. Learn more here or call (303) 840-7477 to speak to one of our friendly representatives.

 Social Media and Your Trade Show

03.17.2012

The Value of Tablets in Today’s Trade Show Environment

Show hosts and exhibitors looking to take advantage of new technology are increasingly choosing to employ tablet computers at their events. In addition to Apple’s iPad, numerous platforms are making their way onto the market seemingly on a daily basis, providing more choices and a better opportunity to satisfy the gamut of event strategies and audiences.Show Expert Trade Show Software Tablet

Tablets offer a number of key benefits for trade events:

1. Tablets eliminate wasteful paper ordering and lead collection processes, providing hosts and attendees with a “green” and efficient alternative to traditional events.

2. Because of their portability, tablets offer a number of distribution options. They can be positioned at booths, on the floor at kiosks, or even distributed to attendees.

3. Fun! Unlike many traditional trade show management tools, tablets are a fun, user-centric way to generate orders and leads. Surveys reveal that trade show attendees are savvier than ever and prefer to attend events that employ emerging trends and technologies. When ordering is fun, attendees buy more.

4. Easy access to event software. Trade show software is made available via an app or is loaded directly onto the tablet itself.

5. New technology, or, more specifically, appropriate use of new technology, positions show hosts and exhibitors as forerunners in their industry. When an attendee engages with a host or exhibitor with a well-conceived technology strategy, he or she comes away with a sense of confidence in the organization, as well as the goods or services being purchased.

Data Connect entered the market with its touch screen ordering solution in 2005, hosting hundreds of events with the platform in the years since. As technology shifts and user habits evolve, we take notice. Already in 2012 we have begun running small events on tablets equipped with our Show Expert trade show software. Our goal in the near term is to determine which tablet best suits the needs of our clients and the tough physical demands of the road. Once that decision is made, we will begin running larger shows with tablets. We will continue running events on the Point-Of-Sale platform but anticipate that a growing number of events will employ the new tablet solution. Stay tuned for official release information later in the year.

No matter the technology, our goal remains the same: to reduce costs and increase revenue for our partners. If your show needs a booster shot—improved registration services, a more efficient way to take orders, or a method to generate more new business —contact us discuss how we can help. Reach out at info@dataconnectcorp.com or by phone at (303) 840-7477.

 

02.13.2012

Interview with Micheal Center, Data Connect Executive Vice President

In order to provide customers and potential customers with a glimpse “behind the scenes” here at Data Connect, we will be publishing a series of interviews with our executive team. These interviews will provide insight into the high-level decision-making that takes place here, as well as introduce you to the personalities that lead our organization.

Our second interview is with Micheal Center, our EVP, who will discuss his history with the company, his thoughts on where the company stands today, and his ideas on where we’re headed.

Micheal, how long have you been with Data Connect?

I have been with DCC for five-and-half years.

What does your role consist of today?

Primarily I am finding new markets for Data Connect to enter and leading the development of new products from the sales side of the business. I am also part of the Marketing team, which allows me to help develop new media ideas and ways to communicate with our customers and prospects.

How have you seen Data Connect change over time?

In the last five years we have had over 117% growth in the company; we have gone from a small business to a major player with our Show Expert Systems trade show software in the order entry and data services marketplace. Our growth has fueled many changes in our processes and procedures to help us to serve our customers better.

We now have more staff dedicated to customer support and sales. I really like the teams we are building and how they work together for the customer.

How have the products and services improved over time?

Managing data for distributors in different business verticals is a complex process. Each vertical, whether it is pharmaceuticals or food service has its own set of business rules that dictate how they run their events. We have put more into our internal systems to make things run more smoothly.

This year we will begin using the new third-generation networking gear at our clients’ shows. We have upgraded the system entirely, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a dynamic networking system that can handle the rigors of today’s exhibition centers, with their multi-channel networks and internet connections.

How do you see the product development department adapting as the company grows and the market evolves?

Developing new products to meet market demand is the life blood of any technology company. Our goal is to create services and software that are part of the essential business process of our customers. Time-to-market today is often measured in days, so using an agile process is imperative to keeping on top of our strategic plan for product development.

Rapid business analytics will play a significant role in the development new products. You don’t want to put your effort into product lines with too short a life cycle or limited revenue potential. Strategic analysis of a market prior to committing our resources will play a very important role going forward.

We know that new data delivery methods via the web and cell devices are just around the corner for our customers. Our goal is to be ready to meet this change and have products in the field this year that will be game changers for our customers.

What sorts of things are you looking forward to seeing at Data Connect in the next 5 years?

With our current growth trajectory so positive, I see us moving beyond our core USA market into more international business. I have always had the belief that you have to establish yourself in one line of business before you can expand to the next. At Data Connect we have become the preeminent supplier of trade show software and services for the food distribution industry. Now we see many of these services fitting both the general trade show marketplace, as well as the food distribution channel in other countries.

I am really excited about the solutions we have in the pipeline and what that will mean for the company’s growth.

Any words of wisdom for show hosts and event planners out there?

Keep it simple. The more complex the system, the harder it is for your target customer to use it. Great marketing ideas are always simple for the prospect to engage in even if the processes behind them are very complex.

 

12.29.2011

Happy Holidays from Data Connect Corporation

As 2011 comes to a close, we reflect on a year of progress at Data Connect. We are grateful for our amazing customers, without whom we simply wouldn’t be here, and thanks to whom we’ve experienced another year of substantial growth. We are proud of the strides we’ve made with our Show Expert trade show software product and its continued place as the industry leader for buying events. And we are deeply appreciative of our hard working staff, which we contend is the best in the business. As 2012 approaches, we look forward to better serving our customers and industry by developing new and better ways to market and manage trade shows, and by improving the way products move through the entire supply chain.

From Data Connect to you, Happy Holidays and a blessed New Year.

Data Connect - Ginger & Denise

Data Connect - Christine, Mikey & Rebecca

Data Connect - Lynda & Tim

Data Connect - Trade Show Leads

Data Connect - Sales TeamData Connect Event Managers & DBA

11.30.2011

A Promising Alternative to QR Codes

Data Connect - SMS Code ExampleAs a trade show software provider for over 120 events annually, Data Connect has seen banner usage of QR codes in 2011, but not all instances are successful. At times, a vendor may not provide a scannable code (try scanning one on a wrinkled t-shirt), a call to action, or link to a mobile-friendly website. Tim Patterson of the Tradeshowguy Blog recently posted a great podcast with Mike Vincent of Fanfare Mobile addressing the benefits of using SMS codes in lieu of sometimes-problematic QR codes.

Listen to the conversation here (the podcast was posted on November 14th).

SMS, which is short for “short message service”, refers to the text messaging aspect of mobile devices like phones, tablet computers, and certain MP3 players. In an SMS campaign, a business will ask a prospect to text a keyword to a particular number (i.e., text “trade show software” to 7477), at which point the user will receive an automatic response. That response may provide product or promotion details or ask the recipient to submit additional information before being directed to a website or landing page. 

SMS codes offer a number of benefits:

1. No applications to download. Unlike QR codes, which require users to download software, roughly 97%-99% of cell phone users are already equipped to receive SMS messages. This means that nearly every prospect you want to reach is currently within your grasp.

2. User-friendly. While QR codes need to be scanned from a certain distance at a certain angle, SMS codes only require the user to send a text message.

3. SMS campaigns are easily tailored to suit various businesses objectives. Ask participants to submit contact information, complete a survey, or direct them to a website or custom landing page.  

Now, although SMS codes do offer some advantages over their more buzzworthy counterpart, QR codes are still a viable component of a business’ conversion efforts. If you do decide to use QR Codes, Tim recommends taking note of the following three guidelines:

1. Make sure your code is sized appropriately. If the code is too small, it won’t scan. Test the code on a proof before making your final print.

2. Make it easy to scan. Be sure that the code is within reach and printed on a flat, static surface.

3. Make sure your website is optimized for smartphones and mobile devices. Your standard website would be challenging to navigate from a small mobile device, so before running a campaign, be sure that you have a mobile-friendly site that’s easily viewed with phones and tablets. 

In the end, you may elect to use SMS and QR codes side-by-side in order to give the end-user the best opportunity to retrieve your information.

Please contact info@dataconnectcorp.com for the best ways to bolster your marketing efforts through promotions websites, product-to-customer matchmaking, and drawings at your events.

 

10.26.2011

5 Critical Questions for Event Planners

Planning a trade show is hard work. There seem to be a million details to oversee and it can be difficult to give your attention to all of them. Additionally, it might be challenging to consider new ways of doing things when it takes all of your time and energy to manage an event using your existing protocol. At Data Connect, we understand, which is why we created a shortlist of items in the event planning process that often go overlooked or could be aided through improved procedures. Some of these questions are general, while others apply if you are using a trade show software or technology solution like our Show Expert Systems.

1. First, what are traditionally your biggest hurdles in carrying out your event?  When planning for your show, ask yourself which tasks are the most burdensome and in what areas you’d like to see improvement. Does your company struggle to finalize rebates prior to your event? Are lines at registration frustrating for your customers as well as upper management? Do you wish you could increase the accuracy of your orders? Would you like to sell more new cases? Are your shipping percentages lower than you’d like them to be?

Are there changes you can make internally or might you be assisted through partnering with a trade show software and service provider? Data Connect’s Show Expert trade show software is designed to lighten the load for show hosts and event planners through streamlined data collection and distribution, and is backed by our renowned customer service. Click here for more information.

2. How do you need to collect data after the show?  If your company is like most, you will need orders and rebate data in a format that loads easily into your backend system. This may be a comma or tab delimited flat file, or simply a file in Excel. It’s advisable to convene with your IT department well in advance of the show so that they can specify not only the file type, but also the order in which data needs to appear. This is even more important if you are not including a skip-week following your event. By confirming these details in advance, your data can be quickly delivered and then easily loaded by your IT staff.

Additionally, it’s helpful to consult with your sales department and management team to determine what analytics they need. Your sales department may need detailed reports for each customer the day after the event. Your management department, on the other hand, may simply need a high-level overview of the show’s performance. The more accurately you can confirm your reporting requirements before the show, the smoother your post-show experience will be.

3. How soon can you take possession of the venue? If you are working with Data Connect or another trade show software and service provider, chances are that the earlier you can take possession, the better. This is especially true for mid-size to large shows (140+ booths) that necessitate additional time for setup and testing. We recommend two full days for staging such events. 

Show hosts are often able to negotiate an extra setup day into their venue contract without incurring additional charges. However, after a contract has been signed, venues have less incentive to provide an extra day for free, so be sure to take care of this detail before putting pen to paper.

4. Have you discussed wireless networking with your venue?  Many venues have wireless networks in order to provide internet access to event staff and attendees. For its events, Data Connect provides its own wireless network to facilitate communication between the Point-Of-Sale units on the show floor and the onsite server. If you partner with Data Connect, it’s important to communicate this information early on to your venue and/or their network provider, especially if the provider is a large outfit. Data Connect’s infrastructure is designed to work along side internal networks and to avoid interference, but conversations should be had up front in order to confirm that the networks are on non-competing channels. Often times, depending on the show host’s networking requirements, the venue provider will simply turn off their network in the hall.

5. Are you placing POS units at the front or the back of the booth? If you are using POS terminals for order placement at your show, it’s important to decide in advance whether customers will be able to access the terminal or if orders will be keyed in exclusively by vendors. If customers are placing their own orders using the trade show software, POS units should be located in the front of the booth. This will necessitate power at the front of the booth or extension cords that run to the rear. Be sure to review your requirements with your electrician well in advance of the show so that everyone is well prepared. Nothing is worse than last minute surprises.

Please email info@dataconnectcorp.com or call us at (303) 840-7477 to discuss how we can help simplify your trade show planning process and improve your ROI.

 

10.17.2011

Corporate Social Responsibility

Some months back, I asked our CEO Tim to write about Data Connect’s philosophy of corporate social responsibility. With myriad other demands on his time, it became clear pretty quickly that he wouldn’t be able to tackle the issue at length. Instead, he asked that I submit something myself. The following is contributed on the company’s behalf, with Tim’s blessing. – Ian Stoufer

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. ~ Nelson Henderson

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been deliberated at great length in recent years. Given that so many have said so much on the topic, an attempt will be made to be brief in our contribution, but also to provide an accurate idea of where Data Connect stands on this important issue.

Great strides have been made in the area of corporate social responsibility in the last decade, with many of the world’s largest companies adopting far-reaching corporate citizenship philosophies both domestically and abroad. The idea of positively impacting the public sphere through volunteerism, philanthropy, and environmentally and socially conscious choices, seems obligatory. After all, who could be against giving back when there is such a great need for help and improvement? But the matter is not so black and white. Just as when the conversation began in the 1950s, there are those who contend that a corporation’s sole purpose is to maximize returns for its shareholders; that social outreach is at best window dressing and at worst a way for corporations to avoid more stringent governmental oversight by proving that they can be self-regulating. As a company that deeply believes in service, yet has responsibility to its investors, this debate is especially significant here at Data Connect.

It’s fair to say that logic exists on both sides of the argument. As Milton Friedman, the famed economist and staunch CSR opponent, observed, businesses exist in order to profitable. When they aren’t profitable, investors lose money, employees lose jobs, and consumers receive inferior or terminated services. This position views CSR policies as an encumbrance to free trade, and investments in such programs as pernicious to the bottom line. It is true that CSR programs often require time and money spent rather than gained. And although there have been a number of studies to cite a correlation in CSR and financial performance, there are just as many with conflicting findings, and still more with results that fall somewhere in between. Needless to say, for companies attempting to leverage CSR as a unique selling proposition, financial benefits can be difficult to quantify, at best.

What the aforementioned position first neglects, however, is that enterprises exist because the public allows them to, and only because they serve society in some fashion or another. This implicit social contract cannot be overlooked. In this view, corporate citizenship can be viewed as one of the ways that we “pay rent” to operate our businesses. Our currency is time, resources, and money. Furthermore, the position also dismisses the role that a diversified focus plays for investors when they evaluate which companies to do business with. All things being equal, most investors, if given the choice, would prefer to partner with responsible businesses that look beyond the balance sheet and toward things like environmental stewardship, community outreach, and employee satisfaction.

To that point, it can be asserted that CSR enhances employee engagement. We have a committee at Data Connect that manages our Community Connect service program. The group plans and coordinates volunteer activities as well as food, clothing, and toy drives. Committee membership and participation in its undertakings is entirely unenforced. Members of the committee would all consider the program to be a benefit of working for this company. It’s something that breaks up the routine of their staple responsibilities and provides an opportunity, fully supported by their place of work, to reach into the social sphere to a degree that as individuals they may not be able to accomplish. And most fundamentally, it is a vehicle for good. When employees participate in the program, they benefit from the knowledge that their time has been well spent helping others.

A few years ago we switched to Green products in our office. We did so because it was the right thing for us to do, and we as a company all felt good about it. Only later did we consider that the switch could be viewed as an important measure of our CSR philosophy. Looking even further back, Community Connect wasn’t begun as means to differentiate our brand. It was undertaken quietly, by people aiming to do nothing more than to help other people. That it serves our business in any way is merely icing on the cake.

Data Connect is at its core a values-driven company; one based on the cornerstone of the Tim 5 philosophy of Growth, Fun, Profit, Ethics, and Empowerment. We are in the blessed position of being able to use our talents to help our customers and our hearts to help those less fortunate. The good thing about giving is that it needn’t be done on a grand scale in order to make a difference. We are a small company and we give what we can while maintaining our profitability, just as Microsoft or Google gives what they can at their size.  

The nature of giving is not expecting anything in return. As such, one must be willing to accept that there may not be measurable economic returns on the costs involved in participating in corporate service programs. The personal returns, however, and those of the individuals and communities reached, are most assuredly worth their weight in gold.  

Now if you’ll excuse us--it’s time to go plant some trees.

 

Click here to find out more about Community Connect, our volunteerism and outreach program. Click here to learn more about what we do, from our Show Expert trade show software to our trusted document management services.

 

09.27.2011

An Interview with Jeff Sease - Data Connect VP Sales

In order to provide customers and potential customers with a glimpse “behind the scenes” here at Data Connect, we will be publishing a series of interviews with our executive team.  These interviews will provide insight into the high-level decision-making that takes place here, as well as introduce you to the personalities that lead our organization. 

We will begin with Jeff Sease, our VP Sales, who will discuss his vision for the future of our trade show software, as well as the future of the company.

Jeff, how long have you been with Data Connect?

15 years (worked as a contractor for 1 year prior to becoming a full time employee). Prior to joining Data Connect, I owned and operated a successful document management business with a focus in the health care industry. When I met Tim Hobbs, I realized that I could play a significant role in the growth and development of a business with tremendous potential. I have not been disappointed.

What does your role consist of?

My primary responsibility is managing and overseeing the sales team. I also spend significant time meeting with prospective and current customers to better understand how our trade show software and services can best fit the marketplace and to discover areas were we may be able to grow our services and offerings. As part of the core Data Connect management team, I bring that information back to the company. I work with the leaders of the development and support teams to help our company grow and to help our customers receive the most benefit possible from their partnerships with DCC.

How have you seen the company change over time?

I have been lucky to be a part of the evolution of Data Connect from a small to mid-sized VAR in the document management arena, to becoming a predominant supplier of document management services to the food services and health care sectors. I have been deeply engaged with our growth into becoming the industry leader in trade show data management and order processing solutions. When I joined the company we had 8 employees and everyone did everything. Today we have an organization with over 50 full-time employees and 30+ part-time employees supporting our traditional document management business and over 150 trade shows per year. It has been very exciting and I am looking forward to the next 15 years.

What do you think that Data Connect does best?

I believe that Data Connect provides the best customer service in our industry. Everything we do is geared towards servicing the needs of our clients. Even more important, we service the needs of their customers. In the trade show sector, we are closely partnered with our clients and represent their business and values to their vendors and customers. I am proud of our team and their dedication to making our clients look good and in helping them to be superstars in their industry.

How do you foresee Show Expert trade show software evolving?

I foresee our trade show software and our services expanding into broader markets on a variety of different platforms. As markets evolve and trade shows change, so must our software. I see an expanded use of mobile technology, and web-based solutions. I also see new software and services designed to improve our clients’ profitability and efficiency in their markets. I foresee new and expanded services for registration, web presence and ordering.

Where do you see the company going in the next five years?

I see Data Connect continuing to grow in the trade show sector. I expect to see more business in areas outside of food distribution. I also expect to see our services in the food sector becoming even more impactful and useful to our clients. I also expect to see us not only engaged in more physical events, but also in substantially more business-to-business web-based solutions and services.

Any words of wisdom for show hosts and event planners out there?

There are no silly questions… only the ones that are not asked. We want to make your show the best we possibly can. To do so, we need to best understand your requirements. If you are working with us and are wondering if something is possible, ask your account representative. They are the ones that will move heaven and earth to find a way to fulfill your request.

 

07.21.2011

Employee Spotlight

Want to learn more about the team here at Data Connect?  Visit our Employee Profile page to read about this month's featured team member, Jennifer Matera. Jennifer has been with Data Connect for six years and is currently a Event Management Supervisor in our trade show department.  She and her team manage our Show Expert pre and post-show trade show software, event planning, and client relationships.  Learn more about Jen here, and check back for updates.

06.15.2011

2011 Trade Show Industry Trends

At Data Connect we work with a great many show hosts over the course of a year. Our services for their shows run the gamut: from 500 booth Point-Of-Sale events with practically every bell and whistle we offer, to scan shows, to a simple registration website. And although each show is different, we observe tendencies toward particular services and techniques. Propensities fluctuate or change all together over time, but in their span represent modalities with a prevailing value in the marketplace. We’d like to share with you the trends we’ve observed over the first half of 2011, as well as some insights we’ve had during that period. We welcome you to contact us to discuss how your show might benefit from incorporating any of the features or practices noted below.

Attendance: In spite of a tumultuous economic climate, most of our events have experienced steady to better-than-average attendance. This can be attributed to the fact that with the cost of business increasing, it’s all the more important to take advantage of deals and special pricing offered at trade events. “Hot Deals” booths (see ‘Hot Deals Booths’ below) and truckload pricing, as well as show-negotiated rebates offered by exhibitors (see ‘Show Negotiated Rebates’ below), are common ways to incent attendees.

Events with fewer attendees than prior years haven’t necessarily seen the decrease translate to their bottom line. Buyers who are attending shows in 2011 appear to be more qualified than in years past, making up the shortfall that might otherwise have been anticipated from less traffic.

Some show hosts have consolidated their events, holding one instead of two annually. Others have explored our virtual events: online trade shows that can include pre-show rebate negotiations, as well as ordering, lead collection, and target marketing. Although not a true replacement for physical trade events, they do offer a low-overhead solution that retains several core services.

Hot Deals Booths: Show hosts are drawing large crowds around booths designed to showcase promotional items with can’t-miss pricing or those with limited quantities. We are able to assist their selling efforts by highlighting “hot deal” items in the booth and throughout the show floor.

Show-Negotiated Rebates: The basic functionality of this feature has been available since around 2007, but has seen banner usage within the past year. Data Connect’s Show-Negotiated Rebate feature simplifies the deal-making process at events and provides greater opportunity to close new business.

First, exhibitors sign up for a special swipe card that grants access to the negotiations area of the system. Following the guided process on their POS terminal, they are able to give extra deals at the item-level (an extra $0.50 per case, for example) or account-level ($100 to Customer X, for instance). The feature is perhaps best utilized in conjunction with a Target Marketing program, allowing the sale to be tipped on specific items selected for each customer prior to the show. After the show, a report is provided to the show host detailing the additional rebates given, including the individual who gave them and to whom they were given.

Target Marketing: Season to season, more and more show hosts are profiting from product and customer matchmaking. Leveraging internal knowledge of customer buying habits, distributors are able to align customers with strategic items that they are not currently purchasing. To put it simply, if an account is buying your hot dogs, this feature is the best means to start selling it buns.

Online prior to the show, sales reps assign items with high penetration opportunity to each of their accounts. Reports of these targeted items are included in customer registration packets (if applicable) and are also available on show day at registration. These reports provide a map of sorts, guiding customers to booths featuring their targeted items. On the show floor, the items are highlighted on the Point-Of-Sale computers at each booth. Exhibitors are trained to focus on these carefully selected products when interacting with customers. After the show, a report is available detailing items targeted vs. targeted items ordered. Targeted items can even be included in booked vs. shipped reporting.

At least one show host has used their target marketing campaign as part of an incentive program for sales reps, whereby the reps received an additional commission based on targeted items successfully shipped. In instances such as this we observe the greatest ROI--when strong emphasis is placed on performance, and sales reps are expected to invest the time and effort necessary to make a campaign successful.

Contests: Numerous shows over the last six months have conducted competitions, ranging from chef cook-offs to sales events. Contests are a great value-add for events and engage attendees through fun, eye-catching visuals. Sales contests go one step further by incenting sales teams to move cases during the show. These contests can be judged based on the top earning sales territory or sales person, and have even gone as far as rating the top shipping percentage for targeted items, as noted above.

Lead Generation: Lead collection is the core of the trade show industry and at buying shows it is no less important. Integrated within our ordering platform, our lead generation feature has been popular since its initial implementation, but its functionality has been expanded recently to include leads independent of items. Now exhibitors can administer their own follow-up responses and view leads retrieved at any time throughout the event. This is ideal for equipment and services booths that may not be selling products at the show but wish to collect information from attendees who may, for example, be interested in receiving additional literature or being contacted about an upcoming product line. As always, a report is available post-show detailing the leads taken as well as the action expected in response to each lead.

If you are interested in how to optimize your lead generation program, you might find it useful to consult our previous post, Making the Most of Your Leads.

VIP Engagements: Some show hosts have chosen to open the show a day early to their top customers to allow a more personalized and efficient experience for these accounts. Some hosts also throw parties for their top accounts during the week of the show. We often run a small registration setup for these special events to track arrivals.

Drawings & Giveaways: Prizes are a great way to inspire attendees not only to attend an event, but also to make purchases. More of our events have begun to employ our ticket printing technology for drawings and giveaways. Some show hosts reward attendees for purchasing certain items (or a certain number of certain items), while some reward overall purchases. Other show hosts conduct drawings at random based on attendees who have arrived within a particular timeframe (usually those who have checked in during the hour before the drawing is to take place). We are sometimes asked to generate an hourly report of arrivals for the purposes of a drawing.

We hope this list has provided you with some insight into industry trends and has perhaps led you to consider a new tactic or two as you plan for an upcoming event. Once again, please reach out if we can be of service.

At Data Connect, we are committed to delivering your best show ever.

 

05.23.2011

Testimonials About Data Connect & Show Expert Systems

Have you checked out our new testimonial video?  Hear feedback from vendors and a show host herself on Data Connect and Show Expert Systems.  The video can be viewed on our homepage (near the bottom, before the fold, under 'Video') or on YouTube at http://youtu.be/HYjyl5wQMaY.

 

 

04.01.2011

Making the Most of Your Leads

Lead generation is the primary reason most companies exhibit at trade events. Even at buying shows, leads are an ideal way to collect information from key decision-makers not yet ready to make a purchase. Most of us are used to collecting or scanning a business card or badge and following up after the show with a phone call or email. It can be a struggle to remember each encounter and which product or service generated the interest. Multiply that consternation across multiple leads and you may even risk impacting your ROI for the event. Below you will find some ways in which Data Connect can help, and some useful tips that you can implement on your own.

First, as you start to brainstorm for your next event, you may find it helpful to consult Mike Thimmesch’s 100 Trade Show Lead Generation Ideas. We won’t take time to restate anything here, but the post offers, well, 100 useful suggestions concerning how elements like booth design, staffing, and in-booth giveaways affect your lead generation statistics.

Next, you will want to take time to determine how you will collect your leads. There are traditionally two methods: retrieving a business card or scanning a card or badge. Although these methods certainly provide you with contact information, they don’t do much to equip you to follow up efficiently after the event. Data Connect offers a lead generation service that goes beyond simply collecting contact information. With Show Expert’s Lead Generation feature, leads can be taken with specific follow-up responses, either at the item-level (i.e., Customer X is would like a sample of Product Y) or independently (i.e., John Smith from Customer X would like to receive more information about the upcoming product line).

The show host or even exhibitors can customize potential follow-up responses. Often show hosts select default choices like ‘Send Brochure’, ‘Sales Rep Call Back’, ‘Vendor Call Back, or ‘Send Sample’. In some show formats, exhibitors can choose to edit the default responses and create their own customized fields. In this format, attendees submitting a lead may also add any additional information that needs to be communicated to the exhibitor via a free-form text field. After the show, a Leads Report is delivered, detailing attendee and/or account information as well as the follow-up action to be taken.

Lastly, once the follow-up action has been fulfilled, it remains important to work the lead along a nurturing track, on which you bring their interest closer and closer to a sale. It’s to your advantage to develop the sequencing of the track and your methods of reengaging the lead before and not after the event. You needn’t have a lot of tactics; it’s more important to simply know when to use each one. You may along the track provide additional marketing information either by email or traditional mail (combining these delivery methods is often more effective), a sample if one hasn’t already been provided, or simply make routine contact. The point is to maintain the conversation by keeping your product in their sights, and to be as accessible as possible once they are ready to commit to an order.

The manner in which you handle leads may need a complete overhaul or just a few adjustments. With proper planning and the right tools at your fingertips, you can make each lead, and by extension each event, count.

 

03.17.2011

Presence Marketing Cites Benefits of Show Expert Systems

In its February 2011 newsletter, Presence Marketing cites Data Connect's Show Expert Systems as advantageous to show hosts and exhibitors.  Read the article below and learn more about Presence Marketing here.

UNFI Southeast Show Concludes in Orlando, Florida

UNFI wrapped up their annual show held at the Hilton Hotel in Orlando, Florida on February 15th and 16th. New to the show was an automated ordering system for the retailers. Data Connect provided touch screen monitors and assigned cards to the individual retailers. This allowed the retailers to walk up to the table, swipe their card and see what items were offered on deal at the show. In turn, the vendors were also given a card that would allow them to see how many total cases had been ordered. This new ordering system helped to eliminate the excess time it takes to write down orders on paper and the need for data entry to key these orders in. The festivities on Tuesday evening included a reception poolside with appetizers and beverages. Unlike the cold temperatures last year, the weather was ideal for a reception outside.

 

03.01.2011

Data Connect’s Micheal Center on Tradeshowguy Podcast

Last week, Data Connect was invited to participate in a podcast moderated by Tim from the Tradeshowguy blog.  Micheal Center, Executive Vice President, spoke to Tim about Data Connect's services and what sets us apart from other companies in the marketplace.

Listen to the discussion here:

http://www.tradeshowguyblog.com/?p=1937

And be sure to check out the Tradeshowguy blog for insights into social media and digital marketing in the trade show industry.

02.01.2011

The Health of the Convention Industry

From Nevada Public Radio, News 88.9 KNPR - The convention industry is a key driver of Nevada's economy. Many are saying, that the industry is on its way back from the huge drop off the industry experienced in 2008. Attendance at CES, the first big convention of the year was up from the year before according to most preliminary figures. We take a look at the year to come in the convention business in Las Vegas and whether or not the industry is as healthy as some are saying.

Click here to listen to the story.

via Trade Show News Network

01.07.2011

A Week in the Life

Greetings and Happy New Year.  My name is Mike and I am a Show Lead for Data Connect.  I’ve been working for the company for the past two years, on the road the majority of that time.  As a show lead, I am our air traffic controller onsite at events.  I work with clients’ data, make sure the hardware gets set up properly, assign roles to our show team, and perhaps most importantly, help the show host to realize their objectives.  If they have a question or need information or assistance, I am always available to do everything I can to help. 

I am one of approximately 25 people on the Data Connect staff who spend most of the time out on the road at shows.  It’s an unusual but enjoyable lifestyle, which is why I was asked to document my experience for our blog.  Below is a peek into the life of a Data Connect road warrior. 

Headed to Tampa, FL!

On this particular week I was going to be running a show in Tampa, FL for one of our long-standing customers.  I was excited to see some familiar faces and to experience some warm weather and seafood.  Since my flight was early on a Sunday, security lines moved quickly.  I even managed to avoid incurring another "random" security screening.  I could tell it was going to be a banner week.

Before I left town, our Event Management team and I confirmed show day requirements and expectations with the customer to ensure that we were all using the same playbook.  We run several shows throughout the year for this account so everything was relatively straightforward.  After the call and seeing to some last minute details, the Event Management team ran scripts on the data to get it ready for the show. 

 

Our Destination - Tampa, FL

Coming from Denver, Tampa was a sight for sore eyes (and cold hands).  The weather there is fabulous; warmth is hard to come by this time of year in Colorado.  We stayed downtown in one of the nicer Holiday Inns I've experienced.  The city was relaxed and inviting and offered wonderful skyline views.

Not a bad spot for lunch - Tampa, FL

Event Setup

To put it simply, the venue was massive. Big enough that there were several shows taking place simultaneously along with ours.   After we parked and headed inside, I met up with the show host and the venue's liaison to confirm our setup requirements.  My team and I then headed to the docks to meet the driver coming in with our equipment.  Amidst the racing forklifts and sample trucks sat our semi, full of 100+ POS units along with laptops, printers, and thousands of feet of network cables.

Setup began in earnest once we un-strapped the crates and started moving them through the labyrinth of back hallways to the show floor itself.  After our crates had been unloaded, my first step is to deploy our server in the area the show host had reserved as our command post.  We affectionately call our server area the “Batcave”, a nickname given to it by one of our customers many years ago.  After I got our server setup, it came time to distribute Point-of-Sale terminals to booths throughout the floor, following the chart provided to us by the show host.  Concurrently, I had my wireless technician set up and test our wireless network.   These two pieces tend to be a work-in-progress during setup, as vendors arrive midday and the host tweaks the layout to better suit the flow of customers. 

We had one day for setup, which was easy to accommodate given the size of the show and our familiarity with the venue.  For large shows we typically request two days for setup to accommodate the additional legwork, along with testing, and trainings.  We work closely and in unison with the decorator and electricians to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

Show set-up (That is one impressive gingerbread house)

After our equipment and network had been thoroughly tested and we’d answered the show host’s questions, we headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.

The Food, pt. 1

One of the best parts about my job is the food:  BBQ in Texas, Sushi in LA, Clam Chowder in Maine, and this week, Seafood in Florida.  The hotel's shuttle dropped us off at a nice little restaurant area called Channelside.  After a hard day’s work we were ready to unwind and sample some good local fare.  (Side note:  The first night after we got to town, we ate at Splitsville, which was by far the finest bowling alley I have ever been to.  Shockingly, it had a quiet atmosphere and top-notch food, not to mention private bowling lanes.  It was pretty amazing.  We shared the place with a wedding reception).  The crew voted for some fresh seafood so we found a nice little Spanish restaurant called Tinatapa’s. As anticipated, the food was wonderful.  I recommend the grouper. 

Show Day

Show day is the day when months of planning and preparation and are finally realized.  My team was expected to be at the top of its game and they came through.  With hundreds of shows under our belt, we understand that changes may take place at the last minute, that the show host may consider something they hadn’t previously, or that they may generally be frazzled as everything comes to fruition.  I can say from experience that we shine in these moments.  We are here to bring our customers’ plans to life, whatever it takes. 

After the vendors had all arrived and sales reps had gone through their pre-show meetings, it was time to conduct our training sessions.  We walked everyone involved through the operation of the system, including vendors, sales reps, registration staff, and show host administrative personnel.  The more knowledge we impart to each constituent group, the more easily they are able to walk the customer through the process, the more they can focus on turning new cases, and ultimately the better the ROI will be for the event.  One member of my team covered registration training while I handled POS training; the rest of my team patrolled the show floor, answering questions and responding to pages about special requests.

Once the show began, members of my team continued to walk the show floor to ensure that the questions were being addressed.  I monitored our wireless network and data from the server and fielded requests from the show host and sales reps.  After about an hour, once all vendors had entered an order or two on their POS unit, we effectively stopped receiving questions from the floor and could pull back to simply observe the system in action.  That moment is always a beautiful thing.

Throughout the day we continued to monitor the system, performing the occasional reloading of printer paper and name badge stock at registration, and we were fed many new product samples by vendors.  I do love me some coconut shrimp.

It was a smooth show, like most. 

Teardown

Once the show closed at 5:00pm, it was time to pack up and head out.  It always amazes me that what takes one to two full days to setup takes vendors an hour to tear down. 

Our part takes somewhat longer since we have no small amount of equipment to deal with.  POS units go back in the crates, network cables get re-coiled, access points (for our wireless network) get dismantled; it’s an undertaking.  But by 7:00pm we’d loaded our crates back onto the truck and were hungry for some dinner!

My team on show day - Greg, Lynda, and Tom

The Food, pt. 2:

We decided to live adventurously and headed across town to a South American restaurant we’d been tipped-off about called Columbia, which has been in operation for more than a hundred years.  We were greeted by an enthusiastic flamenco dancing display and some impressively elaborate hacienda-style architecture.  According to our waiter, the restaurant’s recipes had been passed from generation to generation since the turn of the century.  Those folks knew how to cook in 1900 and they know how to cook now.   It was one of the most delicious (and entertaining) restaurants I’ve ever been to, hands down. 

The amazing architecture at Columbia Restaurant

Headed Home to Denver

It always feels good to have another successful event under the metaphorical belt.  The team and I made our way back to the airport and then back to Denver to prepare for the next week and another great show.

Thanks for taking time to read my post.  If you have any questions about the process, please reach out to Ian at istoufer@dataconnectcorp.com.

04.13.2010

How Trade Shows Hit and Miss the Mark in the Changing Marketplace

The times, they are a-changin’.

The value of trade events is shifting. The market is getting younger and more savvy, and many consumers are unsatisfied with the same stilted trade show experience they’ve had in the past. Attendees are now expecting their experience to be tailored to suit their needs and preferences; they are looking for events that are engaging and entertaining that also meet the bottom line. Younger decision makers also mean the need for an increased focus on online events. In an age when the entirety of human knowledge is accessed via few keystrokes, it’s not only pertinent but compulsatory as a show host to enhance the application of internet marketing and virtual shows.

Although Gen Y is adept at building relationships online through social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn and via text messaging and email, physical events still provide a valuable platform for face-to-face interaction with vendors and products. Many purchasing decisions require an in-person, tactile exchange that would not be effectively facilitated through an online service. Making eye contact and shaking the hand of the product rep instills trust in the consumer and confidence in the vendor. That emotional connection resonates in ways that pure data can not. Some things simply transcend technology.

At the same time, the cost of running traditional events is increasing. Overhead expenditures like venue rental, decorator and electrician fees, and travel accommodations, often make the price tag for a large physical event prohibitive. And whereas trade shows once served to communicate the latest information to prospective buyers, the internet now provides all-access, up-to-the-minute content 24 hours a day. Because the way we collect and report information today is easier and more democratic than in the past, shows must compensate by yielding a unique experience that the internet or other media can’t provide. As a show host, in order to make your events profitable while meeting the demands of a changing marketplace, it’s critical to evaluate the following key areas:

Target Marketing: How are you steering particular customers to particular items? Target Marketing is a new, customer-specific way to call attention to items not currently being purchased on an account basis. Through the use of highlighted colors on the vendor Point-of-Sale screen, Data Connect allows you to market new or incentivised items to particular customers on the show floor. Your sales force will be given access to the web interface allowing them to select Targeted Items before the show. Then at the show, the customer will use their customized Target Marketing guide to navigate the show floor to purchase their selected items. Creating a customer-specific experience is key to today’s marketing efforts.

Flight Boards for Incentivised Items and Hot Deals: Promoting your Hot Items at the show generates excitement and broadens your opportunity to move cases. Data Connect offers a Flight Board application to enhance visibility and to create that much needed “buzz” at your event. Use large flat screen TVs and DCC’s technology to add a punch to the customer experience on show day.

Drawings and Prize Redemptions: Everyone loves free stuff. Utilize Data Connect’s Drawing application to select customers randomly or based upon pre-defined criteria for your drawings and giveaways. Drawings can be hosted hourly or at the end of the day, adding critical excitement and anticipation to your event.

For more sophisticated prize programs, Data Connect’s Prize Redemption service records customer purchases on the floor and calculates them against your redemption criteria upon customer check-out. Customers receive a paper record of their purchases and redemption transactions, and the show host a copy of the redemption receipt for accounting and Sarbanes compliance.

Virtual Shows: The new decision makers of today came of age in the internet era. They are accustomed to ordering products online and they judge businesses by their online presence. If your customers were ever too busy or too far away, now you can bring the show to them online, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. With Show Expert, you can focus on products that make sense for your customers and money for you. Gone are the days of cumbersome paperwork and missed faxes. Negotiate withn each vendor that participates in your show with our proprietary online negotiations system. Purchasing is a snap, as your customers and sales force use our system at their convenience to place orders. After the show, the DCC Event Management team can provide a complete set of reports for your purchasing and sales departments.

Also, consider running a virtual event after your trade show shipping period to retain the business you worked so hard to secure.

Virtual Sales Promotions: Distributors looking for a cost-effective way to take orders for their smaller regional shows and in-house events while maintaining a personal touch with their customers are utilizing Show Expert’s Virtual Sales Promotions. Anywhere you have an internet connection, you can host an event using Show Expert solutions.

Hot On-Line Deals (HOLD): How many times have you been offered a special truckload deal but were uncertain of how much you could sell? Now you can quickly get in touch with your customers to offer limited-time deals and transact orders.

Experiential information can’t be reproduced. Trade shows will continue to provide valuable in-person, face-to-face marketing opportunities. But the days of purely content-driven, informational events are over. The industry is trending toward fast, accessible, and diffuse ways of reaching customers. It’s time to trade in the old show model for something new. Something more exciting, less passive, more efficient, less miopic, and more profitable. Something that embraces not only where the market is today, but where it’s going. It’s time to embrace virtual events; not as a replacement for the physical show, but as a way to capture new or stubborn business, and as a booster shot for your marketing program. It’s time to embrace change or risk losing business to companies who do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

09.16.2009

Welcome to Data Connect

Welcome to Data Connect, you may not know much about us today but I guarantee you will if you read this post on a regular basis.  We live in challenging and exciting times, with new technologies emerging to replace old ways of conducting business.  We are at the forferont of that change with new ideas on how distribution services can be accomplished.   Our focus on distribution is not unique, but our ideas for solving the problems distributors face are.  There are over 300,000 distributors in the United States with over $4.8 trillion in business according to Hoovers.  They are in all sectors of the economy moving goods to market for manufacturers, supplying the important link between them and the retail outlet that sells to consumers. 

We look at the inefficiency bred into the system and wonder why can't there be a a better way to communicate, store and share information.  At the heart of all distribution activities is information describing products, their costs and the destination they are heading; simple enough information to capture and store.  If it where just that simple, but nothing in distribution is that easy.  A simple can of green beans is not just picked and put in a can, so it can be boxed and shipped to you local store.  No it is much more complex then that.  The grower sells their beans based on quality standards set by the government for the GRADE of the beans.   A processor buys different grades of beans and packages them for distributors based on their requirements to fill out their product portfolio from packer label (lowest) to private distributor label ( highest).  At the same time the large multi-national companies like Green Giant are buying beans and processing them for their own brand.  The distributor marks up each brand based on a predetermined program that they establish with the processor to create additional income streams from the sales of the beans.  In the end a can of beans has grower, processor, marketing, distributor storage and handling fees in addition to what ever the salesperson feels they can charge the restaurant.   The simple can of beans now has a program attached to that adds many layers of data and reporting to the distribution and sales process.

At Data Connect we have become experts in dealing with that complexity. Simplifying workflows, createing new ways to store and retrieve the data from a distributors perspective.  Data managed properly is gold for the distributor not only allowing them to manage the transactions but seek new markets, find trends within their customers that can lead to more sales.  Our job is to connect that data to actionable activities for the distributor.  Whether it collecting on the invoices, verifying receipt of merchandise or running a trade show, Data Connect has the capacity to link these activities together through the intelligent use of data.

Next:  Tradeshows, how they hit and miss the mark with their vendors and customers.