B2B Trade Shows can be Tough for Marketers!

B2B Trade shows: If you do them right, you’ll make it back to the office, exhausted but satisfied you made the best of it.

Let’s face it, B2B Trade shows can bring even the hardiest CMO to tears. As we prepare some of our clients for Mobile World Congress 2016, we thought it would be great to share some practical tips and templates. Here’s 7 practical tips that should help you make the most out of any event.

Disclaimer – Never start anything without putting in place a solid Marketing Strategy, Plan and a clear set of Goals!!

Tip 1: Plan – well in advance

I know this is going to sound somewhat zealous, but I like to plan a year in advance. You really want a nice big list of B2B trade shows that are relevant to your industry, business, products and solutions. I normally begin planning events well in advance of next year’s budget cycle. Events can take a huge chunk of your Marketing budget, so it’s wise to select the best options for success.

The yearly event list should look something like this. (Download trade show planning template here)

As you get closer to submitting your yearly budget, do an in-depth review of each event, determining how relevant it is to your marketing goals for the following year. If you have never been to a particular event before, it’s always a great idea to check its website and find out who went last year – both prospects and vendors. Reach out to your marketing peers via LinkedIn or email and ask what they thought about the previous year’s event.

Tip 2: Remind me again, why are we going?

Sounds kind of strange, but make sure to have the answers ready when your boss asks. There should be a clear link to the event and your defined marketing and corporate goals. Which campaign is the event linked to? Is the focus on awareness and branding, thought leadership, meetings, lead generation, channel partner support, meeting customers? Try and find the one thing. Don’t spread yourself too thin here, the answer to this question will be the way you measure the extent of the event’s success when you review your participation.

Tip 3: Share the Plan, like, with Everybody!

B2B trade shows can be big and messy. The really big ones can involve many people and several teams. Put a master checklist together well in advance of the show and make sure everyone can get access to it. It should look something like this (Download trade show checklist template here)

While this is list is a good start you should tweak it to your needs and to the specific event. Importantly, start planning early, because big shows require big lead times. If you are building a booth, the design and messaging alone can take a few months. Logistics are the less glamourous side of B2B trade shows, but hey someone’s got to do it. Make sure you know what’s got to be onsite and by when. Don’t forget anything that needs to come back too.

Tip 4: Reach out

Outreach is key to getting quality meetings at the event. B2B Trade Shows require massive outreach prior to showMake sure you let your customers, prospects and industry influencers know that you are going to be there. Use social media before, during and after the event. Make sure all employees know you are participating and encourage them to share on social media and with their contacts.

Set up a dedicated landing page on your company website informing people how they can set up a meeting. Let prospects know clearly and concisely what you are planning to announce, demo or discuss during the show, in short why should they meet you. Send a couple of emails to your mailing lists leading up to the event. And don’t forget to take photos and notes during the show for your social media and blogging. Make sure it’s all in the plan.

 

Tip 5: Teamwork goes a long way

At larger events, it’s common to have sales and marketing working side-by-side, so involve the sales team well ahead of time. Make sure they know about the event and what the key objectives are. Sales folks will be key in setting up meetings with customers and prospects. Prepare an email template they can use to reach out to their contacts personally.

Prior to departure for the show, do an online meeting with the team and run them through everything. On the first day of the show, best to do a booth run-through with everyone 45 mins before the show opens. Don’t forget to collect those business cards and lead forms from the sales folks and make sure they get assigned in the CRM. Using lead scanner can save time. A “thank you” email to each lead on the evening of the show will help you when following up afterwards. Don’t forget to collect feedback from all team members at the end of the show. This will help with your planning for next year.

Remember to keep you team members informed, ready to work the floor and motivated to get the message out. You are the leader at the event, and you need to keep up the team’s morale. They expect this.

Tip 6: Use and Abuse the Deadline

The best thing I like about B2B trade shows is that once you commit, the date is fixed. That means you have a deadline. I like to put events in my content calendar and build plenty of deliverables around the dates. You always want to turn up at an event with something new to say. It might be a new report or paper, product launch or a demo. Something that is going to be interesting to the audience, especially the ones that already know your company. Add it all to your content or campaign calendar.

Tip 7: Think Differently!

Many marketing folks just go through the motions at B2B trade shows. DON’T BE ONE OF THEM! As with all facets of B2B marketing, the key to engagement is to create value. Why would a customer or prospect spend 30 mins with you, when they can choose from hundreds if not thousands of others? Customers and prospects will come to your booth and set up meetings with your team if they find value in coming there. Think about, what would make you visit another vendor?

How about this? Take the leading industry analyst in your space and hire him/her to sit in your meeting room for the three days of the show. Tell your customers and prospects they can have a complementary meeting with the industry’s leading analyst at your booth during the show. Just this little idea could get you another 25-30 quality meetings during a three-day show. Just because most marketers think B2B trade shows are just more of the same, you can get off the beaten track and get creative! If you adopt this idea, don’t forget to feed your analyst!

Bonus Tip: Use the event as a platform for great content marketing.

(Thanks to Adam Murray @Blacklab Marketing for this one)
If you’re going to an event, make sure to publicize it beforehand on your website and to your contacts. And while you’re at the event, issue news and views not just about your own activity, but also about the highlights of proceedings that are causing a buzz among attendees. Use all the media at your disposal: social media, video (YouTube for example), mobile apps, even SMS to let everyone know the latest on the event’s key themes and trends as they emerge. Become a valuable source of updates, news and opinion, especially at the bigger events, which can be difficult to navigate. Industry people don’t want to miss out, so position yourselves as the go-to guys for up-to-date information. You’ll instantly add value to your contacts and prospects, and impress upon your industry that you are on top of the newest developments as they happen. And after it’s all over, don’t forget to produce a useful summary of the event from your point of view. By the time you circulate this and post it online, your contacts will know they can rely on you to have something interesting and valuable to say.

Got any valuable tips, be sure to add them in the comments below so we can share them too!

Continue Reading

The secret trick to working with sales

Working with sales is easy. Just think like a salesperson!

Working with sales should come naturally to a marketer once you get into the head of your sales colleagues. More than once I have been accused by my colleagues of “sounding like a salesman”. While not often meant as a compliment, that’s how I take it. If truth be told, I have spent a few of my years in the Sales trenches and believe that’s what gives me a unique perspective on working with sales.

What would Maslow say about Sales’ needs?

Two brutal truths about B2B marketing & working with sales

1. Marketing has no reason to exist without sales!
2. We are all sales people or should be!

Some marketing folks like to think certain aspects of their job are not about working with sales – positioning, branding, awareness, thought leadership, PR, AR, etc. Sorry to tell you, it ain’t so! As marketers, we really have no reason to exist beyond that of serving sales. I not advocating that marketing be enslaved to sales, it is more about joining forces. Our job is to spread the word, find prospects, produce sales collateral and tools. In the end, we should also be thinking about what will close the sale.

Everything you do should be about the sales process, or don’t bother doing it. Marketing is an inseparable part of this process, which has defined steps, with a start point and a clear objective. In team meetings, when we go round the table for updates, everyone knows they need to think like a salesperson. Team members, whether working on a campaign, corporate video, new mailer, building personas or a presentation – everyone needs to be able to explain clearly how that task or deliverable is going to move the sales process forward.

Working with sales – Create value, not likes

Keep your eyes on the metrics that count. Don’t get side tracked with vanity metrics or the latest hype in social media. You can only hope to gain respect from sales if you can create value and demonstrate a clear understanding of their needs and a willingness to focus on them. In the end, we all need to know how to sell and the end goal is more often than not measured with a currency symbol. If you start speaking the same language, you will be surprised at how well marketing and sales can communicate.

Working with sales – Leads

Whether you are using the latest marketing automation software, or handing out leads on little yellow post-it notes, leads are what feed the machine. Too many marketing folks complain that sales can’t, won’t or don’t take action on the mountain of leads they generate. The root cause of the problem, more often than not, is that there is no clear definition of a qualified lead. Marketers may have their own definition of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). They know when a visitor become a prospect that should be nurtured. However, defining Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) requires discussion and agreement with the sales team, it cannot be done alone. Some salespeople I know will say a “hot lead” is only when they get an email with a PO attached, but realistically speaking, a frank and positive discussion between sales and marketing will help set expectations and set a clear, agreed definition of what an SQL is. It will help to set SLAs for salespeople to follow up on leads, and make sure there is a feedback mechanism in place for sales to rate the SQLs.

Working with sales – Build a relationship

Make sure your teams are interacting, both formally and informally. Set quarterly or half yearly meetings to understand what the situation is in each region or with a particular product line. Make sure your team members ask salespeople for input and feedback when creating collateral or messages. The salespeople should be intimate with your target audience, so use them! The relationship should go both ways. Create a sales wish list and let them know they can add items to it. You won’t get it all done, but even a little will create some goodwill and who knows, they may have some good ideas.

Working with sales – Ask for feedback!

The good thing about sales departments is that they are mostly managed. They have quarterly business reviews and annual sales conferences. Take advantage of these events to get feedback from the sales teams. The best approach would be to write up a short questionnaire and let them tell you what they thought about different deliverables you initiated, what they feel they need to succeed. One year I had them rank by importance a list of six white papers in which we were prepared to invest time and budget in and the numbers told us where to start, which white paper was really urgent for them to have (it was about NFV if you are curious…). An additional event was a Sales Management meeting where all the regional directors came to a review with the CEO and VP Sales. We asked them to rank their confidence in the new messaging and how relevant it was to their region. It was very helpful to get their feedback and they actually helped tweak the messaging.

Working with Sales – Never Skip Sales Training

Make sure the sales training program always has a slot on the agenda so you can introduce yourself, the marketing team members and the marketing platforms and resources. Sales training is a good opportunity to meet new sales people that have just joined. Take a few minutes to review the corporate website and its content, the resource library and any other platforms you have created for them to use. New salespeople are eager to find information. Take a few minutes to explain how the lead process works, and what are the leads’ criteria are. All of this front-end investment will make sure they are aligned. At the same time, make sure that you and your team have gone through at least one sales training course yourself. See what they are being trained for!

Additionally, for product or solution training that includes a major marketing launch (major investment) make sure you share the launch plan with the sales team. Tell them how the new product will be promoted, what the planned messages are and what kind of leads should they expect. Sharing is Caring.

Working with Sales – Get out of the office

Do you want to understand the sales process and really contribute? Get out from behind your desk and go on a sales call. Just being in the room when salespeople present to clients and prospects will teach you more about working with sales than anything. Make it a regular thing, for your team members too. Switch between salespeople, regions and product lines and check out their style, pitch and how (or if) they use your content and tools. Sales will appreciate it and you will learn fast what is working for them.

Marketing should not only understand the sales process, but be an active participant in it. The dividing line between marketing and sales should be saved for the org charts!

Continue Reading

Webinar Fatigue and How to Overcome it

Webinar fatigue is now as common as the cold

Let’s face it, to say the webinar scene is overcrowded would be a monumental understatement. Webinar fatigue should come as no surprise. After all, I seem to receive a new webinar invitation every other day. While many of them sound super interesting, who has time to sit on webinars all day? I often find myself signing up for many more than I actually attend. Webinars, if done right, are a lot of work (the ultimate webinar project plan here). Is it worth the time and effort? I must admit that I am still a believer. I consider webinars to be a great platform to interact with customers, prospects and the wider audience. So how can you make sure they’re successful?

How to get the Audience?

Make it educational and not a sales dump. That much is obvious to most of us by now. I would go beyond that and say make it CONTROVERSIAL!! The most successful webinar I recall was when we discussed a topic that was hugely contentious. I am not saying go out of your way to be antagonistic. Just pick a topic that might have two opposing sides. Make it entertaining and compelling. Instead of rolling out your favorite product manager, bring on guests and set it up as a debate. Bill it as the main event! Do something different if you want to stand out.

No substitute for Quality

Don’t skimp on the slides. Don’t over-text them and don’t throw up random pictures. Make the design simple, consistent and visual! So many folks are still reading off their slides. Make sure you’re not stuffing too many slides into your 35-40-minute webinar. As I have had to explain to many an overzealous slide-bearing product manager, its quality and clarity of message, not quantity.

Audience participation

Nothing brings on a case of Webinar fatigue quicker than a “slide-fest”! One of the best things about the format is the chance to interact with the audience. Set some interactive polls to ask the audience during the webinar. It helps wake up the audience and break up topics. Most webinar platforms have the ability to conduct interactive polls. For maximum interaction, you can combine a poll question with a Twitter chat or other social media. Make sure to leave time for Q&As and prepare for them! Don’t leave things to chance. Prepare back up questions just in case. Some platforms enable webinars to be pre-recorded, but I always suggest you do a live Q&A.

You don’t need an audience

Well you do, but you don’t necessarily need a live one. Many webinar platforms today will let you record the live webinar and then offer it on demand. What’s great about this is your audience will never “miss” your webinar. It is always there, online and viewers can even log back in later and pick up where they left off. I personally have utilized EverGreen (here) but there are quite a few options out there for automating the “long tail webinar”.

Don’t forget to…

Stretch it! Repurpose that content. First off, upload the deck to SlideShare and Youtube if you don’t have an evergreen platform. Some webinars make great ebooks or “How to guides” depending on the content. Webinars can make excellent fodder for social media. Use the visuals, break up the text and voilà – you have a series of thematic posts for a couple of weeks or more.

Practice makes perfect

Get your team geared up and pumped for the webinar. Make sure the speakers are trained to speak enthusiastically about the topic. Rehearse a couple of times. Get everyone comfortable with the script and flow. It helps to record the dry runs and play them back to the speaker. Think more Broadway performance than mind-numbing college lecture and you’ll be half way there.

Continue Reading

Industry Analysts can be Influencers, Supporters or Antagonists

Industry Analysts – Love ’em or hate ’em, but ignore them at your peril

Industry Analysts range from the boutique one-man band to the behemoth Gartner. Industry Analyst firms exist to fill a gap in the market – namely providing expertise in a particular field, so decision-making becomes easier. That’s the theory anyway, the reality is somewhat more complex.

Industry Analysts spend a great deal of their time speaking to buyers and sellers of technology, which means that are speaking to your customers, prospects, competitors and then some. To provide the best advice to their customers, analysts need to cut through the BS in the market. Why is there so much BS? That’s easy, everyone has an agenda and often a different point of view. Analysts can fall in love with your company or technology and tell everyone they meet. They can also not like you personally very much and tell everyone or no one.

Insight#1 Don’t be surprised if the analyst you meet has an opinion

Industry Analysts, like their firms, come in all forms. Some have been analysts since college while others have moved from the “sell side” to become analysts. One thing that all analysts should have in common is that they all have an opinion. This often surprises the vendor folks. Vendors sometimes get confused (I know, I have been there) when it seems Analysts just didn’t accept the “facts” of the situation. Well, facts in these cases can be somewhat subjective, but the real issue is that Analysts are expected to have an opinion – that is what they get paid for. Clients expect analysts to not only provide market facts, but to have an opinion on where, when and in what direction the market is going. They want analysts to take the risk and analyze and make a recommendation based on an opinion. Don’t get caught up in facts, your job as the marketing person, is really to sway the jury. They will give you a chance to influence their opinion!

Insight#2 Identify, Tag and Bag your Analysts

If you have just been given accountability for your company’s Industry Analyst program or just started in a new company, the first thing you need to do is map out the lay of the land. Google and the Analysts websites will help you map out who are the key Analyst influencers in your space. In addition, always a good idea to ask your customers and prospects which analyst services they subscribe to and also check out your competitors’ websites too. It is essential to identify not just the analyst firm but who the individual industry analyst is that covers your space, make this personal! Once you have the list, break them down by the following tiers.

Tier-1 Analysts will be key influencers/evangelists in your market space, they can make or break a deal for you. You will want to be in contact with these folks at least every 2-3 months.
Tier-2 Analysts will be folks that occasionally write/speak about your space, but it is not the main segment they follow. Hit these guys at least every 6 months.
Tier-3 Analysts may be analysts that are high profile analysts in adjacent market segments. While they do not cover your area, it would be great if they knew at least who you are in case your name comes up.

Insight#3 Create a long-term two-way relationship

Don’t approach your analyst briefing as a press conference, a briefing should be a discussion. Sure, you can prepare some slides and a have a clear agenda, but if you figure you are going to spend the next 30 minutes or so dumping information on the analyst, the value of the interaction will be severely impacted. Don’t forget the counterpart to your discussion is a person with many things to say as well. Be flexible and seek to gain as much from the discussion as you plan to invest. Analysts can provide a wealth of (free) information to vendors in briefings, if only the vendors were prepared to listen. You can always send the slide deck later or ask for a follow up call. Analysts giving you their time are interested in your opinion too, not just in the facts that you planned to present. Be honest and provide value to the Analyst, they will tend to reciprocate and seek out your opinion and advice. Analysts are people too, and after all we do business with people.

Insight#4 How to keep the romance alive for many years to come

Create value and don’t make it all about you! Sign an NDA and tell the Analyst what you’re up to! Share stories from customers, they want to know not just what you sell, but how you do business. Generate content that will be valuable to the analysts – case studies, trend reports and opinion pieces will all have more value than 100-slide product presentations. Keep industry analysts informed with new market trends and new directions in your customer base. Since analysts are required to write reports, give presentations, facilitate workshops, they will read and learn from content you provide if you do so in a relevant manner. Make sure to utilize the analysts as a source of information and someone that can help validate your strategy and directions. Analysts are paid to have an opinion and even if you don’t like their opinion it is good to know and understand it so don’t be afraid to ask them questions and see what their opinion is. The more value you can provide each other, the stronger the relationship will be.

Insight#5 Keep up on your analysts

Make it a point to keep up with what your industry analysts are doing. Make sure you know what they are working on and what they have published. Always good to start a briefing by – “saw your latest report about… and I have something you can add to your next one…”

Continue Reading

Whitepaper that never went out… Epic Fail!

In a galaxy not so far away…

After much deliberation, we finally got the budget approved for our latest whitepaper. We carefully selected the analyst we wanted to work with and then we set up the conference call to set the wheels in motion. So far, sounds OK – right?

Following the call, we received the agreed upon “Table of Contents” from the analyst. I immediately circulated the ToC to the usual suspects (ie: relevant team members). It seems just everyone is mighty interested in whitepapers! Marketing Director, PR team (including external company) Analyst Relations, Pre-sales Manager, and a several others just had to be on copy.

Then the damndest thing happened, I didn’t get a single reply! Not a one, nada, zip, nobody responded. It was rather strange, after all the fuss to get this deliverable approved, did anyone really care? So I set my plan in motion, The Cafeteria Ambush! While I managed to waylay some of my colleagues and get some feedback on the ToC, there seemed to be a distinct lack of passion for this project. Maybe that should have been a red flag!

Shortly afterwards, back in the office, I compiled everyone’s comments, revised the ToC then sent it back to the analyst. That was the cue for him to start writing. Every couple of days the analyst would circle back on an issue or with a question. Wanting to be a “team player” I would diligently distribute the questions to the team, work hard on getting some responses and send the analyst a summarized answer.

This process went on and on and we finally started to get initial drafts for review. And that’s when the wheels really started to come off. The teams’ comments on the drafts were contradictory, resulting in one confused analyst! I guess we were getting lost from his perspective. I knew things were coming off the rails when most of the feedback consisted of comments such as “I don’t think we should mention this…”, “this is not a good thing to say…” “are we ever going to publish this?” …

Eventually after 3 months, everyone, including the analyst, gave up. We couldn’t finalize the document, it really didn’t say much, in truth it was downright boring, and we even forgot why we wanted to write it in the first place!

We paid the analyst of course, it really wasn’t his fault. We spent a lot of time, money and effort and the whitepaper was put in a drawer, never to see the light of day! In reflection, I probably made one mistake after the other, it was a lesson well learnt. Here’s what I figured out.

Insight # 1 – Make sure the whitepaper is in the plan

We had always been very meticulous about our campaign calendar and content plan, we knew exactly what, when and why we were working on things. Every little thing was planned – from product datasheet updates to product launches, case studies to thought leadership reports. Our infamous whitepaper was not in the plan! While everybody had something to say about it, no one really owned it. Also, it was not a part of any campaign that had specific deadlines – a real outsider.

Our team produces many different types of content – blogs, infographics, reports, solution briefs, customer stories, product and sales presentations, webinars and videos and the like. This highly complex and hard to write whitepaper was not given the focus and planning it really needed to succeed.

Insight #2: The whitepaper we wrote had nothing new to say and no clear message

Don’t get me wrong, I think whitepapers can be excellent thought leadership tools. However, in the B2B marketing world people expect compelling content from “thought leaders”. In this particular scenario, we hadn’t really done our homework and didn’t really know or agree upon the one message that we wanted to convey. In the end, the whitepaper read exactly like that! Trying to please too many cooks, the paper went off in too many directions and didn’t have any solid commitment behind any one of them. We really didn’t know what we wanted to tell the world – not a good point to start.

Insight #3: Don’t screw your analysts’ around its bad for business

In general, most Industry analysts know how to write whitepapers. They know the ecosystem, they know the market, they know the companies in the space. What you need to be clear about is your angle on the topic, the message and the tone you want delivered. An analyst can only work with the information that is provided and will get lost quickly if the information, direction or message is not clear.

Be very attentive to the midway reviews, respond in a timely fashion and present a single “company voice” in comments and feedback. There should be only one subject matter owner within the company. The ToC should be finalized and agreed upon before putting pen to paper. Be pro-active! Make sure you understand and agree to the flow of the paper. Make sure the Analyst understands your position and knows what to emphasize. Work with the analyst to provide graphics, diagrams, spark interesting discussions. The analysts name will be on the cover of the paper, they will want make sure it’s of the highest standard.

While this is a story of failure, in the end there is much to be learnt from this process. Creating technical marketing content is always a collaborative process, it has to be. If everyone understands the plan and their respective roles, and appreciates each other’s competencies, you will most often get a great piece of content on time. Otherwise, well you can see what happens…

Continue Reading

B2B Trade Shows Are Tough!

B2B Trade shows. If you do them right, you’ll make it back to the office, exhausted but satisfied you made the best of it.
Disclamer Never start anything without putting to place a solid marketing streategy, Plan an a clear set of Goals!

Let’s face it B2B Trade shows can bring even the hardiest CMD to tears. Here’s 7 practical tips that should help you make the most out of any event.

Tips 1: Plan – Well in advance

I know the is going to sound somewhat zealous, but I like to plan a year in advance,. You really want a nice big list of B2B trade shows that are relevant to your industry, business, products and solution. I normally begin planning events well in advance of next year’s budget’s cycle. Events can take a huge chunk of your marketing budget. So It’s wise to select the best options for success.

The yearly event list should look something like this event 2016

Continue Reading

Optimizing the Promise of 5G

The sharp U-turn by US operators is having a serious impact as unlimited data costs effect the bottom line All the major US wireless carries…

Continue Reading