Tag Archives: evaluation

Making an exhibition of yourself

Trade shows are often a mystery to me. They are an expensive, time consuming and resource draining element of the annual plan but done well, can energize or re-energize a tired sales force, a disinterested distributor network, or disengaged customer base.  They offer the opportunity to demonstrate, to research and to make introductions in a safe, if artificial, environment.

I recently had occasion to attend a trade show in Birmingham, visiting a client who was exhibiting their wares and I also used it as an opportunity to research the particular sector and to talk to some of the leading players. I think more and more people are attending shows as a delegate, opting to go about their information and contract trawl in a much more clearly defined, but guerrilla, manner.

I deliberately picked the second day to maximise time with influencers and decision makers on stands (they would simply have been too busy on day one). It became quickly apparent to me that many of the exhibitors were experiencing poor levels of traffic and interest. Most were quick to bemoan the show, its organisers, their promotion methods, and the decline of UK trade shows in general. Worryingly, few accepted their role in promoting their own attendance at the show and too many stand personnel were quick to offer sweeping statements without really ascertaining who I was or what I was interested in.

Trying to spin this experience (and fourteen years of managing trade show attendance) into some positives, here is my take on getting the most from trade show attendance.

1. Establish that your target audience attends. Surprisingly obvious, but despite waning interest, how many companies (yours included) persist with certain shows in a bid to keep up appearances?

2. Agree a single and central proposition and stick to it. Lots of stands are just too cluttered. Issue based communication is the order of the day. Delegates have problems to solve so reframe your whole approach by answering ‘Who do I help and how?’

3. Agree evaluation criteria by setting benchmark objectives. Don’t be so vague as to have a simple enquiries target – cut it by product, sector, customer type, geographical market or sales rep. Be bold, you are investing big money and you need to ensure  a return.

4. Design data capture early on and ensure it can be quickly used after the event. If you can invest in barcode scanners if they are on offer. Anything else is just fiddly, time consuming and unprofessional.

5. Take space only and design a stand that reflects the importance of the market to your business. If the UK packaging sector is your number one sector, reflect it by having a corner stand open on 2-3 sides, some good height and visual branding, hospitality space and on stand promotions and Meet the Expert type events. Put it another way, why not?

6. Befriend the organisers. Like in any other walk of life, they can give you a great spot next to the seminar hall, near the entrance or near the coffee bar, advance notice and deals on showguide advertising, ad banners on the website and in promotional emails, and opportunities to join the conference program. By not creating a relationship you are reducing your ability to do this.

7. Integrate the show into your marketing and communication activities. You decided months in advance to attend the show. Tell people. Add it to your website, stationery, advertising, emails, press releases, invoices, statements etc.

8. Invite key customers & prospects and get them to network. Use your best most loyal advocates to do your selling for you. Everyone knows word of mouth and referral are the best, and easiest routes to new business. Act as the facilitator.

9. Brief your stand personnel on what to plug, how to act, and ensure they are always mindful of looking open, engaging & interested. There really is nothing worse than the two suited guys clogging the stand, talking to each other or tapping into a laptop. All those thousands of pounds flushed down the toilet as potential buyers stroll by.

10. Invite editors of the major journals to visit the stand and meet the team. Yes, it’s a tough sell, especially if PR is not one of your strong suits, but by getting editors warmed up to you as a business and what you do, it makes it easier to get releases placed in the future and can help you position yourself as an expert when they write features about the things you excel at.

Here’s to making an exhibition of yourself, in the right way.

Image Danburgmurmur Flickr stream

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Marketing Metrics 2: Getting the most from offline advertising

Advertising. The premise is to immediately attract attention, to resonate and stimulate interest. It’s forged on the notion of interrupting a prospective customer and taking their attention away from something else they are focusing on. That alone makes it a risky way to secure new customers. It’s also expensive, despite best efforts largely untargeted, relatively unsophisticated and consequently difficult to measure.

Offline advertising in whatever format (press, trade, poster, billboard, TV or radio) can be effectively neutralised, ignored and not acted on by media savvy buyers.

So, how do you combat this and make advertising work as a revenue generator, even though the experts say advertising is more about awareness than conversion?

Consider the following:

1. As a marketer consider why you advertise? Is it to build, protect or defend your brand share? Is it to promote specific products and services in a timely way to a specific audience? Is it because your company always has? Is it because your think it makes a difference but don’t really know how or why?

2. Identify a good advertiser. Follow the lead of the companies that do it best – that’s financial services and insurance and mobile phone companies right now. Give every piece a unique reference code, use specific campaign telephone numbers, set up specific internet landing pages, offer promotional rates based on contact window.

3. Demand more from the media you use. Demand accompanying editorial, demand companion buttons on the website, demand reference points in email marketing and demand response data.

4. Ask relevant people what they think. Test concepts before you run them live. Run online polls and focus groups to assess their advertising. At a less expensive and time consuming level this could involve asking your colleagues, sales teams, customers and prospects to feedback.

5. Brief your sales people, especially telesales, to validate the source of enquiries as they come into the business. And use a drop down on all website enquiry forms so advertising can be logged as the primary method of attribution.

Marketing Metrics 1: Why measure?

With the post Principles of Marketing 13: Evaluation becoming the most read blog post on this site in the last nine months, I figured it was time to explode the subject in more detail with a series of blog posts dedicated to measuring marketing effectiveness

This is an area where marketers often struggle and is a primary reason for marketing not being taken seriously at board level in many businesses. A strong correlation needs to be made between marketing investment and return. And it’s no surprise that companies that do well also integrate marketing into their business development and sales strategies.

Whilst online marketing provides a level of traffic and conversion evaluation, more traditional approaches along with the latest viral and digital techniques are more difficult to quantify in terms of ROI. The explosion in the popularity and ease of networking and sharing content online adds to the problem.

Just how do you possibly track back brand awareness, brand and market share, and return in investment to these activities?

Blog posts upcoming include advertising offline, advertising online, direct mail, exhibitions, conferences, websites / blogs, emarketing, social media – Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook, brand / brand value and financial ROI.

Are you using the right web analytics model?

I have been inspired to share some of the content I picked up at Technology for Marketing & Advertising, 2010.

This blog reflects on the Econsultancy seminar on web analytics. More can be found at www.econsultancy.com.

If you are into evaluation, (and my blog statistics suggest most visitors are), you need to start providing credible reports on return on digital marketing investment. Attribution models help allocate lead generation and customer conversion to specific activities but model used can give a very different report.

There can be massive differences in what your website statistics and advertising statistics tell you. That’s because there are natural drop offs between people clicking an ad, opening an email, clicking a link to your site (the ad stat) and staying on your site long enough to register as a session (website stats). It can be down to simple things like realising they have gone to the wrong or irrelevant site, the home page taking too long to download or a loss of internet connection.

At a deeper level though, understanding how to attribute the success for a conversion is gaining importance in internet marketing. There are essentially three different strategies which can be employed to help give you a view on web traffic. These are commonly referred to as ‘last click’, ‘conversion’ & ‘weighted’.

Last click is the most common and easiest to monitor as it attributes credit for the conversion on the last click. So if an email is sent which results in 20% clickthrough to site, the email takes the credit. The major drawback in this model however is that it fails to take into account any other touchpoints, which inevitably provides a false impression of what works.

Conversion isolates a click and offers a thread so is ideal for affiliate enterprises. It does however provide the greatest risk of duplication and double counting as there is no guarantee that the clickthrough ends in a sale.

A weighted approach tries to allocate credit to all aspects of campaign but is obviously the hardest to manage. Dell and other direct marketing giants pioneered the concept of dedicated landing pages to help allocate traffic to specific channels and activities. Other sites bluntly ask how you arrived at the site.

I think the key thing for most businesses is simply to start monitoring where your traffic is coming from. If you are not, start monitoring your clicks, traffic and conversion today. If you already are, perhaps this post has given you some food for thought on exactly what you are monitoring.

Image from willscullypower WordPress blog

Principles of marketing 13: Evaluation

Though evaluation typically comes at the end of a period of activity, the process involves benchmarking against preset key performance indicators which are set in relation to objectives at the beginning. If you haven’t followed a robust planning approach, your evaluation will unfortunately be sketchy at best.

Encouragingly, the digital revolution has extended the ability to evaluate activity such that weblogs, analytics programs and other automated controls can be used to immediately and powerfully inform marketers as to the success or failure of an activity and help to pinpoint where corrective remedy needs to be focused.

You can track enquiries, registrations, sign ups and log ins on your websites and from emails and other marketing. (Use of targeted campaign specific landing pages helps to track all advertising, direct marketing, social media and PR traffic).

You can more specifically track and calculate return based on visitor numbers (unique and return over time), enquiries, conversions and terminations. Monitoring terminations and what lies un-purchased in online baskets allows you to contact them or refine your online ordering to make it easier.

It goes without saying the main KPI is to evaluate against revenues i.e. same or more from existing customers, new customers or new products and services to both existing and new customers.

Duration of time spent instore/on your website are good ‘soft’ barometers of interest, as are the running of recommend/send to a friend features which encourage word of mouth – again all tracked back to a specific landing page / log in.

I make no apology for keeping it simple – it’s what this blog is built on. Companies and global brands spend millions tracking brand mentions on the web, tracking their brand position, brand share, brand equity and lots of other stuff. Good luck to them.

Ultimately, the name of the game of evaluation is to keep doing the right things right and to stay profitably in business. With the pressure of new business in the current economic environment so stark,  maybe ensuring you have the same customers next year that you had this year is the best place to start?

Principles of marketing 12: Control

If you were to look at the time most marketing functions spent on pulling together a marketing plan, they might spend 10% on planning, 80% on implementation, and 10% on control and evaluation.

But what is the point in bothering if you don’t really monitor and analyse what is working and what is not. This split needs to be more like 25%-50%-25% on the part of the plan owner and here’s why.

Control is all about keeping things on track against objectives, removing and adding elements, reapportioning spend and resource as needed, and informing plans for the following year.

Control means keeping an eye on men (resource) money (budget) and minutes (time).  The expected and the unexpected can all have a major impact. And technology now exists to track performance against objectives and KPIs on an ongoing basis.

Electronic timesheet and project management systems like DataValley, Rebus or Filemaker can provide detailed reporting on costs, tasks/timelines, job status and invoicing.

Automating your website keeps staff overheads to a minimum, focusing resource to the right departments for example taking campaign specific calls, packing and despatch.

Programmes like Google Analytics and WordPress blogging provide incredible traffic statistics to allow you to immediately see what is working and what is not. Customer traffic flow, buying patterns, drop off and satisfaction rates can all monitored and modifications made instantly.

Database and CRM packages like Dotmailer, Salesforce, MailAgent, Constant Contact can all be used to keep your opt-in databases up to date and in the know.

And good old Microsoft Excel, together with an increasing number of compatible free open-source programs, can help you keep on top of your budget.

Plans are often built on a forecast for future trading conditions. But what happens if the recession deepens, the pubic purse contracts and greater pressure is placed on cost in your sector? Only a fool would continue on doggedly with a plan conceived 8 months previously.