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Trade Shows: To Participate or Not … that’s the Last Question

trade show booth marketing
At some point, you may hear of a trade show for your industry and entertain the notion of attending. The immediate question is whether such an excursion would be a worthwhile investment of time, effort and money.  Reaching that determination will require carefully considered answers to several other questions, first.

Begin by asking yourself what do you want to accomplish? There are a number of excellent reasons why business owners and managers attend trade shows. These include:

  • Learning about new trends, products or services within your industry
  • Networking with vendors or noncompeting businesspeople with whom you can establish mutually beneficial relationships
  • Getting leads on potential new customers
  • Taking a look at what your competitors are doing
  • Participating in educational sessions led by industry thought-leaders
  • Getting away from the office/store/shop and having a little fun

Taken separately, any of these objectives might seem to justify a trade show excursion for you (or perhaps a few of your deserving employees). But that still doesn’t necessarily mean you should attend. Here are three additional lines of inquiry are worth tackling:

  • What is the opportunity cost of attendance?
    • When you or members of your staff are at a trade show, someone’s regular duties will either go unexercised or must be undertaken by adding to the workload of other staff members. Are you raising the morale of some employees by lowering it for others?
    • Is there a chance that some customer service needs might not be met while staff is away? You don’t want to lose current clients for the mere potential of gaining new ones somewhere down the road.
    • Could the money budgeted for the trade show be better spent somewhere else? For example: going to a trade show vs. purchasing some new tool to improve individual productivity.

With careful forethought (and budgeting) these concerns could be allayed, but they should be given their due consideration.

  • Could the benefits of attending the trade show be gained in a more cost-effective, alternative manner?
    • For example: Do you really need to network with people from all over the country, when 95% of your business is local, or would a membership with a hometown civic or business organization work better?
    • Could a subscription to an industry publication or two be just as effective as walking around a trade show floor for a few hours a year?
    • Would an office party, or off-site team-building event do a better job of raising spirits within your company?

Once again, we don’t mean to diminish the value of trade shows or dissuade participation, but rather to encourage thoughtful comparative analysis.

  • Can you evaluate the return on your investment?

Whatever motivates you to attend a trade show, once you’ve made the decision to attend, be sure you have a plan and a process to get all the value from that event that you can. As you look over the list of things you expect to accomplish by attending a trade show, you should be able to foresee ways to measure success. Work through this question to gain impetus for tracking the contacts you meet, and for recording the things you learn with an idea of how to implement the new ideas. Conversely, if you can’t really see any way to quantify your trade show attendance, perhaps you want to rethink going.

One important consideration that absolutely shouldn’t be discounted, is that you may simply enjoy the spectacle, energy and camaraderie of trade shows. We’ve written this piece for people who are on the fence. If you’re a business owner who looks forward to trade shows, and if you’re in a position to attend, that’s really all that matters. Your instincts have served you well in the past and will likely so in this decision as well.

Here are a few other online articles about trade shows that you may want to check out:

Trade Show Marketing

13 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Trade Shows

Trade Show Check List

Tampa Bay public relations

Copy vs. Graphics: Bickering Spouses of Advertising?

copyvgraphics_newsIn this age of social media, viral videos and search engine optimization (SEO), the role of imagery and copy in marketing is like ever-present background noise. And yet from billboards to websites, the healthy marriage of copy and graphics is almost always a critical component in the successful execution of promotional efforts.

The relationship between copy and graphics is practically as close as conjoined twins. Think about it. How often to you do you see promotional copy without some kind of image? Or when was the last time you saw an ad that had no words?

As with any couple, there can be tension between words and picture—often thanks to the “in-laws.” People who bring copy into the world are fond of saying that “Copy drives creative.” Meanwhile the graphics artists point out that nobody actually reads Playboy for the articles. Wisdom comes from understanding that whatever is done must be for the sake of the concept.

How this conception takes place varies quite a bit. It can be a lovely process, or sort of messy (intimate collaboration vs. a brainstorming free-for-all). But once a marketing concept is born, skill and patience are needed to help it achieve its destiny of carrying an important message into the world. Good marketing agencies work this out for their clients. But what if you’re a smaller business with only ad hoc marketing assistance? Where do you begin?

  • Understand how the concept will carry the message. It’s easy to get carried away with a possible concept; they can be very cute and lot of fun. But if the connection between a creative concept and its intended message isn’t readily apparent, start over. Also, remember to keep your branding in mind—especially how the concept supports your overall value proposition.
  • First, focus on the concept and come up with a visual OR First, focus on the concept and come up with a headline. Sorry, but sometimes the graphics needs to lead, and sometimes the copy has to do the trick. If one person is doing this alone, it’s relatively easy because they can go with the best idea that pops up. If you have people splitting duties, you can have them collaborate; let them work independently and present dueling treatments; or make the executive decision to have one of them take the lead.
  • Creative elements must support and complement each other … completely. A lot of really great headlines have been killed by stock photography or limited graphics resources that don’t quite meet the needs. This is why images often end up being in control when all is said and done. (It’s usually easier to change a few words than come up with the perfect picture.) The key takeaway is that they have to work together!
  • Maintain consistency throughout the promotional piece. Typically, this is more of an issue for copywriters than graphics artists as there are often headlines, body copy, a call-to-action, etc. supporting just one concept. (Avoid the copywriting equivalents of mixed metaphors!) However, where multiple images are used (such as a brochure) they too should be in keeping with specific copy elements and honor the creative idea throughout the piece.
  • Let the people involved in the creative process take a final look before publishing (or ‘going live’). Just because people work together, they don’t necessarily work side-by-side. Sometimes an artist may find that the image that delighted her isn’t available for commercial usage. Or perhaps the writer (who convinced everyone he’d written the all-time greatest headline) wakes up in the middle of the night realizing it’s actually stupid. One creative person may frantically issue changes that the other knows nothing about … or maybe they never had a meeting of the minds to begin with. It’s critically important that they all have the opportunity to serve as creative quality checks before it’s too late.

While it will never be set in stone as to whether copy or imagery is more important to rearing a successful promotional concept, they each have their important specific roles. Imagery catches the attention of an audience, and copy justifies that interest. As long as they’re doing this, you know you have a creative union that works.

Other online articles you may want to peruse:

The 10 Commandments of Great Copywriting

25 Epic Design Tips for Non Designers

11 Best ways to Brainstorm Creative Ideas

Tampa Bay public relations

Social Media Superhero: Tips for Curating Social Content

social media curating content marketing Social media accounts for businesses are now the norm rather than the exception, so keeping up-to-date with your posts is something that must be done on a regular basis. We understand that this is time-consuming and is yet another item to add to your to-do list, but below are some tips for streamlining the process and keeping your content interesting and fresh.

  • Choose your accounts wisely: You don’t have to have ALL the social media accounts for your business (although you should own your name to fend off squatters.) Pick the ones that make the most sense. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are fairly standard (for different reasons) and should be on your list, but if your business is not image heavy, then Instagram and Pinterest may not be necessary. However, if you are a retailer, these may be your most important accounts. Consider what your business’ mission and goals are, then choose your social media accounts accordingly.
  • Know your audience: Who are they and what do they need? What do they like and how can you help them? These are questions you should ask yourself before you start posting on your social media accounts. Even after you’ve begun posting and feel like you have identified your target audience, use social media analytics to gain more insight into your audience’s habits and fine-tune what you are already doing to capture them.

Use time saving applications:

  • Create a keyword list (in much the same way you would for SEO), and use your chosen keywords in Google Alerts to capture content throughout the week so you don’t have to search every day for fresh articles to post.
  • Use HootsuiteSprout Social, Edgar or other handy tools – many of which have simplified free versions – to schedule posts so that you can get an entire week or two of social media finished in one sitting. Keep in mind that the style and format for each is different, so it’s best to use the tools to post to each platform individually.
  • Engage with your audience as often as possible: Respond to their comments and messages, like or retweet their news and photos, and let them know that you’re listening. This lets them know there is actually a person on the other end of the account, not just an automated robot.
  • Beware of politically charged or religious content: On a business social media account (and in some cases even your personal profile), starting politically charged conversations can frighten people away. Some people are eager to debate or give their opinion, but others just don’t want to be inundated with other people’s opinions. Stay neutral and keep the political material for personal encounters.

Social media doesn’t have to be difficult – in fact, it can be a fun way to get to know your customers better and improve your business. Many people hire marketing agencies to handle social media, if this is the route you choose, make sure the agency is willing to learn your business and tailor your posts to your personality – nothing is worse than a Facebook or Twitter that seems sterile and unrelated to the business. See more social media tips, check out some of our other articles about hashtags, Instagram posting, and writing client-centric blogs.

What Makes a Good News Story?

When telling a news story, choosing the audience wisely is as important as the writing itself. Not all audiences will want to read all news. This has always been true, through the many eras of news. However, with the current flood of information and availability of news anytime and anyplace, it is especially important now. Ask yourself these questions before you even pitch a story. Who are my readers? Who is going to care about this story?

Once you determine your audience, you can start to research publications that are relevant to that industry or vein of interest. Avoid sending your press release to every publication you can think of. For example, if your story is about an office remodel that caters to the work habits and needs of Millennials, you wouldn’t pitch the story to Cat Fancy or The New Yorker. It may take some time to find the appropriate publications, but the leads you discover will be far more qualified than sending your pitch to as many publications as you can without doing research.

Another facet of news is relevance to current trends. It is a difficult task to create a buzz about something – better to ride the tide of another trending topic or collection of stories. For example, in the above story about remodeling an office to appeal to Millennials, you may use references to research done by larger companies such as Apple or Google that state the importance workplace satisfaction plays in productivity. You could even relate the story to studies that have shown that inactivity leads to health problems – the newly remodeled office provides employees with areas that promote physical activity and thus wellbeing. This is where you get to be creative and perhaps learn a bit more about the story yourself. Doing some research into the topic can help you make relevant connections that will be very effective in relaying the importance of your story.

Even after you do your research and create connections to relevant, trending topics, your story may not be viable. In the current information atmosphere, people have access to so much news that it is increasingly difficult to capture their attention. The 24-hour news cycle has yielded to an even more rapid moment-to-moment news cycle, so trending topics can appear and become obsolete in just hours. Appealing to emotions helps, great quotes help, relevance to trends helps, but ultimately the often fickle audience of today decides what is going to be newsworthy. Reporters and news outlets are forced to keep up with their ever-changing tastes.

Despite the challenges you face with pitching your story to the media, don’t be discouraged and don’t take it personally. In the event that your story is chosen for publication, the resulting piece is extremely rewarding after the obstacles you’ve faced in today’s news environment.

Pinstripe Marketing offers public relations as one of our many services. Public relations is one aspect of a complete marketing strategy – we help create pitches that tell the story of your brand. Check out the below links for more advice on what makes a good news story.

What Makes a Story Newsworthy?

The 11 Things That Reporters Consider Newsworthy

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