Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Trade Shows: Of What Value Are They?

The esteemed Steve Johnson recently wrote a provocative blog entry on the merits - or lack thereof - of demoing at trade shows. He implies that showing demos is usually not very effective:
Nobody retains information from a trade show--everyone is yelling to be heard. Perhaps you could be a little quieter and much more effective. Let's use the demo where it belongs, much later in the sales cycle.
And he contends that collecting information about prospects' situations and problems is often a better use of trade show time:
At your next event, try just asking people who come by the booth a few simple qualifying questions about their problem and its urgency to them. If they answer in the affirmative, scan their badge or take their card and invite them to enjoy the show. Meanwhile send a set of materials to them through the mail or better yet, have a sales person contact them the week after the show.
In my opinion, Steve's key point is that:
The best demo is customized to the customers, their problems, and within the context of how we can specifically solve their problems.
If you've read SPIN Selling, you know that your best chance of making a high-value sale is to use a facilitative process that starts with asking a lot of questions. Only after you've fully understand the individual prospect's situation and problems do you describe your solution in detail.

Regarding trade shows, however, the more important questions to me are:
  1. Why are you an exhibitor at the trade show at all?
  2. Who is attending the trade show, and why?
What goals are you trying to achieve as an exhibitor at the trade show? If you're trying to sell product, then Steve's advice is important to keep in mind. But maybe you're trying to affect media coverage? Or maybe you're trying to gather intelligence on the attendees and competition? I wonder, though: perhaps you can achieve this latter goal just as effectively without being an exhibitor (and just being an attendee)?

It matters who is attending the trade show. Is media attending the trade show? Are tech geeks with little or no buying authority attending the show? Are actual prospects attending the show? Perhaps you should attempt to segment the population of the trade show into various personas.

The bottom line is that the issue isn't as simple as whether you should demo at trade shows. You need to research the expected trade show population and shape your goals accordingly. In the end, you may decide that being an exhibitor isn't the best way of achieving those goals.

Monday, August 27, 2007

GSD&M's Idea City

GSD&M is changing its name to "GSD&M's Idea City". This move seems like a bad idea for at least three reasons:
  1. The new name is too long. The length of the name makes it less "speakable". A brand name that's easy to say is more likely to be remembered and more amenable to word of mouth.
  2. The new name is too descriptive. Descriptive brand names are less memorable and make differentiation in the mind of the customer harder.
  3. Any identity change is costly. Every bit of marketing and sales collateral has to be modified and redistributed.
But the threat of rebranding disease is constant and almost ubiquitous.

Friday, August 24, 2007

iPhone Convergence in Action

It's just one person's experience, but Amy Tiemann recently described her disappointment with the iPhone. Her conclusion:
It turns out that combining multiple functions into one device isn't always more convenient. For me, a Blackberry Pearl plus an iPod Nano seems to be the best combination. I need basic online access on my smart phone, but I don't browse a lot or compose a lot of e-mail on my Pearl. I either call back, answer e-mails from my desk, or if I am traveling, I have my laptop with me.
Recall that Laura Ries stubbornly predicted that the iPhone would fail (after some initial success) because it is a convergence device. The jury's still out, but Amy Tiemann's experience is an interesting data point.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When the Market Changes, Should Your Brand Also Change?

Trends in the marketplace affect the appeal of your message and the profitability of your product. When the trends run counter to your marketing message, should you re-position your product?

Laura Ries says, "No." She discusses the Hellman's brand. Hellman's mayonnaise is full fat, so
What do you do when the world seems obsessed with dieting, fat and calories? When every product is promoting it is low-fat, fat-free, low-carb, high fiber or zero calorie? When everybody is on a diet, gobbling up calorie reduced manufacture foods yet still hungry, miserable and (at least in the U.S.) fat?
Most company executives and product managers would either modify the marketing message or come out with a "light" version of the product under the same brand.

What does Laura suggest?
Whatever your brand is, you have to deal with it. Pretending it isn't high fat isn't going to change what’s in the package. And promoting your “light” version just reinforces in the mind of consumers how “fattening” the regular version must be.

Like food, a brand is best when it is real, simple and focused. If opportunity strikes in another direction, companies should launch a new brand.
In other words, maintain brand focus.