Make Marketing Magic with These 4 Fundamentals

Originally published by 4imprint 31 July 2017

How to best market your organization may seem like a mystery. Maybe you’re in charge of a large marketing team. Or maybe you’re the wizard behind the curtain doing it all: making trash disappear, conjuring leads, and casting spells on customers (tasks we non-wizards like to call marketing). Let’s face it, the Wizard of Oz® was just a normal, enterprising guy with access to cool technology. But he knew how to market himself, and knowing those skills is how you make magic.

If the marketing magic depends on you, it’s time to study the book of tricks. In this day and age, not marketing is simply not an option. Without a rabbit or two to pull out of your hat, your organization is likely to vanish into the thin air.

Starting your marketing journey

If you’re thinking, “Advertising, social media and personalized promotional products, oh my!” it’s time to find the wizard within. Put on your ruby slippers, Dorothy, this is your chance to feel at home with marketing. In this Blue Paper, we offer four fundamental ideas—and some promotional products—that will help you unlock your marketing potential.

So, let’s start at the beginning! No, not in Kansas. Let’s start wherever your business is right now. We promise, this Blue Paper will have you easing on down the road to marketing success.

Pinpoint your brand

Remind customers you’re different from the competition. Imprint what sets you apart on the Soft Touch Pique Sport Shirt and gift to your best customers.

Tip 1: ‘Witch’-ever way you go, find your true identity

All marketing wizards in training must first understand the importance of branding. You want your organization to stand out in the crowd and be immediately identifiable. Think of the Wizard of Oz witches. One glance at the green face, black outfit and gravely, nasal voice told you a lot about the character. The same goes for the sparkly, elegant Glinda. The point is, you don’t have to peek behind the curtain to understand them. Their names, actions and color palettes give you a good feel for who they are and what they stand for.

Know what sets your organization apart

Mike McCracken, President of Hawkeye Aircraft Acquisitions, LLC, is like many entrepreneurs: he says he is President, CTO and COO of his aircraft acquisition company and his wife is CFO and janitor. With all the hats he’s wearing, he is also managing the company’s marketing, and he’s doing it well.

“We are a small shop, and we’re competing with people who have been in the business for lots of years and have lots of fancy offices and fancy advertising,” McCracken said. “But there’s something to be said for being small and boutique. You hire me and I’m like an employee on your staff. You’re a customer in one way, but basically we’re partners.”

By celebrating what differentiates their business model from the competition, McCracken has defined his company brand, and leveraged that to attract customers. Their tagline: “See The Difference.”

Like Hawkeye Aircraft, your organization already has a heart. Your company brand is essentially the heart of who you are as an organization. Most importantly, it’s how you want your customers, clients and key stakeholders to perceive you. Many companies rely on experts to help cultivate their brand. But if you are on a limited budget and need to do it in-house, don’t worry: you’ve had the power all along! Head to the brainstorming table and bring along your employees. No one knows your company better than the people who work there!

Reinforce your brand

Define Your Company Brand—Your brand is the essence of who you are.

Define your brand by looking at its very essence and then determining how that should look and feel to your target demographics. Once you’ve pinpointed what’s at your heart, build your brand through consistent use of your organization’s identity, including:

  • your company name
  • your logo, tagline and colors
  • style guidelines
  • your mission, vision and values

Your brand should be reflected in everything you do, including when you shop for custom giveaways for companies. (Examples to come, we promise!)

Tip 2: From munchkins to millionaires: Define your target market.

Define your target market—Determine what they love and need, and give it to them.

Defining your target market goes hand-in-hand with building your brand identity, because you want to make sure the brand speaks to your target market.

To define your market, first think about your product or service, and ask yourself:

  • Who are my current customers?
  • Who do I want my future clients to be?

Then, really drill down to get a clear picture of whom you are trying to reach with your company’s offerings.

Define your target customer

Some companies will develop a fictional persona that exemplifies their target customer. They’ll even name that persona and define the following:

  • Are they male or female?
  • What age group are they in?
  • What is their income level?
  • Where and how do they prefer to receive communications?
  • Where do they spend their time?
  • What motivates them?
  • What are their problems and how can our company address those?

Companies will use this information when it comes times to make decisions. They’ll frame pertinent questions through the filter of their target audience personas, and ask, “What would Patty want?” or “What would John think?”

Think like your target customer

McCracken knows his target market well. They’re high-income business leaders, often company CEOs, who are interested in buying a jet. They are the kind of people who are tough to shop for, because they seem to have everything. That poses a challenge when you want to buy meaningful, useful personalized promotional items for giveaways, but McCracken had an idea. He searched for giveaways that reflect his brand and tagline.

“Everything we’re doing is trying to focus on how we are doing things differently. We view the world differently,” he says.

To help his customers and leads “See The Difference,” he gives them cleaning cloths that can be used on eyeglasses. The Full Color Cleaning Cloth – 5” x 5” hit the right note. McCracken says he was at an event recently where a business associate pulled out the custom cloth and confessed she carries it everywhere.

Choosing the right giveaways is important. To get there, you need to know your audience.

Tip 3: Take it from the wizard: Create a marketing strategy.

Create a Marketing Strategy—Be a marketing wizard.

You know your target audience, and you have an understanding of what your business is at heart. Now it’s time to plan how you will reach your key stakeholders with your message. Obviously, you can’t do it all, so choose carefully based on where your audiences are and how they like to get their news and information.

You may want to develop a marketing strategy for the full calendar year or the fiscal year. Either way, revisit it at least quarterly, to make sure you’re on track and your organization’s goals have not changed. Remember marketing is an investment. You’ll want to determine how you will measure success with each strategy to get a clear picture of your ROI.

Decide how to best reach your target audiences.

For Mike Nitroy, assistant manager of the Millersville University store, the decision was obvious. College students always have their phones with them. So, he did some research and found an app that could be used to launch promotions, answer questions, reward customers and engage students online. “It gets people thinking about shopping here and gets them in here,” he said.

To launch the app and quickly gain attention, the store offered free sunglasses for those who downloaded it. The app allows students to share photos of themselves in-app and on social media. “When people saw the quality and look of the sunglasses, they were quick to jump on and download it.”

The app also allows the store to offer incentives to repeat customers. Every time someone with the app shops at the store, they get a virtual punch. Those with 10 punches get a free prize during finals week, or they get to choose a grab bag. In the wake of their marketing success, Nitroy offers this advice for those looking to up their marketing game.

“Find a way to get your message through to your audience,” he says. “This was a good way for us to do it. It’s really cool because I have a master app where I can go and see analytics.”

In the industry, we call that wizardry ROI.

Listen to your customers and prospects.

Join the online conversation. Social media is where it’s at, and most audiences want to connect with you online. Do some research on which social networks your target audiences tend to use, and then stake your claim. But remember, social media isn’t a one-time project; it’s an ongoing conversation. Be responsive and helpful, engaging and, when appropriate, fun! Just make sure to stay true to your brand. Crossing over into non-brand related topics could alienate the audience you’re hoping to reach.

Say something new and share it widely.

Make wow-worthy content. If you’re in the industry, you’ve no doubt heard the marketing adage, “Content is king.” But if you’re new to marketing, the concept might be a bit of a mystery. Content marketing using blogs, e-newsletters and web articles is a powerful way to leverage SEO purposes or to improve online engagement. Keep your target market personas in mind as you develop content and give them stuff they crave. That’s a winning strategy.

Plan your public relations.

Will you host events? Attend trade shows? Have a booth at the local festival? Speak to local groups? Figure out where your target market will be throughout the year and where the best places will be for you to set up shop. Then determine what marketing materials you will need at those events. Give your brand a professional look with imprinted event banners, tablecloths and embroidered polo shirts for your staff.

Make yourself memorable.

Remember to order creative marketing promotional items and custom giveaways. Giveaways for companies are appreciated and sought after at any event or meeting. Creative and engaging promotional products keep your customers thinking about you long after the event ends.

Tip 4: Release the flying monkeys! Leverage guerilla marketing

Leverage Guerilla Marketing—Flying monkeys optional.

Guerilla marketing could be your ticket to marketing wizardry, particularly if you’re on a tight budget and are open to being creative. What’s guerilla marketing? Simply put, it’s a marketing strategy using unconventional, memorable and low-cost tactics. Creativity can help you rise above your competitors because it makes you memorable. Think about it. Most people vividly recall the movie scene with the flying monkeys because it was so unique and well-presented. Brands can do the same thing, no monkeys required.

Chelsea Baratto, founder, writer, and self-proclaimed “one woman show” for 700smiles, launched a hashtag promotion recently in tandem with her blog, which takes an unflinching look at motherhood. After struggling with infertility, getting pregnant, learning her baby had a cleft lip, and overcoming all of the hurdles of being a new mom, she realized how much moms could use some encouragement.

“No matter which way you get pregnant and go through labor, it’s just really hard. And being a mom in general is really hard,” Baratto says. “And in this age of social media, everyone is just showing their best face and looking like they have everything together. I just feel like we’re kind of in a lose-lose right now because of all the pressure we put on ourselves and society puts on us.”

Inspired by the movie Bad Moms, she decided to start a #goodmom movement. She sought out an affordable way to pay it forward. Her guerilla marketing tactic was born.

“I was just brainstorming how we could set this in motion. And obviously social media is really powerful, but I wanted to think of something more personal. So the best thing that my mom brain could come up with was Post-it® Notes,” Baratto says. The idea was simple: Enlist the public to stick mom-positive messages on cars, in bathrooms, anywhere moms who could use a lift might be. The message: “Hey momma, you’re doing a great job.”

Let customer momentum carry you

The idea quickly became popular and Baratto got the chance to see its impact first-hand with the help of two personalized promotional items. She brought custom Post-it Notes – 3″ x 4″ and logo’d Massager Pens to a recent new mom expo. Mothers clamored for the 500 massage pens, which were gone within the first hour. But the Post-it Notes gave Baratto the chance to talk about the #goodmom movement.

“I explained the Post-it Notes, and people started crying. It was emotional: I was crying, and they were crying. These were strangers that it really struck a chord with.” Baratto said, “I guess I feel like I’m really on to something here.”

Bottom line: Deploy your target audiences to join you in your guerilla marketing efforts.

You’re off to BE the (marketing) wizard with a plan in hand

Being tasked with managing the marketing for an organization is no small endeavor. It’s like magic: Those who do it well make it look so easy. But for those who struggle, it can seem like a trick gone wrong. With the right tools in your marketing toolbox, and the helpful tips in this Blue Paper, you can be a wizard in your own right. With the power of personalized promotional items, you can make them feel right at home with your brand. And there’s no place like home.

SOURCE: Make marketing magic with these 4 fundamentals

Getting Unhooked from Our Smartphones

Posted on July 27, 2017 by: Ryan Estis

How many times will you stop reading this blog post to check e-mail, text messages or social media?

The heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to the research platform dscout. The rest of us still touch the addictive things 2,617 times a day on average. That level of connection is wreaking havoc on our ability to focus on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update.

Adam Alter, author of “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” warns that many of us — youngsters, teenagers, adults — are addicted to modern digital products. Not figuratively, but literally addicted.

In a New York Times interview, he explains:

In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.

We increasingly struggle to look away from our screens.

IS YOUR SMARTPHONE ADDICTION A PROBLEM?

Mine was. The frightening thing about the addiction was that I didn’t realize the impact it was having on me until I went into “detox.” During the first few days of my initial digital detox, I desperately wanted to check my phone. I felt low-grade anxiety and was completely out of my comfort zone. Ironically, eight days later when I got my phone back, I left it off for a few hours to fully absorb my transformation. In that moment I was much more aware of the impact technology was having on my ability to be fully present.

Yes, the internet has fundamentally transformed the way we connect and communicate. It’s launched a whole new economy where anyone with an idea and an internet connection can start a company and connect with a global marketplace full of opportunity.

For that very reason, we’re living in the golden age of entrepreneurship! However, letting technology intrude into nearly every waking moment isn’t healthy and the time to create a little more discipline around it is now.

On a recent road trip with Seth Mattison, we discussed how to be more intentional in our relationship with technology and how we know when it’s time to unplug. Case in point, notice the irony of our full immersion into tech while talking about the benefits of a digital detox in this video!

VIDEO: On the Road with Seth Mattison

The key is to get off of autopilot and become a bit more aware and intentional in managing our technology so it isn’t managing us. Give the digital detox a try this weekend and DM me on Monday to let me know how it went!

Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.

Source: Getting Unhooked from Our Smartphones

Art of the Show Competition Winners Circle: Signage/Décor

The IAEE Art of the Show Competition’s Signage/Décor category evaluates printed and/or digital signage and décor used throughout the show. Judging criteria includes: overall presentation, visual appeal and creativity; usefulness of the signage and its content; how the signage/décor contributes to the overall “theme” of the event; and effectiveness of signage placement and décor throughout the show.

In today’s IAEE Blog, we highlight the winners of last year’s Signage/Décor category:

Under 75,000 nsf
FreemanXP – Tom Yurkin/Nora Summers
Oracle Modern Marketing Conference 2016

Leaders in customer service convened at Oracle Modern Marketing Conferences 2016 to participate in hands-on workshops, product demonstrations, and network during interactive breakouts that showcased best practices to help turn the attendee’s customers into brand advocates. For the signage and décor, multiple shows blended into one encompassing event that is attendee and message focused and environmentally conscious. Bold iconography and color palette were used to divide the space and direct attendees between the marketing, sales, commerce and service areas.

The goals and objectives for the signage and décor involved creating a clean, impactful, and reconfigurable suite of signage and registration elements that could be reused over multiple years and scalable for use within an array of venues. A cohesive look was created that reinforced Oracle’s modern brand. Sustainability was essential while incorporating Freeman rental elements like SmartPanels and Smart Counters. This also included using generic branded graphics that could be reused from year to year. In addition to the registration area and expo area, the look and feel was extended throughout the show experience.

Between 75,001 and 200,000 nsf
GES
WVC 88th Annual Conference

Since 1928, the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) has provided comprehensive, progressive and practical continuing education opportunities to veterinary professionals from all over the world. The WVC Annual Conference brings together the best and brightest veterinary professionals for five days, who learn from expert instructors and gain knowledge that they can return to their practice and put to use immediately. With more than 1,000 hours of CE available, the conference is an opportunity to earn all required CE in one place. Offered in a world-class destination that is also cost effective for travel and accommodation, 97% of last year’s attendees said they would recommend attending the conference to a colleague.

The offerings are delivered by WVC use state-of-the-art facilities, methods and technologies. GES partnered with WVC early in the event development cycle to leverage WVC’s existing brand, as well as expand upon it to reflect WVC’s advances in its core areas. Graphics were inspired by design elements found in touchscreen user interfaces, in combination with lifestyle and workplace images that reflected the broad range and scope of the products and services offered by WVC. The images and graphics selected were designed to appeal not only to longtime members of WVC, but also to capture the imagination of younger members who expect data products to be accessible and hands-on resources to reflect the cutting edge in the industry.

The Registration Area was innovative and inviting. The architecture consisted of sleek, kiosk style registration stations staffed by the WVC team. This innovative design challenged the more transactional “over the counter” approach used in most exhibition environments and resulted in a more engaging experience for attendees. Functionality was priority number one since the WVC Annual Conference is a large event. When the doors of the registration area swing open, a crush of eager attendees descends upon the area. Therefore, several functional requirements must be met in the WVC registration area. GES worked closely with WVC to understand its workflow and spent the time necessary in the discovery phase to ensure the designs addressed the show’s true requirements.

The entrance design drew guests in to the central hall area of the WVC booth and functioned as the “grand hallway.” The Online Learning “Genius Bar” became a gathering place where participants charged their devices,and networked with one another. . The Online Learning zone was designed to be inviting and to provide an area for guests to demo WVC’s online platform. The TV Session Area was also a gathering place where participants networked and viewed WVC sessions. Comfortable seating and a custom bar with charging stations encouraged participants to linger. The new design throughout the conference was embraced by the WVC and those attending the 88th Annual Conference.

First impressions are important. Upon entering the Registration, the Online Learning “Genius Bar” or the TV Session Area, guests were greeted with a cohesive, vibrant and informative environment. The architecture and graphics elegantly delivered the WVC message. Guest after guest expressed their delight with the registration area and so did WVC. But first impressions are not everything. If first impressions are important, functionality is essential. GES designed the registration navigation scheme by considering timing of each “event” (e.g. logging a visitor) down to the second in order to ensure a smooth traffic flow and easy navigation for participants. Broad, open navigation lanes were used and WVC concierges directed participants to the next available help desk rather than employing queues at each desk. The planning and collaboration between WVC and GES paid off and the registration process was seamless with thousands of guest moving through the area quickly.

Over 200,001 nsf
InfoComm International & Freeman
InfoComm 2016

InfoComm is the largest, most exciting event in the United States focused on the pro-AV industry, with nearly 1,000 exhibitors, thousands of products, and 40,000 attendees from 110+ countries. InfoComm offers attendees a once-a-year opportunity to see the latest audiovisual technology, learn the skills that will advance their careers, and grow their professional network.

The “look and feel” for InfoComm 2016 was based on the concept of “play,” prominently featuring the triangle-shaped “play” button found on a variety of products in the audiovisual industry, like video cameras, DVD players, iPods, stereos, etc. The playful use of primary colors for the branding palette reinforced the “play” concept and also reflected the vibrancy of the audiovisual industry.

The goal for the décor and signage was to thoroughly integrate and reinforce the “play” concept throughout the show without being repetitive. The “play” triangle and abstract graphic shapes were configured into a variety of ways, in different scales (from an aisle banner to a meter board), and different colors were mixed and matched to add visual interest (for multiple entrance units).

From the impressively massive IC16 “play” button in the registration area to the small yellow “play” buttons on information carts, the brand concept was seen throughout the event and created a harmonious environment from the show floor, to the shuttle bus pickup area, to the convention center lobby. The abstract shapes could be configured in an exponential number of possible layouts, while still looking like they were in the “same family” and remaining within the confines of consistency.

The “play” concept was designed by another agency for use in 2D print and online, but Freeman elevated the visual impact of the design to a new level by creating 3D graphic elements at the entrance units and having a stand-alone “IC16” play button built for selfie opportunities. As is true with many trade shows, attendees often complain about a lack of seating. Freeman took this challenge and turned it into an opportunity to further the brand “look and feel” onsite. Instead of renting generic furniture, they built custom seating units comprised of the abstract graphic shapes, solving both the attendee demand and furthering the visual impact of the “play” branding onsite.

The 2017 IAEE Art of the Show Competition is now underway – you have until 31 August 2017 to submit your entries! You can also view all of last year’s winners and honorable mentions here.

IAEE Awards Spotlight on Feathr: 2016 Outstanding Achievement in Innovation in Business Solutions Award Winner

By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager

In 2016, Feathr presented its Event Marketing Cloud business solution for consideration in the IAEE Individual Awards Program. Feathr’s Event Marketing Cloud encompasses marketing strategies addressing: analytics and segmentation; retargeting automation; cross promotion; email mapping; lookalike audiences; referral marketing; and sponsored retargeting.

One innovative quality that stood out about Event Marketing Cloud is the way in which it gathers the various marketing tools available into a single, user-friendly source. Furthermore, the strong presence Feathr has created within the exhibitions and events industry in a relatively short amount of time is impressive. As such, Feathr garnered the IAEE Outstanding Achievement in Innovation in Business Solutions Award for Event Marketing Cloud in 2016.

Co-Founder & CEO of Feathr, Aleksander Levental, shares with IAEE how the idea for Feathr came about, how he and Co-Founder Aidan Augustin approach their marketing solution concepts, and where he sees the future of the exhibitions and events industry moving in terms of technology.

2017.xx.xx Awards Spotlight_Feathr.JPG

PHOTO CAPTION: Awards presentation during the Networking Luncheon at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2016 in Anaheim, CA. From left to right: Representing the IAEE Awards Committee, Randy Bauler, CEM; Aleksander Levental; and IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA.

IAEE: As co-founders of Feathr, what inspired you and Aidan Augustin to create your digital marketing solution for the exhibitions and events industry?

ALEKSANDER: Aidan and I found ourselves in the event industry five years ago almost entirely by accident (which seems to be quite common in the industry). The dorm room startup that was Feathr morphed into a company that made mobile apps for events (think: DoubleDutch, Crowd Compass, Guidebook, etc.). And for two years while we tried to build that product and company, we started learning about how events run their business: how attendee acquisition and retention worked; the opportunities sponsors had to engage with attendees; and the sources of revenue that organizers have, etc. What we discovered was that there was an underlying problem causing these concerns inside our customers – and that underlying problem started to sound like an opportunity the more we looked into it.

Attendee acquisition, engagement with sponsors, matchmaking, content suggestion – effective execution of all of those activities – starts with storing and utilizing data. Data captured on the event website, marketing activity, registration process, surveys, mobile app, etc. That realization was the original inspiration for Feathr becoming a “digital marketing solution for the exhibitions and events industry.” But, really, digital marketing is just a piece of what we want to do. Ultimately, what we care about is helping organizers build high-growth, high-satisfaction and competitive events. Digital marketing was the first step.

IAEE: What are the marketing elements that you think all shows – big or small – absolutely cannot go without?

ALEKSANDER: Post-registration, pre-venue engagement. It is without a doubt the most important step of the marketing funnel and, unfortunately, the least developed one. As an industry, we talk about acquisition a lot: attendee acquisition, exhibitor acquisition, etc. While that is all well and good, customer acquisition at the expense of customer retention is ultimately a losing proposition. It’s critically important to take time and build tailored marketing activities designed to increase and maximize engagement with the show after someone has registered.

One of the primary drivers of this wave of tech and software revolution has been the understanding that recurring revenue and low churn can produce very valuable business very quickly. One of the main tools an organization has available to produce high retention, high NPS, satisfied customers, and reliable recurring revenue is personalized post-sale marketing and engagement. In the software world, this is referred to as “Customer Success.” If we spent all of our time and effort only focusing on new customer acquisition, the last two to three years for Feathr would have been much different. Unfortunately, we see our customers wanting to make that gamble all the time. We’re trying to coax ourselves, our customers, and the industry into focusing on post-registration marketing and engagement, so that we can get out of the cycle of having to dig out of an attendee acquisition hole every year.

IAEE: Feathr tailored its digital marketing tools specifically to the needs of event organizers. What feedback do you receive from organizers as being their biggest challenge?

ALEKSANDER: Time, resources, and the anxiety of choice. Across the entire spectrum of our customers – from the largest independent organizers to a small staff association – everyone we deal with is wearing multiple hats with many responsibilities. Combine that with organizational pressures to grow, launch new shows, create and sell new products, and incorporate new technology, and you end up with people (and companies) that are stretched too thin. Instead of investing time into foundational and long-term innovation, companies are forced to run 100 small experiments in parallel and make decisions without the clarity of thoughtful analysis

The most precious gift that an executive can give someone on their team isn’t budget, it’s room to focus.

IAEE: Given the rapid pace of technology, what advice would you offer those who may be intimidated by the task of staying current and/or investing in an effective solution for their needs?

ALEKSANDER: This is going to sound incredibly self-serving but it’s an idea that’s very near and dear to me: Make an organizational change in the philosophy of the business, and find people and partners that will help grow institutional knowledge and value within your organization. The answer isn’t any one specific piece of technology or service, it’s in embracing a process that’s built around growing, learning from mistakes and failures, and starting to be adaptive.

Resisting the urge to view this process as a series of unrelated decisions about software of technology is key. Even in our relatively short time in the industry, we’ve seen it so often. The entire organization gets stressed over the pressure to pick the correct ____ tool. There are months of research and deliberation that build up to what feels like a tremendously significant choice – then the company relaxes and waits for the next fire, only to find themselves in exactly the same position, with the same issues, now just looking to the next piece of software or technology to magically solve their problems.

 IAEE: Being on the cutting edge of technology is your business. What new digital trends do you foresee for the exhibitions and events industry in particular?

ALEKSANDER: Over the next five years? Connecting data to the experience of the event itself. Where you go, what you see, and who you talk to will be driven by the data and analysis that organizers create well before the people show up at the venue. In retail they refer to this as “clienteling,” we’re going to need a clever name for our industry.

Beyond that? Augmented Reality is going to change everything about the world, events won’t be any different.

IAEE is accepting nominations for the 2017 Outstanding Achievement in Business Solutions Award! Click here to learn more about the IAEE Individual Awards and submit your nominations today!

Art of the Show Competition Winners Circle: Attendance Promotion Campaign

The IAEE Art of the Show Competition’s Attendance Promotion Campaign category evaluates a series of pieces used in a marketing campaign to promote attendance at a show (attendance promotion brochure, printed/digital ads, website, mobile app, etc.). Judging criteria includes overall presentation, visual appeal and creativity of the campaign; clarity of information, overall message and content usefulness; how each piece plays into the “big picture” (how it suits its intended role in the campaign); how the campaign relates to the overall “theme” of the event; and how well the campaign met its intended goals.

In today’s IAEE Blog, we highlight the winners of last year’s Attendance Promotion Campaign category:

Under 75,000 nsf
Frank Strategic Marketing
TRANSACT 16

TRANSACT 16 is the event for payments technology. It is produced by the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), the world’s largest payments industry trade group. TRANSACT 16 is where attendees make connections, secure partners and funding, and leverage emerging technologies. At TRANSACT 16, there were more than 4,000 attendees including ISOs, VARs, ISVs and Tech Startups that are driving innovation and responding to consumer demand at the POS. TRANSACT focuses on the payments technology industry, and It is where everyone in payments – all the big players and the latest tech companies – come together to meet, partner and drive innovation.

ETA positions the event as one for the leaders, titans, innovators, and the newest players changing the game; it is the one event where its target audience can see and meet everyone they need to in order to make things happen and move their company forward. The goal for TRANSACT 16 was to communicate the idea that this is where the “old/new” and “slow/fast” come together to create mutually beneficial partnerships. The campaign intended to help stalwarts understand that technology is nothing to fear or be intimidated by; and for start-ups/tech community to see that there is value in partnering with those experienced in the field. To that end, the tagline for TRANSACT 16 was “Connecting the Payments Technology World” – as it is the one place where the global payments and transactions ecosystem come together. In more than 60 sessions and five keynote presentations, speakers dug into big topics such as mobile payments, omni-channel commerce, security and fraud prevention and much more.

“This is a tremendous time of growth and change in our industry,” said ETA CEO Jason Oxman. “TRANSACT 16 brought together thousands of payments game-changers from traditional payment leaders and investors to innovators to chart the future of commerce.”

Between 75,001 and 200,000 nsf
Texas Nursery & Landscape Association
2016 Nursery/Landscape EXPO

For more than 60 years, the Nursery/Landscape EXPO has annually been produced by the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association (TNLA). Over 6,000 participants attend EXPO’s annual B2B trade show covering 150,000 nsf and featuring the latest products the industry has to offer. Participants include buyers representing various segments of the “Green” industry: retail garden centers; landscape and irrigation professionals; growers; arborists; and suppliers, brokers and distributors of nursery and landscape products.

The goal for this campaign was to brand the show throughout the year in order to reach current and new attendees. The western theme of “Saddle Up” encouraged the nursery and landscaping industry to get ready to build their business at EXPO. As the theme evolved and with the city of Houston as the destination, creative inspiration was derived from vintage rodeo imagery, incorporation of industrialism in Houston, the oil boom and skylines.

“Each year, TNLA brainstorms and develops a new theme and marketing campaign to brand EXPO to returning and potential attendees,” said Sarah Riggins, CEM, Director, TNLA & EXPO Marketing/Communications. “We review previous years of data and set benchmarks based on different aspects of the campaign to raise attendee’s EXPO brand awareness. To help further brand EXPO, the team utilizes a variety of marketing vehicles and tracks impressions from email open rates, website content click-throughs, social media ‘likes’ and EXPO’s mobile app downloads. One of the most important things we continue to place high value on throughout the entire marketing process is strong content, making sure that we are providing messaging to answer the question, ‘What is in it for the Attendee?’”

Over 200,001 nsf
Tarsus Group
Labelexpo Europe 2015

Founded in 1980, Labelexpo Europe is one of Tarsus’ flagship shows and a leading exhibition

brand. Held biennially in Brussels, it is widely acknowledged as the label industry’s leading and largest dedicated event. With a global audience, its exhibitors are machinery/material suppliers and visitors label printers who produce labels and packaging for the food, drink and pharmaceutical markets. The show is pretty unusual with its large scale, complex and technical exhibits of live working print machinery and high level buying audience. Dominating a niche market, it has no direct competition within the label sector, but does share a target audience/purchasing opportunities with general print industry shows like Drupa.

Despite many print shows suffering over the past few years, Labelexpo set the following key objectives:

  • Increase visitor numbers
  • Promote creative printing technologies
  • Expand the show by targeting other groups (e.g. flexible packaging)

The theme was intensively drilled down to every possible and conceivable touch point for the show visitor. From marketing collateral to registration, venue signage and ultimately the show floor, every aspect of the show echoed the fairy tale creative. It was because of this attention to detail and the very high quality of the printed materials, that Labelexpo Europe 2015 broke all previous records. Exhibitor, visitor and even press feedback all resonated around the quality of the show and how eye catching and imaginative the campaign and show look had been.

It was hugely influential in 2015’s show being the most successful in its 35-year history:

  • Highest visitor attendance ever: 35,739 (up 12.4% on 2013)
  • Increase in proportion of visitors from the flexible packaging sector (up 9.4%)
  • Highest number of exhibitors ever – 650 (600 in 2013)

“Creative, challenging and engaging, this particular campaign pushed our team to new limits and delivered excellent results,” noted Michael Hatton, Director of Marketing at Labelexpo. “It achieved more than the budget would suggest, because it caught the imagination of the Labelexpo community and wider printing world. It made people smile, talk about it and most importantly attend the show to find out how to improve their own business. We set out to separate our brand from the pack and we succeeded.”

The 2017 IAEE Art of the Show Competition is now underway – you have until 31 August 2017 to submit your entries! You can also view all of last year’s winners and honorable mentions here.

Art of the Show Competition Winners Circle: Ontario Hospital Association

2016 Best of Show Winner for HealthAchieve

Each year, an overall “Best of Show” winner is selected from the winners of the IAEE Art of the Show Competition’s 15 categories. Last year, the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) took this honor with its entry in the Social Media Campaign: Under 75,000 nsf category for its HealthAchieve conference and exhibition held on 2-4 November 2015.

The signature conference and exhibition of the Ontario Hospital Association for over 90 years, HealthAchieve is an award-winning event that has long been one of the largest and most respected health care events in North America – the preeminent gathering place for health care and business leaders. HealthAchieve continues to inspire ideas and innovation by providing global health care and business leaders with an unparalleled opportunity to learn from each other, share their ideas and evolve their perspectives.

The event targets two distinct audiences: prospective attendees and potential exhibitors. The prospective attendees are made up of international health care and business leaders. The potential exhibitors are made up of medical suppliers and commercial vendors from across the globe. HealthAchieve provides the platform for unlimited networking opportunities between the two distinct audiences, and would not be the distinguished event that it is without ample participation from both.

Here, OHA shares with IAEE some of the marketing strategies it employed in its award-winning social media campaign.

“We continually strive to enhance both the HealthAchieve online and on-site experiences” said Craig Swatuk, Director, Brand Strategy and Marketing, Ontario Hospital Association. “And social media plays a key role in our ability to add more value for delegates, exhibitors and sponsors.”

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

The goal of HealthAchieve’s social media campaign was to increase awareness and registrations pre-event; to encourage dialogue and online interaction during the event; and to keep the inspiration and momentum going post-event. The objective was to deploy various tactics targeting the event’s two target audiences: prospective attendees and potential exhibitors.

Variety is Key

Keeping with HealthAchieve’s theme of inspiring ideas and innovation, OHA maximized social media with diverse offerings across various channels:

  • Delegates were encouraged to share their key takeaways for a chance to win “most notable tweet” contests from different sessions.

  • A content calendar was developed to share inspirational snippets of event information.
  • An online scavenger hunt game for a chance to win encouraged exhibit floor traffic.
  • A ‘best photo of the day’ contest was promoted on Instagram.

  • A social media destination on the exhibit floor was developed that featured a live social media wall for attendees to see their posts on the screen; a photo booth for attendees to instantly upload fun event photos to their social media channels to see live on the screen; and a lounge area with charging stations for mobile devices.

Be Sure to Track Results

The results were quite remarkable:

  • On Twitter, OHA saw a 39% increase in followers.
  • Facebook likes increased by 5%; and Instagram followers increased by 111% from the previous year.
  • The #HealthAchieve hashtag received over 11.2 million impressions – which was a 70% increase from the previous year – and it achieved its first-ever 1st place trending hashtag ranking in Canada on the Monday of the event, and moved between 3rd and 4th place rankings on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’re very proud of these results and it’s an honor to be recognized by IAEE,” said Mr. Swatuk. “HealthAchieve’s digital engagement has realized terrific growth over the past few years, and we recognize the need to continually evolve our social media practices.”

The 2017 IAEE Art of the Show Competition is now underway – you have until 31 August 2017 to submit your entries!

IAEE Awards Spotlight on Jenn Ellek, CMP: 2016 Outstanding Achievement in Marketing & Sales Award Winner

By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager

Jenn Ellek, CMP is Sr. Director of Trade Marketing & Communications for the National Confectioners Association. In 2016, she was recognized for her ability to marry marketing strategy with execution in the face of a very aggressive buyer attendee growth goal for the 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo. She organized her efforts and outreach via a sophisticated series of micro-targeted campaigns to grow her 2016 registration by 10%. This is outstanding considering her previous three-year trends had the show growing by 1% annual CAGR.

Additionally, one of her greatest challenges was growing the show without the availability of significant or substantial resources. Jenn achieved such success through the efficiency of analyzing her event data and showcasing why her hustle, brains and fortitude led to an extremely successful event. Her skill and prowess earned her the 2016 IAEE Outstanding Achievement in Marketing & Sales Award.

Awards presentation during the Networking Luncheon at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2016 in Anaheim, CA. From left to right: Representing the IAEE Awards Committee, Randy Bauler, CEM; Jenn Ellek, CMP; and IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA.

IAEE: You were recognized for growing your show, the Sweets & Snacks Expo, by leaps and bounds through arduous marketing and sales activities. Your nominators noted that you knew from the start the significant challenges you were facing. What is your approach in mentally preparing for projects of this magnitude? Do you have anything in particular you do to help make it seem less daunting?

JENN: The best strategy I have found with facing an overwhelming goal is breaking it down into digestible milestones. Another strategy is to identify what is actually possible and achievable, given your human resources and budget. Then put it into a plan and follow the plan. Look at it every day. Think about it in the shower…

IAEE: One of your challenges was working with limited resources, forcing you to be creative in your approaches. Where/how do you go about finding inspiration for creative solutions?

JENN: How fortunate is it that our industry is sharing and transparent. There are wonderful event marketers I have become good friends through IAEE, who have much bigger budgets than mine. They are happy to share their latest “wins” and from that I can gauge what is doable with our budget. Industry events like the monthly IAEE chapter meetings and the annual Expo! Expo! are invaluable to see who is at the cutting edge and how their tactics are working. I ask a lot of questions and invite folks to lunch – the price of a lunch can give you a whole campaign’s worth of insights! Build your contacts, then use them.

2017-highlights-eeRegistration for Expo! Expo! opens in June!

IAEE: Was there a lesson from this project that really stood out to you? Perhaps something new that you learned or something you would do differently knowing what you know now?

JENN: There are no stand outs that I would “do-over,” but I will say our strategy for success involved our outside partners in our overall goals and their role. I work with nearly 10 outside companies. They are my team, and when we start out the year we review our goal and how we are going to get there. They are laser-focused with us and help us problem solve. Our growth could not have happened without buy-in from Bear Analytics, Experient (registration), TSR (telemarketing) and Freeman (social marketing), along with so many others who work with NCA.

IAEE: What do you find innovative in the marketing world in terms of how it applies to exhibition and event marketing specifically? Is there a concept you think deserves further development that would help exhibitions and events marketers significantly?

JENN: Get personal. Know your audience and speak to them in their voice. If you can pull off a few things very well, it’s much more rewarding and received than doing a lot of initiatives with mediocrity.

IAEE: You delved quite deeply into data analytics in order to develop your marketing plan. What suggestions do you have for marketers who are interested in big data, yet perhaps are intimidated by the process?

JENN: Start small. Pick one goal and stay focused. We knew we were not going to “boil the ocean” in year one. Many get overwhelmed with the myriad findings from the data. In our case, we had to decide what part of the insights we wanted to focus on. We did and it worked, and now in year two with our “big data” partner, Bear Analytics, we are able to go deeper and boy, what a fun ride it is! I did not think it could get any better.

IAEE is accepting nominations for the 2017 Outstanding Achievement in Marketing & Sales Award! Click here to learn more about the IAEE Individual Awards and submit your nominations today!

8 Answers to the Question ‘Why Use Promotional Products?’

Originally posted by 4imprint

Whether used for branding, lead generation, gifts or fundraising, promotional products get the job done. The vast majority (87 percent) of recipients remember the business their promotional item came from. And, each and every time they use that item, they are reminded of the same business. Here are eight more reasons to use promotional products.

Lasting impressions start with promotional products.

Promotional products leave a lasting impression.Recipients of promotional products from a business have a more positive perception of that business, are more likely to recommend it and are more likely to buy from it.

Promotional products live on and on.

Promotional products live on and on.Sixty-three percent of U.S. consumers give promotional products to someone else when they’re through with them. Seventeen percent save their promotional items. Only 20 percent throw them away.

Promotional products are a form of advertising people love.

Promotional products at the top-rated form of advertising.Promotional products are the most-liked type of advertising. Newspapers, radio, magazines, television, internet and mobile fill slots two through seven, respectively.

Expect positive word association with promotional products.

Promotional products make people happy.When consumers were asked how they feel about organizations that gave them promotional gifts, they most often said: “happy,” “generous,” “awesome,” “grateful,” “great” and “good.”

Usefulness matters when it comes to promotional products.

Usefulness is the No.1 reason people keep promotional products.The No. 1 reason people keep promotional products is because they’re useful. Computer products, health and safety products, and promotional pens, pencils and highlighters are the highest rated for usefulness.

Promotional products take you closer.

One in three carry promotional products with them.Of people who received a promotional gift in the past 12 months, about a third of them carried the product with them. Talk about getting up close and personal with a brand!

Promotional products help you stay in touch.

Promotional products help you stay in touch.Buttons, badges, ribbons, stickers and magnets are most often kept for contact information. Electronics, electronic accessories and computer products also are retained for contact info. Only 35 percent of advertisers use promotional products to share contact information. What an opportunity!

Promotional products are used regularly.

Promotional products get regular use.Almost three-quarters of people who receive promotional products say they use them at least once a week. And, about 45 percent use the product daily. In the end, your brand has numerous opportunities to appear on well-loved and often-used promotional items. With so many choices, you’ll gain business and fans!

Promotional products can be a great way to leave a lasting impression. Give them a try for your business!

SOURCE: 8 Answers to the Question ‘Why Use Promotional Products?’

Your Guide to 2017’s Top Executive Promotional Products

Originally posted by 4imprint

Executive promotional products are a great way to not only look good to execs, but to make them look good as well. To get an idea what corporate giveaways will really win them over this year, keep reading.

For high-tech executive gifts, you can’t miss with Bluetooth® audio.

Wireless audio is a great giveaway for tech-savvy execs. In the first half of 2016, Bluetooth headphones drove more dollars than wired headphones, making it clear that people are taking their music everywhere they go and leaving the wires behind. With many top-end smartphones dropping their corded connections, the perfect personalized executive gift is a set of Mojave Wooden Bluetooth Headphones. They’re just the thing for catching productivity podcasts on the go. Or pump the tunes on the pint-sized yet powerful Addi Bluetooth Speaker.

Travel gear is an always-welcome corporate giveaway.

Outfit executives so they can travel in style.
With an estimated 457 million domestic business trips taken in 2016, busy executives are constantly on the go. Many executive promotional products are designed to make their lives just a little more comfortable. A Kinney Packable Jacket resists wind, rain and cold, yet rolls up into a convenient, compact size, just right for stashing in a travel bag. Speaking of bags, give a personalized executive gift that doubles as an office on the go–a fashion-forward Kenneth Cole Colombian Leather Dowel Laptop Bag or Isaac Mizrahi Sloan Laptop Tote.

Keep executives moving with terrific tech toys.

Portable tech is perfect for executives always on the go.
According to Pew Research, 68 percent of Americans own a smartphone. If the executive you know is always running out of cell phone power, give him or her a sleek yet powerful Dual Power Bank. It carries enough power to charge most cell phones—twice! Or if someone is counting not only calories but also their daily exercise, a Smart Wear Bluetooth Tracker Pedometer may be just what the doctor ordered.

Use personalized executive gifts to be remembered in the office.

Useful, professional items often find a home on an executive’s desk.
Because the average worker spends 35 percent of his or her time behind a desk, keep your name within clear sight every day with executive promotional products just for the office. An Executive Desk Pad exudes a first-class business vibe. To keep an exec’s favorite tech tool nearby—a cell phone—make it stand tall with the Brando Clock Desk Organizer. Or for a sleek and stylish way to get your name in front of everyone, hand your favorite executive a Prestigious Business Card Holder.

Some of the top executive gifts deliver a welcome break from work.

Executive gifts like games can create precious time with family.
Everyone needs to take their mind off their job sometimes, and busy executives are no exception. This is especially important when it comes to people with families. The Pew Research Center® says 39 percent of working moms and 50 percent of working dads say they don’t spend enough time with their kids. So, grab the 7-in-1 Traditional Game Set and have a family fun night. Or, for some fast-paced sports action, get your competitive juices flowing with an Air Hockey Desktop Game.

If you need to connect with those in leadership roles, executive promotional products can be a great way to leave a great impression that lasts long after the handshake.

 

SOURCE: Your Guide to 2017’s Top Executive Promotional Products

Platform Overload—Choosing the Right Social Media Sites for Business

Originally posted by 4imprint

Choosing the Right Social Media Sites for Business

First came the inaugural class of social media platforms: Facebook®, Twitter® and LinkedIn®. Then came the second wave: Instagram®, Snapchat® and Google+®. Now, there’s an entirely new team of social media players with an ever-evolving list of ways for people to connect, share and promote what matters most to them. From a user perspective, it’s a veritable buffet of delicious options. Choosing is as simple as finding where your friends or professional contacts are or selecting the venues that interest you most.

From a company perspective, it’s much more complicated. How do you choose the right social media sites for business? Bottom line: if you’re overwhelmed and don’t know which platforms to choose, we can help.

The importance of social media for companies

The truth is, social media for companies isn’t negotiable anymore—it’s almost an expectation and an issue of legitimacy and sustainability. Businesses that don’t have a social media presence are missing opportunities to engage key stakeholders, customers and employees, and are ignoring a potentially powerful pipeline for sales conversions and future success.

But where do you start? And more importantly, where do you draw the line?

Whether you work at a large company, or are seeking social media for small businesses, consider your budget. Resources often require businesses to focus their social media efforts. After all, the only thing worse than having no presence is having poorly-managed social media profiles. The implications can be widespread and potentially damaging to an organization’s reputation.

Managing social media for companies effectively depends on focused efforts on strategically chosen platforms. Don’t worry, we’ve simplified the legwork for you. Read on for your five-step guide to finding the right social media site(s) for you.

Step 1: Determine which social media sites your target market uses most

You already know who you want to reach, right? (If not, it’s time to define your target markets and/or develop your customer personas.) The first step is to figure out where your target audience is spending time on social media—and where they are active. In “Which Social Media Accounts Really Matter and Why” marketing expert Neil Patel explains that it’s important to look past big user numbers on social media platforms. “For example, there are over 1 billion Google®users, but only 35 percent of those users were active in the past month. Twitter, too, has a lot of members with [a] relatively low number of active members … A social media user needs to be active on a social media site in order for them to be of any use to you.”

That’s a key consideration when developing your social media business strategy. You can determine which social media platforms your target market is actively using in a number of ways.

Ask them.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? You can survey your existing customers, clients and contacts by using one of the online free survey sites, or by polling them via your email list. Or, you can simply ask them when they enter your brick-and-mortar business or at checkout online.

Look at the research.

Social media demographics are widely available online, and the data is robust. You’ll want to know the demographics for your current clients and the target markets you wish to reach. Information like age, gender, income and education can be helpful in your decision-making process.

In “Social Media Demographics to Inform a Better Segmentation Strategy,” Michael Patterson says in-depth information is available about market demographics for many of the popular sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest® and Snapchat. Use that data to determine where the majority of users live, their income levels, their gender and much more. From there, you will be able to glean insight into which platforms your target markets are most likely using, and which social media sites for business are right for you.

This offers you a strong starting position, according to Dominique Jackson in “How to Find the Best Social Media Channels for Your Business.”

“For instance, if you’re primarily targeting women over 50 years old, Instagram probably isn’t the best option. You’re better off with Facebook or Pinterest,” Jackson says.

This is just the beginning of your process, but it’s a vital step. Patterson points out that the strategy you develop based on this data shouldn’t be written in stone. Rather, consider it an organic, ever-changing plan. “Smart marketers constantly tinker with their segmentation strategy, working tediously to ensure that the right message is reaching the right people at the right time,” he explains. “With the rise of so many platforms across the vast social media landscape, this has never been more important—or more challenging.”

Find where your content, or similar content, is already being shared.

Even if you aren’t on social media, chances are your name is there. Consider logging on to various sites and searching for your company name, related product lines, competitor accounts or areas of interest among your target audiences. Look for places where that conversation is happening: your target audience has a presence there that you can work with. As a bonus, you may also learn what your audience thinks of your business, what they wish you would consider tweaking, what they love about your products and services, and even how your staff is performing from a customer service standpoint. Jackpot!

But having the demographic data isn’t enough, Jackson says. “In addition to these statistics, you should also do a manual review of the social networks where you’re interested. Look at the content being published, and who are the actual content creators. If content related to your industry seems to resonate well, it’s a good sign.”

Lastly, consider which social media sites are already driving traffic to your business. You can do this with the help of Google Analytics. Jackson suggests checking out the data under Acquisition. Then choose Social and Network Referrals.

Step 2: Define your social media for business capabilities within the resources you have available

You know it. We know it. Everyone knows it. Resources—both time and money—are limited. Obviously, managing both wisely is important, especially when considering your social media strategy. So the question is: what is your team capable of doing within budget and scheduling limitations?

It goes without saying—poorly-used resources could result in a very low return on your efforts. Spread your time and staff too thin and your audience engagement could suffer. A single person with an existing full-time load of responsibilities likely won’t be as responsive as your social media audience would like. And at its core, that’s the point of social media: it’s a conversation, and it’s about building relationships. If it’s a one-sided conversation and customers can’t reach you, you may send the message that your business is not interested in providing excellent customer service. Customers have become accustomed to nearly immediate responses and online customer support with a real person on-demand.

In “6 Social Media Trends That Will Take Over 2016” Jennifer Beese said, “Social media thrives on real-time engagement, but each year the window for response becomes smaller and smaller.” According to Search Engine Watch, 70 percent of Twitter users expect a response and 53 percent want a response in less than an hour. That jumps to 72 percent when they have a complaint.

Allocating the right resources to the right platforms is essential. No one wants to wake up to negative reviews of their company. Make sure you have enough staff to stay on top of issues and address concerns. In 2014, consumers took to social media to complain about brands 879 million times, according to www.sproutsocial.com. Worse, the majority of those messages went unanswered, even after three days. The good news is that there are tools out there that can help. Automation and social listening tools can help you streamline your efforts and provide useful data to hone your strategy. Overall, they can help make the most of the time and money you devote to social media.

The bottom line: by strategically choosing your platforms and taking time to calculate what you can realistically do with your resources, you can maximize your return on investment (ROI) and delight your customers when they engage with you on social media.

Step 3: Decide what kind of content you will share

So far, you’ve considered how much of your staff and financial resources you can dedicate to your social media strategy. But don’t stop there. It’s vital to consider your strengths. Each social media platform has a unique set of capabilities, and some will be more applicable to your business than others. For example, if you run a professional photography school or an art studio, photo sharing sites like Instagram would provide a great platform to showcase the visual aspects of your business. If you provide drone videography services, you may find sites like YouTube® work better. Look at each channel and consider how they will work with your business. 

In “How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business,” author and online marketing expert Scott Levy suggests, “When it comes to choosing which social media platforms you’ll utilize, select those that offer the best potential for reaching your ideal audience and broadcast the type of media you’ve decided is best suited for your company.” When it comes to selecting social media sites for businesses that are large, or social media for small business, most companies don’t have the resources to be successful on every platform. So, instead of having lackluster representation in a lot of places, be amazing on a few of them.

Here are some popular platforms and the type of content they work best with, according to Levy. 

Pinterest

This online bulletin board is great for content sharing because it allows users to save items for future reference—pinning—and share them. Pins are image-driven, so strong visuals are important. Users can comment on pins, and click on pins to access external webpages. Says Levy, “If you focus on wedding planning, travel destinations, interior decorating, fashion or foods, you can say a great deal about your products and services through your stunning photos or videos.” 

LinkedIn

According to Levy, LinkedIn is great for connecting people, engaging in group discussions about specific interests and showcasing your expertise. LinkedIn is also a popular publishing platform. It is a great option to get exposure for your original content, and to position yourself as an expert in your industry. 

YouTube

YouTube is a great sharing site for videos. The key, says Levy, is to make your video engaging, as no one will watch a boring video. But that doesn’t necessarily call for high-end production. What makes a video good? Levy explains, “It’s a good idea to watch a number of YouTube videos and see which ones generated hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of hits. Videos that show people how to do something, demonstrate your product or service, or introduce a new or unusual (visual) product can help you benefit from YouTube.” 

Twitter

This platform provides a continuous real-time conversation in short, text message-like posts. It’s ideal for companies that want real-time engagement with their audience and are willing to put in the effort to maintain it. “If you have breaking news, updates, questions for your followers, or if you want opinions now or even need to announce a recall, Twitter is the way to reach out to people,” Levy said.

Facebook

Facebook has extensive reach and power. Its worldwide user-base is enormous. While there is some sense of immediacy, Facebook doesn’t have the same rapid-fire vibe that Twitter does. It’s more about building a relationship with the audience. “Almost any business can benefit from having a Facebook page,” says Levy. “But Facebook isn’t about selling. Your goal in using Facebook for business is to let customers get to know the people behind the logo … If done correctly, your fans become loyal followers and Facebook can be a very significant lead generator.”

As you can see, the type of content you want to share has a big role in choosing the right social media platforms.

Step 4: Consider large, medium, small and niche platforms

The temptation for many businesses is to focus on the largest social media platforms, like these:

Big Social Networks’ Monthly Active UsersFigure 1: Big social networks’ monthly active users

Depending on the size and scope of your business, going for the most popular platforms could be a valid choice. But social media is about more than the number of users. It’s important to remember that the bigger the site, the more competition you face. A social media campaign that could easily get lost on a popular site could gain real traction on a niche site. So when you’re considering platforms, dig deep. It may require a little legwork, but you could see a huge payoff in market saturation. Here’s how to go about it according to Patel.

  • Consider joining what Patel calls the big four: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Patel says Google+ is a social media game changer. “When you combine Google authorship with the world’s dominant search engine, and create a social media platform that integrates them, it’s no wonder that Google+ is turning up as a dominant form of online social interaction.”
  • Consider what Patel calls the lesser three: Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. You may also want to consider location-based sites, such as Foursquare® and Yelp®, particularly if you have a brick-and-mortar presence.
  • Consider even smaller sites. Patel clarifies that these sites are still massive, but they appeal to people who have shared interests. These sites include Tumblr®, StumbleUpon® and Reddit®.
  • Lastly, explore niche sites. A social network that is specifically created for your target market may provide more return on your investment of time and energy. How do you find the right niche social site? Patel recommends simply putting your keywords, along with the words “social network,” in a search engine to see what’s out there. Niche sites won’t have the big user numbers that Facebook has, but you’ll get a more accurate sample of your target market when you find the right group.

Step 5: Research future social media platform capabilities and rise to meet them

Remember how we said your social media strategy shouldn’t be set in stone? In “The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends Dominating 2016,” author Jason DeMers says it’s helpful to look at the trends that are taking center stage in social media right now. This information allows you to tweak or even overhaul your social media strategy to capitalize on current conditions. Here’s what’s trending:

  1. Hyper-relevant content rules. Users are beginning to prefer in-the-moment content, and most platforms sort posts by relevance. That means better posts get better play.
  2. Live streaming is gaining momentum. Video has been increasingly popular on social media, but these days, users want more. With the advent of Facebook Live, chances are, demand for live-streaming content will only increase.
  3. Social interaction is changing. New types of interaction are emerging, including one-sided conversations on Snapchat and applications like Messenger for Business on Facebook, aimed at customer service. The range of options is constantly growing and new capabilities are emerging. Staying on top of this can put your business on the cusp of the next big thing.
  4. A more personalized experience. As we mentioned, users want content that is relevant. Social media platforms have heard the demands for customization, and they’re doing their best to meet those demands.
  5. Social media apps are trying to keep people in-app for as long as possible by offering greater functionality. Experts say this trend will increase as it relates directly to app revenue. “Some of these functions include in-app search functions, embedded content, and in Facebook’s case, even a personal digital assistant,” DeMers says. Savvy marketers don’t have to adopt all of them, he says, but will want to recognize that broader app functionality is a trend that will likely shape the future of social media marketing.

So, there you have it: five steps to finding the right social media sites for business. Once selected, you’re well on your way to discovering success in user engagement, sales conversions and brand loyalty. Remember, you don’t have to do all platforms well; the key is to select the platforms that work best for your business. Focus on communicating effectively. In time, armed with a thoughtfully-developed strategy, your business can experience measurable ROI, improved customer relationships, and business growth through the power of social media.

SOURCE: Platform Overload—Choosing the Right Social Media Sites for Business