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Within the realm of “Marketing” we might include a product that needs to be created with a target audience in mind.  Marketers would work hard to understand the products’ features while communicating the same products’ benefits.

Perhaps external communications would seek to differentiate the product from its competitors and promote any unique selling points.  External communications would seek to create a value proposition:  “buy this and you can expect……”

Sometimes the messaging might take a negative slant:  “with the other ‘product’ you’ll only get…”  Too often, negative sells fail to propose a positive aspect of the product making the claim.

Proper marketing means the product must be right; the value must be created in the mind of the buyer, the packaging needs to be appealing without being too slick, the messaging needs to effectively be communicated and you’ll only know its worked if consumers’ ‘buy.’

To keep that product on the shelf for the long term the people, production and output leading to the product need to be efficient.  The product needs to live up to its claims.  Ideally, word of mouth positive support in the marketplace exceeds any negatives being shared amongst your consumer base. 

Whether on the commode or in the voting booth, people want to be confident in what they buy.


Clients, customers, patrons, consumers- so many names for them but the bottom line is without them we would have no business, no company, no industry. That concept should be obvious to us but sometimes we still need things to be put into perspective, don’t we?

It’s so easy to presume that our client relationships are going well and we are doing just what we need to do to maintain them. But are we really showing our clients how much we appreciate them? How much their business truly means to us and how much we want them to be successful? Brains on Fire President, Robbin Phillips recently posted a blog that included the line from their book– “Be famous for the people who love you for the way you love them.”

To me- that just says so much. What if what your company was renowned for was how well you treated your clients? All the marketing plans and paid advertisements mean nothing if your clients do not feel valued and even, special! If you can do that, all the marketing dollars in the world won’t be able to compare to the word of mouth advertising your happy clients will give you.

Steve Knox says “Victory in marketing doesn’t happen when you get New Customers, but when you connect with your Brand Advocates.” These are the happy repeat customers that are promoting your company and bringing you the new business on their own time! Mack Collier compared the marketing approaches of companies to the marketing approaches of rock stars. (Thanks to Robbin Phillips for the reference to this post as well in a Brains on Fire blog).

Rock Stars focus on the people who already love them- the brand advocates. “Brand Advocates have a strong sense of loyalty for the Rockstar, so they not only stay as customers, they go out and actively recruit New Customers, Existing Customers, and customers with Some Brand Affinity to buy from the Rockstar.” Most companies put a lot of focus on finding new customers. While there is nothing wrong with that, we also need to understand that by focusing on the people who are already loyal to us- we can strengthen the chances of continued business with them as well as the likelihood they will become a “brand advocate” (and do some of our marketing for us!)

So let’s find a way to make our customers feel special this week. Send a card, a nice email or voicemail, recommend a book you think they would enjoy. Try to connect with them in a way that will make them realize that you appreciate their time and interest in your company. Leave a comment with your suggestion and hopefully your success story on how your customer enjoyed that extra effort!

I just encountered a situation that was frustrating, time consuming and a big turnoff but also one that let me see things from “the other side” because in the past “the shoe was on the other foot.” The issue: What happens when your company pays to sponsor an event and your competitors show up?

Earlier this week I was asked to “not attend” a seminar series which is part of an ongoing certification process I’m pursuing because an industry competitor (one I’ve encountered exactly once in 18 years) was sponsoring the breakout sessions. Having already paid a large fee and after presenting some reasonable assurances to the organization and the sponsor, I’m allowed to attend.

Several times in the past I’ve had to personally “un-invite” competitors that have planned to come to client education events my firm presents. Usually after hearing these events are ‘proprietary’ the competition respectfully relents. However, I have had people “crash” our seminars and being gracious to those less deserving sometimes is easier than calling the bouncers!

Presently, for my congregation I’m just starting the sales process for sponsorships of a unique event. Having been on both sides of this issue, I’m curious to see how the marketplace will react and what, if anything, they will demand.

As a sponsor of a B2B Marketing event when your competitor shows up in a sense, you’re paying money to gather a crowd to make it easier for them to network and solicit the same business you were going after. Your competition is at “the event” eating food you’ve paid for; drinking beverages you’ve financed and/or learning from the speakers, presentations, seminars that you’ve underwritten.

Ideally, the organizing entity of an event can control or address this without ruffled feathers and well in advance of a public faceoff! If they fail to do so then as the sponsor you can either appeal to your competitor to honor the exclusivity of the event and back out of attending; allow them to attend with a stern admonition regarding soliciting; be magnanimous and graciously welcome them to your event; or simply ignore them and encourage your team to work twice as hard.

To avoid the situation on the front side, some things to inquire about prior to agreeing to an event sponsorship include:

Whether or not your sponsorship allows you to dictate prohibiting anyone from attending?

 Whether or not your sponsorship is exclusive or category exclusive?

If non-exclusive, is there any guarantee of logo placement, activity separation, or classification of sponsorship level that will delineate each company’s recognition?

Is there an expectation of right of first refusal for future sponsorships?

Of course, both events and sponsorships come in all manner of varieties. There is a lot to consider, including the presence or lack of presence by your competition.

As we enter a beautiful Fall/Winter season, I know I’ll end up using the excuse of “preparing for hibernation” when stuffing myself at holiday parties and dinners. But the truth is that I’m not preparing for a long slumber; I’m actually in the process of waking up from one- just like everyone else.

“What slumber?” you ask? The Great Recession, my friends. Like a bear waiting out the cold of winter, companies of all sizes have been keeping safe and warm in their proverbial “caves” (those that were lucky enough to make it before the blizzard hit, that is).

 So, like bears awakening from their extended nap time, we’re hungry. The storm of the economy is on its way out and sunny days are just around the corner. Whether you’re in retail, manufacturing, service, or logistics, now is the time to stretch and thrive again.

Wikipedia provides a great definition of hibernation that I feel draws a perfect analogous relation to our current economic climate: animals conserve energy and food when supplies are limited just like companies. The most intriguing part of this analogy is when it supposes that “the animal’s slowed metabolic rate … leads to a reduction in body temperature and not the other way around.”

Similarly, I believe that it is our slowed consumption rate that lowers the temperature of the economy- not the other way around.

 If this is the case, then the question remains: how do we pick it back up? How does a company, with little to no resources left, escape from their cave and enter the sunlight again? It is by the promise of a feast.

When a bear awakens, he goes to the shallow stream. He jumps right in the middle of the flopping salmon and eats until he can’t eat any more. In the same light, it’s time for us to find the shallow water and begin our feast!

The shallow water is different for each company. For some it’s exhibiting at a tradeshow and for others, it’s hosting a highly publicized sale. As with any promotion of your company, there must be proper planning, executing, follow-up, and measuring.

It’s time for companies to unleash their marketing team to come up with a plan of attack, from cradle to cradle- a never-ending cycle of creating interest and developing leads. Invest in your future by expanding your business, not by hiding in the cave.

Stepping into the showroom was like entering a new world; a splash of eye popping colors, modern structures that surpassed human height, aesthetically pleasing lighting, and inviting space.

As I began the first day of my Marketing Internship with Skyline Exhibits & Design, I was inspired by the luxurious figures that surrounded me. My classroom marketing concepts came to life through the appeal, organization, and quality of the showroom.

My day consisted of meeting staff members from each department including Design, Service, Sales, and Project Management. I experienced a crucial ingredient of the company: an effective team that understands the need for comprehensive service. I witnessed the communication methods between each department within the company to produce a quality exhibit design. I quickly observed that the relationships between Skyline staff members and clients are the heartbeat of this company.

The most challenging aspect of my day was learning the lingo of Trade Show Marketing, a foreign language of its own. Words and phrases including I&D, Asset Management, CAD, and ROI scrambled through my brain as I attempted to soak in new terms. I&D services provide installation and dismantle of trade show exhibits that are offered to clients.

Asset Management is an additional service where Skyline maintains, stores, and ships exhibits for clients. Both of these services are offered to allow clients to focus on other aspects of the show. Skyline designers create CADs (Computer-Aided Designs) to translate a client’s brand into a three-dimensional environment. Skyline offers tips and training to increase a client’s ROI (Return on Investment). The Skyline staff helped me sharpen my knowledge of Trade Show Marketing lingo.

My day concluded by meeting Steve Hoffman, the President of Skyline. I learned three key aspects of working for Skyline: “confidence, enjoy the ride, and profit to generate investment in the business and help the company grow.” My first day was a successful blend of getting to know the staff, learning about the Trade Show industry, and observing the daily tasks of operation. I am looking forward to my semester with Skyline, and opportunities to have hands on experience with Trade Show Marketing.

Check out our latest post for Carolina Marketer by President of Skyline Exhibits & Design, Steve Hoffman. This blog was also featured on our corporate blog site Skyline Trade Show Tips.

Just because your exercise routine gets interrupted when you attend or exhibit at a tradeshow, you don’t have to miss out on opportunities to keep the pounds off while getting healthier and more energized.  Just like at your local health club, start by getting ready in the locker room.

Of course for exhibitors, the “LOCKER ROOM” preparation should be a pre-show meeting two weeks before the show involving everyone on your team.

To avoid injury, you start your workout with a good “STRETCH.”  When planning for your tradeshow activities, go ahead and stretch your goals.  Reach out to attendees.  Push yourself until you feel it where you know your company is trying to achieve something.

OK, next exercise, it’s time to CRUNCH the numbers.  Sure in your mind you may dream of having ideal abs.  But the same way a smart workout is aimed at realistic objectives, your tradeshow budgeting also needs to be realistic.

Next up, take some “CLASSES.”  At the gym you improve by regular attendance at cardio, kick-boxing, yoga or boot camp.  At many tradeshows, you can vastly increase the benefit of attending by taking advantage of general sessions, breakouts, continuing education units, speakers and roundtables.  Even if the content in these ‘classes’ is familiar and known, it’s always good to “JOG” your memory and remind yourself of best practices.

When you’re working out at your gym, most of us are good about carrying water and “STAYING HYDRATED.”  Ditto on the show floor.  Convention centers are very dry.  Without realizing it, by staffing a booth for hours or walking “LAPS” on the show floor up and down the aisles your body and mind require extra water.

Whether you’re at the gym or exhibiting at a tradeshow, you want to sweat!   Exercise resulting in a good sweat is healthy.  “SWEATING” the details of your exhibit marketing program allows you to do the “HEAVY LIFTING” and meet the responsibility of representing your brand at a time and place where your best customers as well as best prospects are all present.

Grunting, loudly exhaling, encouragements from your spotters are all sounds one might hear at the club.  Similarly, on the tradeshow floor the organizations that get the best results “MAKE SOME NOISE.”  They are noticed, talked about, stand out and others want to emulate their results.

You can and will burn calories by building a tradeshow booth, walking the floor, participating in the golf tournament, or taking advantage of the hotel’s workout center.  And like your regular workout, when it comes to attending or exhibiting you should “MAKE IT FUN.”  Many should explore ways to “LOSE WEIGHT” by reducing the cost per hundred pounds of weight (c.w.t.) for your tradeshow materials as this will also save significantly on your drayage budget.

Working out can be a great way to “GET A LEAD” on your day and tradeshows are great ways to get leads that will propel your business further.

Time to make those resolutions about how you will be different this year…better.

Are you a booth staffer? Is your resolution to improve your staffing skills?

A display can only take your company so far at a show. It’s the interactions and relationship built by the booth staffers that get leads for your company. A booth design is a great way to attract attention but a booth design plus an engaging booth staff is a surefire way to stay with people after the show.

Will you strive to plan, set goals & expectations as well as budget better for your tradeshows this year?

The sooner you start planning for your tradeshows, the less stressful the experience will be. Establish a timeline with your exhibiting company to include clear deadlines and expectations for staff and the company. With clear communication and understanding, a successful tradeshow experience is always possible!

Is your resolution to have a better follow-up strategy with your prospects after the tradeshow?

If you don’t establish contact with the leads you received from the show, you will have wasted your own time and money by being there! Don’t let too much time pass without reaching out to those you met on the floor. You need to begin your communication with them while you are still fresh in their minds.

There are so many ways to improve your tradeshow marketing this year and these are just a few! Whether its design elements, display options or staff training there are always measures to make tradeshow marketing work for you. Keep checking back on Carolina Marketer as we at Skyline Exhibits & Design launch our 2011 marketing campaign, “Tradeshows Work!” Let us show you how tradeshows can benefit your company this year!

Matching colors by Pantone number seems the most accurate way to ensure that all of your materials match right?  Not so fast.

The first time I heard my art department explain “RGB” and “CMYK” while examining a tradeshow booth exhibit seemed to me a case of “CYA.”  Then I did some reading and learning.  One process applies colors, the other removes them and remembering which is which is the stuff graphic designers are made of. That’s why there is an art department at my company.

In their corporate training room at Skyline Exhibits (where they produce more large format graphics per day than most of us could fathom) there is a series of printed pieces from 3M Corporation on the wall.  Although individual applications of  the red crisp logo all meet the intended PMS # target, when viewing letterhead, printed labels, business cards, envelopes and a key chain all together, one sees the effect of differing media, papers, inks, production processes.  The Panton Matching System needs to be thought of as a guide and not an absolute.

Specifying details when requesting Pantone color numbers may result in shades off if one process of applying the color to the product uses the RGB method while another product uses CMYK.  Get out your Pantone Color Chart one day and look up a color.  If you have the same card deck as ours, the same Pantone color is listed twice, side by side.  One column says RGB & the other says CMYK.  In some cases, the colors wouldn’t be called the same thing if they were in my box of Crayolas.

Taking the time, effort, and expense to color match is worth it in the end.


I have had a few prospective clients tell me recently that they need a new tradeshow exhibit.   I am very happy to see the upswing in the economy & companies realizing that they need to replace that 12-year old tradeshow display.  In the past few weeks, I have had a number of people tell me, “Our company is planning on increasing the number of tradeshows this year, and we’re budgeting to get a new exhibit.”  Whoo Hoo!  Then the next sentence is usually, “I think we want some of those new banner things that everyone’s switching to?”

I am reminded of being in school.  Did you get a new pair of shoes because you liked them, or because everyone had them?  I fell victim to begging for Member’s Only jackets, Converse high top sneakers, and spiral perms too.  Is it because they were ME, or was it because everyone had them & I wanted to fit in?  Don’t fit in – stand out if you want to be perceived as outstanding!

Do you really want to spend thousands of your company’s dollars to show up and look exactly like everyone else in the room? Do you want combo #2,  or do you want a fresh, new representation of why your company is better than the other company’s peddling their wares?   Marketing what distinguishes your company from the others is the critical piece of success.  Everyone thinks they are better/faster/cheaper, but until you stand out from the crowd and get noticed then deliberately tell them WHY you are the best at what you do they’ll never know!


1.  We spend money on ads, money on direct mail, money sending our reps into the field…all in the hope that we can get face time with the people who matter.  At a trade show, all of our best prospects are in one place at one time.

2.  At a trade show, we get to see all of our existing clients in one place, at one time.  We can use the opportunity to ascertain their future needs and their current satisfaction with our products and services.

3.  At a trade show, the industry press comes to us.  They are actively seeking what’s new.  We can easily make you and the rest of the senior management team available for quotes.  And we can add to your stature by having you present a paper, participate in a panel, or play golf with our three biggest customers all in one foursome.

4.  Whether it’s the trade press, a current customer, a future prospect or even some company that may be interested in a strategic partnership, we get to control the environment in which they evaluate us.  We get to position our messages in their minds.

5.  Also, Mr. Boss, you are always concerned the staff doesn’t keep abreast of the latest developments in our industry and is too self-focused.  At a trade show we can spy on the competition, we can attend seminars by thought leaders and industry titans, we can get a pulse of what is on our customers minds just by hanging out at the hotel bar.

6.  Mr. Boss, do you remember that great idea you thought you had a few years back?  We spent low-six figures pitching the thing in half the country only to find out our ‘whatchamacallit’ was being offered when the industry was clamoring for a ‘thigamajig.’  Had we only used the time at the annual trade show to survey the marketplace we’d have saved face, saved six figures and saved a season’s worth of product development time!

And when the boss says, “But all these expenses add up…” That’s when you agree they add up — to a very efficient use of valuable company resources.

Also, see this blog featured on Skyline Trade Show Tips– the blog of Skyline Exhibits, our corporate office in Minnesota!

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