The $46,000 Trade Show Question.

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This post was originally uploaded to our previous Medium blog on April 26, 2016.

Another year and another booth. You’ve committed to invest the time and money participating in another industry trade show. With such a sizable investment, do you really know what you’re trying to say and is it enough for anyone to care or is it just more white noise? Great booths don’t have to break the bank to get the attention they deserve.

If you realize that showing up at a booth is not enough then you’re already on the right track. Trade shows are an exercise in buyer psychology and need to be planned with the audience in mind. Get their attention and then show them something they will be interested in seeing.

It’s about the Psychology

People remember things that stand out. The more unique and the more valued the message, the more it sticks in the mind of your market. This trade show season, millions of dollars will be wasted on beautiful booths that say nothing! Clean lines and muted content are nice but fail to emotionally connect with your audience. The best booths are not the ones that have the biggest banner, they are the ones that tell a story in a way that attracts the eye and stays in the mind of the audience long after the show.

Different = Definitely Memorable

At any event, people remember what stood out. When everything is the same, there is a good chance it will be forgotten. Memorable items are those things which people have either never seen before or stand out in context enough to interrupt the mind of your audience. One of our clients needed a booth for an offering they were bringing to market. Imagine a booth featuring a strong patch to provide temporary repairs on chiro and massage therapist tables. No samples here. Instead, the booth featured dinosaur-sized rips. Everything in the booth was destroyed… except the strong fabric patch product. Even the sales people had shirts with claw marks that’s you’d expect after a run in with a dinosaur. Stand out it did!

Bypass the Noise

Shows are a colorful mix of backdrops and draped tables, all striving to attract attention. Unfortunately, the visual “noise” becomes blinding and literally mind-numbing. A well-designed booth bypasses this noise by going straight to the audience’s brain. It tells a compelling story and provides a visual connection between the business shopper, the booth and the company’s offering. A booth designed with the right message and the proper emotional connection is always a draw.

Give us a call and we’ll be happy to share other examples of how we’ve helped our clients take their booths from bland to BAM!

Have a comment? Think we’re full of it? Fully agree and want to bask in our adulation and thanks for reaching out?

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Survive or Thrive. Business Lessons from the Three Little Pigs.

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Business is often portrayed as a battle against others. Met­aphors run rampant about winning the game and beating com­petitors. Analogies talk of fighting a war for a limited piece of pie. It’s like a massive game of Survivor where you need to outwit, outplay, and out­last the others. But how do you play when an unexpected fiscal tsunami strikes and hits the entire island? You do so by running your business more like an episode of the three little pigs than Mark Burnett’s famous TV series of Survivor.

Just look at those three little critters. A small porky group of four legged animals. All appearing to be equal with each having the same opportunities available. All three open to the pending doom of the big bad Wolf of Bay Street, yet each stay in control of their own efforts and decisions. Three characters who can teach us a lesson about ourselves and the world of business.

Consider Ben. He was the first little piggy. He was an impatient piggy, always wanting to find the easy way to the trough. Times were good, everyone was feasting, and Ben wanted to be part of it. He too wanted a beautiful house of his own. So, one day along with some friends, Ben set out in search for materials to build his new house. He had financing and a desire to succeed. It wasn’t long into his journey when Ben met a farmer along the road with a load of straw. Ben was pretty sure it wasn’t the best material he could use, but he didn’t want to wait. He wanted to build his house as quickly as he could and start getting orders. “No waiting for me,” said the impatient little piggy. “There’s orders to fill and producers to serve. I’ll build my house quickly and get on to more important things.” And that he did.

Ben bought the straw and quickly built a fine straw house. He hired a freelancer to come up with a cool name, and he made himself a pretty neon ‘BenCo’ sign to mount on the side of his building. It was good. Everything was okay, and it was all he needed while things were booming. The phone would ring, and Ben would find some friends to fill orders and answer calls from producers too busy to be choosey. Unfortunately though for Ben, he thought all he had to do was be at the right place at the right time with any house, and dinner would be served. A lot of mistakes could be covered up during the days of $100+ bales of hay, and Ben was making one of significant proportion.

The second piggy, Bob, also wanted to be part of the feast. He was already eating well, but like many, he wanted more. You see, Bob already had a house. It was one that was built years earlier by his dad. It was a well-built house made of field stones and sticks, but Bob wanted it bigger. “It’s too small,” said Bob. “If it’s bigger, I can make more and take over the whole county.” So, he brought in some advisors, secured funding with his bank, and set out to expand his house.

Bob knew bricks would be the best material to use in building up his existing house of stones and sticks, but bricks would take time and require more effort to get. Not wanting to miss out, he decided to take a short cut. “I’ve already got sticks and stones, and I can get more without much effort. I’ll expand in no time and get back to the table quickly.” So, Bob set out to get his sticks. With one quick call, he found the first farmer available to bring him his load of sticks. They were ‘good enough’ for what he needed, so he purchased them and set out on building. They’d work fine to expand his house. They would certainly do.

It was only the third piggy who actually did what needed to be done. That piggy was Fred. Fred had a reputation as someone who never took the shortcut. While straw and sticks were readily available, he knew bricks were also there for his use. It took a bit more investment in time and effort than the other options required, but he knew it was necessary for when the storms would come and the wolves would gather. Unexpected situations would always arise. Fred wasn’t going to be the little piggy who’d get roasted. So, before the clouds could peak on the horizon, Fred invested in his house and his future. While he could have taken the easier route to pick up straw or pick up sticks, he knew the value in having a solid foundation. For Fred, it wasn’t so much about beating the other pigs. It was about surviving even the huffiest of puffs.

And, as the story continued, with the storm now past and the Wolf of Bay Street having fed on those other fat little piggies, Fred’s house was the only one to survive. And, based on the situations of the others, we might say he even thrived.

So, what’s the moral of this modern day tale? How can we learn to be more Fred and less Bob or Ben?

Start with a focus on your future, more than your today. Invest in the things that will provide long-term returns and stand the test of time. Research has shown investing in a well-positioned brand outperforms the S&P 500 and MSCI with an average return of 103%.

Then, work to beat the wolves more than you work to beat your competitors. When all the little piggies are battling the same big bad wolf, everyone must band together. And, although big bad wolves come in different shapes, sizes, and forms (i.e. government policies, environmental trends, socio-economic constraints, etc.), if it huffs and it puffs, it’s likely a wolf. Much of the marketing efforts we’ve put together for our clients have focused on reaching across industry associations and leveraging industry colleagues to grow their entire segment and ultimately their own business. It’s true all ships lift when the tides rise.

Lastly, never build a straw (or stick) house when bricks are available. For our clients in the B2B space, shortcuts will often lead to failure. We provide our clients with the insight and activities they need to grow their business. It’s about figuring out what makes them unique and valued, and it’s the foundation of being able to present their offerings in a way that stands out and gets them the attention they deserve. Building a sustainable value proposition must begin by knowing the real value you bring to your market and not by taking a shortcut to build upon what you ‘think’ they care about.

So, for those looking to survive beyond storms and wolves or any other unexpected calamity, take your time to build a solid foundation. It’s better to be huffing and puffing from putting in the work than to be the victim of a bigger huff and puff. Only survivors will thrive.

Have a comment? Think we’re full of it? Fully agree and want to bask in our adulation and thanks for reaching out?

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This article was originally published in the Oilfield Pulse magazine, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2017

Why Think At All?

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Many years ago, Steve Jobs came to the table and created a new campaign for Apple titled “Think Different.” It worked brilliantly. It’s become legendary and it’s highlighted in Marketing and Advertising classes all over the world. Everybody thought the guy was a genius. But did they think so while he was doing it? No. Not likely.

When we started our company “Why be Normal?” was a phrase that we often used. It drove the concept that if you’re trying to be different, you can’t be normal. You can’t be the same as everyone else and you can’t get attention doing the same thing everyone else does. You have to stand out — and that’s uncomfortable.

Standing out likely scares you to death.

Maybe it reminds you of being back in Grade 7, to the time when that person laughed at you for having the “wrong” haircut. Or maybe you suggested an approach that the class bully disagreed with, and you took a beating on the playground at recess.

And it’s surprising now because you run a company but you still have that same little child-like fear inside of your head. You want to be different. You want to do something crazy… but you’re scared. You want to have Richard Branson’s success but you’re probably not ready to put that bathing suit on and climb down the cell phone.

You don’t have the balls to do it.

And because of that, you’re going to be stuck where you are forever. So get used to your position.

Or change it.

Back to that little phrase used in our office of “Why be Normal?” Normal is what 51% of the population does and that never leads to being unique… and remember that as people, we’re a bit more “sheeple” than we care to admit and we find unique uncomfortable as hell.

So for those engaging ad agencies or marketing firms, be careful as you might be duped by those who put a new coat of paint on something and call it “better.” And clients, if you don’t change what you’re saying and doing — you’re likely dead. There’s no way you’re going to stand out and be different, no matter how shiny your stuff is. You’re wanting to be different but you’re actually being the same as everyone else.

And that will never work out for you.

We understand that being different is scary. Sometimes it terrifies you.

So if you can’t get over the fear of standing out then you need to get out of business. Otherwise you’re just keeping status quo, and status quo is your enemy.

And for those of you trying to actually be different and looking to stand out, then you have to follow Steve Jobs’ lead and Think Different.

Otherwise, why think at all?

Have a comment? Think we’re full of it? Fully agree and want to bask in our adulation and thanks for reaching out?

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This post was originally uploaded to our previous Medium blog on July 4, 2018.