By Megan Hebert, Trade Show Coordinator for Foster Marketing
Another one in the books! For me, wrapping up another successful Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) can be compared to that feeling of liberation in school just after completing your last exam of the semester. With this year’s OTC having the highest attendance and largest exhibition since 1982 — 78,150 attendees and 603,000 square feet of exhibit space, there is no doubt the hard work of many people paid off. Yet there is little rest for the weary as the slew of international trade show events is on the horizon.
With 2011 full of large, international events — the aforementioned OTC, along with Offshore Europe, Brasil Offshore, OTC Brasil and Oil & Gas Asia…to name a few — the conscientious exhibitor is always seeking ways to ensure a successful event with measurable benefits. One group of attendees who can considerably boost a company’s ROI (but who are often overlooked) is … journalists.
Recently I stumbled across an article by Lena Valenty of EXHIBITOR Magazine in which she creatively compares exhibiting at a trade show to a blind date (stay with me here). She explains how an exhibitor has mere minutes to make a lasting first impression. An exhibitor has “carefully accessorized with graphics and key messages that accentuates its best features.” We want to appear interesting, but not overeager…confident, but not pompous, she says.
Our potential matches almost always are the most attractive customers and prospects, but Valenty encourages us not to overlook the person who may not appear to be your type on first glance…the journalist. Though perhaps not as glamorous, media representatives have the ability to spread your message in a big way. This group, tasked with delivering news and information on the industry, new products, trends and the key players, is always on the hunt for information to share with readers and viewers. Consider these steps as you aim for Press Success at your next show:
Find your audience: This legwork includes researching media representatives that will be attending the show, determining who the proper contacts are and if your products and services align properly.
Craft your message: How will you entice the journalists…and concisely? Your message should have clear positioning, product differentiation and provide compelling interest.
Book interviews: Be proactive and start booking media appointments several weeks in advance of a show…and ensure the proper executive is available to be interviewed.
Assemble your kit: Press kits are expected.
Get involved: Become involved outside of the exhibit hall. What conference components could you participate in, or what award programs could you enter? These are valuable, exhibit-marketing opportunities.
Train your staff: What role should your exhibit staff play when interacting with the media? Decide what actions they are to take, have a plan in place and share it. If they are to interact with media, there are media-training basics to follow.
Prepare your exhibit: Incorporate into your booth a quiet meeting space, if possible. Offsite meetings are often a welcomed alternative, and utilizing the press room may also be an option for conducting interviews.
Continue the conversation: Follow up with each journalist who visited your booth. Keep the conversation going and show that you are accessible. The long-term goal is to position yourself and your company as an industry expert who can serve as a source for information.
Measure the results: Hard metrics can be obtained through tracking media impressions and the number of original articles, as well as through web analytics. Also, include an overview of all media activity at the show. These reports will prove that your efforts were worth the investment.
Foster Marketing can help navigate the coordination side of your exhibit, and with our proprietary database of energy publications and established relationships, we can guide your quest for Press Success, too. Together, we can navigate through the blind dates to connect with those looking to woo us and share our company’s stories.
Let us help you improve your trade show ROI — whether you are exhibiting at a regional or international show. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.
By Kristy S. Bonner, Account Executive and Digital Strategist for Foster Marketing Communications
We frequently get asked if companies in the oil and gas industry are embracing social media and what kind of ROI, or return on investment, they are getting.
To the first part of the question, it appears many in our industry are curious but skeptical about using social media as a business tool. Foster Marketing recently conducted a survey on social media in the oil and gas industry that proved just this. Although many survey respondents wanted to know more about how they could use social media to their advantage, most were not yet using the medium, and many were still not ready to add it to next year’s marketing plan.
When considering the potential ROI from social media initiatives, the key is to identify what types of returns have value for your company. Although revenue may be the ultimate goal for most efforts, we usually count the steps that lead up to a sale as a return as well. In digital efforts, returns are often referred to as conversions, which could be someone clicking a link to go to a website; a potential customer picking up the phone and calling; or getting a meeting request.
Noteworthy gains from using social media include:
• Brand awareness: If they do not know who you are and what you do, how can they buy from you? Social media venues such as Facebook offer the opportunity to put your experts — both their names and faces — in front of customers; Twitter can link your company name with what you specialize in; and YouTube can be used to show what you can do.
• Public relations: If your company has good things happening, let people know about it. Industry forums are a great way to tell people in your field what you are good at; LinkedIn groups allow you to connect with people who are interested in a specific field; and StumbleUpon can be used to put your innovative ideas in front of people who understand the potential application.
• SEO, or search engine optimization: It is vital for potential buyers in need of the products and services you provide to find you first. A well-researched social media strategy provides links to your website and directs users to other online information about your products and services. Direct links to your website from popular social media sites build credibility with search engines and give your website an extra edge.
• Transparency: As potential customers become more and more skeptical of businesses, the best way to build trust is to provide useful information about your company. Potential buyers want to know where you are located, in what areas you are active, how many people you have on staff and if you have partnerships that could benefit them.
• Thought leadership: Many companies label themselves as leaders and experts in their field. Instead of just telling potential buyers you are an expert, prove it. Share a case study on a blog; post a podcast that documents a recent success; or join an industry forum to share your knowledge.
Social media has become a part of most people’s personal lives in some way. Grandparents keep up with their grandchildren on Facebook; former colleagues and classmates are networked on LinkedIn; and friends share links to funny videos on YouTube. So, why are we still skeptical of using these tools to grow our business?
Here are some of the reasons we have heard:
• I cannot control the message. This is not true in most cases. When you post a blog, it is yours to edit or delete. When you share photos using Flickr®, you decide which images are posted. Companies frequently submit news releases and technical articles to industry journals and someone else decides if they will run and how much information will be included. When you post an item via social media, you have the final say. Many companies also are adding posting standards to employee handbooks so your message on social networks is consistent. People will talk no matter what you do, so it’s important to participate and be a positive and proactive part of that conversation.
• My customers are not online. If you doubt your customers are using web-based resources to solve their problems, just ask them if they used a foldout map the last time they needed directions or if they looked in the phone book to find a telephone number when they couldn’t find a business card. Likely, they went online for both of these, so it is very likely they are looking online for other solutions, too.
• Why would I give away my services for free? The serve, not sell concept behind social media can be a stumbling block until you look at a specific situation. For example, your vehicle is making an odd clanging sound but you are not blessed with the ability to pop the hood and fix it yourself. So, you take it to an expert and ask for advice. A mechanic will identify the problem and recommend a solution; however, he does not hand you the tools and the parts with step-by-step instructions on how to fix the problem yourself. At this point, most of us will not say thank you and clang our way home to do it ourselves, we ask for an estimate. Unless we doubt the mechanic’s ability or his prices are way out of whack, he gets the business.
• How do you tell if it is worth the time? Like any business endeavor, you start with a strategy to manage the time and expectations in the initiative. A digital strategy also should include goals and how you will measure your success.
Social media can open up a world of opportunities for your business by building relationships with a wide group of people around the globe. Social media expert Paul Cheney has described this as the digital handshake. When it comes to oil and gas, most deals and sales begin with a handshake that kicks off the working relationship. Getting to know more about the person, company and needs before a meeting puts you way ahead of the game.
Maximizing your time is also something to consider. How many potential buyers can you possibly interact with in a day? There are only so many hours in a day. Even if you can juggle eight meetings with potential clients each day, how long will it take to share your solution with 30 or 3,000 or 300,000 companies? Social media allows you to reach the millions of businesspeople using search engines to find a solution each day.
Social media allows you to connect with an infinite number of people and potential buyers each day — whether they are next door or across the globe. Get a game plan and jump in!
Click here to view more findings from Foster Marketing’s Social Media in the Oil & Gas Industry Survey.
Foster Marketing believes in partnering with clients to help them reach their business goals. With this in mind, we provide marketing solutions to help you achieve your goals and track your progress along the journey. By integrating your advertising, public relations, event and digital marketing efforts, we help you get to your goal quicker. Social media is just one of the many up and coming digital tools that you can add to your marketing toolkit. As always, we are here to help you craft a social strategy, launch the effort and help you sustain a successful social media program in the future.