Friday, August 24, 2018

Lesson #298: Top 5 Trade Show Marketing Ideas

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/24/2018

If you are a B2B marketer, industry trade shows are often the ideal meeting place to network with your industry peers, all in one cent...

If you are a B2B marketer, industry trade shows are often the ideal meeting place to network with your industry peers, all in one central place.  So, incorporating trade shows into your marketing plans is often a terrific way to get in front of your target customers.  For example, with me now an owner of Restaurant Furniture Plus, where better to find a bunch of restaurant executives to sell our products than the National Restaurant Association Show (“NRA Show”) each year.  There are many ways to get the word out about your company at trade shows, with varying degrees of cost.  Below are the top 5 options to consider, in order of cost, from least expensive to most expensive.

1. Speak

The best thing to do is position yourself as an authority on a certain topic that is relevant to the audience of the show.  The show organizers are always looking for good speakers to fill their agendas, and why can’t that be you!!  You never want to pitch your company as the primary topic, as the show organizers won’t let you simply stand up and promote yourself.  You want to pitch a topic that is educational to the attendees.  Maybe the NRA Show attendees would be interested in learning the hottest new trends in restaurant designs and restaurant furniture, as an example.

And, where you can, find a brand name customer of yours to collaborate with on that pitch to the show organizers.  Instead of you pitching your own success, it would be even better if your customers can pitch that success for you.  So, as an example, get Chipotle’s head of new store design to speak to how you helped them reinvent their prototype to stand out from the crowd.  So, look for collaborative pitches with your customers, as the show producers love getting brand name speakers on their rosters, much more than unknown startup executives.  And, the best thing about speaking, there are typically no costs to you, other than the travel time and costs to get there.

2. Attend

If you can’t become a speaker, make sure you at least become an attendee of the event.  Attendee costs are typically not that expensive, and they can yield a big pay day as you are networking throughout the event, rubbing shoulders with prospective customers at the lunches, break-out rooms and while walking the exhibit halls.  Attending also has the additional benefits of educating yourself on key industry trends and keeping an eye on how your competitors are marketing themselves at events like these.

3.  Advertise

There are several ways to advertise your business at or around events.  Maybe there is a trade show magazine or directory, that you can buy an ad.  Or, a show website or email list, you can buy an ad.  Or, maybe you advertise on things related to the show, but, not through the show itself.  That could include handing out fliers to people in the hotel lobbies or bus shuttle stops near the show.  Or, buying ads targeting fans of the show on Facebook.  There are options for all size budgets here, depending on how creative you want to get.

4. Exhibit

Having a booth as an exhibitor is one of the more expensive options.  Because the booth comes with a cost of the booth (e.g., $5,000) and the space rental (e.g., another $5,000), and you typically have to have a couple people manning the booth, including all their travel related costs for those days.  But, at least with having a booth, you are ensured of having good visibility to people in the exhibit hall, provided you locate your booth in a highly trafficked location (so study a show map before committing to a booth location in a bad location).  Also, don’t forget to have handouts ready at your booth, so visitors can take with them, to remember you by when they are back in their offices (e.g., personalized zip drives with your logo on it and company presentations included).   Based on my experience, if you can at-least break even with sales coming from leads generated by your booth after the show, you are doing a good job.

5. Sponsor

Becoming a key sponsor of the show, typically comes with a very high expense.  Maybe you sponsor the show’s lunch for the day, paying for the meals of all, in exchange for you getting premier brand exposure and a 5 minute sales pitch during the lunch.  Or, less expensive things, like paying for the show badge lanyards, and getting your logo included on the lanyard.  Or, paying to get your flyer included in the shows “goodie bag” for attendees.  There is a wide range of options to consider here, at a wide range of prices, depending on how big of a splash you want to make at the show.

Where to Find Trade Shows to Attend

When looking for new trade shows to consider in an industry, I typically start at Google.  For example, maybe with a “restaurant industry trade show” search, to see what I stumble on.  I’ll also research the key trade associations (e.g., National Restaurant Association) and key trade publications (e.g., Nation’s Restaurant News), as they often produce large annual events and have large followings.  So, do a little digging, and you’ll be surprised how many options you will uncover.  For Restaurant Furniture Plus, I found about 20 different shows on various topics in various locations throughout the year to consider.

How to Prioritize Which Trade Shows to Attend

It is hard enough for an early stage company to afford one trade show, yet alone 20 shows.  So, until you are much bigger in size, with unlimited marketing budgets, you will have to be very strategic in how you prioritize which trade shows to attend.  For example, a gathering of Restaurant CEOs may be perfect if you are selling a strategic solution to companies, and a gathering of Restaurant Executive Chef’s may be perfect if you are selling them a new food option.  So, figure out which shows will have the highest number of target customer prospects (not target companies), and go from there.

Obviously, you will also want to bias shows closer to your home region, will save on costs and make sure logical target customers will be there.  As an example, it would be hard for Restaurant Furniture Plus to leverage a trade show in Europe, when there isn’t a cost effective way for us to ship our U.S. made furniture to overseas customers, as an example.  Not to mention the higher travel costs of flying to Rome vs. flying to Chicago to attend.

Concluding Thoughts

Trade shows would not be my first marketing effort for an early stage company.  I would bias more cost effective things like Google search ads and targeted ads to my prospective customers on LinkedIn first.  But, when you can afford to add trade shows to your mix, you should.  But, they are not cheap.  As a benchmark, the average cost per B2B lead may be $250, and the average cost per B2B lead sourced from a trade show may be $750, around 3x more expensive!!  So, just make sure you have a high enough average ticket, to cover that level of marketing investment before taking the plunge.  If you are selling $50,000 orders of furniture, you are in good shape.  If you are selling $50 orders of napkins, you may want to look elsewhere.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the importance of trade shows for B2B marketers, when to use them and the range of options and costs to consider.  Don’t forget to bring enough business cards with you!!

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Lesson #297: Top 10 Warning Signs Your Startup Will Fail

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/17/2018

Being an entrepreneur is no simple task, given 90% of startups collapse. But, based on the learnings from these past flame-outs, th...

Being an entrepreneur is no simple task, given 90% of startups collapse. But, based on the learnings from these past flame-outs, there are some leading indicators that can identify whether your startup is headed for failure. I collaborated with my colleague, Taylor Ryan, a five-time serial entrepreneur, author and expert digital marketer (currently the CEO at Klint Marketing) to come up with the following list of warning signs that you should look out for in assessing the health of your startup.

1. Lost Focus on Primary Goal

For some startups, their focus can divert to unimportant factors than the primary goal at hand. A successful startup learns to prioritize its efforts, and stay religiously focused on that end goal. Keeping the team firmly focused on the end goal can also be beneficial for the work environment as it will keep the team all rowing in the same desired direction. If you see a startup flailing in the wind of change, going in multiple directions based on the "flavor of the month", you know that business is in trouble.

2. Poor or Slow Execution

There are startups that begin with innovative concepts but cannot execute them properly. This is due to a number of reasons – lack of relevant resources, lack of motivation or poor  working habits for starters.  Firms that are properly tracking their progress with regard to a particular project will quickly see if they are falling behind and come up with ways to correct the problem before it becomes a material one. Those that are not executing well will suffer deficits in capital or timelines. There is also a problem with the speed in execution, with many startups not being able to push out products or services as fast as their competitors. Speed is critical, to staying ahead of your competitors as the first mover, and not being forced to play catch up..

3. Lack of Customer Engagement

A lack of customer engagement is something many early-stage startups face. There are a many possible scenarios in which customers might lose interest in a product or service.  Maybe the startup didn't properly research the market to ensure meaningful demand?  Maybe sales and marketing efforts are not the best strategy for that business?  If you don’t truly understand your customers pain points, they will never have a serious interest in your product or service. It is best to figure out why customers are not engaging, sooner than later, to try and resolve those product or marketing related issues to see if they are fixable, before deciding to cut your losses and close shop.

4. Poor Teamwork

Sometimes, perfectly capable and promising startups begin descending into failure because of differences among team members or lack of effective teamwork. This does not necessarily have anything to do with how well a person or a group of people can perform in the workplace.
It just means, at times, some people cannot work well together. It is a startup CEO's responsibility to know what is required to keep the team gelling and how to improve the team's performance in thinking and acting like one well-oiled machine. If ineffective teamwork goes undetected or unresolved for an extended period of time, the startup will struggle to recover.

5. High Employee Turnover Rate

If the employee turnover rate is high and recurring, it could be an indicator of a failing startup.
There could be a number of reasons why the turnover rate is high. For one, a startup’s culture plays a strong role. If employees are unsatisfied with the work environment, don't like the people they are working with or don't have confidence with their management, they will most likely be looking to leave.  So if you have a revolving door with your staff, something is wrong and needs to be fixed, as you can't scale a business on a wobbly foundation of talent.

6. Lack of Adaptability

Any startup that says it is immune to changes in the market is setting itself up for failure. External market forces ultimately dictate how your startup will fare against changing trends and competitors in the industry. If a startup doesn't truly understand or disregards what is happening outside of its own office, it is doomed to fail.  For a startup to truly reach success, it may have to pivot several times until it finds the right mix of product-market fit. If a startup does not pivot fast enough, that is usually a sign the end is near.

7. No New Product Development

For a startup to stay relevant, it needs to constantly be reinventing itself. Your product development efforts are never done, as you should always be striving to improve from version 1, to version 2 to version 3 over time.  Because if you don't, you can rest assured your competitors will clearly copy whatever you are doing successfully today, and will be improving their business at your expense.

8. Unaware of Finances

Every good startup should always be aware of its financial situation.  But, you would be surprised how many entrepreneurs have no clue about their finances, and hence cannot easily predict they are about ready to slam into a brick wall. There needs to be financial reports, dashboards and KPI's that a startup studies closely each week to understand how much it is spending, earning and retaining vs. its goals.  You can't manage what you are not measuring, so make sure you get your key reporting metrics identified and tracked.

9. Creative Block or Stubborness

Oftentimes, a startup’s team gets hung up on a particular perspective or approach to an issue. When things are not going well, it is important to push the team to change their perspective and try something new and creative to solve the problem. Startups that are heading towards failure are often unsure of where they should be heading as a company, and lack the creative thinking skills that are required to ideate potential solutions. Or, they are simply inflexible and not willing to entertain a different approach.

10. Boredom

The team getting bored with what they are working on can surely be a startup killer. Early in the startup’s life, the team is motivated, as the venture is exciting to work on, and the team enjoys working towards the success of a startup. Hence, everyone works with dedication and puts in long hours.  But, the reality is, after the euphoria wears off, it is easy for the team to get bored with their work.  It could be due to their attention diverting elsewhere, lack of motivation, or monotony in the day-to-day grind of the workplace, especially if the business is not succeeding as planned. A good entrepreneur will figure out ways to keep its employees engaged and motivated at all times.

So, do a critical assessment of your business to make sure you are not about ready to drive off the cliff.  If any of the above resonates as happening with your business, it is time to put an immediate fix in place.  Thanks again Taylor for working with me with this post.  If any of you need help with your growth hacking needs, be sure to reach out to Taylor and the Klint Marketing team for their insights.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Entrepreneurs Mellow & Mature With Age

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/06/2018

I've been an entrepreneur for most of my life. I started an odd-jobs business in high school, founded a collectible comic-book bus...

I've been an entrepreneur for most of my life. I started an odd-jobs business in high school, founded a collectible comic-book business in college and launched my first venture capital backed startup -- an adventure-travel company -- in my 20's. And my entrepreneurial endeavors continue today. I'm in my late 40s, running Red Rocket and managing our portfolio investments, looking for companies to buy and advising hundreds of early-stage businesses. Given this winding road of past experience, my approach to managing businesses today is very different than when I was younger. The experience I now bring to the table has materially mellowed me as a leader. But I didn't have that background or that perspective when I was younger.

Read the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Where to Find Expert Consultants for Your Business

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/06/2018

From time-to-time, you may need to find a consultant to help you with your business. Sometimes, those needs are high level, like setti...

From time-to-time, you may need to find a consultant to help you with your business. Sometimes, those needs are high level, like setting strategies or marketing plans. Other times, those needs are more point solutions, like a pro in search engine optimization or product sourcing. Whatever your need may be, there is most likely a consultant out there that is immediately available to help you. The problem is finding them. This post will tell you how best to fill your consulting needs.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Lesson #296: Copy Proven Ideas for Quick Success--A Fortnite Case Study

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/02/2018

The best ideas are not always the most original ideas.  As we have learned in my past post , copy-catting others' proven ideas, pe...

The best ideas are not always the most original ideas.  As we have learned in my past post, copy-catting others' proven ideas, perhaps in different markets or ways, may be the quickest path to success.  And, nothing illustrates this point better than Fortnite Battle Royale, the video game made by Epic Games, which my son introduced me to this year.  To me, Fortnite appears to have pulled a page right out of the The Hunger Games movie playbook, copy-catting it into a huge success.  Allow me to further explain.


The Hunger Games was a top selling film from 2012, directed by Gary Ross and starring Jennifer Lawrence.  The movie was based on the best selling book by Suzanne Collins.  To date, more than 17.5 million copies of the book has been sold worldwide (grossing $169MM in book sales for this first of three books in the trilogy alone) and the hit movie has grossed another $752MM in sales worldwide on top of that.  I would say that was a pretty huge success for the author, the book publisher and the movie producer.


Here is The Hunger Games plot as copied from Amazon's book description:  "Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning? In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV."  Now keep this firmly imprinted in your memory, for what is to follow.


Launched in 2017 (five years after The Hunger Games--about the amount of time it takes to develop of video game of this scale), Fortnite Battle Royale has become one of the highest grossing video games of all time, set to have over $2 billion in sales this year (yes, billion with a "b").  They sold over $300MM in the last month alone, suggesting it is now on a $3.6BN annual run rate!!  Here is the game description, as copied from their website: "The battle is building! Fortnite Battle Royale is the free 100-player PvP mode in Fortnite. One giant map. A battle bus. Fortnite building skills and destructible environments combined with intense PvP combat. The last one standing wins."  Sound familiar!!??  It is basically the same plot as The Hunger Games.


In both The Hunger Games and Fortnite Battle Royale, a bunch of contestants are entered into a fight to the death with a last man (or woman) standing in both cases. The contest is set up in a way that the battle takes place within a fixed geographic space, that gets manipulated to be smaller over time, forcing the last remaining contestants to battle each other at some point.  Both drop the contestants into an unknown environment and make them race to find the closest and best weapons.  And, in both cases you have no visibility into where your competitors are coming from, so you can be unexpectedly attacked from behind at any time.


There are many advantages of copy-catting.  First of all, it de-risks your venture based on the proven learnings and investments of others.  Why experiment with a new idea that has a 90% chance of failing, when you can double down on a proven 10x return winner.  Secondly, you may be able to take a great idea in a good market and make it a great idea in a huge market.  Look what happened in this case study--a $169MM book become a $752MM movie become a $3.6BN video game all with basically the same blueprint.  Let this be a lesson to the book and movie industries, perhaps the video game industry is where you can really create the most wealth (at least with products targeting teenagers).  In just a short period of time, using what I feel is a copy-catting strategy (that I doubt they will ever admit), the founder of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, has just become the newest member of the billionaire club!!  Not so bad for a couple years worth of work, retooling someone else's playbook.  I am surprised The Hunger Games hasn't sued Fortnite for copyright infringement.


So, for all you entrepreneurs out there, looking to become the next unicorn billionaire, your path to success and wealth does not need to be a unique one.  Look for proven ideas that you can repurpose into your own.  And, in the process, you will materially accelerate you product development curve and growth trajectory.  At the same time, if you are working on a great idea in one market, perhaps it will be a much bigger idea in a different market.  As an example, I bet Marvel is happy they transitioned from a low revenue comic book company to a huge revenue movie production juggernaut ultimately acquired by Disney for $4BN.  So, who is ready to help me start building my Revengers video game, a Fortnite-style fight to the death between Avengers-style superheroes of your choosing set in a Jurassic Park-style dinosaur setting!!  Sounds like three home runs in one, to me!!

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

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