In this blog we frequently point out that trade shows are not events – meaning, they don’t just occur at the show for the live event. Instead, they should be considered processes, that take place over a fairly long period of time. Trade show marketing can be very effective if marketers and exhibitors plan for that process, and don’t expect success to miraculously bloom overnight. A recent post on a client’s blog detailed a successful product launch at a trade show, and we asked permission to share their report. You can see the original post at http://jeromebruhn.com/blog/.
THE FINE POINTS OF LAUNCHING A COMPANY/PRODUCT
On September 6th 2017 we introduced to the world a brand new airship. It is part blimp, plane and helicopter and I can say it really took off (every pun intended). The PLIMP Airship is a unique drone; it is the size of a truck (28’) but only weighs about as much as a car tire.
Launching a new product seems on the surface to be easy. The reality of it is like conducting a symphony where multiple components all have to come together at the same time to create a successful launch. To do it right, the process starts five months prior to the launch event.
In April 2017, Egan Airships retained Jerome, Bruhn and Associates (JBA) to launch their first Airship, the PLIMP. The PLIMP Airship is an unmanned craft operated by remote control. The first thing we did was conduct a secondary market research effort. We suspected that given its form factor it had some obvious applications so we researched unmanned flying machines, aerial advertising, and the major drone industry categories; agriculture, infrastructure, Oil & Gas, etc. What the research showed was that all the market opportunities were basically identical in size, rate of growth, five-year revenue projections, etc. JBA recommended we introduce the PLIMP as a radical new drone and not try to specify the target market.
The drone market is hot, but there are some limiting factors that the FAA has installed. First, they had to be flown within line-of-sight and could not be flown over people. We assume this is because drones fall out of the sky if they stop working.
We picked a major drone trade show (Interdrone) that we hoped would give the engineering team time to complete the first prototype. We than pulled together the core team, PR, Social, Web design, Writers, Designers, Illustrators etc. and defined the strategy and tactical approach.
Public Relations: We started three months prior to the show on the PR effort. We built the media list, did some pre show teasers, conducted media training with the founders, developed talking points on the potential sensitive questions, etc. During the show Martin Levy, director of PR for JBA, was onsite arranging interviews, pulling TV interviewers and bloggers into the booth, and started really generating awareness of the PLIMP Airship. The post show continues with following up with the media while staging two regional demonstration flights for the national and local press. This has led to over 3.5M views including the cover of Popular Science and the Discovery Channel.
Booth Design: We selected an exhibit company to work with — American Image Displays. We chose them because they put together a complete package; design services, shipping, setup, dismantle labor, which took a lot of the nickel and diming out of this part of the effort. I have to tell you they were awesome! We designed the booth using truss systems because they offer so much flexibility, rented a 20’X30’ space at the show site, the Rio in Vegas. The booth was there on time and the labor moved quickly and efficiently. At the end of the show, all I has to do was to make sure the video monitors got picked up. Simple and easy. I should also say that the 20’X30’ booth we rented with the truss structure, purchased and printed graphics, cost us just under $10,000.
On a side note, JBA recommends that a company does not do a trade show unless they can afford a minimum size booth of 20’X20’.
Social Media: We had the social media all planned and arranged prior to even leaving for the show. We set up LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites for Egan Airships. During the show we posted once a day on LinkedIn and Facebook but Tweeted all day during the show.
The client arranged for a professional video be shot at the PLIMP Airship site of construction in LA. They came up with the idea of running a video contest. We reached out to a number of video producer sites and film schools, made the raw footage available and instructed them to do what they wanted in producing 30 and 60 second spots. The winner got $2,500, $1,500 for second and $500 for third. We end up with 10 entries, and an 11th in Spanish. We then got them out on all the social sites. We also looped these up and they ran them continuously on the four monitors in the booth.
Collateral and Graphics. One of the challenges we faced was a result of the fact that the actual production of the first PLIMP Airship was a week or two prior to the show. We didn’t get real images of the Airship until two days before they had to be turned over to production for printing the tradeshow graphics and collateral, not to mention the website graphics. We had the visual designer prep all the graphics and potential applications in advance, which included a one page hand out, the web site graphics, and 14 trade show graphics. We employed a lot of Photoshop work to create a realistic image of the PLIMP Airship in-flight over stadiums, farms, performing inspections of gas lines, etc.. The big thing this allowed us to do was to create continuity across all marketing elements.
The Show: During the show we had a very limited booth staff. I even ended up pulling booth duty, which I never do for anyone anymore. We were doing aisle pulls, qualifying the people stopping by the booth and handing them off to the appropriate people. We scanned badges to be assured of walking out of the show with a list of interested prospects. Honestly, we were overwhelmed with the response and ended up with well over 300 scanned leads from the show.
Post Show: This is the area where most companies fall down on the job. Trade shows are expensive and cost over $20.00 per minute. We automate the initial touches from the scanned badges. We do this by using a relationship marketing campaign. We touch the attendee at least three times before the client or their sales force has to do anything. This process also helps filter out who the hot prospects really are. At the same time, we sent out the formal press release and continued to manage press opportunities.
The best thing about launching a company properly is that the client can actually reduce their marketing/advertising spend due to the awareness that was created during the launch event.
Proof Positive: Our effectiveness became very evident at the end of the show. An attendee stopped suddenly outside our booth and I asked if I could help him. He said, “No, it’s just that you never see the Egan brothers together”. Joel Egan walked over having heard his comment and asked, “Do I know you?” The attendees responded, “No, but I know you by your outstanding reputation in the industry”. Mind you, three days earlier no one had ever heard of the Egan brothers or Egan Airships.