Category: Marketing
Marketing so bad, it should be spanked
In these enlightened times when I can get the very best internet access from some paddock on the outskirts of Melbourne, where same sex marriage might even become law in these conservative ruled times, that I have a smart device that tells me I slept 6hours 13 minutes and woke twice (once to try and figure out what episode of Game Of Thrones I was up to, second time to wonder why I was not married to Henry Rollins)…why, WHY does bad marketing persist?

There’s so much big data around to tell marketers and advertisers who their customer is, what they want to buy, how they want it delivered to them, what colour option they’d prefer and what the name of their first car was…and yet, we’re bobbing about in a sea of bad marketing.

Why is that? Seriously I’m mystified.

Exhibit A, members of the jury: This Mercedes-Benz ad


I worked with Mercedes from the mid 90’s to 2006 doing their motor show stands across Australia. And I totally fangirled the brand. How could I not when I slid into the seat of the CLS coupe that was worth 4 times the amount I paid for my 1 bedroom cupboard in Melbourne? They got the shakes after the GFC when their message become muddled and unfocussed which in some ways was understandable after it got the cash stripped out of it, jettisoned the nutty match up of Chrysler and then sought to re-establish itself in the luxury car market. If this ad is any indication, they need to go into the room of mirrors and take a good hard look at themselves.

Alienating 50% of potential purchasers with a dour, fun-killer female is lazy and bad marketing. What kinda blows my mind is that this claptrap made it past the agency concepting whiteboard, through the suits at Mercedes and at every level it got ticked off without anyone saying “Hang about, isn’t this going to piss off a core group of our customers?” When you are dropping some serious coin on a luxury car you want to feel successful, prestigious, free and golden. Unlike the commercial that portrays women as hard nose harridans capable only of smirking like a know-it-all or eye rolling. Mercedes, time to lift your game, ladies love the luxury marques too.

<strong>Exhibit B, members of the jury: The Australian Liberal Government</strong>

No surprises, I’m not a liberal lover. And I could write a 7,489 page manifesto of the things that tick me off about them and not being able to market their message affectively. And let’s be clear, every government needs need market effectively, it’s how you bring the public along on the new vision you are creating for Australia’s future. They need to get their message out to the community, sell the hard policies and successfully celebrate the wins. But jury members, we reached a new low on morning TV recently. I nearly choked on my toast and vegemite one morning when Tony Abbott was rabbiting on about dealing with the children of suspected terrorist who have left Oz. Just watch.

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I can’t even….

Mr Abbott said the law would be applied to people regardless of their age or gender and that the children of criminals would be “dealt with in the same way [they] are usually dealt with”.

Like Tony, exactly how do you deal with children…<strong><em>children</em></strong> of alleged terrorists? Is it sending them to an off-shore detention centre, housed in the most basic conditions, for an indefinite period, behind barbed wire, mingling with people who have suffered trauma, are dealing with complex mental health issues and most heart breakingly, have abandoned all hope.

These are children we’re talking about, whose only crime is being born to alleged batshit crazy parents. One more time with feeling: <em><strong>children.</strong> </em>Tony’s really missed the marketing opportunity to sell his proposed citizenship reforms by going all hardline with kids who should be playing with Tonka toys and instead have the misfortune to be stuck in Syria with a dead dad and a mum who’s stateless. Way to go Tony coming on all heavy on the kids. Marketing fail.

<strong>Exhibit C members of the jury: St George Bank</strong>

I just paid off the home loan of my 1 bedroom broom cupboard in Melbourne. But context: This cupboard was bought back in ye olden days where you could pick up a home in Melbourne that did not require living 6 lifetimes to pay off the mortgage. But still, I was pretty pleased with myself paying it off and no longer co-owning with a bank.

So I received letter from my lender St George in mail. I’m a hopeful Harry. I try and think the best of people. I like to think that people are not dumb arses and have no clue about merging in traffic and instead are helping me develop fast muscle fibres as I avoid collisions with cars that inexplicably own no indicators or rear view mirrors. So I was hoping for a nice letter from St George congratulating me on me achieving the Great Australian Dream. But no. I was encouraged to plunge back into debt and fund some lifestyle purchases such a boat, a holiday or a pool with obligatory pool cleaner named Coco. The call to St George to see if I got any congratulatory love went no better. After a terse exchange because I was passed through several departments to reach “I-want-to-discharge-my-loan-and-not-take-up-your-offer-of-pool-and-Coco” I was dealing with the happy news to free myself of the St George loan shackles, I would be charged $350 and what account could they take it out of?

“Um…none? What does that $350 get me exactly?”

“It was in your contract you signed”

“Yeah, that was back in ‘97 so details are a bit sketchy 18 years down the track…but what’s the $350 for?

“It was in your contract.”

“I’m hearing you.  But what’s it for? Exactly?”

“Your contract.  The fee was in there.”

“I can’t even…”

So sum total of that total waste of a marketing opportunity by St George to congratulate me, treat the event as something to be acknowledged with a branded something sent in the mail…hell, I would have been been happy with a plush mini dragon at that point.  Instead, the lack of feel-good marketing has got me thinking instead of shifting all my banking to a smaller firm that understands that it much easier to keep an existing customer happy than chase a new one.

The green dragon needs to ante up. Marketing FAIL.

Ok, I’m hopping off Dobbin my personal hobbyhorse to shake by tail to this:

Yep, no good marketing comes easy. Feel free to share your own bad marketing examples in the comments below.


Screw the competition
You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.


Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.



Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

Why comparing your trade show stand or display is dumber than a Kardashian.
To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.
Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.


The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.


I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

See you next week!

Lean and clean vs. racked and stacked. The eternal dilemma of a having a trade show stand displaying gear versus a stand designed around open and engaging spaces.
One of my favourite marketing mavens has a sticky situation on her cute paws where some of her brand mangers want an upcoming trade show stand packed and stacked with all their latest gadgets and thingos (technical term) whereas our Ms Maven wants a clean looking stand that invites delegates to come into the space and chat with the brand managers.

To help Ms Maven have some clout with her argument that a lean, clean stand will deliver the business more opportunities to dive deep with existing and potential customers and therefore open to the door to future business, I went on the hunt for some data or research on the stacked stand vs. the clean networking space.  I might have been looking in all the wrong places (I did get waylaid on the awesome and the sites, to be fair) but I did not find a comprehensive article arguing the toss either way.  So I decided instead to use this conundrum and let it form the basis of my blog this week.

Based on current trade show stand data out of the USA (from the Centre of Exhibition Industry Research) I was able to glean the following stats:

  • In 2011, 95% of exhibitors wanted to reach / identify new customers or sales leads whereas 80% wanted to either launch or promote new products or services.  From this data we can see that the face-to-face marketing (read: the ability to exchange information and present problems and challenges that require solutions in person) that exhibitions provide outweighed the need for product demos and displays.
  • The average spend on an exhibition stand in the USA (and this takes in every shape and size from the small inline booths through to the Brandzilla stands that take up entire exhibition halls) is shrinking.  In 2009 the average spend was $18.5K and in 2011 we were rolling back to $17.7K.  And I suspect that the dollar figure has shrunk further now as exhibitors are under pressure to do more with less.  By cutting the amount of product shown on a stand, you cut significant transport and storage costs.  The space that would have been given over to numerous displays could be configured more cost effectively with a hospitality or presentation area.  The majority of product displays are passive; they are unlikely to be powered up, operational and are shown out of context on an exhibition floor.  The use of space for networking, meetings and presentations on a stand guarantees active participation.  You can hold seminars, launches, host a keynote address, stage a happy hour and the good news with events and activities like these you are drawing people to your stand and encouraging their participation.  No longer are delegates simply moving through your stand space “looking” at widgets.  They are talking to your sales staff, they are participating in hosted buyer events, and they are asking questions of the special guest presenter that you have invited onto your stand.  One of the main aims of any exhibition should be capitalise on the unique face to face marketing opportunity that trade show displays provide by actually creating events and activities that will allow this to take place.  And added bonus to the networking focused stand is that delegates tend to spend longer on this type of stand as they will hang for the presentation, launch, hospitality and so on.



Further data I found backing up some of my main points above was drawn from the 2013 Economic Outlook survey and detailed in Exhibitor March 2013:

  • 25% respondents anticipate overall marketing budget will increase in 2014, 52% will maintain.  So my take away from that data is 75% of exhibitors will either maintain or reduce their marketing spend in 2014.  Or, exhibiting companies and their marketers will need to continue doing more with less.  If you want a hot tip of increasing your trade show marketing spend, you need to prove the return on investment in displays to your financial department, your board, your mum or whoever’s hand signs the cheques.  It is always hard to quantify people who cross your stand space and simply look at widgets and displays.  Contrast that against being able to do head counts and data capture on attendees to on stand events, participation in demos and launches and so on.  The benefit of a lean and clean stand that is focussed around networking is really beginning to sell itself, don’t you think?
  • 18% of companies will be reducing their exhibit space (over and above exhibit promotion / exhibit properties / show services).  With almost a fifth of companies shrinking the floor space they traditionally take at trade shows, now, more than ever, close scrutiny needs to be applied to every item, display, widget and thingo that is earmarked for inclusion on the stand.  Does the inclusion of this item fit with the overall objectives?  How can we use it to tell a story, create some buzz or leverage off it pre and post show?  And seriously what if we bucked the trend, ditched the item and did something different….what then?



You know, I get it totally.  There are many trade show booth staff that feel more confident and comfortable talking about the widget as it is a natural way of starting a conversation. You can stand in front of your “thingo” and wax lyrical about its benefits.  But the tethering yourself to a particular thing is dangerous as you miss so many other opportunities to hear about your customers other needs and pain points that your company can assist and even solve.  My most helpful tip I can offer with opening up a conversation on a trade show stand between exhibitor and delegate is start your conversations with open ended questions like “Tell me about….”, “What are you…”  These are such more user friendly that the standard questions that elicit a “Yes” or “No” answer. And once you have the delegate opening about their challenges they are facing or what they are really wanting to see or experience on the trade show floor, you are off and running.

So my latest musical crush is the Arctic Monkeys.  I had been indifferent to them but having heard sterling stuff about their new release “AM”, I dropped some cash on it, stuck it in my car’s CD player, pointed my car in the direction of my parents joint on the Central Coast and then lost my mind.  I listened to the opening track “Do I wanna know” sixteen times on repeat.  Yes, it was that good.

See you next week!

The No. 1 reason your trade show participation sucked (bonus Dad at the end)
I’m going to keep it nice and tight today as I am still in recovery mode from my 46km marathon row up the Hunter River last weekend.  Any by recovery I do not mean massages, steam rooms and green juices.  No, my go-tos are chocolate brownies, alcohol and weighted lunges. But more on all that later.


So here it is.  Do you want to know why, after spending months preparing for your trade show, smacked down some coin on a good-looking stand, organised a roster so your best and brightest were there to help visitors and hell, you even had a (insert sharp intake of breath) a TOUCH SCREEN on the stand that your results, ROI or however you measure your trade show success is in the toilet?

Listen up: It is because you failed to follow-up leads and enquiries your acquired on the stand.

I have a perfect example. I attended Designex in Melbourne in late May I was disappointed in the quality of stand exhibits.  Designex used to be a high point in stand design with all sorts of funky and interesting stuff being done.  No more. It was a sea of ordinary.  So yeah, I can overlook ordinary if exhibiting firms want to show me so cool and interesting stuff. But my fellow design maven Shirley and I were shocked at how many exhibitors – and this was even within the first few hours of opening morning – were focussed on tapping out stuff on their iPads, laptops, smart phones and not engaging in the face to face marketing that exhibitions are perfect for.  Both Shirley and I both browsed on exhibitor stands, clearly interested in the products but even then we were ignored, the lure of the digital screen proving more important that two red-hot leads strolling about your stand.  Even when I finally made contact with an exhibitor and handed over my details (I gave out 12 business cards in all) to have follow-up information sent through, only one out the twelve got in contact.  Props to Forbo Flooring for following through but Dulux…James Richardson Furniture…hello?  Nah.  Not freakin’ good enough by a long shot.

You could argue that perhaps they lost my card – and if that is the case, then a new type of lead capture device is sorely needed.  You might surmise that they will still get around to getting in contact but seriously….2 months has passed and even a digital thank you note can be sent off before I have even stepped foot off the stand if the company cares enough.  And that’s the rub. Many exhibitors don’t care about the results or their customer and therefore don’t put in place the systems and procedures to gather leads on the trade show floor and then follow-up effectively.

You know, all this lack of lead follow-up is a good thing if you are an exhibitor.  This is a perfect opportunity to grab new customers and market share when so many of your competitors have a lazy approach to lead capture and follow-up.  Imagine what a superstar you would be if you actually do what you said you were going to do by getting in touch.  And sooner.  Like now.

Now I would normally share some photos of Designex at this point but they had a strict “no photography” policy plastered everywhere which blows my mind and not in a good way.  With so many ways to share information over the internet and amongst your tribe, I don’t know what muppet within the Designex organising team thought it was a good idea to ban links and buzz building through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc etc. But whoever the sock puppets were, get a grip and get with the times.  And also give your exhibitors some much-needed tips in effective trade show strategies.

So instead of Designex, I am going to share a photo of my Dad and I at the end of the 46km marathon and yes, this is him holding me up. As much I as I am awe of what my lady crew and I did by actually completing the race, I marvel at my dad for his involvement.  He was up at his Central Coast home at just after 4am on a SUNDAY, zoomed up the highway to Newcastle with a boot full of muffins, water and bandages and stood around keeping the mood up  with witty quips while we waited clad only in LYCRA in icy conditions for the fog to lift. Once we set off, he stalked us up the river stopping at five different locations to yell at us like those slightly unhinged types do in shopping centre carparks, phoned back GPS coordinates so my Mum and sister who were  manning ground control at home and could follow our progress up the Hunter.  And then finally, FINALLY when we reached the finish line, he fished me out of the boat and gave me one of the best hugs ever.  I hear a lot about women being in supporting roles to men doing stuff.  But our lady crew totally subverted that.  On our success team, we had Koach Kim, Nathan the demonic personal trainer, our coxswain Roberto the Unbelievable, General Len (what does Len do?  Generally pretty much anything and everything including rowing and towing) and my Dad. So this is big love to all the wonderful men who made our row that much easier and sweeter.  Go hug a man today!  (The fine print: Obviously not one of those recommended for sentencing in the NSW ICAC corruption enquiry, those dudes are NQR.)


Tune wise, I want to share one of my fav songs we had playing in the boat during the row.  It came on in the final 8 kms when fatigue is biting and the distance drags.  Madonna, her hot pants spurred and my crazy Dad by the side of the river waving his jumper helicopter style above his head spurred me on.

See you next week!

The empty trade show stand (cue tumbleweeds). How to keep exhibitors from doing a runner before show end.
The exhibitor that packs up and leaves before the end of a trade show is a bad look.  The show ends when the show ends and for delegates to be faced with cleaned out exhibition stands save for a few random boxes and forgotten donkey (it happens), well, it is really not selling the importance of face to face marketing that trade shows provide.  Earlier this year I was interviewed by IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events) about some of the ideas I might have to keep the early leavers at bay and here are my ideas:

(1) Why are exhibitors tempted to leave early when they run out of merchandise?

Because they should not have been exhibiting at the show in the first place.  If you main objective for attending a show is to give out free stuff, then my advice would be please, save yourself time and money by not exhibiting.  If you have the opportunity to interact with people face to face that have attended the show because that have enough interest in your industry to take time out of their busy day, to pay crazy stupid amounts for parking – or have even come into town for the show – suffered through deep fried whatever food for you just to shove some free stuff their way….Holy cats, please don’t attend.  Trade shows are so, so unique as a marketing tool as it is THE way to interact personally with your customers and potential customers. Flinging free stuff at anyone who comes by your stand without talking to them about your product and even determining if they are part of the target market is just so flawed.  The exhibitors that do leave once the free stuff has gone have the view that “Well, now we have given out all the stuff, we’ll jet off” whereas the smart exhibitor will recognise that one the free stuff is gone, opportunities still abound.   You know, have a reason to call on people with the line “Hey, I am sorry but we are all out of samples at the moment but I will be in your area next week, can I stop in and see you then and give you the sample you are after then?  BOOM!  You just got a reason the stay in touch and a sales call!  The smart exhibitor knows also that until the show closes, anyone, ANYONE might be he one to place an order, request a follow up call or require information.  If you are the muppet exhibitor that is in the bar after they have given away all the free stuff, all these opportunities have passed you by.


 (2) How does that affect the other exhibitors, the attendees, and the show?

If I was an exhibitor I would think “Praise to baby Jesus!” as I now have a potential competitor out of the way and the chance of getting my message across in a crowded market has just become that much easier!  For attendees, I think you would be disappointed or think it a little weird that a show stand is unmanned and unless you were highly motivated you would not seek out that company post show.  As a show organiser, you would be quite understandably upset have unmanned booths but you could turn it into something amusing by putting up a handwritten cardboard sign in the unmanned booth saying “We regret to inform you that Stand X is not manned due to an alien abduction but stands Y and Z have booth staff that dodged the alien capture and would be happy to chat with you.”  I think if you treat it with a sense of humour outwardly while inside you could be seething would help stop complaints from other exhibitors and attendees.

 (3) What strategies can a show organizer adopt to keep exhibitors at a show until the very end?

Firstly, it needs to be written into the hiring of the stand space contract.  Something as basic at staying to show close seems pretty freakin’ obvious but unless it is written down, don’t assume that everyone gets it.  I would also suggest that if it happens, the exhibitor that left before show close is banned from attending the show again.  In extreme cases,show organisers might want to introduce a bond amount of a thousand dollars or so that they hold the credit card details on and if the exhibitor leaves before show end, happy days, $1K goes to the charity of choice.

 (4) If an exhibitor wants to leave early, how should a show organizer explain the importance of sticking around?

The show organiser should get them some information of Trade Show Exhibiting 101.  A youtube video could be made, so simply and for low cost that runs for 5 mins or less explaining that being a face to face form of marketing, you need to make sure your FACE is there at the show until the very end.  You could even have the video transcribed for them if videos are not everyone’s cup of tea.  Whatever the method, provide key points on the benefits and how to leverage face to face interactions.

 (5) What are the most important things that show organizers and exhibitors should know about exhibitors staying until the end of a show?

1. Your last enquiry of the day could be you best and biggest order ever or your dream client.  Who knows?  But you certainly won’t if you leave the show early.

2. If your approach as an exhibitor is simply to give out stuff at a show, then don’t come.  Best you leave whatever free stuff you were to give out in the middle of the street for anyone to take as that will be cheaper for you than attending the show and it will provide you with the same outcome ie. poor quality leads, more people just wanting free stuff off you.

3.  As an organiser, you don’t want the dump and run exhibitors at your event.  Either spend a little bit of time putting some training in place or cut them off from attending future shows / go nuts on their credit card bond!

So I feeling like some old school Madonna.  Let’s get into the groove for a Friday, baby!

See you next week!

A love letter. This week’s ode to marketers who got it right.
I love marketers. Those crazy kids who are seen as cost centres who spend shedloads driving customers to buy products and services from the company that employs them in these austere times.  I like renegades and therefore I love marketers!

Two micro business entrepreneurs rocked my world this week. And they covered themselves in marketing glory.

An aside…what type of weirdo gets on a plane with 4 litres of laundry liquid as part of their carry on?!?! I’m writing this blog on a plane and into the middle seat has slid a young lady toting the mega value pack laundry liquid. Before I go off on all sorts of tangents wondering why anyone needs extreme cleaning power on a flight, best I get back to the theme of the week…

A card arrived in the mail this week and I was totally gobbed. It was from this small business who I had to buy no more than $30 worth of electrical gear to repair my Himalayan salt lamp.  Don’t judge until you’ve reclined in the soft glow of the lamp when listening to Nine Inch Nails. It soothes a frayed psyche. There was no little reminder to buy more product or tout a monthly special, just a simple thank you and the most gorgeous photo ever of the owners of his small business. Yet, do not be fooled by this seemingly charming yet ordinary couple. They are hard-core marketing pros. Who do you think I am going to go to if I need anything in the realm of crystal, alternate therapies or just general whacky shit? They have got me for life. If I just get a card or a $30 spend, how much do you reckon they love what they do and totally embody the “be excellent to each other” of the spiritual space.  I bow to such simple marketing. It cost them a dollar for the card and 60 cents for the stamp and they got themselves imprinted themselves on my loyalty list.


Next up on the love letter is my demonic personal trainer Nathan Morris. We’ve just kicked through a year if working together and I was clearly in the drop off zone in terms of commitment in turning up and doing the work. I am six weeks out from finishing the rowing season and I was coasting. I was turning up late under the guise of a good excuse and still dining out on my rowing successes. To celebrate our first year together did I get flowers? A gluten-free protein bar?  A photo book detailing before and after shots of me tackling the TRX?  No, I got a freakin’ “Come to Jesus” talk!  Nathan knew after a year together and hitting some high points that was in that zone of “Well, that was nice, lifted a few weights, did some mobility stuff but it is now time to ease up and get on the lounge with a cheesecake” and I could have tapered off my involvement with him.  Nathan’s marketing pitch for us to continue working together was explaining that it was my choice and my money but I was not getting the best out of him and our time together and that I needed to show up on time fully warmed up to get results.  He could have just shut up and taken the money but he recognized that having a personal training business depended on having committed clients that show up and are pushing hard on the gym floor. Other potential customers can see how hard he works his clients and adds in advice about nutrition and having correct form. Nathan’s marketing spiel worked.  I am getting there early doing my warm up and am fully committed to at least trying to love jumping around like an excitable bunny under the assumption that this is doing something really rad for my body.


So how could you uses these examples to produce outrageously good marketing in the trade show environment?

Could you send a hand written card to the top prospects, thanking them for visiting your stand?

Could you practice some radical honesty with a prospect about your products and services and steer them towards a better fit, even if it is with an opposition firm?

Over to you, what would you like to share about some mind warping marketing you have seen or experienced recently?  And can you explain 4 litres of laundry liquid on a plane?!?

This weeks tune is a song I reckon is one of the 10 best Australian songs ever written.  Have no idea what they are banging on about but that line “I’m the re-run that you’ll always force yourself to sit through”.  KILLER!

See you next week!

Hire vs buying your trade show stand. What should the savvy marketer do?
In the past few days I have compiled some data for a client of mine on their yearly trade show spend and it has highlighted some interesting metrics around hiring a 1 off trade show for each event versus purchasing a trade show stand that you can use repeatedly for your entire trade show program.  More on that data later in the post but first let me explain some of the pros and cons for the 1 off and the repeat use stand.


The one-off stand usually refers to the one-off hire of a trade show stand or booth at an exhibition.  The cost will traditionally include the design, the hire of the items, transport to and from the venue and labour to install and dismantle.  At the completion of the show, in most cases, you will retain nothing and this can be also refereed to as a “build and burn”.  You can do a hybrid of 1 off hire items supplementing that with items such as banners and key graphics that you use and keep across your trade show run.


Bayer @ VNCA 1 off Hire Stand


Bayer @ AVA 2012 1 off Hire Stand


  • You can change the look and the theme for each trade show event you attend.
  • You are not locked into the same size space for each event as you have a stand that only fits a pre-determined size eg. 6m W x 3m D.  This allows you to take more space at the shows where you want to make an impact and downscale at the shows of lesser importance.
  • You do not have to pay for storage of your stand in a warehouse when not in use.


  • You have to re-start the design and sourcing products and services anew each time you do a show.
  • There can be a lack of consistency across the look and feel of your trade show as it has a different vibe every show you attend.  Consistency in the marketing of your brand to existing and prospective customers is SO vital, so don’t underestimate how valuable consistency is!
  • It can do your head in.  All you want is the same freakin’ stool in green because it matches your logo and across the 5 shows you do in a year, you have more variation in your stool that there are discoverable languages in the world.  So the key take away from doing one-off stands is that you will have to build in some flexibility with finishes and selections as there is A LOT of variance from both supplier and  hire location!


This typically refers to the stand that you, the exhibiting company own and store.  Normally you would partner up with an exhibit firm to design a stand that you can use across your trade show program and the exhibit house is responsible for the warehousing, transport and install / dismantle of it.  I think my best advice here it to go with a kit form of items that allow you to have large or smaller stands depending on your requirements rather than be looked into a permanent size footprint – say 6m x 6m.


Thiess @ Ausrail 2011 6 x 3 Reusable Stand


Thiess @ Ozwater 6 x 6 Reusable Stand


  • You have a consistent look across your trade show program and once you have developed and locked down the stand design, you aren’t faced with “what the HELL are we going do for THIS trade show”.
  • You can predict your costs for the trade show calendar up front.  As you know the stand you will be using, you can then get your exhibit house to provide costs for each show you attend well in advance.
  • Although the stand is reusable, you can build in the flexibility of updating graphics and messaging and even changing the colour of the stand.  Just because it is a reusable stand does not mean that it is set in stone!


  • You will have to store the stand – at either your own premises or that of a third-party.  Your exhibit house will usually have a network of storage facilities that you can park your stand in.
  • If you make the investment in building a repeat use stand, you will be locked into it to get the return on investment for around 2 – 3 years.  Upshot of this?  Don’t build yourself a stand so ugly it burns your retinas.  Take time to get it right and ride your exhibit company like a pony at a church fete to make sure they develop something that will blow your hair back.  In a good way.
  • Make sure you have buy-in from all the stakeholders in your company to have a repeat use, modular stand.  I know of one company a few years ago who decided to do a reusable stand that did not run it across the desk of the CEO with enough detail so the response when Boss-man turned up on site was “What the (rhymes duck) is THIS?!?”  He was right, it was particularly ugly stand done by an inept contactor with bubbling laminate and 300 x 300 bathroom tiles used on the floor.  And the poor buggar was stuck with it.  So start well in advance and get everyone on board the “YES!” bus.

You will notice that I did not mention cost benefits for either the 1 off stand or the repeat use stand in the pros and cons above . That’s because – largely – it is determined on a case by case basis.  But I can tell you from the data I have collected based on my client’s example I mentioned in the intro above, the repeat use stand is more cost-effective than the 1 off stands across a 2 year show run. Figures? About $400 difference from the more cost-effective repeat use stands to the higher cost of doing 1 off’s.  Any exhibit house of value can run the figures out for you if you want to look at your options so why not do just that?

Tune for this week is one of my favourite one hit wonders…Plastic Bertrand!  God with talent like that, I can’t believe that bloke only knocked out one single killer song….

See you next week!

Why coxswains are the best marketers ever (and bye for now Alison)!
When I am not designing and managing exhibitions and displays, I can be often found wedged in a fibreglass hull either training or competing.  This rowing thing would have the be the most barking mad sport of all time.  You can’t see where you are going, the time you need to train to perfect the list of 6,467 things you need to excel at in order to just scratch competent level in competition is out of all proportion and did I mention that this bulk of this activity happens at dark o’clock when most reasonable people are tucked up in bed?!?  But there is one person in out crew of 9 who really stands out in terms of contribution and commitment and that is our coxswain, or cox as we lovingly know them as. And while I hack my way through the water (one of the 6,467 things I am trying to remedy), I have had cause to pause and reflect on why coxes are the best marketers ever:

1. They see opportunities others do not

Fair play, they are the only ones facing the right direction in a crew but they are constantly assessing wind and weather conditions, other crew’s positions throughout a race, the crew’s ability to lift through key stages, the actual course and what can wander into your path (Police boats!  Sydney Ferries! Spectator Craft!  SWANS!!!!!!) and they try to steer the sharpest  and most direct line to the finish line.  This, all done under a 4 minute time frame. Marketers, like my beloved coxes excel at seeing niches to position their brand and see new fertile ground for opportunities.

2. They are the key drivers of moving a crew (or company) forward

How does a business get and remain successful? Hands down, it is generating sales and making profit, which is largely the function of the marketing team devising strategies to deliver sales.  Coxes are the same.  I am just some hack with a blade wishing I was on some lounge with a cheesecake balanced on my lap.  Until the cox fires me up and gets me and my fellow 7 rowers functioning as a crew, we are destined just to lope along with”OK” results and an empty medal display case.

3. Tactics, tactics, tactics.

Marketing mavens need to implement their marketing strategies using carefully placed tactics and so do coxes.  You can have all the sound marketing strategies you like but without the implementation of the tactics, well, you just have a lovely piece of paper.  My race tactics are pretty concise. Row like you stole it. Don’t freak out / fuck up.  The tactics employed by a cox are a little more elaborate “Right.  We do our start of 15 off on 38 and then after 15 strokes, settle down to 34 – 35 with no loss of power. I am going to call for pushes on the legs for 10, another 10 focussing on clean catches and then another 10 on finishes.  I will also call for pushes if I feel that the other crews are making a move.  Towards to end of the race, I will ask for a power push of 3, then holding for 7 and then stepping up in 10’s for the final 250 metres. At that point you EMPTY THE TANK”.  Christ, that took longer to write that it does to row…

I am reflecting on the marketing power of the cox as I am sad to say that I am loosing one of the best coxes I have had the insane thrill of rowing with.  Alison is returning to the UK to be with her family as they face a health issue and so the rowing gals and I are gathering to break bread (and crack open a champagne bottle of two) and see this lovely lady off in style.

In my first years of being coxed by Alison I was always bouncing around her like a frog in a sock.  Did we do OK?  How was the power in the boat?  Did we still get clearance when we upped the rating.  Truly, I was / am  / can be insufferable.  Rowing can be such a battle in your own mind, you need feedback like a crack addict to compare your own experience to. Over time, I have seen that Alison is like the zen master of coxswains.  She is super calm before and during the race and only gives you the feedback and instructions you need.  There is no yabbering on or streams of consciousness, she locks it down tight.  I have seen over time how this has helped me so much in the boat as my excitable foxy terrier ways have been smoothed out by her cocoon of calm and I am a better and a more controlled rower because of it. She has cheerfully carried our mascot Daisy the Donkey through training and races, steered us through the Sydney Harbour cauldron when whipped up through a strong southerly and has dispensed lip gloss, tissues, plaster, water bottles, hats through her amazing monochrome dream coat, all while crammed in a space that is the average size of a handbag.

Alison owns a fair proportion of all the medals I have won with the rest being shared with Koach Kim, the rest of the rowing squad, my demonic personal trainer Nathan and my friends and family for the ever strong support while I wail “I can’t DO this!”.  I am not sure how I am going to feel when I step in the boat again, lean over the side, look down the boat and not see her there. But I will have the memory of the last race I had with Alison coxing.  It was the recent State Masters and were in D8 amongst some pretty hot competition.  At the 500 metre mark I was aware that we had slid up along side the boat in the adjacent lane on my right.  Through each stroke, Alison encouraged us forward and we clawed our way along that nearby boat. I was level with 7 seat….I was now level with 5 seat….now with 3….and then final with 200 metres to go, our bow was clear of them!  You know that zen master Alison?  Forget that, she became a force of power! The nearby crew put on a surge but Alison got the jump on that and we found a new level.  Everything was hurting, but Alison called for one last push to ensure that they could not take our water and then…the sound of the finish hooter for first place…and THEN another hooter and OHMYFREAKIN’GOD, WE JUST PLACED SECOND!!!! We were just so, so happy and to perform and respond for Alison in her last race (for now) will stay with me forever.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

There is a saying that God made coxswains because he can’t be there and in Alison’s case this is doubly true.  And there is no way he would have carried our mascot Daisy. Heartfelt thanks and much love Alison!


Our mascot, Daisy!

The tune this week comes from one of my favorite “gee-up” tracks when I need to get the rowing zone.  Push it!

See you next week!