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Practicing what we preach

Being in an industry that spends a tremendous amount of time consulting with our clients about the best ways to present their products and services in a face-to-face marketing environment, you would think we would be masters at doing it for ourselves. That is not necessarily so.

The occasion of our company’s 10th anniversary gave our management team a solid reason to think about how to take advantage of this opportunity for a little PR. We wanted to thank our loyal clients, recognize our key suppliers and energize our employees. We also wanted to share the celebration with those friends and influencers who are part of the world in which we do business.

We considered all manner of self-promotion: print ads in local and national publications, press releases to those same pubs, employing the various social media outlets, gifts and memorabilia for the different audiences we wanted to reach. At the end of it all, we decided to just have a party. It sounded like an easy solution; it became an all-consuming affair.

We invited our current and past clients, all of our suppliers, industry and community friends and the local business press. We used email blasts, social media, personal phone calls, and word of mouth to get the word out and get a handle on how big the party would become.

Once we had a handle on attendance – who and how many – we contacted local microbrews and wineries. Once they saw the attendee list, they opted to donate beer and wine in exchange for ‘sponsorship’ signage at the event. We talked to all the major food caterers, but ended up working with a small start-up who provided a much more varied (and delicious) menu for less money, just to get the exposure to the audience. We worked with one of our local churches to hire musicians, bar tenders and porters that were part of their extensive network of young talent.

We turned our showroom and production/warehouse facility into a gallery of our work, setting up a wide range of our clients’ exhibit properties in among the stacks and stacks of crates. The sides of crates became backdrops for large black matte boards mounted with images of other clients’ properties. One aisle became a history wall, with ten years worth pictures of employee events.

We set up a tiki bar from one client among several other bars, used a 50s diner set from another client and lots of bistro tables and stools from yet another. What is typically just a warehouse full of crates was transformed into a very cool venue for a party, with food and beverage, entertainment, a gallery and lots of people to talk with.

Our employees all became hosts and spent the evening working the crowd, telling our story and showing off our work and our facility. We had conversations with people that never would have happened outside this kind of event. Every one of our folks told stories the next day of people they had met, conversations they had and the positive feedback they had gotten.

At the end of the four hour event, we had hosted several hundred clients, suppliers, friends and influencers. Our post-event follow-up garnered tremendous buzz in our community. People we had known for years that had never been to our place were raving about the event and telling their friends that missed it about what they had missed. The local business press wanted more information and talked of featuring our industry in upcoming issues.

The fact that we’re a 10-year-old company and this was our first face-to-face marketing event produced just for us is rather embarrassing. We’ve worked with our clients to help them produce literally thousands of events over those ten years. On the other hand, we can now add this event to our case studies; a first-hand account of what face-to-face marketing can do to bring attention and recognition.

As an industry, I think we do spend so much of our time helping our clients be very good at this face-to-face marketing thing, often neglecting the promotion of our own businesses. Especially now, when we are coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, it would seem timely to work on increasing recognition of our own companies. I guarantee it will not be 10 years before we do this again.

If you’re interested, you can see pictures of our event at www.facebook.com/revealexhibits.

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 29 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in the trade show and event marketing firm Reveal. He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com.


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