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preplanning

You’ve contracted with the perfect venue for your next big gig. Let’s be honest, in this hot market, that contract was signed years ago. Now it’s next up on your calendar and it is time to get serious. With countless details to organize, a running list of questions to ask, decisions that are best made in person and a myriad of fresh ideas that can only be brought to life by seeing a space live – do yourself a favor and setup an in-person pre-planning meeting with the various key players that will be instrumental in the success of your program. After many productive site visits, here are my top tips to maximize this face-to-face time and promise a smooth planning process when you return to the office.

  1. Budget for pre-planning meetings. Make this an automatic line item in your meeting budget!
  2. Pick a date when all parties are available and focused. Give your Convention Services Manager (CSM) plenty of advance notice to ensure the dates you are considering for your pre-planning trip also work well for your key contacts. After all, what good does it do if your CSM has another group in house and isn’t able to be attentive to your needs?
  3. Communication is key. Paint the overall picture for your CSM. Describe your meeting goals and objectives. Discuss the profile of your attendees. Are they a social group or are they all business? What are the takeaways they expect by participating in your program?
  4. Have a set agenda of things you would like to review and share it with those you plan to meet with well in advance. Allow your meeting partners to prepare ahead of time so that everyone is fully equipped to tackle the big stuff!
  5. Create a grid of contracted space — or as I like to do, color code the venue floor-plans and identify the functions that will take place in each meeting space. Whatever your method, develop a system that will allow you to make informed decisions about room assignments, because odds are that your meeting has evolved since you contracted the venue several years back.
  6. Share your meeting specifications well in advance. This includes audiovisual, food and beverage, a program outline, etc. The more your partners know prior to your arrival, the less time you'll spend explaining the meeting basics. For instance, review the banquet menus prior to your site and share your top selections with your CSM. If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for and want to consider a custom menu, your CSM can engage the chef and the three of you can select the best meal options for your group during the pre-planning meeting.
  7. Checkout a current onsite event. If there are any events taking place at your venue during your trip, set aside some time to scope them out. Seeing how others use the space can go a long way in helping you visualize things like your registration setup, signage plan and more.
  8. Put yourself in the attendee shoes. Use the same transportation system that your guests will as they travel to and from the airport. If your event involves offsite activities or tours, sample those same happenings during your pre-planning meeting to guarantee that it fits your attendee’s expectations.
  9. Review all types of sleeping rooms, not just your upgraded rooms. Of course it’s important to inspect the VIP suites, but these spaces only reflect the experience of a small percentage of your attendees.
  10. Take notes of action items. What do you need to do and what follow-up items do your planning partners have?
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Hopefully this is just a little refresher course, but in case you're not sure how to best prevent falling victim to whatever's "going around," read on!

im sick

Don't share. As much as your coworkers might feel like family, it's probably best to keep the food sharing to a minimum during cold and flu season. As an alternative, you can offer individually-packaged serving sizes or a sanitary way to dole out the goods.

Sanitize. Sharing an office means sharing supplies, appliances, restrooms, common areas, etc. Do your part to keep these spaces clean by using antibacterial wipes or sprays after each use when you're sick, and otherwise daily to keep germs at bay. There are so many options on the market these days, including natural, plant-based products that promote overall wellness without the use of harsh chemicals.

Alternate meeting methods. If you're scheduled for a one-on-one with a coworker but you're ill, opt for a conference call to avoid sharing too many germs.

Vitamin C. While studies don't show significant evidence that Vitamin C actually prevents colds, it is said to help cold symptoms disappear more quickly. Rather than chugging sugar-laden orange juice once you're already sick (not-so-fun fact: the bacteria that makes us sick thrives on that sugar!), add some extra Vitamin C-filled foods to your diet during cold and flu season. Think brightly colored foods like kale, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and of course, oranges. Supplements like Emergen-C and Airborne can't hurt either!

Sneeze into your arm if you don't have a tissue nearby.

Stay hydrated.

Work from home if you must.

WASH. YOUR. HANDS.

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member benefits II

Why should I join [input name of your organization here]?

I used to fear this question. Not because I didn’t know, but because I never took the time to put together a clear and concise list of the benefits of membership. Even though I’ve been with the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) for 10+ years, this question could make me freeze in my tracks.

After working with AMPED for a few months, they suggested I put together a list of benefits – why had I never thought of this before? At first it was a little intimidating, I could only think of three or four reasons that had been clearly defined. However, when I sat down and brainstormed (and peeked at other organizations’ lists of benefits) I realized just how much NAFA had to offer!

Go through your certifications, publications, member’s access, affiliate associations and by-laws. Look at every program in your association and realize the magnitude of benefits. Use this list while on the phone, with email and through U.S. mail. You will look like the expert you are in no time. Now I can confidently state why you should join NAFA.

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chasm image Veroeven

 

I've long believed in the power of inbound marketing fueled by content, but nothing solidified my understanding better than when Adrianne Machina uttered the following words below during her presentation at the 2016 Annual Conference of the American Marketing Association-Madison Chapter.

"The chasm between never heard of you and your name sounds familiar is deep and wide."
– Adrianne Machina of Tornado Marketing, speaking about the effectiveness of content marketing and an inbound lead strategy

Mind the gap
If your company’s sales and marketing strategy relies solely on cold-calling and emailing, your staff might end up like the gentleman in the picture — in danger of a fall/fail. He's unlikely to make it safely across to "your name sounds familiar."

A potential client is more likely to accept a phone call or read an email from someone they’ve heard of than from someone they haven’t.

When a potential customer is not ready to listen to a marketing message, he ignores phone calls, emails and voicemails. In these instances, cold calls and emails will rarely initiate a conversation. So what should a company do when the prospective client isn't ready to listen?

Build a bridge with content
Customers do business with people they like and trust. So how does a company cross the chasm from, “never heard of you” to “your name sounds familiar?” Build a bridge with content.

Educate them. Share an informative article with them. Entertain them. Evoke an emotional response. When they are ready, they will answer a call, complete a form or perform the desired action the marketing staff wants them to do, because they trust the company, brand, and, ultimately, the business development staff who have been grooming them.

It is the fundamental concept of an effective inbound marketing strategy: groom prospects to enter the sales and marketing funnel as strangers and exit as customers.

What is inbound marketing?
According to industry expert Hubspot: “Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.”

David Meerman Scott sums it up practically in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: "You can buy attention (advertising.) You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales).  Or you can own attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publish it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, an infographic, a Twitter stream, an eBook, a Facebook page."

inbound marketingHubspot's model of Inbound Marketing Funnel

Inbound marketing in real-life
Companies that receive the most traffic are the ones that have videos and blog articles and other relevant content in the search results. Whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, inbound marketing works for any industry.

Unless a business is in some ultra-niche market, it is difficult for a brand to land on page one of a favorite search engine's results, especially if all they have on a website is an about us or products page. Search engines are fickle; they "like" pages that are dynamic, and have relevant information. If you don't keep your site up with fresh information, the search engines will move on to a website that does.

Proof that content marketing works
In a 2012 study, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found that inbound content marketing:
• attracts the most visitors of all marketing efforts
• creates higher engagement with an audience
• is the best tool in your marketing arsenal

An inbound marketing strategy develops your audience. Over time you won't have to find your audience; they will find you.

But…But…But…
There are lots of excuses for not investing in content marketing:
• Don't have time
• Don't know where to start
• Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business

Consider outsourcing. Many marketing consultants already specialize in your industry, or will learn it in order produce resonating content.

Producing content doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Some companies start with posting a one-minute impromptu video on YouTube.

Have plenty of repeat and word-of-mouth business? Everyone should be in such a position. For the rest: a good inbound marketing strategy will only make it easier for customers to talk about the company, service and quality work.

Conclusion
Reaching today’s modern customer is challenging with unsolicited phone calls and emails often perceived as spam.
The chasm between “I never heard of you” and “your name sounds familiar” is deep and wide.

Will you take a chance at jumping the gap, or building a bridge?

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press release IV

Next month marks the 100th birthday of the press release. On October 28, 1906, more than 50 people lost their lives when one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new electric service trains jumped the track and plunged into Thoroughfare Creek near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad was a client of Ivy Lee, a publicity expert who is largely considered to be a father of modern public relations. Concerned about the potential for bad press and negative media speculation, Lee wrote and distributed the first-ever press release on behalf of the railroad. He issued an announcement about the incident to all major newspapers, and also invited members of the press to ride a specially-designated train out to survey and document the scene for themselves. The approach was widely applauded for being open and honest. And the strategy was considered revolutionary. Not only did it facilitate journalists doing their job of providing accurate reporting, but it helped put rumors to rest, shoring up the brand and its side of the story.

Some may argue that the press release’s time has come and gone. But, here at AMPED, we have been successfully growing the media presence of our clients in industry publications, and a key component of our strategy revolves around using press releases. They remain a great way to spread the word out about our clients, while building their credibility and branding. While no longer considered even remotely revolutionary, press releases have certainly come a long way since Ivy Lee’s time.

I have compiled ideas below to help you maximize your time and effort put into using press releases.

Writing and preparation
Today, the content of a press release is often published as it is written, especially online, so write as if you are preparing an article for your target reader’s direct consumption. Focus more on the story and less on the accomplishments and accolades. Include photos, video, infographs and other assets that will help media outlets convey your story.

Consider how your press release fits into your sales process cycle. Every press release should include a call to action. Let readers know what you want them to do.

Finally, make sure your press release is optimized for SEO by including key words and using text links back to relevant web pages.

Distribution
Use this opportunity to develop and strengthen your relationship with your industry publication contacts. Rather than sending a blanket communication to your entire contact list, send it out individually, communicating why your story matters to the audience they serve, asking if they will consider featuring your content and exploring how you might continue to work together in the future.

Finally, don’t forget about social media. Repurpose key nuggets from your press release into sharable social media content. And, certainly, amplify the effects of any resulting media coverage by promoting it through all your social media channels.

Just this morning, a colleague shared that she had received two requests for additional information from media who received a press release from us last week. The press release is not dead, but the times have changed.

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