OK, so, as the King said very gravely to the White Rabbit, “Begin at the Beginning”, I’ll begin this entry with the very basics.
First of all, what is business networking?
According to Hubert Österle and Elgar Fleisch, networking is
“… a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities”.
In this site I found this very useful business networking definition (and a good read on the subject):
“Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing method for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions - either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email, and increasingly social and business networking websites.”
So, all in all, business networking refers to the interactions and relationship-building that occur in an economic environment – physical, virtual, spontaneous or artificial – to create business opportunities.
Then, why is business networking important?
Think of business networking as the business connections a person or an organization has. These connections can be useful, enriching and profitable, for the parts involved, and help them achieve their goals and objectives. Therefore, business networking enhances benefits in multiple areas (Marketing, Sales, Operations, Development… you name it!) since a good, and nourished business network means great customers, suppliers, partners, leads and prospects that contribute to the company’s success.
One of the most common tools for fostering business networking, is attending or organizing trade fairs: events of different sectors of the industry and commerce, targeted to a specific segment of customers.
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), attendance at Trade Shows mostly pursues to look for new products, get insights on industry trends and the unique capability of face-to-face connection with suppliers and colleagues that only exhibitions can provide; while exhibitors primarily participate to generate leads, enhance branding and relationship management with current customers. Then again, business networking.
Trade fairs, (or trade shows, trade exhibitions or expos, as they are also known) provide as well an incredible opportunity to do business networking on an international level, for exhibitors and attendees come to these shows from all around the world.
Imagine having business connections on the other side of the planet, finding better suppliers, or discovering a business opportunity to open a new market sector in your company. Cool, isn’t it?
But, another question arises, how is an effective business networking accomplished in a trade fair?
My experience at ACOB of sending e-mail campaigns for our customers, has been exciting and challenging, due to the multiple details that
have to be taken care of in order to have a successful result.
I have come to learn that one must consider the following aspects:
- Who are we sending the email to?
Segment clearly the campaign, and establish a 1 to 1 dialogue. Despite the campaign segment may be heterogeneous, try to depict a ‘base’ receptor of the message, and develop the content speaking to this single person, not the whole segment. This way, it is easier to have a more natural, personalized, touching outcome, rather than a generic, impersonal one. Answering questions like ‘what does this fictional base consumer looks like?’, ‘how old is he/she?’, ‘what does she/he like to do?’, ‘where does he/she lives, works?’, ‘what are his/her strengths, weaknesses, desires, fears, pains?’, among other queries, will provide insightful information about the segment overall. Use the language your segment uses, one cannot speak to a young audience the same way one speaks to a more professional, older quorum.
- Be daring
Normally, when I have to crystalize a creative project, I want to see what others have done before, that is similar to what I want to create, and think of how to improve it or make my own version, or get inspiration from a whole different source. Work intensely for a period of time, brainstorming, or making sketches, and then, stop suddenly and go do something completely different. Going for a walk or a smoke or a snack works well, since it helps clear out ideas, and refresh the perspective you have. When I go for this walk/smoke/snack with Julio, the awesome designer I work with, ideas develop more fluently, since we are able to share points of view, and come up with a more consistent solution. When switching to another activity, we delegate the unconscious mind the task of working on a creative solution. This creative solution may come at an unexpected moment, for example, the shower, the middle of the night, or when thinking about a totally different subject. The daring part’s meaning is that one must not be afraid to be all over the top. A friend of mine, who is an actress once told me that when she goes to an audition, and she is asked to show emotions, she’d rather exaggerate them, and then be told to lower the tone, instead of being mild and give the impression that it’s all she’s got. The same principle applies here: it’s better to be too creative rather than too dull.
- Consider HTML, images/text, devices visualization rules
More often than not, it happened to us that we had a great design and a great campaign message, only to realize that our audience may struggle to visualize the content, due to the fact that their email server blocked the images, or moved the text’s position, or the too small screen of the device altered the settings, preventing the astonishing beauty of our mailing piece from shining in all its splendor, reducing it all to a Dadaist piece of… email. One of our genius programmers shared with us this link, and Julio and I were able to adequate our creative ideas to the cybernetic world, and thus, maximizing the impact of the campaign. Some of the most relevant points are:
- The main message must always be text: if it’s an image, and the email server blocks it, the campaign is useless, since the message does not reach its receptor.
- The CTA (Call To Action) must be a must in every mailing. It is vital to get people to interact with the campaign, whether it be a click, a download, voting, visiting a link. The CTA link should be as well an hyperlinked text, or in an HTML bulletproof format, and stand out clearly enough. Including several CTAs, reduces the chance of people actually acting upon them. Decide instead what is the key objective of the campaign you’re performing, and focus efforts into accomplishing it. Do you want to inform? To get to know something from your consumer? Another important key point that should be taken care of, is a way to track the interaction with the CTA, and the resulting conversions. This can be done with a tracking HTML code.
- Add alternative text to the images. This way, if the images are collapsed, the reader may see what the image is about, and trust better that the email is not spam.
- Making the piece of mailing responsive ensures the piece can be viewed properly in several devices, from a tiny mobile phone screen to the enormous one of an iMac.
Us marketers —and psychologists— love testing. A/B tests are charming (I can’t find another way to describe them, other than delicious or exquisitely pleasant), for they provide the possibility of experimenting, as well as proving hypothesis regarding the variables of the mailing piece. Test subject lines, test contents, test two different campaigns, test the way you’re saying things, test colours, test the position of the CTA, test images, test day and time of sending, test, test, test! Remember to design your experiment consciously and have a neutral control group to which you do not apply the variable you are experimenting with.
- Measure the results
Measuring the email opens, clicks, and conversions of the campaign, is an essential feedback for continuous improvement. People may open the email, but may not follow the CTA, or click the CTA link, but do not conclude the process (complete a registration form, send an email, vote on a poll, buy a product, just to mention a few examples). Imagine this process as a staircase, of which the first step is the first contact you have with your audience through the mailing piece, and the last step is when they complete the action you want them to perform (actually go to the event, download a whitepaper, visit your website, etc.), which is, on first instance, the reason you planned the whole campaign for. Middle steps include opening the content, clicking on CTAs, engaging with your brand, among others. People at different steps, constitute different segments, and future mailings’ content has to vary according to these specific groups: someone who has not opened the first email cannot receive an engagement content, in the same way someone who has already engaged, cannot receive an email with a CTA that invites him for the first time to interact with your brand.
- Answer, I repeat, answer your emails
One of the main mistakes marketers make, and that you want to avoid at all cost, is ignoring your audience. Contact with consumers is invaluable: it provides enriching feedback, brand loyalty, and engagement with the contents you are sending. Whether it be that you are receiving answers of complaint, or a query, or acknowledgement, be prompt to reply kindly. Community management is a key function when emitting contents to audiences, and helps to build a good image of your brand, sending off the message it does take care of their clients.
- Try, then send
Do a pilot send of your final campaign, and go over the details as many times as you need to make sure everything is perfectly set to go. Mistakes are human, but many of the ones that occur when sending a mailing campaign can be avoided when having your content sent to several members of your work team, so that typos, omissions or blunders can be tweaked before sending the real campaign.
This is just some piece of advice I can share from my own experience. Do you have some other you think I’ve missed? What have been some of the best and worst things you’ve had to deal
with when sending emails?
Want us to take care of your Internet Marketing? Find out more about our solution here.
The hidden stories in databases
Data is everywhere. It refers to any piece of information collected for reference or analysis.
The Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines data as: “factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation”.
Now, data by itself may not say anything. It is not until it has a been organized, analyzed and studied properly, that it provides useful and valuable information.
Data mining is part of the process of climbing steps in a ladder that leads to informed decision making. The first step being data, or raw-data (unprocessed information), until it becomes mined data or discovered knowledge, the last step. The higher you climb the ladder, the better you can see through information, and better decisions can be made.
Then, ‘what do you mean by knowledge discovery?’ you may tell me. Knowledge is discovered, in the sense that it is already there, in your information or data. After processing the information adequately, through processes and technology that may include data cleansing, statistical and mathematical methods, algorithms, data tells its stories. One of the most common process for knowledge discovery in data, is data mining.
Data mining, according to this useful UCLA Anderson article, refers to:
“the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information - information that can be used to increase revenue, cuts costs, or both.”
Knowledge is power. For companies, knowledge equals business intelligence, revenue increase, more effective barriers against competitors. However, sometimes it is difficult for business and companies to handle their own information in such a way that it actually provides meaningful, updated and valuable information and not just a pile of documents, virtual or physical, that just stack up and gather dust (physical or digital).
I’m going to talk about the main outcomes of Data Mining for Trade Fairs.
One of the (many) stories hidden within your information is Attendance Profiles. Imagine that, after mining your Registration Information, you could have a segmented database, by demographics, behavior, and establish clear clusters of the different people that attended the show. Paradise for the Marketing team, isn’t it? With this detailed profiling, they can send specific contents targeted to specific audience, or send specific product brochures, or make a clear hierarchy of hot and less hot leads.
Another (great) story that data wants to tell you is KPI definition. One powerful reason that endangers event growing is the lack of proper Key Performance Indicators (KPI) definition and monitoring for measuring how the show is doing at any specific point in time. KPIs are values selected to indicate if the show is growing in the right path or is at some kind of risk and must be followed up closely in order to take decisions on time before any damage occurs.
When selected correctly and followed closely, KPIs are the eyes and ears of show directives and managers and where strategies must be put in place for gaining advantage or reducing risk.
Do you have other examples of the results of Data Analysis or Data Mining? Do you think I’ve missed something? Want to learn more of our Data science-based solutions for trade shows?