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Why should I hire a Marketing or Ad Agency?

Why should I hire a Marketing or Ad Agency?

A few years back we all got a kick watching Kate from “Jon & Kate plus Eight” trying to dance on Dances with the Stars…and if you missed that, let me tell you that Young Frankenstein dancing to “Putting on the Ritz” cut a better rug than poor Kate did. The fact of the matter is we can’t all be good at everything but the good news is, each of us is usually good at something….and if your business is accounting or sales or manufacturing….then that’s what you should focus on and hire someone else to do everything else. When it comes to business, getting the right people in place to perform each function is critical to success, and that applies to advertising & marketing as much as sales and production.

You can’t afford to use “do it yourself” marketing for your business (and forget the marketing your niece or nephew does as well). Don’t make the mistake of looking at an ad or sales piece and thinking “Hey this looks easy”. Just like any other professional skill, people study marketing and advertising for years to understand what makes people buy products. And in business you only get one or two shots at success, so do it right the first time (and if you’ve already done it wrong the first time, do what you have to do to hire a pro so you can at least make things right from here on out).

Do what you do best and let the advertising and marketing pros do what they do best. By hiring a marketing pro, I don’t mean to use the free layout services from your local newspaper or magazine that they give you when you buy an ad. If you can’t afford to hire a pro, then perhaps you need to get some funding or take on a new partner with those skills? I know it’s frustrating to have a great product that no one knows about….but too many failed businesses made the mistake of developing great products and setting up well-oiled production and accounting departments, only to leave their advertising and marketing to a recent art school graduate. OR worse yet, trying muddle through the job themselves….FORGET THAT! Don’t underestimate the value of a well-planned, coordinated and consistent advertising campaign created by an experienced professional.

Do yourself a favor….you’ve gotten this far and invested this much, so don’t drop the ball now. Take your business all the way to the goal by hiring a talented advertising and marketing firm to ensure the world knows who you are and what great products or services you have to offer.

Update:  If you do hire an ad agency to do some work for you – TRY to listen to them.  There’s nothing worse from where I’m sitting than being hired by a client to do some work for them and then never getting the chance to do what I’ve done for THIRTY YEARS!  It seems I either end up with the client who insists they know better OR I end up with the client who delineates each job down to excruciating detail BEFORE we do anything.  That just causes a whole other boat load of problems.  TELL ME what you think and what you WANT to tell me, of course – but TRY to listen to me if I push back a little or advise you to go in a different direction. I may not know everything but I do know a lot when it comes to getting customers to NOTICE and BUY, and it would be better for you if you at least considered what I have to say.   Once you do, it’s your prerogative to VETO it but at least hear me at least one time (and I mean HEAR me out not just be so intent on your own ideas that you don’t hear a damn thing I say!!!!)


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Your Tradeshow Checklist

Your Tradeshow Checklist

Everything you need to know about going to a trade show from a 30 year trade show veteran.

Deciding to go to a trade show

After you decide to go to a show your first decision will be what size of booth space to I need and where should it be?

Obviously size is dependent on budget but after that you have to think of your competitors’ booths. If your competitors are all showing up with 60′ x 60′ Islands you’re going to look pretty mediocre in a 10′ x 10′ booth. HOWEVER if the budget is really low, then you may not have a choice. If you do have a choice, try to AT least pick a 20′ x 20′ booth as that will give you a lot more room to work in with better visibility. Of course another essential consideration when you determine your booth size is the size of your existing trade show booth (if you have one) and what minimum size booth space does it fit into?
If you exhibit at the same show each year, then at the end of the current year’s show you can usually go and pick your booth before most of the other exhibitors do. The selection process is done on a matter of seniority (based on how many times you have been to the show previously and how big your booth was at those shows). The negative thing about picking your booth space at the previous year’s show is that you’ll have to pay your deposit right then (which can sometimes be a hardship after you’ve just paid for the previous show). So if you didn’t pick your booth space last year, then sometime before the show, you’ll be mailed or emailed a map that will essentially make no sense whatsoever [especially if you’ve never been to that particular exhibit hall]. If that’s the case, it is a good idea to call someone at the trade show developer’s office (a.k.a. “the show people”) and ask them to go over the map with you. Review all the available spaces with someone familiar with the exhibit hall and how it’s going to be set up. Try to pick a booth closer to the front of the exhibit hall or next to some rest area or eating area (that you know potential clients will be hanging out in). If the map you see doesn’t have any decent booths, be sure and let your show rep know you’d like something better. there are often cancellations and booth spaces become available, so if you don’t tell them you want something better, you’ll never get it. Be sure and ask the show people if there are any columns or other obstructions that will be in or around your booth. If so, try to pick another space. It’s also a good idea to be near your biggest competitors (especially the ones that all your customers will go to see or all the customers you WISH were yours will go to see). If you’re close them or next to them, sooner or later a decent, potential clients will stroll by your booth. o Read the show Book o Fill out all forms o Write all checks which are due by the show deadline in order to receive pre-show discount
Some time before the show they’ll send or email you what’s called the “Trade Show Guide Book” that will have all the forms you’ll need to fill out to exhibit at the show. You don’t HAVE to fill them out in advance but if you don’t you’ll pay more and sometimes get the bottom of the barrel when it comes to renting furniture and flooring, etc.

Getting people to your booth

Consider ordering and sending out some invitations to your top customers. It’s a personal way to let them know that you remember them and care if they show up or not. Make sure whatever you create (design & content wise) is consistent with your overall corporate brand as well as the show theme. You may not think you need a show theme but if not, refer to my previous blog posting “What Mardi Gras Beads can teach you about Advertising”.
Consider having your invitations (and all your trade show printing) handled by a print broker. People mistakenly think that print brokers are more expensive than going out and getting your own work printed but nothing could be further than the truth. If you don’t believe me get your own quotes and then give them to a broker and ask them to beat them…..see what happens.,
Include existing and potential customers. It goes without saying that it’s a good idea to send out invites to your existing distributors or clients but of course you also want to attract new clients. To do that call your rep at the trade show headquarters in advance and ask if you can purchase last year’s attendee list. Alternatively ask if you can get this year’s registrant list to make sure you’re communicating with the people who are planning on attending this show. There are other ways of reaching potential new customers such as co-marketing with other attendees (who have similar target markets but who don’t compete directly with you), local advertising, press coverage and distributing invites or flyers at local hotels to name just a few.
See more things that you can do to get people to your trade show booth in the advertising section below. Don’t forget to release a Press Release prior to the show. Call the show publication and ask them when the show issue will be “closing for editorial” so you can make sure your press release gets to them in time. Consider releasing some newsworthy product or other story to other trade related journals so you have something to say that’s enticing to get potential clients to your booth. Consider conducting a show event or contest or other promotion that you can announce in advance of the show and entice visitors to stop by.
Once you get visitors to come by your both via PR and marketing, you can get them to stay by providing beverages (water for sure, and booze if the show will let you) and give them a place to sit down. Sometimes people complain about having people lounge in your booth but if you provide enough room for people to sit down it won’t matter.

Trade Show Booth and Supplies

if you are reusing an old booth be sure to have someone get the booth out and set it up…believe me there’s nothing worse than getting to the show and finding out your missing a piece that takes a week or two to reorder and replace.
Once you’ve inspected your existing booth you can decide if you need a new one….besides if you have to gravel in front of your boss you’ll want to have all the information you can get as to why the old booth can’t be reused again. I’ve purchased many a “pop up” booth which is convenient, easy and can be brought into the show without paying the “show labor” (union workers). If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford a custom booth do me a personal favor and don’t hire someone who’s unimaginative. If you’ve got a budget to create a new booth make sure you have the help of someone who knows how to do this, knows how to save money doing it and can think out of the box to get you something memorable.
Create a trade show booth inventory that includes every single item that is in your show crates. You THINK you’ll remember this when you’re packing up your booth at the end of a show but trust me, next year when you’re getting ready to go to a new show you will not remember that one of the support rods buckled under the weight of one of your customers who sat on your counter!
Carpet or other flooring; is the current condition is ok? Does it need to be cleaned or replaced? Think twice about renting the show carpeting….it’s usually gross and it’s almost always cheaper to buy something and just toss it (or donate it) after the show. I used those puzzle pieces made out of foam once for a show and not only did they look great but they felt good on our feet. It’s a good idea to try to think about providing a certain amount of comfort to your clients because it helps to get them into your booth and to stay there.
To lock up inventory & handouts; do you need to hire a cage to lock up the equipment or does the booth have a lockable area to put valuables?
Do they need to be replenished from last show? If so what? Consider taking things like Windex, Plexi cleaner, Formica cleaner, paper towels, Velcro, scissors, staplers, screw drivers, hammers, tape (bring clear packing tape not only to pack up show boxes but also to run along the edge of your flooring…it’s usually required by the show management to ensure that visitors don’t trip over the edge of your carpet), vacuum / vacuum cleaner bags, writing pads and pens, etc.

Shipping/Crating

Does your trade show booth require crates? Don’t forget to bring locks and it’s a very good idea for your crates to have wheels. Did the crates survive the last shipment or do they need to be repaired or replaced?
Your shipper should provide you with preprinted labels either before you go to the show or at the show. If you don’t have labels go find your shippers booth around the service area of the trade show and there should be someone there that can help you. If you know your shipper isn’t going to have a booth at the show, be sure and take their complete contact information and name with you so you can call them to let them know you’re ready to be picked up.
Research the different options and how it affects other costs: 1. Shipping with cheap shipper (not a common carrier); if you do that will you have to pay full price to get the products into the booth and will you have to hire a separate shipper to bring crates from airport to the show? 2. Or, ship with the show shipper; pay a higher price, but get the package deal to bring the crates into the show floor. 3. Or get a quote from a common carrier – other than show shipper?
Consider filing for credit with whichever shipper(s) you use, otherwise you’ll have to have a check or a credit card for these people when they pick up your booth at the show.
Check with show booth to see what your “target” date is for shipment arrival.
If needed, don’t forget to tell the shipper to come to pick up your shipment with a truck that has a lift gate.

Furniture for booth

Keep in mind that sometimes the show furniture is really hideous so you might want to go and rent furniture at a local furniture rental location (but don’t forget to consider how using outside vendors will influence OTHER show costs, because you almost always have to pay union people to carry in items from non-show related vendors). (you also may have to do the same with show vendors but often there’s a package price).
Condition of any existing furniture, does it need to be painted or repaired? Did anything break the last time around that needs to be replaced? Does the existing furniture upholstery and colors match your new show theme or will repairs and/or replacements need to be considered?
If you’re renting them, have the forms been filled out and how many to you need? Keep in mind that sometimes it’s cheaper to buy something than to rent it….even if you have to donate it to the local shelter when you’re done. When you rent or buy anything outside the show you have to consider when the exhibit hall will allow your vendors onto the show floor to deliver the items among other nightmares (such as will your vendor have to wait in the line of teamsters to get into the exhibit hall itself and will they charge you more for this or not?). As much as the rule books often tell you that each and every item has to be checked in and out…..it’s not always true. My sister and I bought a HUGE circular sofa and dragged the entire thing in through one of the side doors at a Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas (we did a lot of things like that to have a nicer hipper show when we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford both the cost of the sofa and the cost to pay the teamsters to bring it into the show…..now mind you I heard of a guy who got beat to a pulp for doing this at the Jacob Javits center in NYC years ago but we were girls and I can’t say that didn’t help us to get by with more of that type of thing, at least just a little).
Don’t rent these…..that’s ridiculous. Just buy some inexpensive ones you can hide under or behind the booth and donate them to the Salvation Army after the show.
Looking through the list of rent-able items will usually remind you of other items you may need. Keep in mind that 99.9% of the time it’s cheaper to just buy the thing you’re thinking of renting and donating it to a local shelter.
Sign up for service/ bring own phone as it’s much cheaper than renting a phone at the show (sometimes it’s cheaper to just bring cell phones but the signals aren’t always perfect on a show floor and if you do that don’t forget to arrange in advance to get your internet connectivity via your wireless carrier as well).

 Posters/Signage

Do you need to have any of the signage on the booth changed or can you use existing signage? If so, what is needed and where do you get it done at? Do yourself a favor…don’t use those ridiculous white cardboard signs that the show often supplies exhibitors with – they just reek of cheap, homemade and unprofessional. You’re better off not having a sign if you have to use that ugly dog.
Design new layouts, write copy, print, trim, laminate, pack to ship?

Lights

Most trade show exhibit halls aren’t lacking when it comes to lighting but a few carefully placed spot lights can highlight important products or signage and make your booth look better. Consider if your lighting is part of your display or if you need free-standing lights…if so find something sturdy. Don’t forget whatever you put in your booth is going to have to be approved by the Fire Marshall who will take a “walk through” right before the show starts so be prepared to have you booth shut down if you have some crummy lights that don’t pass inspection.
Do you need to replace bulbs? (Better safe than sorry and having to run around a foreign city in a taxi or a rental car and looking for some odd sized bulb is not my idea of having a good time…..also it’s hard to explain a huge taxi bill to your boss).
I know it seems a bit anal but check the cords to make sure they’re OK

Back-wall curtains

 Curtains – Use existing curtains that come with the show or opt for a different color curtains? – seriously try not to use the show curtains as your only backdrop…unless you’re desperate and quite frankly you could at least have a custom set of curtains silk screened with your logo and hang them on a secondary set of curtain rods (you can’t take down the show curtains most of the time because the booth behind you may need them…of course if you’re an island booth that’s a different story all together). 1. If changing the curtains, do you “rent” show curtains or bring our own? 2. If you bring our own, do you need to have them made and ship with the booth?

Catering for the booth

Do you want to serve coffee or at least have a water dispenser? Food?This has to be done with the show caterer. Food is too obvious to sneak in!
It’s not a bad idea to have a “party” in the booth at the end of one day – with music and catering. Get special permission from the show management.

Booth Giveaways

Research give away ideas; consider giving away mugs, shirts, bags, pens, etc. – preferably anything that’s memorable.
Promo orders & timing – Get items quoted/approved & ordered far enough in advance so you can ship with booth.

Booth Security

  • Product security – What will you do with the products at night? Take it all with us? Research this.
  • In booth security options – order a “cage” to lock products up at night or design security areas into a new trade show booth when possible.
  • Security guard – consider hiring a security guard for higher valued inventory.

Brochures

  • Existing brochures – do your existing advertising and sales support materials suffice to take to the show or do you need to do a new one specifically for the event?
  • Show special – If you’re going to do some kind of a show special it’s always a good idea to provide some kind of “take away” that the customer can look at later when they’re (hopefully) reviewing all their trade show materials.
  • Review strategy & objectives – I could write a book on this subject….no matter what printed materials you do at the show, consider how the show objective differ from your normal marketing objectives.
  • Brochure production – Design, write copy and do layout – go through proofing process with management.
  • Printing – get quotes and make sure you order what you’ll need for the show in plenty of time to get the items before the show.  Consider hiring a print broker who knows where to get the best and lowest cost printing for you.  A print broker can save you as much as 85% of what you’re currently paying for printing and often they don’t mind if you’re not printing 10 billion of something.
  • Shipping of print materials – Print locally and ship to show or print at show destination?
  • Price Sheets – do you need to do a price sheet just for the trade show or does your standard price sheet suffice?  If you need a new price sheet allow plenty of time to discuss pricing issues with the corporate management team.  
  • Printing Price Sheets – Depending on how many price sheets you’ll need you will either photocopy or offset or digital print the price sheets.  It’s cheaper to print offset or digital if you need anything more than a handful of printed prices.
  • Shipping Price Sheets – Ship to show with trade show booth or send UPS in advance? Or ship Fed Ex (depending on time)

Advertising

  • Ads – Any ads for the show?  Check with the show to see what advertising options they are providing to show exhibitors.  Obviously you don’t have to advertise with them and you may want to consider doing some local advertising that is not “sanctioned” by the show management.  You will just have to determine the pros and cons of each option and decide if it’s worth the extra price to advertise via the “show” channels.
  • Show directory – listing?  Has our information been submitted to the show directory? If so, has the booth number been changed since the initial show sign up? If so, has the directory printer been notified?
  • Show website – review the web related advertising options offered by show management including website ads, email marketing and digital show book listings.
  • Other marketing options – see show book  for other advertising options such as bill boards, radio ads, magazine ads, local TV, press conferences, show news releases, editorial content that’s being distributed in advance of and during the show, etc.

Photographs

  • Photos of the booth – Over my career of 30 years I cannot tell you how many trade shows I’ve been to and how many exhibits I’ve designed, constructed and put up that I have NOT photographed.  Quite frankly it was often because i just didn’t have the budget for that when all things were said and done but I should have done it for a hundred different reasons.  Decide if you should hire the show photographer to photograph booth, hire a “non show” photographer or photograph your booth yourself.
  • If you photograph your booth yourself, be sure and bring a camera (phone) and consider if any other materials are needed.
  • Make sure you integrate any photos you take into a press program and social media marketing efforts.

Press Package

  • Hooks – creating a list of possible “hooks” for your press releases – a PR hook is something that ties your press release into current events, show happenings and other events & issues that will make your press release more than just a sales pitch.
  • Press releases – Write press release(s); How many press kits will you need and how will you get them to the show?
  • Press release distribution – either print or distribute digitally, depending on what show management prefers.  Consider using an Internet press distribution company such as “PR Newswire”.
  • Photos – include digital photos with your press release?  If so provide a flash drive or some other digital method of transmitting your photo to the press staff.
  • Folders – check with your show management to see if the attending press wants printed press materials or if they will only accept digital press materials.  If you need printing materials, consider printing professional portfolio folders with your company logo or buy at office supply stores and print labels?  (that latter option is pretty crummy….so in that case you might want to just do a digital press mailing prior to the show).
  • Print labels – print labels for folders in-house or at a printer?
  • Assemble packages – assemble packages to be left in the press room at the trade show.  Most shows now days don’t even accept printed materials any more but check with show management to see how they’re handing press release distribution.  Whatever that is – make sure you participate in that because the press coverage is essentially free.

Web site

  • Web changes – what changes are needed for the show?  At the very lease you’ll want to post the information about the show itself and let people know how to find you.
  • Promos – It’s a good idea to do some kind of promotion at the show and tie it into your website.  There are a million things you can do and what you do depends greatly on what what type of product or service you sell, your target market, your completion and many other factors.,  For this reason I highly recommend you hire someone creative to help you think of something creative and memorable and most importantly someone who knows how to handle web marketing & social media.
  • Products & Services – Do you need to add new products or services (or the new show special) to the website
  • Sales Support Website – do you have a sales support website for your sales staff?  It’s a good idea to add copies of all the new sales support materials, promotions and promo materials to the website so your sales staff can not only see that you’re supporting them but also so they’ll know what items they have access to before, during and after the show.
  • Other Site Changes – Other items may need to be changed or added to the website such as instruction manuals, show event calendars, booth staffing schedules, etc.  If you have a section on your site for reps or salesmen, do you want to announce a sales meeting at the show? Time and date?  Don’t forget to do the planning for this!  (btw good idea not to serve to much booze before the sales meeting…I made that mistake once regrettably).
  • Website Press Portal – If you’re having a press conference, perhaps you’d want to post the press releases and the conference information on the website.
  • Show Specials – the website is an obvious place to list the info about any show specials you might be planning on having at the show.

Products for show use

  • In Booth Inventory – Think through and inventory what you’ll need for the trade show (i.e., how many groupings of products are needed? How many display areas will you need in the booth? Do you want to make a grouping on the table or on the reception desk in the booth?)
  • Ordering Inventory – Do an order form to your warehouse/order department for the inventory that will be needed for the show; remember this inventory needs to be re-checked in upon return so save all packaging at the show.
  • Point of Purchase Displays (POPs) – Get a matching number of point of purchase displays (if the product that’s displayed at the show has such an item) and don’t forget to develop any signs that you’ll need to describe what your products are, the prices, etc.?
  • Brochures for POPs – Also, get quantities of the brochures for each item on display, which can be set next to the product. (Do you need plexi-stands to display these brochures? If so, how many will you need?)  And these don’t usually ship very well, this may need to be taken to the show by hand or have them shipped directly from the manufacturer to your hotel.
  • Batteries – Do products require batteries? If so order and ship to make sure you have plenty before and during the show.
  • POPs for Services vs. Products – if you sell a service rather than a product consider treating the service LIKE a product in that you’d create a point of purchase display (POP) for each service with the same types of signage and brochures that you’d put next to an actual physical product.

Hotel, Airline & Car Reservations

  • List of Employees – Create a list of all the employees attending the trade show and assign someone the task of researching airline & hotel reservations for these people – if hotels are held with a credit card, put last day to cancel on computer reminder system so you don’t forget to cancel and get charged for rooms you don’t need. (who, if anyone, can be doubled up and bunked into one room?)
  • List of outside reps that will be attending – hotels & reservations for them?  If so, who will be paying for that?  Get approvals from management on this.
  • List of customers attending show – are you paying for any of them to attend?  Hotel? Airline reservations?
  • Itineraries – Send out itineraries to anyone going to the show
  • Auto reservations – for all of above (reminder: send out memo to employees reminding them to bring their proof of auto insurance and a credit card with space for a deposit to rent a car).
  • Auto shuttle from show to hotel – Rent a nice car and use it to shuttle your show guests from the show to their hotels.  That way they won’t have to stand in the Taxi lines (like everyone else), they love you for it and save them a lot of stress.  Also this will conveniently make all of your NON-customers take notice and wonder why they’re not your client.
  • Give out “invitations” to the above shuttle – Tell customers where to find your shuttle and use this in your show promotions; advertise the shuttle and tell visitors to stop by your booth for a ticket for a free ride in your company shuttle.

Show Tickets

  • Order tickets – Order show tickets in advance to include in the mailing you’re doing to the customers & others that you’re inviting to the show.  If you can get as many tickets as you want, then ask for them in advance so you can send them out to EVERYONE!!
  • Other tickets – press conference, party for customers, sales meetings, events in the destination city for top customers (football games, baseball, see if there’s a special exhibit in the local museum and get tickets to that).

Badges

  • Employees – Get badges for everyone attending the show from your company and of course everyone who’s working your booth, including your sales reps and other invited attendees.
  • Customers – Don’t forget to get badges, if possible, for your top customers.
  • Vendors – Also, you may need a few spare badges to get vendors/service providers into the show to deliver flowers, supplies, furniture (if those suppliers are NOT the “show” suppliers).

 Booth work schedule

  • Employee schedule – Do yourself a favor, schedule your workers to work shifts, and include your outside reps.  Otherwise, the employees will end up having to work the whole show and be too beat to go out a night with customers and the reps will drift in and out of the booth and not be there when you need them.  That way, if key customers show up, you can tell them the exact time when someone will be at the booth to meet with them.
  • Dividing work into shifts – I recommend that the incoming morning staff be in charge of setting up the booth in the morning and the afternoon shift be the people most needed to wine and dine important customers.  That usually means the marketing staff is there in the morning and the executive staff can show up a little later (after all they may have been out all night partying anyway and need to sleep in a little!).
  • Schedule in advance – Make sure your employees and reps understand that you need their help BEFORE the show so they can work your schedule into their schedules. Obviously your reps and sales staff will need to have free time to meet with important clients and take them out to schmooze, but don’t let them use this as an excuse to not help you at all during the show.  Letting them know when you expect them in advance prevents you from being “left at the altar.”
  • Schedules to clients – Also be sure to send a schedule out to your customers before the show (perhaps when you send them their badges, tickets or invitations) so they can find out when their reps will be in the booth.  Make sure this information is also online so any last-minute editing can be easily viewable by your clients and staff.   

Hotel Suite

  • Off-site events – Consider renting a hotel suite to hold customer meetings/press meetings.  Schedule  beverages & food; arrange for catering if so.  You can usually find event spaces at the exhibit hall but sometimes it’s good to just get the heck out of dodge for a change in atmosphere.
  • Off site event products – Make sure you have product or service displays (point of purchase displays) for whatever events are being held in this room.  Don’t forget to include products that can be taken to this room to be put on display.
  • Save money using employee rooms – You can use one of the employees rooms as a “suite” if you’re on a tight budget (but be sure to make your employees promise to keep the room clean for when the guests come over).

Press Conferences

Press Conferences

  • Press conference or not?  – Decide if you need to arrange to introduce our new products and service at a press conference.  It’s only a good idea to do this if you have something really newsworthy and interesting to say to the press….be careful not to gather a bunch of press together for no reason or your first press conference will be your last.
  • Press conference support materials – If you decide to hold a press conference consider invitations, catering, press folders, press releases, press conference announcements, online press releases and all the other things that go along with any press event.  Don’t forget you’ll want to have products or services with POP displays at the press event.
  • Press list & announcement – Get list of press attendees to send a mailing to them in advance of the show.  Make sure the event is listed on your website and consider releasing a notice of the event via PR Newswire.

Other things to remember

  • Take sales materials for use at a “reception desk” in your booth.
  • Take a cooler or buy at location to hide drinks under the reception desk (unless you’re getting the drinks from the show caterer and then you don’t have to hide them)!
  • Buy flowers at show destination (at an outside flower shop, so it’s cheaper) – or if you’re short on time, use the show florist.
  • Put a garbage can in one of crates for booth
  • Take a vacuum cleaner
  • Batteries and cell phone chargers
  • Cleaning materials, paper towels
  • Consider having a place for people to drop their business cards – possibly hold a contest if you don’t have some better promo figured out.
  • Get the show badge scanner – it’s worth it to collect the data on the people who visit your booth in an organized manner.
  • Schedule meetings in advance with Press and Ad sales people as well as the trade show management to discuss next year’s booth space; customers.

If you are going to a show, as you can see you may be better off hiring a professional to help you with your event.  I cannot stress enough that you don’t have to feel like you can’t afford to hire someone like this.  You seriously can’t afford NOT to hire someone like this because of how much they can help you to save.  Feel free to contact me by using any of the contact forms available on this site.


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Your Website Checklist

You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re asking you Checklistto give them all the things they will need to create the site. The problem is you don’t know the first thing about it, so what do you do?  You can start with this list of  things that most if not all website designers and programmers will need in order to create a new website:

 1)      Unformatted digital text – be prepared to give your development team all of the text for your website in one UNFORMATTED, Microsoft Word or Word Pad document (or other digital word processing file).  Be sure to label each section of text with the page names that the text goes on (so put “About Us” at the top of the text for the About Us page and so on). Make sure that the headers for each page in this section match the names of each page.  These page names should correspond to and match the primary navigation tabs on the home page and any sub tabs or links that may be included with your site. Don’t forget to include all the headlines, sub headlines, and other text that you want used through the site (you may want “pull quotes” to be used on side bars, for example or quotes or captions to be used on photos; also include all the contact information, copyright dates, email addresses, names of employees.)  To ensure you don’t forget anything use your initial “site outline” that you should have created when you asked for the quote for the job, as a guide for the text you need to write and prepare.

2)      Website Instructions – First let me say that there’s nothing more dangerous and confusing than receiving 35 emails each with a snippet of text or a photo with a name like “25944GP.jpg” or other files that are not properly named and prepared to be handled by the development team.   Be sure to include any and all instructions for the website in the above “Digital Text” document (these instructions can be before or after the text for the site). Be sure to make a clear differentiation between the web text and your instructions, perhaps by writing the instructions in colored text or a different font.

3)      Correctly prepared and formatted Images – The exact size of photos that your team will need won’t be clear until AFTER the design phase of the web development is File format imagesdone.  For that reason it’s just better if you give your team the biggest, highest resolution images you have. If you have those images on your computer, do not try to email them to the team by embedding them into a word document or an email.  You CAN send them as an attachment to an email OR better yet use a service like “drop box” or see if your team has an “FTP” server that will make it easier for your to transfer files that are very large.  If you try to email these images they may clog up your email software’s outbox and even if they go out of your own email system, you won’t have any way of knowing if the client can accept files that are that big.  For that reason it’s just better to upload them to an FTP server or use a system similar to Drop Box.(to use an FTP site, someone from your development team will have to send you the instructions and log-in information separately).  Be aware that not all images are “ready to go”…and your design crew may have to do some photo retouching, cropping, resizing and other word that may or may not be included in your initial website quote.  If you have a choice to send your images in a variety of different file formats, most designers would prefer .jpg images (pronounced J-peg).

4)      Image and file Naming – Be careful how you name the files and  images that you give to your development team because it’s REALLY hard and very confusing when they get files or images that are named “qap239r809.jpg”.  If you could name the photo or file WHAT it is……that is very helpful and avoids unnecessary delays.  If the image you are sending is a photo of “Mary Smith” then you could just name it Mary Smith.  It would be even better if you could add the name of the page where you’d like that photo, for example marysmith_pricing.jpg  (don’t forget you can’t ADD a period in the text name…. you CAN add an underscore OR a dash, without a problem – no other characters can be inserted into a file name and the .jpg part is added automatically so you don’t need to worry about that part…just name the first part of the file name (before the period) as I’ve explained here.

5)      Captions – if you would like a caption on or above any of the images, please provide the information to your team by creating a list using the Image file name (see above instruction about naming your files) plus the text that goes with that image next to the name. You can include this list with the text for the website (with the instructions, before or after). If your website is going to have a series of photos with captions, you’ll want to consider how those photos will look next to each other and try to keep any text or captions that go with the photos in a similar style and length.  It’s better not to have one photo with a big, long sentence under it while another photo has two words.  Also remember that if your site is going to have any moving images or text, which are usually programmed with FLASH instead of HTML, for example, you will want to have those captions of similar length and style as well.

6)      Forms – if you plan to have a form on your website, be sure to include the text for the form (or the field names, in other words) with the unformatted digital text that you’ll be providing to your development team.  Also you’ll need to include the email address where you want the form information to be sent to (so for example if you have a form on your “contact us” page, then whenever someone fills out that form, your team will need to know what email address you’ll want that information to be sent to).

7)      Logos – you development team will also need any and all logo artwork that you use for your company and possibly the name of the font that goes with your logo and business package (some companies have a typeface or “font” that they use for all of their outgoingfavicon 1 materials and some organizations even have instructions or rules that go with those fonts & logos, that a marketing team would have to have in order to use those items correctly).  Be sure to send your logo in the highest resolution possible and if possible send the version that’s color and the one that has a clear background or no background.  If you are not sure which logo to send, then I’d suggest that you send  them all the logos you have (you can include these files with the images you will be emailing or posting to the FTP site or putting into “Dropbox”).

8)      Social Media Links – if you want social media links on your website please send 20-social-media-iconsthe links or web addresses to each of your social media webpages.  Try to avoid telling your programmers “can you link my website up to my Facebook page?” because this opens up a whole new can of worms and a number of opportunities for the programmer to connect your website up to the wrong Facebook page.  If you want your site to be developed quickly and correctly, make it as easy and clear as possible for your team so that you minimize confusion and maximize the chances of things being done right the first time.

9)      Contact info – Don’t forget to include any and all current contact information with the content for the website including all the email addresses you want listed on the website (and where you’d like those items to be listed or located).

I often hear horror stories of companies who have hired someone to work on their website, only to have that person drop off the planet or stop working on the project abruptly with no explanation.  I’d wager to say that these people get frustrated asking for materials, waiting for them, asking for the next thing, then waiting for that item and so on….only to lose time and money and ultimately any and all profitability on the project.  This isn’t inevitable however and you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of having any major issues if you will take the appropriate amount of time on the onset of the project in order to prepare the materials that your team is going to need.

Finally, don’t forget that your development team is most likely made up of a number of people – you may have a marketing person who is helping you plan and outline the site, a copywriter who will help you to write the text, a designer who will develop the design of the website, a programmer who will program the basic site (an HTML programmer or WordPress Programmer, for example) and possibly other programmers who will do specialty programming such as FLASH, database or E commerce programming.  Finally you may have someone to help you after all that’s done to market your website and get it listed on the quality management teamssearch engines.  You may not need to send all the above information to each person who is working on the site, but it will be helpful to you and certainly the initial people working with you to be able to see all the information in one place – well-organized and clearly thought out – before they start on your web development project.


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How often should you change your ad campaigns?

On one hand, it’s important for all your marketing pieces to have a consistent look but it’s also important that an advertising piece that’s sent out periodically (such as a brochuresales_marketing_intersection or an ad) changes in some way, because you don’t want the reader to look at it and think “I’ve already seen that”. Any ad you create has to be “similar” enough to previous work to maintain your brand continuity and at the same time “different” enough to make the reader recognize it’s something “new”.

It’s very hard to know when to draw the line (and when to change your campaign) and I can honestly say that YOU will probably get sick of your own campaign before your target market will (unless you have an irritating jingle that makes your clients scramble for the remote). Many big companies change their campaigns annually, but sometimes they’ll stretch that time out if they’ve hit on a winner. If you decide to keep your existing campaign for a while, don’t think that means your ads and brochures will never change during that time period. If your driven to maintain a consistent look & feel for your advertising, that’s great! Just be sure to make some [design] changes that are quickly & easily identifiable, to ensure your readers don’t think they’re the same pieces they saw last year or last week.

Once you’ve thought about how frequently you want to change your ads or your ad campaign, you should spend a little time thinking about how you can create brand continuity and what design and contextual elements should stay the same from ad to ad and which should change. Brand continuity is one of those “hidden” aspects of advertising that great designers think about, but most people on the outside don’t realize it’s even a matter of discussion. Ask your ad pro to show you how they’ve maintained brand continuity for other clients and to give you some suggestions about how they might do the same for you. If you’re currently proofing a new ad or brochure, be sure and ask your designer what aspects of that design might be maintained on future brochures to create & maintain your brand continuity.


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I hate to ask but what the heck is my brand, anyway?

I hate to ask but what the heck is my brand, anyway?

In a recent post I promised to help you figure out how and when to change your brand. But before I do that I think I should take a minute to define branding for you…..

After a million years in advertising I’ve pretty much heard it all….but recently when pitching a potential client they told me they wanted our ad services, but they just didn’t want any “Branding”.

My first thought was “What in the world do they think branding is, anyway?” The word “Branding” has been misused and thrown around too much lately. The truth of the matter is this: asking for advertising without branding is like buying a car without a motor.

I think in general people IN advertising assume that people OUTSIDE our world understand all the terminology and intricacies of our profession. BUT THEY DON’T and there’s no shame in that. Just put it out of your mind that you could ever hire an ad agency and take your branding “on the side”. It ain’t gonna happen – and if it does, you’re wasting your money and getting really BAD advertising at the same time.

Here’s what you need to know: in order for folks to recognize and remember your ads, the ads have to be visually and contextually MEMORABLE. In order for an ad to be memorable, it has to have some VISUAL element that is repeated from ad to ad. Without that, the consumer has no idea that one ad connects to the next….and no way to identify and remember you….(and the same applies to the content…..if each ad says something completely different, the light bulb of “recognizeability” may never turn on for your potential client).

You may come across a hundred different definitions of branding, but they all boil down to this:

Your branding is some visual and/or contextual element[s] that can be repeated from ad to ad with the purpose of creating a recognizable look and feel or BRAND. Brands can be created for a product or a service or a business…or all three.

Your brand may not apply just to your ads either, it can incorporate your logo, your colors, your music or slogan or any of the other elements that separate who you are from your competition….or in other words, your brand is your identity. You brand is what the consumer uses to remember you. It’s that “thing” that makes them wonder or hopefully realize that they’ve seen you before….and it plays on their subconscious and forces them ask themselves “hey this seems familiar…and perhaps I should take a longer look at this?”

In order for any of your advertising to work, it has to have a unique, definable, consistent and repeatable brand and that brand should be used on an ongoing basis in order to help your target market to recognize and remember who you are….long enough to make a buying decision. It’s not any more complex than that (the complex part is finding a way to integrate that brand into your design and content…and unless you’re particularly inclined, you need a pro to help you with that).brand

NEXT POSTING: OK, so my graphic designer created an ad for my company, but I ran it one time and haven’t heard from anyone.  Stay tuned to hear about the importance of frequency when it comes to advertising.  The buying public not only needs to hear about you multiple times but they need to be able to remember you WHEN THEY ARE READY TO BUY SOMETHING (and of course you normally don’t know when that is, so you have to use some ad tricks to get people’s’ attention). 


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What Mardi Gras Beads can teach you about Advertising….

Whether you’re a business owner or an ad exec or an ad sales person, you need to hear this little story!

 

This story is about trade shows but it applies to any advertising or communications project.  If you’ve never been to a trade show, sooner or later someone hands you a bag and you fill it up with brochures and “giveaways” as you stop (or run) by each booth at the show.  It can be pretty tiring and after a while, all the booths & people and brochures look the same.  It really is hard to tell one from the other.

At one trade show, years ago, I remember trudging into the last room of the show, with my overfilled bag in tow, when an exhibitor called out to me “Hey miss, would you like some Mardi Gras beads?”.  My first thought was “NO”….make that “HELL NO”.  I really didn’t want to talk to anyone else, nor did I want any more junk… especially not some crummy, plastic Mardi Gras beads (who does, unless you’re in New Orleans in February?).  But to be polite I took the beads and listened to his “spiel”.  I swear I didn’t think of that guy again until I got a phone call SEVERAL weeks later from a man who immediately identified himself by saying “Hi, remember me?  I’m the guy with the Mardi Gras beads!”.  And of course, I DID remember him.  Despite the fact that the beads were really a “throw away” item, that was the ONLY person…in the ONLY booth at that entire show that I could actually picture and remember.  Why?  Because of those stupid Mardi Gras beads!  It may not have been anything particularly classy, but it was memorable.  That man had used the age-old MEMORY technique of associating his product or business with something ELSE that was memorable.  A great part of advertising is just helping people to remember who you are so that they can recall your name or product when it counts.  Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if your product isn’t remembered in a positive light…because sooner or later the customer will forget the negative part and just remember your product.  (That’s why they say even bad publicity is good publicity i.e., who even thinks about the Tylenol scare of the 80’s?  All we remember now is that when we have a headache, we buy Tylenol).  I recommend using this memory technique each and every time you create an ad or brochure or go to a trade show.  Of course it would be nice if it was something applicable to your business…preferably something classier than Mardi Gras beads, but just remember that every time you communicate with the world, it will help your reader to remember you if you give them some “Mardi Gras beads” to grab on to!!

Emily Andros is a 25 year Advertising Industry Veteran with both “In-house” and “Ad Agency” experience in the B to B and B to C arenas.  She graduated from University of Texas Austin with her degree in Advertising and has a wide array of experience that she is happy to share with the business world.  She can be reached via her email at emily@mdept.om


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What is Public Relations?

Public Relations uses “the media” and/or “the press” to deliver stories about your company, product or service creating good relationships with the public, product users, investors, other writers and many other target markets.Press conference

Public relations or “PR” is really the opposite of advertising because with advertising you pay someone to print an ad or broadcast a commercial that you create for your product (for example). But with Public Relations, writers or journalists write stories in various media based on press releases that you submit to them and other information they research (via the web, interviews, research studies, etc.). Sometimes they print the story exactly as you submit it to them and sometimes they rewrite it based on what you’ve given them.

PR can be less expensive than advertising because you don’t have to pay a publication to release the story and if the media your story appears in is national or international, you can reach a much larger audience at a lower cost. You do however, have to pay someone to spend some time creating a plan, developing an “angle” (aka “a hook”) and determining the best day or time to release the story (there are special PR event & editorial calendars that PR Pros use to evaluate timing). You’ll also need to pay someone to write & edit an intelligent press release (which is completely different from writing advertising copy, by the way). You will also have to pay for the release to be distributed (which is not cheap these days, if you want it done right). You’ll also pay someone to follow-up on the release by emailing, calling and going to events to interact personally with writers, editors and other influencers in an effort to get them to run you story. That’s why many times when you hear someone talk about PR you hear them talking about “relationships” or wanting someone with a “Rolodex®” (i.e., a list of media or industry contacts that they know well enough to be able to pick up the phone and talk to them).

In the end, PR generally costs less than advertising and it has the added bonus of having the unspoken “endorsement” of the publication or the journalist who wrote the story. That’s not always the case because a good journalist doesn’t just take the word of the person who wrote the press release. If upon further investigation they discover that your widget pollutes the local rivers or your pill doesn’t cure cancer, there’s no telling how negative the story could be. So be careful not to overstate your message and don’t forget that a Press Release is not supposed to be so obviously written by the company itself. It’s supposed to be have been written by an outside, unbiased observer who is giving the outside world an impartial appraisal of the subject matter. Far too many times the people who own the company (and who naturally love and praise their own product) write their own press releases. In that case, it’s next to impossible for the journalists who read those press releases not to wonder how much of their story is overstated due to the writer’s overly enthusiastic perspective.

One last thing….as with any marketing related effort, don’t expect a couple of stories to save your company. Any business communications must work with all the different aspects of a marketing program to create product awareness and to generate demand for a product. If you run an ad or two, you cannot expect that to generate enough demand to salvage a business. In the same way, if you run a press release or two, it will be good for you, but don’t expect the phones to ring off the hook. If a magazine runs an article about you and someone sees it, that’s great; but if that someone visits your website as a result & the website looks like hell, well, then your sales efforts will very likely fail. Your target consumer doesn’t have the patience or the forgiveness to overlook the elements of your marketing program that have been thrown together or that are essentially broken.

Make sure that each piece of your marketing “puzzle” is as good as it can be and THEN you can expect to receive the best results. If you don’t have the budget to create & maintain a comprehensive marketing program [with each and every piece being just the way it should be]…then consider selecting 2 or 3 marketing projects or areas (PR, Web & Social Media, for example) and make THOSE segments as good as they can be.

Here’s an article on LinkedIn that talks about the difference between Advertising & Public Relations – LinkedIn Article  


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The Secret of the Sales Cycle: REVISITED

The Sales Circle

The 4 secrets of the sales cycle

I’ve rewritten this article and elaborated on each of the points for a more comprehensive article. I hope this will help you to determine how and where to spend your advertising & marketing dollars and the importance of supporting your sales cycle.

Not everyone knows this but there is a secret formula to success when it comes to marketing: Every business MUST follow 4 basic steps in order to be successful.

First you must create & establish a memorable corporate identity. A corporate identity, also known as your brand, is made up of a consistent look and feel and a cohesive message, both of which contribute to your target market’s ability to remember you and your product or service name. A potential client has to be able to remember you when it comes time for them to purchase your product or service and a memorable, unique and consistent brand helps them to do just that.

Second, you must have a way to bring in leads. A famous entrepreneur once said “you won’t even be able to sell $10 bills for $5, unless someone hears your message”. In order to sell anything, you have to be able to present your sales message to someone and for that you need leads. A lead is simply someone who’s willing to listen to what you have to say (your sales message).

Third, you have to qualify and sell those leads (or sort out the bad ones & keep the good ones). In any group of potential customers there will be some that are interested but not ready to buy, some that are interested that are ready to buy and others that aren’t interested at all. To move your potential client through the sales funnel, you need to present your message and then sort out those that are interested and ready to buy from the rest of the pack.

Finally, you have to build relationships with those qualified leads…i.e., you must put some effort into keeping your name or brand in front of your potential & existing clients, so they don’t forget you. Whenever you push a lead through a sales funnel, they will need to hear your advertising or sales message more than once (aka frequency). During that time, you can build a sort of “business relationship” with that lead that will hopefully develop interest in your offering, cultivate trust in your product & brand and eventually lead to them recalling your name at the time of purchase.

It’s my job as a marketing & advertising professional to encourage our clients to invest in some advertising activities that support each of these four areas. If any one piece of the above “cycle” is missing or weak or unsupported by your marketing efforts, then your sales cycle will collapse and you’ll miss or lose sales. I could write a book on each and every one of the above “rules” because I’ve made a career out of understanding and implementing tactics that will achieve results in each of these areas, but that’s not the focus of this article. The main message of this article is to help you to understand that you can’t pick some advertising tactic arbitrarily out of thin air and then depend on that one thing to bring in fantastic advertising results. People do that frequently and that’s one of the reason’s why I always hear clients say “I placed an ad once and it didn’t work.” Whenever you embark on an advertising campaign, it’s important to recognize the steps that potential clients go through to locate and get familiar with a brand in order to make a purchasing decision. Then it’s up to you to make sure that your advertising efforts support the entire sales process to best support and encourage your target market to consider & select your product.

Here is a list of advertising tactics divided up by the sales area they will best support. Not all ad tactics are mutually exclusive….they often support more than one area of the sales cycle. When deciding how to spend your advertising dollars, make sure you have some “tactics” or projects in each of the following areas:

1. Corporate Identity/Brand DevelopmentCreate a unique & memorable brand

  • Marketing, Advertising, PR & Social Media plans
  • Name & Tagline creation
  • Logo
  • Campaign/look & feel
  • Business Package – letterhead, envelopes & business cards
  • Web URL – get your web address and host it so you can use that email account
  • Email signature
  • Uniforms
  • Signage

2. Lead Development Get leads coming in the door and collect basic lead contact info

  • Web Advertising:
  • Pay per click
  • Landing page (for banners & PPC ads)
  • Banner Ads
  • Web listings
  • HTML Emails
  • SEO/Site Submissions
  • Print Advertising:
  • Direct mail
  • Magazine Ads
  • Newspaper Ads
  • Broadcast Advertising:
  • TV Commercials
  • Radio Commercials
  • Theatre Ads
  • Trade shows/Trade show booth/promotions

3. Lead Qualification & Sales Once you’ve got leads, tell them who you are and sell them!

  • Website
  • Brochures – print or digital
  • Flyer/Product Spec Sheets
  • Product Packaging
  • Point of purchase displays
  • Presentations/PowerPoint
  • Product photos
  • Product samples
  • Client Bio Sheet
  • Corporate Background Sheet
  • Referral sheet
  • Quote/Proposal presentation format/design
  • Folder
  • Sales Pitch
  • Giveaways
  • Pricing Strategy

4. Relationship Building/Brand Promotion Keep your customers coming back for more

  • Social Media
  • HTML Newsletter
  • Referral Program/package
  • Promotions/Sweepstakes/Contests
  • Customer Loyalty Programs
  • Public Relations/Press Releases
  • Sponsorship of local sports teams
  • Join Chamber/Networking events
  • Uniform
  • Signage

Ok that’s it for today.  I hope this little article has helped you to get an idea about what has to be done to have a successful advertising campaign.  Of course the issue is way more complicated than this but this is a start.  Please feel free to contact me any time – we are here to help you and I am more than glad to spend a little time helping you figure out what you need to do to market your business.  Email me at emily@mdept.com.


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Why your advertising SUCKS…

For your advertising to work you need it to reach the right customer and to make it easy for them to remember your name or product. To do that, a potential customer needs to see and hear your message a number of times. The old “adage” says they need to hear an advertising message 8 or 9 times before they will even consider buying the product (aka “frequency”).  There are a lot of other prerequisites for advertising to work including the need for good branding & positioning, a consistent message, a memorable visual, a clear & unique selling proposition, a convincing call to action and many more things too numerous to mention here.

Advertising is one of those things that can look simple, but has a lot going on “behind the scenes”.  It has a lot of interdependent elements that only work when ALL those pieces are done and done right.  Naturally, each one of those “pieces” costs money to do (professionally) and as a result clients pick & choose which projects they want, to the exclusion of other items that are often critical to something else working.  No one can blame an advertiser for letting budget constraints drive his or her choices…of course not, but if you’re guilty of doing that, then you have to stop blaming your advertising consultant when your advertising doesn’t work!

Here’s what I’m talking about – let’s say you hire a pro to conduct a direct mail campaign for you and they create an intelligent post card that considers who the target market is and all the other essential factors needed for a good advertising piece. The mailing goes out and the call to action drives the consumer to your website to get more complete information and to begin the sales process.  BUT you lose the sale because your website sucks.  The site is old and doesn’t match the new campaign and oh yes, it was written by your son in law’s lawn boy who does weekend websites…and quite frankly it stinks (but you don’t really KNOW this because you really like your website….as a matter of fact you participated in making it and you think it’s just fine).  However, it still may suck because in advertising it does not matter if you like it or not, nor does it matter if your daughter likes it or your neighbor or all of your employees.  It ONLY matters if your customer likes it.  Or better yet, it only matters if it makes your customer decide to purchase your product.  NOTHING ELSE MATTERS…and if you have an advertising person who doesn’t get this then you need to get a new ad person.

It’s hard to find competent help and it’s even harder to let go and let other people do what they’re trained to do especially when it comes to advertising & marketing. BUT we’re not talking about FINE art here…we’re talking about finding a way to elicit a reaction out of your customer and to sell your products.  Save your likes and dislikes for something OTHER than your company’s advertising or marketing materials.  Find an intelligent marketing person who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth & then give them a budget and let then help you figure out what you CAN accomplish within those constraints.  Most of the time a client comes to us and already knows what they want to do, with very little consideration of whether or not that one project or ad piece will do anything all by itself.  Also, we’re usually damned if we do and damned if we don’t – because if we push too hard then the client gets mad at us for being too pushy; but if we let them have their way, then they blame us if the advertising doesn’t work.

Advertising & marketing is about building a set of consistent materials that are visually attractive & intelligently designed using the decades of knowledge & experience & data we have about what makes people buy thingsBe honest with yourself;  if you’ve been trained to do this type of work, then go ahead and manage your own advertising projects. But if not, stand aside and let an educated & experienced professional do it for you.  Trust them to write the content, trust them to art direct the design and trust them to pick which projects will be best for you.


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