NAB Show: How to get people to your booth: What’s demand gen anyway?

A NAB Show webinar series

Hosted by Cindy Zuelsdorf with special guest Dave Cohen, Vice President, Marketing Communications at Grass Valley, a Belden Brand.

Talking about how to get people to your booth and what trade show demand generation looks like for NAB Show.

Cindy : Hi, I’m Cindy Zuelsdorf with the NAB Show Exhibitors webinar, and I have with me today our very special guest, Dave Cohen, and he’s the Vice President of Marketing Communications at Grass Valley, a Beldon brand. Welcome, Dave. How’s it going?

Dave : Thanks, Cindy. It’s going great. Happy to be here.

Cindy : Yay. I’m so glad you’re here. All right, well let’s get right into it. We are going to talk about today … We’re talking right now about how to get people to your booth and what demand generation is, how that plays into your NAB show. And Dave, when we were talking, you said that one of the most important things was defining the message. Can you tell us about that?

Dave : Yeah. I think that one of the big challenges that exhibitors face is that there’s a whole bunch of noise going on, and there’s at this point, well over a thousand exhibitors trying to get attention from the folks who are going to be coming to the show. One way to make sure that you’re maximizing your opportunity we found, is to make sure that you really work hard at defining what’s a big deal about what you’re going to be showing at the show? You really need to keep in mind that the people who are putting together their visit lists have a lot of options, and whether you’re a larger exhibitor like Grass Valley or whether you’re a first time very small exhibitor, you still have to make sure that your story stands out. And one of the things that we found to be effective is to really work hard at refining your stories, and the key here is to start early.

If you’re an exhibitor and you haven’t yet started working on what your key stories are, I’m afraid that you’re late. It’s time to get going. Figure out what exactly is going to be particularly appealing about your technology solution, or your strategic solution, that you’re going to be bringing to the show. Take the time to think long and hard about what’s going to make you stand out. What about your solution is going to solve a particular problem or come in particularly handy for your target audience? Don’t think about a list of features or a list of specs that you can put out there, hold off on the superlatives, you really want to think hard about what problem do my customers face and how is my solution going to help them come over it … overcome it, and as a result, come up with what’s called a USP or a unique value proposition that will really help you stand out and cut through the clutter of all the messages that potential visitors are going to be facing.

Cindy : How do you track those? Once you’ve decided what your messages are, how do you keep track of those?

Dave : Well, I think it depends on how many solutions you’re bringing to the show or how many key stories you think you want to be putting out there into the market. We try to keep it to three key messages with some sub-points under those, and we ensure that those messages are kind of reinforced across all the media that we use to talk to potential exhibitors about the show. If you carefully come up with those messages, put them down somewhere, whether you’re going to use a spreadsheet, Word doc and make sure they’re distributed to every member of your team who is going to be involved in the messaging. And that includes not only the marketing team, but all of your executives who are going to be talking to customers prior to the show, and of course your sales team. Make sure that everybody knows these are the key messages, these are the messages we want to keep repeating, and if customers have a specific question about something that isn’t one of those key messages, obviously you’re going to talk about that as well.

But when it comes to specific messages that you’re going to use to try to drive demand and get people to your booth, make sure that all of the stakeholders within your company are well versed on what those messages are, and use the same language. Make sure that you say, “This is your messaging guidance, here’s how you want to talk about this solution. Here are the proof points that you want to use.” and, “Here are the specific adjectives” or “customer proof points that you want to use when talking about it.” With a little pre-planning and populating those messages across your organization, you can really do a good job of keeping everybody on track and ensuring there’s consistency.

Cindy : Makes total sense. I’m just wondering, everybody on the call, is that something you guys are familiar with? Do you do messaging come up with your USPs, that kind of thing if you have questions about it, chat it in because we’ll dig into it right now since we’re on the topic of messaging. Dave, do you have an example of a message or something you guys have used in the past that you could maybe share? I’m just trying to think maybe some people haven’t done that since this is their first NAB and thinking like what my message is I have this new product, right? I have a new this thing.

Dave : Sure. I have an example. Over the past several years as everybody knows, the technology on the content acquisition side of our business has seen a number of big advancements starting with HD about 15 years ago and we’ve rapidly gone to a full 1080 PhD and then 4K came soon after, and now we’ve been introducing HDR and people are starting to talk about 8K. One advantage that we have as a supplier of cameras to the market is that our cameras are quite flexible, so you can buy an HD camera and ensure that you’re going to be able to upgrade it in the field with a software license. Hitting upon that and the flexibility message, we knew that we could lead with our technology story, we could talk about the picture quality that we’re able to achieve with our home built sensors, and we could talk about the freedom of choice, but we felt that the biggest challenge customers were facing was do I upgrade right now to 4K or do I keep using my HD cameras until their usable life is over? And we decided that the flexibility of our product line was the key message.

We came up with a messaging scheme that hit hard on flexibility and talked about the cost certainty that we were able to provide to our customers. Buy what you need now, and be able to upgrade at any time once the need arises, and even downgrade because of the flexibility that our software licenses offered. This message proved to be pretty effective, and for traditional marketers, it was somewhat counter-intuitive to not lead with the new technology. In this business, we’re all kind of brainwashed, put your best technology foot forward, dazzle them with specs and features and whatever new technology you had out there. But in this case we thought talking about flexibility would be beneficial to our efforts and it proved to be pretty effective.

Cindy : Well, I’m glad you said that because we had someone just chat in and say they have a new version of an older product, and so when we’re talking about messaging or USP, unique selling proposition, people need to know that they don’t necessarily have to jump in with what’s new, it’s really what the pinpoints of the end user are going to be.

Dave : Well, even a new version of an old product, it has certain benefits within it. I mean, you took the time and spent the R and D dollars to develop the new version. There must be a particular reason. Hopefully, it’s not just because all your competitors had it and you need to catch up, that’s never a fun marketing message to have to put out there. There are some customer interactions that you had that told you, you needed to make an upgrade and improve either the functionality or the efficiency or you had to change the bomb to lower the cost somehow. Whatever you did, has some customer pain attached to it. Make sure that you work with your product teams to identify what that customer pain is, and craft your message around how this upgrade helps to overcome that pain.

The folks who help tell your story, and we’ll get into that more in a minute. The editors, the folks who write about our business and your salespeople, they pay attention to new versions. In a lot of cases, if it’s a long-running brand that people have been buying and using for many years, a new version can be quite exciting. It can be something that a large segment of your client base is really looking forward to, and it could be something that can create a lot of excitement. Just make sure that you go back to the basics. Why did we develop this? What were customers saying about the old version that needed to be fixed? And if you can identify that, and hopefully you’ll be able to, you should be able to craft a message around that.

Cindy : Nice. Nice. When you’re talking about getting that message out to your customers and prospects before the show, maybe using social media, email blasts, doing show previews, that kind of thing, what’s your approach on that and how much of it is successful? What really works for you guys?

Dave : Oh, well. I’m not sure that I can talk to what really works. It’s still so hit or miss sometimes. We have found that using a mixture of a lot of different media is effective for us, and that includes a mixture of a public relations, whether that be press releases or direct outreach to the editors who cover our business. Certainly, advertising is a part of our mix and more and more of that advertising is done with homegrown, digital marketing, using our marketing automation tool that we’re currently using, which is HubSpot. And traditional advertising, while a lot of people claim print is dead, I don’t believe that. I don’t subscribe to that notion. I think that there’s still a place for print advertising, especially in our business which is still quite small and has some publications that are read on a regular basis by a large segment of the broadcast audience out there.

And then finally, social media, which everybody uses. Some people I think are using it begrudgingly because they think they have to. But there are a lot of benefits to using social media. It’s inexpensive. It’s easy to use. You get an almost instant response. You can adjust your message on the fly. You can even pay small amounts on outlets like Linkedin to amplify your message, and to test how that amplification is working by looking at the number of people who are viewing, sharing, and otherwise responding to the messages you’re putting out there. I think given the fact that we’re a relatively small community here in the broadcast business, to make your message stand out, I think you need to use all of these media to some degree to increase demand. Especially when, like I said, some of it is hit and miss.

Cindy : Nice. You talked about HubSpot as marketing automation. We did have someone come in on the chat and ask how many of those e-blasts get opened? Is it really worthwhile doing email?

Dave : Well, we have an advantage that I think many of my fellow exhibitors enjoy, and that is that we’ve been in this business a long time, and we’ve been able to put together a pretty sizable database of customers who have opted in and said, “Yes, we’re interested in hearing marketing messages from Grass Valley.” I think the more you can build an opt-in database like that by providing people messages that are going to be helpful to them throughout the year, providing value-added content, whether that be videos about your product or thought leadership from your technologists, white papers, articles, things like that. Information that helps educate the audience, or provides the information that they’re not getting elsewhere, they’re going to be happy to receive messages from you. When it’s a strictly marketing related message, of course, the open rate shrinks. Even with an opt-in database, we’re having people engaged with our messages less than 10% of the people who we send to. But even that less than 10% in a database that we’re using that is tens of thousands of names, is a sizable number, and it can lead to getting people to your stand, or at least to understand what we believe are the key stories for us that year.

Another thing that I wanted to mention is that it can be even more effective to do digital marketing in partnership with one of the publishers in the business, TV technology, TVB Europe, other publications around the globe, who are for the opportunity to directly distribute messages to their subscribers, and we do get a much higher open rate when it comes from them. However, it can be costly. And depending on your budget situation, it could be cost prohibitive. But we have used those to our advantage in the past and that it does increase the number of people that actually click through to your message.

Cindy : And to your point around being helpful, and looking at value-added content, I feel like that’s something that we just both want to underscore to everybody on the call here, is that I can speak to that as well. All the clients that we work with on marketing automation and messages, the folks I work with who are open to doing that value-added, being helpful, talking about what’s important to the customer, those are the ones that get opened the most, and people take action on. And the messages that are really super content or product focused, just product people aren’t super excited about that. I love that you talked about that, and around working with publishers as well. The magazines that you mentioned who send out e-blasts, a really great thing to do if you are going to do that is you can also add an opt-in to something like that. You can say, “Hey, I’ve got this helpful content. I have this white paper. I have this awesome thing that will help you. Click here.” And then in exchange for their email address at that point, then you go ahead and give them the helpful content. It’s a great way to partner with those magazines that you talked about, Dave.

Dave : Yeah, and a lot of people think that if you put a call to action that involves a form or the recipients to have to fill out information, provide your email. A lot of people think that that’s going to impact negatively the effectiveness of your piece, and we have found just the opposite. If you’re providing them with good information that they’re not getting elsewhere. For example, over the past couple of years we’ve done a lot of surveys where we will survey the industry about a certain topic, and then make the results of that survey available to simply by agreeing to become part of our database. And that information is important to folks in our business. They want to know what their peers are saying about the business, technology trends, business trends with the choppy waters that the broadcast marketing is facing these days, and with more choppy waters ahead, they need all the intelligence that they can get, and they look to us to provide it in a lot of cases. So using that as an enticement to open their ears to our marketing messages, it’s a win-win for both sides of the equation.

Cindy : Yeah. People are scrambling to keep up with technology and want to know what’s new, so if we can help them, they’re going to like that. We had someone chat in about the frequency of email marketing and what’s your thoughts on that in terms of the run-up to NAB show?

Dave : Well, in general, yeah, you want to be really careful with the frequency of your marketing messages. Even an opt-in recipient, you’re always in danger of that person opting out if you’re going to be messaging them too frequently. For us in particular, in the run-up to NAB we try to do no more than three email blasts that are developed specifically for Grass Valley. We typically start about one month before the show, and then we follow up usually with a different message on the second time around about two weeks before the show. And then just before people leave to travel for the show, we do one more, and we tend to follow up on previous messages. And if we’ve done our job right, we’ve been able to grab some data from the two previous emailers and use that to make sure that the content in the third is aligning with what was the most popular content.

Even that can be pushing it, three in a month. You have to be careful with how you work with your database and market to it. And for some companies, maybe one or two is going to be all you want to do. And if you’re working with a partner, a publisher, and you’re going to have to pay to get the email blast out to a sizable audience, then certainly, one can be quite effective. With some of these publications, I think a year ago I was quoted over 60,000 recipients to one of the e-blast we did, you’re reaching a really big audience. And if you do an email to the NAB preregistration list, you’re reaching even more people than that. So even one, and I would suggest within two weeks of the show if you’re only going to do one.

Try not to be too far out. We have found that people try to not think about NAB until they absolutely have to. They’re busy planning their calendars. Planning what they’re going to be needing to buy this year. Following the quiet period at the end of the year. The beginning of the year tends to be … they tend to do a lot of planning. So if you’re going to do one, try to keep it within two weeks, I would say. Use your market to your database over the year so you can get a sense for how much marketing you feel you can do before people start opting out. Change your cadence and check the analytics to see what frequency is going to improve my open rate and improve my click-through rate. The more you can test and the more you can learn from that, the better off you’re going to be.

Cindy : A lot of the clients that we’re working with at Kokoro Marketing, we do also usually about three before the show. We’ll often start in February with one and then we might do two in March. And then some of the folks that I get to work with are smaller exhibitors actually. And so we’ll do a fun thing where we’ll send something the first day of the show. A lot of times the smaller exhibitors might see more traffic on the second day of the show than the first. And so we’ll send out a little shot from the booth, maybe even a little video that says, “Hey, now that you’re here in Vegas and you’re kind of get the lay of the land here at NAB show come by and see us we’re here” picture of the booth, something like that. You can set that up in advance of the show, obviously.

Another thing to help with the fatigue that you were talking about, Dave, is to be sure to be on message as much as possible with different people. For example, maybe you send an email out in March saying, “Are you going to be at the show? Just click yes or no to let us know.” If they click no, then you can send a different email to them saying, “Hey, we’ll keep you posted on everything that’s coming out.” If they don’t reply, then you can do something. And if they go ahead and say yes, then you can ask them to book an appointment. So you can treat them differently and that’s going to reduce the fatigue because you’re speaking to them, really what matters to them and it’s their behaviour. They’re going, they’re not, they’re interested in HDR or Dolby or film or whatever the thing is, and you can make sure that fits them specifically.

Dave : Absolutely.

Cindy : All right. Let’s jump into our sort of final topic of this, and that is pre-show PR. Show previews. How do you get to editors, all that stuff that you’re great at?

Dave : Well, it’s just I’m experienced at it. I don’t know how great we are. We’re always refining and working hard to get better. And it looks like somebody on the call has asked about how do you reach the press that’s attending NAB. First off, on the NAB website, you can find a list of the editors who have registered for press access at the show. I believe that’s available directly off the website. At least it used to be. If not, you can contact the NAB Press Office and get that. It’s important to keep in mind if you’re new to trade press PR, or if you’re new to this industry, editors need content. Without content from a large number of exhibitors and providers to space, they can’t put their publications out. And as we all know, they’re all publishing something multiple times a week, whether it’s a newsletter, or something online or something for print.

One thing that is really important to keep in mind is that most publications start putting out show preview issues in early March. They want to use show listings, feature products to look for, they want to use that as a way to get people to read their publications. And it’s in my experience, fairly easy to get that sort of information picked up. And keep in mind when I talk about a show preview, I’m not talking about here’s our strategy leading to the show or here’s a tech trend we’re going to be talking about at the show. I’m talking about a product snippet or a product blurb. Here’s a product that’s going to be on our stand. Here’s what it does. Here’s why you should care. Here’s our booth number.

We at Grass Valley have been doing this for years, and even in my experience running a PR agency, we recommended show previews like this to our clients because editors need this information. Many different publications put out show previews that are really nothing more than a list of products. Sometimes it’s products per category or products per exhibit hall. And they say, “Go see this product. Here’s what it does and here’s where you can find it.” so make sure you get those ready early. Some of the some of the editorial deadlines for those are in early February. They don’t even need to be a formal press release, just find that list of editors and get it off to them.

I also recommend if you don’t use one, that a PR agency, and there are loads in this business, Cindy and I know many of them very well. If you need a recommendation, I would definitely recommend reaching out to Cindy for that. The PR agencies have an advantage in that they’re talking to the editors every week, if not multiple times a week, and the reason they do that is that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The editors in our business need access to lots of stories, lots of information. Imagine that you’re an editor, let’s say Tom Butts from TV Technology, and imagine that you have to reach out to 400 individual suppliers to find information about certain products. It’s much easier for you to reach out to six PR agencies who are collectively representing 90 companies to get that information. If you’re not using a PR agency, I definitely recommend you use one or make sure that you have some sort of in house resource acting in that capacity. It’s very helpful for the editors and helpful for you as well. I think that’s about it on the show preview side.

You also want to make sure that you’re doing your best to lift your own story away from the noise. Cindy mentioned earlier that she has a frequently done some social media video on the first day of the show. A lot of people do PR on the first day of the show, and they try to time their press releases so that they’re available to the media as the show is opening. This can be good or this can be a slippery slope. Remember that you’re not the only exhibitor that has this idea. If it’s at all possible a start leaking out your news a week or more before the show. This will allow your story to get into some of the pre-show newsletters ahead of the real noisy period that happens at the show.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced. Every publication is doing live from the show newsletters, and people who are at the show, even though they have their phones going, it’s hard to keep up with all the news. I’ve always found that news being released on the day of the show or at the show if at all possible, I’d like to avoid that. And sometimes it’s not possible. One thing, Cindy, that you and I talked about last week when we were preparing, is we talked about distributing some news under embargo. And this is something that the public media is not something that companies like to do because of the sensitivity of some information, but we work in the trades. Our editors are trade editors, and they know that there’s a bit of a symbiotic relationship between the editorial community and the suppliers.

We have found in an almost 100% of the cases that an editor is more than happy to receive a piece of news with the understanding that they can actually print or distribute this news until a certain date. This is very helpful because I know if the people on this call have worked with product managers as I do, there are certain product managers who don’t want to say a word about their new product until it’s live on the show floor. Sometimes they’re even putting it under a shroud as they’re setting it up in the exhibit-It happens. The editors know this game and they understand the sensitivity. They understand that we don’t want competitors knowing what our big news is before the show starts. If you have a relationship with the editor, or if your PR agency does, it is not hard to provide information under embargo. And every once in a while an editor will say, “No, I’m not able to do that. Just send me the news when it’s ready to go out.” But we have found that this isn’t a simple tactic that allows us to get news to an editor, and then get it released exactly when you want it to be released.

Cindy : Dave, in getting ready … in getting really any of this stuff ready, do you find that there could be like a mistake that someone could make in terms of their messaging, like a wrong way to do messaging, whether it’s for a preview or for social media? Is there a wrong way to do things or to communicate about a product?

Dave : I think that there’s plenty of wrong ways that I’ve done things in the past, and you certainly learn from experience and learn from mistakes. I think one mistake that I’ve learned to avoid is trying not to make your message all about you. People tend to fall in love with their own stories, their own products. Really work hard to think of your story from the receiver’s standpoint. I spoke about this earlier about trying not to get caught up in a litany of specs and features. We try to make sure that we’re thinking about benefits. What is this going to mean to the customer? What efficiency is this going to add for the customer? What new revenue is this going to uncover? What pain is this solution going to help them overcome? And use that as the lead for your message. So don’t necessarily talk about 96 IOs, the full HD upgradable to 4K. Talk about incredible flexibility efficiency approach to new capabilities, something like that. If you make the message specific to what you want your customer to experience when they read that message, it’s going to help you get your message through a much more frequently.

Cindy : Gosh, that was a ton of information that you shared with us and that we both went over. If somebody were going to come away from this webinar with just one thing, what would you say they should do?

Dave : I would say to start early, and make a plan. Make sure that everything you’re intending to do is articulated somewhere so that you can look at it continually, and people on your team can look at it. And make sure that it’s clear what you intend to do, and what you’re hoping to accomplish, and make sure that you’re ready to be flexible with that plan. Every plan has to be prepared with a change in mind. If a date slips, make sure that when you put that plan together, that you have a contingency. You understand that things change. Everybody in this business that has done marketing knows that you could intend to put out a big new product announcement seven days before the show, and then the day before you’re going to put the announcement out, the product manager says, “Shoot, it doesn’t work. It’s not going to NAB.” and then what do you do? Make a plan, and make sure that that plan is flexible enough to handle last minute changes. And I think that that would be my one single piece of advice to folks.

Cindy : That’s wonderful. If you have questions for either of us, you can hit us up. We’ll put Dave’s email in the chat, and my contact info in there as well. Nick, do you have anything you’d like to add? We have Nick from NAB Show here with us today on the webinar as well.

Nicholas Gadino: Hi, Cindy. Hi Dave. How are you guys doing it?

Dave : Very well.

Nicholas : First of all, Dave, thank you for being on. And Cindy a great job as always with the webinar series. We appreciate it. I just wanted to make sure that everybody is aware too of just other opportunities for your promotion. You’re a guest passcode that’s within your Exhibitor Portal, which is a great way to interact with your potential customers, your clients. If there’s any need to … how to access portal, feel free to email us at That’s a great way in your email blast, in your social media as well.

I know that we’ve promoted the blog, which is another great free resource for education as well as all of these webinars that we’ve been doing. For any of our first or second-time exhibitors, if you need help developing a marketing plan, we have Cindy at your disposal. You can certainly get in touch with Cindy on that for 20-25 minute consultation that is included for you as a first or second-time exhibitor. I’ve been on many of Cindy’s calls. They’ve been fantastic resources that people have come away with really great strategies that they really hadn’t thought about yet. Whether you’re a company that’s looking to do something fresh, or a company that really just needs to get the ground … need to get things going and really think about how do I expose this very product to have, what do I do? That is a really all I wanted to add. And any other logistical questions, whether it’s your move in or your booth set up or who to work with or whatever the case may be, or working with a contractor, any of those additional questions, feel free to email us here at NAB and we’ll get you straight.

Cindy : Thank you so much, Nick. And thank you, Dave. I appreciate you being here today. And everybody we’ll have the replays up with the transcript from the show, so you can see all of the details in any of the links that we talked about. We’ll put in the show notes as well. Thank you, Dave.

Dave : Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Good luck everyone.

Nicholas : Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Dave. Thank you, Cindy.

Cindy : All right. And we’re back in two weeks with some amazing people from Brainstorm sharing how they track ROI. So join us again.


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