If you are a small business trying to compete against major brands, you may struggle with how to make an impact on a budget. This entrepreneurial David versus Goliath challenge can come up in all venues, but especially in places like trade shows, where you find yourself competing in real-time for attention.
So, how do you get Goliath marketing results on a David budget? One of my favorite clients, Nextiva, an Arizona-based provider of unified cloud-based business communications, has been at the leading edge of doing just this. So, I asked their chief marketing officer Yaniv Masjedi to share some of their best secrets.
1. Grab their attention using their interests.
Masjedi says that too many companies are focused on highlighting their own products and services instead of thinking about the interests of their potential customers and clients. While a big brand can sometimes get away with this, this is rarely effective for a small company. So, Masjedi goes the attention-grabbing route while focused on customers.
For example, at a huge industry event, Nextiva rented a Ferrari in the company’s signature brand color of yellow and put it right in front with the words “Get in the fast lane with Nextiva.” They provided areas for attendees to take selfies with a dream car that the attendees don’t often see up close and in person. And while a Ferrari is expensive to buy, its rental fee for the day doesn’t break the bank -- you can possibly even get someone to loan you an item that will be draw (like the Ferrari) or at least decrease the price for exposure.
2. Engage a celebrity.
When this year’s industry conference was to be held during March Madness, Nextiva went for a basketball-themed booth. They took the approach of having fun and designed the booth as a basketball court at regulation free-throw size with wood floors. They wanted to give attendees the opportunity to shoot baskets and took it one step further by engaging Dennis Rodman.
Rodman has great fan appeal across ages, and, while not cheap, he wasn’t as expensive as one would imagine. Nextiva also offset the fee by reaching out to companies who might be interested in co-sponsoring (more on that below), who were more likely to say yes with the celebrity involvement.
3. Use sponsors.
One of Nextiva’s biggest coups is using sponsors for many of its marketing activities, including trade shows. Masjedi says that the keys to making this successful include approaching companies that you already have a relationship with, having a big draw like a celebrity or some other “stunt” that they can get behind and also having a strong marketing plan. Nextiva included sponsors’ logos in everything from social-media posts to on the actual wood floor of their basketball-themed trade booth.
Furthermore, getting in-kind sponsorship of products or services instead of, or as a supplement to, monetary sponsorship is often easier to get. Think about what might cost you money to fill your marketing plans or conference space and see where the ask may be easier by getting a product or time.
4. Create hype with targeted internet ads.
Nextiva always looks to balance creating hype with giving away their ideas to competitors who might copy them. So, they waited two weeks before the conference to post about Rodman’s appearance. But, instead of just promoting broadly, they took out targeted ads on LinkedIn that focused on the conference attendees specifically to create hype with the right people. This created incredible buzz even before the event --and provided an extra benefit to the sponsors.
Moreover, in their contract with Rodman, they asked for him to post a couple of tweets on Twitter about the appearance and also, were able to do promoted tweets with his handle, again, targeting attendees specifically.
5. Leverage your contacts.
Masjedi says that any marketing effort can be amplified substantially by using your network. This means getting your employees, vendors and others to help you to amplify any marketing that you do. This homegrown viral effect can really amp up return on investment with no additional capital spend.
6. Get the attention and sell later.
Most importantly, Masjedi advises not to go right into pitching when you market. Nextiva always focuses on grabbing attention and does the selling slowly as they get to know a potential customer. For example, in their booths, they scan badges so they can follow-up, but don’t put on the hard sell. That relationship building is easy to do and cheap but often goes awry.