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case study
Monster Match
Live Marketing Inc. creates an attendee-centric space by matching booth visitors with their pain points and enlisting a cast of colorful characters to help demystify the monsters under their marketing beds. By Claire Walling
tanding out on the show floor is no easy task. But what if you're trying to appeal to attendees who earn their salaries crafting face-to-face marketing solutions, and your competition is also experienced at designing top-notch exhibit-marketing programs? That's exactly the plight that Live Marketing Inc., a Chicago-based experiential-marketing firm, faced at EXHIBITOR2013.

The show attracts more than 6,000 event- and exhibit-marketing professionals each year and the 2013 iteration, held March 17 - 21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, marked the show's 25th anniversary. Over its many years exhibiting at the show, Live Marketing had learned that attendee-centric experiences were the most effective for gathering leads at EXHIBITOR Show.

"Attendees are very sophisticated, so we always look for fresh ways to engage them, and at the same time educate them," says Kristin Veach, Live Marketing's senior vice president of marketing and business development. And for 2013, that fresh approach would address exhibitors' biggest challenges. Through its previous campaigns at the show, the company had discovered those pain points – storytelling, integrating technology, and building buzz – and set out to make them the building blocks for its 2013 program.

"Scare"-city of Resources
Seeking to create a strategy that would be fun, yet still relevant to attendees' needs, the staff began to imagine creatures that have conquered these common challenges. Then they sketched out what each of these characters would be like if they were to take on lives of their own, and eventually they did, in the form of marketing monsters. "These were never scary monsters; they were created to be very approachable and fun," Veach says. "They were stylized so they would represent their personalities, and be fun-loving, cute, and cuddly at the same time."

As Red, TJ, and Buzz (nicknames for the storyteller, tech junkie, and buzz builder monsters, respectively) began to embody their marketing traits, they also started taking on roles as "spokesmonsters" for Live Marketing's program at the show. The company hoped attendees would relate to the monsters' playful caricatures before the show, and then seek out its booth when they arrived in Las Vegas. And to keep attendees' attention once they arrived, staffers would facilitate learning labs that booth visitors would find useful. Once attendees were captivated by the fun and informative activities, sales reps could start conversations about the company's offerings.

Tech Junkie
TJ has mastered every gadget out there, and uses that knowledge to teach exhibitors how to use technology in their trade show programs.
Buzz Builder
Buzz helps exhibitors learn how to create a spectacle without making a mockery of their brand.
Red assists exhibitors in crafting compelling content to tell their brands' stories.
Tech Junkie
TJ has mastered every gadget out there, and uses that knowledge to teach exhibitors how to use technology in their trade show programs.
But the monsters weren't trekking to Las Vegas just to gather a few leads. While the company had a pulse on exhibitors' common challenges (as illustrated by the marketing monsters' traits), Veach and communications and social media manager Jillian Axtell thought Live Marketing could seize the opportunity to learn more about their clients' and prospects' exhibit- and event-marketing needs. The company hoped not only to use the show as an opportunity to start long-term conversations with prospects, but also to survey attendees about their exhibiting- and event-related challenges.

By playing to exhibitors' needs (and simultaneously finding out more about their challenges) Live Marketing hoped to gather at least 350 leads, nearly 30 percent more than it had in 2012. And with a clear idea of what needed to be accomplished, Veach and Axtell set out to tell attendees about its marketing monsters.

Social Science
For Live Marketing, the fight to stand out from its competitors started weeks before the show opened. The company primed attendees by tweeting and posting general promotions for EXHIBITOR2013 starting 45 days prior to the show. Then, the marketing monsters made their debuts in the social-media stratosphere on Feb. 18, one month before the doors flung wide at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. In the intermittent four weeks, Live Marketing staff tweeted, posted, and pinned pictures of the marketing monsters and text promoting its booth at EXHIBITOR Show.

Axtell explains that the more visual social-media sites – Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (through posting embedded photos) – lent themselves nicely to documenting the marketing monsters' journeys to Las Vegas, but not at the expense of the company's other text-heavy platforms, including its blog, LinkedIn page, and Google+ page. Instead of building an extensive social-media presence from scratch, however, Live Marketing simply extended its year-round social-media efforts. The program's hashtag, #MonstersUnleashed, was stealthily introduced to its existing Twitter following, and from there, the monster onslaught began.

Foam-board cutouts of TJ, Red, and Buzz popped up in all of Live Marketing's social-media platforms. Posts featured photos of the cutouts taking part in various pre-show preparations, such as meeting with the company's founder and CEO Elaine Cohen, nourishing their inner cookie monsters, making a Monday morning pit stop at Starbucks, and more. Veach and Axtell hoped that as their monster mascots were preparing for EXHIBITOR2013, so were attendees, and that frequent, clever social-media posts would lead them to place Live Marketing at the top of their pre-show must-see lists.

After teasing attendees with photos of the monsters, Live Marketing posted a mock interview of TJ, Buzz, and Red called "2 Guys, 3 EXHIBITOR2013 Marketing Monsters, in 3 minutes." Vice president of creative services and director of research and development Richard Norby, and creative director and executive producer Bryan Pray (two of four Live Marketing staff presenting educational sessions at the show), put words in the monsters' mouths. The pair let viewers in on the nuances of the monsters' personalities and what they would learn at the show. The spoof wasn't just a play on Pray and Norby's regular "2 Guys, 2 Event Marketing Trends, in 2 minutes" video series; it also presented an opportunity for some of its speakers to get their sessions on attendees' radars before the show.

The marketing monsters had their prime time in print, too. Axtell authored a two-part interview on the company's blog giving attendees a preview of the show and Las Vegas travel tips through the monsters' eyes. And as a last hoorah in the pre-show promotion spree, creative director Elle Kane published an ode to the marketing monsters on the blog three days before the show began.

But those weren't the only means used to tell attendees about the marketing monsters. Postcard and email blasts were also unleashed to all preregistered attendees. Each included a customized URL incorporating the attendee's name that led to a five-question multiple-choice survey. It asked respondents to identify their biggest exhibit- and event-related concerns, the number of shows their companies exhibit at per year, their companies' average booth sizes, what types of events (if any) they were currently planning, and whether they would like to receive calls from and/or set up in-booth meetings with Live Marketing sales representatives. To incentivize survey participation, all respondents were placed in a drawing for an iPad Mini.

Live Marketing didn't want to leave members of the media in the dark about TJ, Red, and Buzz, so in addition to its extensive social-media, direct-mail, and e-blast campaigns, it also issued two press releases. The first, sent on Feb. 28, warned EXHIBITOR2013 attendees that its three marketing monsters were headed for Las Vegas. The second, issued on March 6, divulged additional details about the marketing monsters and the iPad Mini drawing. With its name and booth number on attendees' radars, and having piqued the attention of the press, the company sent its staffers and marketing monsters to the show.

Creatures of Conversation
The monsters starred in pre-, at-, and post-show marketing.

Live Marketing promoted the monsters via social-media channels using the hashtag #MonstersUnleashed. The company posted photos of TJ, Red, and Buzz on image-driven social-media sites. The colorful monsters also popped up on text-heavy networking sites such as LinkedIn and Google+. Playing off its regular video series, Live Marketing gave the monsters screen time during a mock interview titled, "2 Guys, 3 EXHIBITOR2013 Marketing Monsters, in 3 minutes." Pre-show mailers instructed recipients to fill out a survey to identify their own marketing challenges.
Meet the Monsters
When attendees scanned the exhibit hall at EXHIBITOR2013 looking for booth 1057, they saw three 60-by-79-inch white banners, one featuring each marketing monster. Attendees who were already familiar with Buzz, Red, and TJ from Live Marketing's pre-show efforts instantly made the connection. But for attendees who had missed the monsters' journey to the show, Live Marketing's logo, hanging above, clued them into the monster madness.

Staffers clad in black long-sleeved T-shirts bearing the program's tagline, "Unleash Your Live Marketing Monster," greeted them and asked if they knew what kind of marketing monster they were. They then led interested attendees to one of four vertically mounted 46-inch touchscreen monitors, outfitted by AVFX Inc., to take a five-question survey.

The first question asked attendees to pick their favorite tune for a jam session, with their options being "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO, "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, or "Starships" by Nicki Minaj. The next question asked them to pick the celebrity with whom they would prefer to be stranded on a deserted island, and showed photos of Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon, and Mark Zuckerberg. The other three questions that followed had a similar, lighthearted nature, with possible answers for each falling into one of three distinct themes. Based on attendees' answers to each question, they were proclaimed a buzz builder, storyteller, or tech junkie at the completion of the quiz. Then the touchscreen displayed tips for how they could make the most of their respective monsters' traits.

After guiding attendees through the survey, staffers scanned their badges, and then presented them with buttons featuring their marketing monster. They also told attendees that a Monster Spotter would be on the prowl for marketing monster buttons, and would give $5 branded Target gift cards to anyone spotted sporting a button in or around the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Next, attendees were escorted to the front of the booth, where one of three iPad-wielding staffers stood waiting. When a group of three to five attendees had gathered, the staffer provided a quick overview of Live Marketing and its capabilities, and visually scanned people's buttons to see which marketing monster was most heavily represented. Then, he or she launched into that monster's learning lab first, followed by the other two. For instance, if the group was primarily storytellers, the staffer would begin the roughly three-minute-long presentation by sharing "3 Secrets to Storytelling Success," followed by "Buzz Building Code," and finally, "Tech Junkie Talk."

Now entertained and educated, attendees were passed off for the final time to sales reps. While sharing their exhibiting needs, attendees filled out a paper survey card with nearly identical questions to those they had answered in the pre-show online survey. After they completed the cards, they handed them to the salesperson, who took notes on the back. If these quick conversations segued into detailed discussions, sales reps could simply invite attendees to take a seat in the exhibit's informal meeting area.

Working with its exhibit house, DeKalb, IL-based Horizon Displays LLC, Live Marketing outfitted the back side of its exhibit with a high-top table and accompanying chairs. The open-space setup offered a casual spot for sales reps and attendees to continue their conversations, or for prescheduled meetings to take place. The area also had a human-sized cutout of each marketing monster, and attendees could pose for pictures and share them on their own social-media channels. Finally, attendees who completed all of the exhibit's activities (including the monster quiz, learning lab, and survey), had their names entered into the iPad Mini drawing.

After the show, Live Marketing didn't leave attendees wondering if the road-weary monsters made the trip back to Chicago safely. Just as the marketing monsters' journey to EXHIBITOR Show was documented through social media, so too was their return trip to the Windy City. Buzz, Red, and TJ even appeared on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ celebrating Twitter's seventh birthday before retreating to their lairs.

Many of the company's social-media posts featuring the colorful monsters linked back to more detailed information on its blog. Attendees who completed the in-booth survey and learning-lab activity were entered in a drawing for an iPad Mini. In addition to its social- media campaign, Live Marketing issued press releases before the show to target various members of the media. Attendees spotted wearing the monster pins they were given in the booth received $5 Target gift cards.
Are you thinking about incorporating tablets into your exhibit experience? Before you brainstorm how the trendy devices can be used to enhance your marketing messages and in-booth engagements, think about how you'll ensure their safety on the show floor. While tablets are a popular exhibit accoutrement because of their slick interface and slender profile, their portability and high price tag also makes them an attractive target for thieves. Learn how to protect your investment by heeding these five tablet-safety tips.

Last In, First Out
Installation and dismantle are the two times during a trade show when your tablets are most likely to disappear. To prevent theft, Jillian Axtell, communications and social media manager at Live Marketing Inc., recommends making sure they are the last things to be installed and the first things to be packed when the show floor closes.

Safe Storage
Keeping track of tablets when they're constantly in booth staffers' hands is one thing, but what about when your tablets are charging? Diane Benson, CTSM, global events manager at GE Healthcare, keeps charging tablets in a small safe, similar to the kind found in hotel rooms. She modified the safe by drilling a 1-inch-diameter hole into the bottom so she could feed power cords in, but still keep thieves out.

Hand Delivered
Rather than packing your tablets into a crate and hoping for the best, consider having your booth staffers hand carry tablets to the show and assume personal responsibility for their safe arrival. If you must ship them, Axtell suggests doing so in an unmarked container.

Apprehension Assistance
Many Apple Inc. product lovers are familiar with the Find iPhone app (there are also variations for Android), which can be used to remotely track misplaced devices. But J. Archie Lyons, IV, global brand marketing creative director at Caterpillar Inc., has also used it as a detective tool when a tablet went "poof!" from his exhibit. "We realized a laborer had walked off with a tablet, and were able to track it all the way to his house," he says.

Locked and Loaded
If you forgo a staffer-facilitated tablet activity in favor of a self-guided one, make sure that your tablets won't leave the exhibit when attendees do. Locking devices can vary from cables that tether your tablet to a stationary object, such as a table leg, to stands that transform you tablet into a kiosk.
A Roaring Success
Even though the marketing monsters went into hibernation after the show, Live Marketing wanted its name (and attendees' experiences in its booth) to stay top of mind. So the company released its 2013 Event Marketing Trends pinboard a week after EXHIBITOR2013. Every attendee who visited Live Marketing's booth received a thank-you email with a link to the content-marketing piece, but sales representatives also made their own personalized follow-up calls based on conversations they had with prospects.

The marketing monsters didn't just create a fan base for themselves at EXHIBITOR2013; they also helped Live Marketing pocket a bunch of leads. Staffers scanned a total of 442 badges over the course of the three-day show, 26 percent more that its pre-show goal of 350 badge scans. This figure also represents a 55-percent increase over its total lead count from EXHIBITOR2012. "Even beyond that, booth traffic, up until the last hour of the last show day, was continually busy," Veach says. "We surpassed our lead goal, had some great conversations, and most importantly, have closed business as a result of the show."

Final metrics also proved that pre-show promotions were pivotal to the program's success. While Live Marketing merely maintained its established direct-mail and e-blast response rate of 7 percent, 50.6 percent of attendees that did respond indicated they'd like to be contacted by a sales rep, and 51 percent visited the exhibit, exceeding goals by 30 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Plus, the firm scheduled 37 in-booth meetings with attendees through the survey, surpassing its goal of 20 meetings by 85 percent.

And within the social spectrum of Live Marketing's exhibiting program, results were equally astounding. Across visually based social-media platforms, Live Marketing increased its reach by 7.4 percent, 7.7 percent, and 19.5 percent on YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest, respectively. And on the text-heavy platforms, Live Marketing attracted more followers at a rate of 3.1 percent (Twitter), 3.4 percent (Google+), and 5 percent (LinkedIn). Moreover, its blog, which was promoted heavily via social media, increased its subscriber base by 10.9 percent. Axtell says these stats are important because they set a benchmark against which future social-media campaigns can be measured.

The program proved so successful that Live Marketing decided to take the marketing monsters out of hibernation for the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA) Annual Meeting, held June 22 - 25 in Austin, TX. There, the monsters helped Live Marketing gather 20 percent more leads than its pre-show goal.

As Red, TJ, and Buzz got their names out to EXHIBITOR Show attendees, they also helped to spread Live Marketing's name as well. And ultimately, by helping attendees conquer their own exhibiting challenges, the marketing monsters were able to help Live Marketing conquer its own toughest challenge, too.

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