National Oilwell Varco's chief marketing officer explains how the multinational corporation strategically fuses live events with digital channels, and how embracing your superpowers just might be the key to success.
David Reid is the chief marketing officer at National Oilwell Varco, a multinational corporation operating in more than 600 locations across six different continents. In addition to being named among Fortune magazine's fastest-growing companies, NOV was also chosen by Forbes as one of the world's most admired organizations. After joining NOV in 1992, David worked in a number of growth-focused roles covering business development, product development, management, leadership, and corporate strategy. David is a regular global public speaker on behalf of NOV's leadership team, and he has served on a number of boards including the NOV and Schlumberger IntelliServ JV board, the Society of Petroleum Engineers board, and the IADC Executive Board.
EXHIBITOR Magazine: How are trade shows perceived within your organization, specifically as they compare to other marketing channels?
Because our industry is small and relational, as well as technical, trade shows and live events are a critical part of our regional strategies, where visibility is key. They help our teams to reach deeper into customer and governmental organizations. Trade shows and events are our store front, where people get to meet us, develop relationships, and verify whether we are who we seem to be.
EM: What advice would you give to face-to-face marketers looking to increase their returns?
Select only the most critical events. We take a non-emotional approach to deciding where to invest. But once you commit to an event, do so with a long-term view, because building momentum and being a mainstay for professionals is important. Also, be willing to try something new, and never be too in love with what you're doing or where you're at, because you will need to evolve to stay relevant.
EM: Speaking of staying relevant, how do trade shows need to evolve in order to remain viable?
They have to be worth it. If you invest in experiences – which is what this channel is all about – you need to create genuine, inspiring engagements that get people excited. Exhibits and events should be developed as a unique and desirable "geek fest" that scratches the itch of attendees' interest. They need to provide a higher value interaction that specifically targets critical connections and carries on beyond the show. And, ideally, attendees should leave feeling like that event or experience was tailor made for them.
EM: Okay, but how do you extend that experience beyond the confines of the convention center?
Experience, and taking the experience to social media, is an energy game. Not everyone can attend a trade show, but the influencers are usually there. We try to extend the live experience to include those who can't be in attendance. The more dramatic, impactful, and valuable you can make live experiences, the more relevant they will be to attendees, as well as your digital community. And that digital community should absolutely be integrated into the investment returns. For example, we used Facebook Live at a major show to create a sort of "Game Day" experience for those who weren't actually there, almost creating a show within a show. It helped us to differentiate ourselves, attract interest, and make connections with attendees. Between live interviews shot on set during the event, we ran commercials that we created in-house. The digital content was highly effective at creating buzz and raising awareness of who we are and what we have to offer.
EM: Many companies attend trade shows to increase brand awareness. But for well-known brands like yours, what should companies be aiming for when exhibiting at a trade show?
Changing people's minds about the brand. Know what makes people love you, and embrace the haters as a way to gauge where you might want to adapt. Trade shows also help us re-energize our own people about the company, which is a surprising but significant byproduct.
EM: How do you recommend exhibit managers go about demonstrating the value of their programs to upper management?
I often operate by asking to be left alone and trusted. And, over time, the C suite's view of trade shows and events has improved. That's mainly due to the fact that when we are impressing our customers and engaging with them, they tell members of the C suite how effective it is. If your C suite is more removed from customers and their evaluation of what you do, then it is harder. Leadership understands creativity and impact, but people have to see or hear it for themselves in order to believe it.
EM: What would you say to exhibit and event managers who have aspirations of becoming marketing directors or CMOs?
Become who you were made to be, find your superpower, and grow your impact. At one point in my career, I was absolutely miserable. I had to readjust, figure out how to manage my superpowers, and avoid my Kryptonite. So find out what the right next step is for you – that allows you to have more fun and get paid for doing something you enjoy so much you'd do it for free. Life is short. Journey well.
EM: What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Go with your gut. Trust yourself. And you can always find a job somewhere else.