Lessons in Latin

Posted by MARC HALPERIN: RESIDENT F&B EXPERT QRS Magazine

With Hispanic consumers surging in number and influence, the future of quick-service dining has a distinctly Latin flavor.

Latin flavors are growing in popularity on menus at American quick serve brands.

If demography is indeed destiny (as so many pundits and prognosticators are fond of noting), then fast-food and fast-casual brands are bound to take on an even more pronounced Latin flavor in coming years.

Consider: The Latino population in the U.S. grew 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, and Hispanics are projected to constitute fully 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And this is a young crowd; the median age of U.S. Latinos is estimated at 28 years, compared with the overall U.S. median of 37 years. This means that a vast number of Latino consumers throughout the U.S. are starting families and forming households, which are often larger than those of other Americans. It also means that many, many Latinos are just now entering their prime earning and spending years.

It bears repeating that Latinos are already a vitally important part of the quick-serve customer base. Recent estimates from NPD Group indicate that Hispanic consumers make up 17 percent of all quick-serve traffic, and that about 18 percent of all dollars spent in quick-serve establishments can be attributed to Hispanic customers. On average, these patrons visit fast-food and fast-casual restaurants 10 times per month, compared with an average of seven times per month among other demographics.

What this suggests for quick-serve operators is that it pays to have a menu strategy that takes into account the many and varied tastes of Latino consumers. Here are a few thoughts on how to best meet this challenge:

Cater both to the desire for authenticity …

The first and most obvious tack quick serves can take to attract more Latino consumers is to take classic Central and South American recipes and recreate them, taking care to source authentic ingredients from their origins.

What does this mean in practice? Well, if you’re going to serve, say, a traditional Mexican torta for lunch, it means it should be served not on an American-style bun or sub roll, but on a true Mexican bolillo—the crusty, oblong carriers that are, for many Mexicans, the sandwich’s defining ingredient. In a similar vein, if you’re considering adding arepas (stuffed Venezuelan corn patties) to your menu, don’t skimp on the real ground corn dough; sample many versions of the genuine article and strive to achieve something akin to what a native Venezuelan might experience at home.

… and to the acculturated consumer

It’s worth noting that while authentic offerings have their place, it’s not off strategy to develop dishes that aim more directly at the hybridized palates of acculturated Latino consumers—those with one foot planted in their Latino heritage and the other grounded in more traditional middle-American fare. This can be accomplished simply by, say, creating a grilled chimichurri sandwich that fuses the Argentinean sauce with a standard-issue slab of steak or chicken. The parsley-based sauce could even be doctored to include cilantro or basil to give it a more bi- or tricultural spin.

Play off traditional American favorites

Think mac ‘n’ cheese that uses Brazilian Minas cheese, Mexican queso blanco, or Venezuelan Guyanés rather than traditional cheddar. Think about the possibilities inherent in spiking pizza or pasta with Cecina de León, the Spanish-style cured and air-dried beef, rather than pepperoni or Italian sausage. Or try your hand at customizing burgers with any number of authentic Latino ingredients: salsas, tomatillo sauces, pico de gallo, serrano or habanero peppers, Oaxaca cheese … the options are virtually limitless.

Put a lid on it

I’ve talked before in this space about the potential for using interesting, distinctive Latin-American flavors to create novel soft drinks like tamarind or mango iced tea, guava or hibiscus lemonades, and agua frescas made with watermelon, tamarindo, or strawberry. Again, the care and creativity you bring to the table can go a long way toward winning over consumers who straddle the cultural divide between traditional Latin and traditional American foods and beverages.

One thought to bear in mind as you consider the options for making greater inroads with Latino guests: Everything we see, hear, and read about American quick-serve customers—particularly those who fall into the Millennial cohort—suggests that “flavor adventure” is one of the main drivers of food, drink, and restaurant choices these days. Everyone, it seems, is interested in having his or her palate piqued. So the menu items quick serves devise to appeal to the Latino market, if carefully conceived and smartly executed, stand to appeal to consumers across the spectrum. In other words, though the upfront creative challenges, financial investment, or ingredient-procurement process might be somewhat daunting, the potential payoff could be substantial.

Those Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Posted by Linda Musgrove, The Tradeshow Teacher

It’s January and I know everyone is just recovering from the holidays, but TradeShow Teacher is energized and ready to start 2013 with a bang. This is the time of year when everyone is trying to make good on those New Year’s resolutions. We all go into each New Year with plans to make this coming year the best yet. Maybe you planned to start exercising or spend more time with the family.

Whatever it is you want to achieve in day-to-day life or when it comes to tradeshows, it all starts with a great plan.

Today’s lesson is all about planning. You know what they say about good planning: “To be prepared is half the victory.” “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” And, of course, you’ve heard: “Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

What it all boils down to is thinking ahead so that you’re ready for whatever comes your way. It works in life and it definitely works for tradeshows. Since I know everyone has a lot on their plate with the new year just starting, I’m going to highlight some quick and easy ways to help you plan before you get anywhere near the show floor.
Review the show website
Sorry, students. I didn’t mean to raise my voice, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. The show’s website contains valuable information, such as exhibitor lists and networking events. The website is your best friend, and it is truly the essential tool in helping you make the most of your show.

Take a calendar and mark the timeframe you will be in the show’s city. Now, mark off the actual show hours and then start filling in the time around it. Enter the items that have fixed schedules first, which will make it possible to get the most out of the time you still have available. Even if last minute things come up, you’ll have a good part of your day planned out and you won’t waste valuable time trying to make appointments or track people down while you’re there.

Create a show folder that you’ll keep attached to you the whole time. This folder should have all your show documentation, your travel information, your calendar, your specific booth information, purchase orders, invoices, etc. Anything and everything connected to the show should be kept in one easy-to-reach place. If you want to be really prepared, you can scan all this information into a folder on your laptop so you can easily access from anywhere and guaranteed never to lose it.

Here’s a tip that may seem obvious, but it’s frequently overlooked. Before the show, make sure you have a ton of business cards. If you’re low, get more printed. I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who run out of business cards during a show. Make sure you bring at least three times as many as you think you’ll need.

Have you utilized MapYourShow.com? If not, you should check it out. MYS offers an entire suite of showmanagement software solutions. From online, onsite and mobile support, MYS features everything show managers need to successfully execute their shows. If you haven’t had occasion to check it out yet, you probably will soon since they currently provide services to over 200 tradeshows, such as IMTS, CES and other popular and very well-attended shows. I’ve used their service a number of times now, and I find that they make planning very easy, both for me and my exhibiting clients.

Create paper forms and have them available to capture leads. Even if you have an electronic lead-capturing system, it’s a good idea to have paper forms available as backup. Maybe your booth becomes too busy for the device to handle the traffic, or maybe you experience technical difficulty with the electronic system. The last thing you ever want to happen at a show is to miss capturing valuable leads. Just knowing you have a backup plan in place will ease your mind – believe me.

Again, this was just a few items from my ever-growing arsenal of pre-planning tips. For more tips for improved planning and exhibiting results, visit www.tsteacher.com/resources/tradeshow_teacher_trade_show_tips.php.

Okay, class it’s time for your homework. We’ll meet again in February. Class is dismissed.

Homework:
Dennis Waitley (an American motivational speaker and author of self-help books) once said “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
• What unwelcome surprises have you encountered on the show floor?
• What planning steps have you taken since that have better prepared you to not stumble upon these types of surprises?

5 Tips on Using Social Media to Ramp Up Your Trade Show Event

Posted by Vickie Siculiano, ExhibitCraft

So, you’ve made the investment in a fired up trade show
display and you’re ready to ramp up your booth traffic. To do more than just
build your physical presence at a trade show, use the opportunity to ramp up
your virtual presence using social media.

The online conversation can multiply if you use some of these simple tips to get your show started.

1. Tweet before, during and after the show.

You can use a
free online tool such as hootsuite or tweetdeck to schedule a thread of tweets
to run before, during, and after your trade show. You can change one word in
each post, such as “10 days left…” “9 days left…” You can also vary them a bit
based on what kind of message you would like to post. Think of what specific
message you would like to promote, and then schedule it around your event to
maintain your presence even while you’re away.

2. Develop a content development strategy.

Fresh and valuable content takes time to develop.
And like a fine wine, it gets better with age. You should have a strategy, or
some kind of content calendar in place if you plan to have regular fresh content
development moving through the social media funnel. Think of the types of
content you create. Maybe it’s industry-specific news of relevance to your
audience. You should also have an internal content calendar to spread your
organization’s content you want to share – such as photos with clients, photos
at headquarters, blog posts, etc. Take all of this valuable content, and
schedule it to post throughout your event, so you can drive traffic not only to
your valuable online properties (your website, your social media profiles,
etc.), but so that you can have rich properties to drive search engine
traffic.

3. Listen to thc conversation already happening.

Is there
something that is already being discussed around the event? Make sure to pick up
on keyword phrases that are being used over and over again, and align yourself
with the conversation by using those same keyword phrases. Perhaps it is the
name of the event. Find the hashtag that is being used for the event. One
popular event hastag that we were jumping in on recently was #CHAShow. We were
able to learn about videos being shot at the exhibit, and were able to jump
right in the conversation. You can do this, too, if you keep track of the
tweeters that are already having a conversation. Join in.

4. Reach beyond
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Listen to the conversation on different
social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, but don’t ignore
the value and power of Google+. There are industry specific blogs you can follow
(if you don’t know which ones, Google your industry name and the world “blog”
and you’ll not only get a list of currently active blogs, but the first page of
results will have blogs that rank highest in the search engines. You already
have your homework done for you. Now, you just need to align yourself by
commenting or contacting the blog authors to let them know where you’ll
be.

4. Foursquare discounts and prizes.

You can engage your booth
visitors by offering discounts using Foursquare or Gowalla. Maybe you might have
a check-in premium, a special event check-in at the trade show, or a scavenger
hunt. Whatever the offer might be, engage and encourage your exhibitors to do
the same.

5. Post your event photos!

Photos are one of the most
viral pieces of social media content, because they don’t take any time
investment to share – as long as there is an easy way of sharing them, people
will spread the word. Don’t just post them on flickr, but post them using
services like twitpic, and definitely share them on google+, too!

8 Green Marketing Tips for Event Planners

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of sustainability in event planning and marketing. With a little determination and effort, it’s easy to make the promotion of your event more eco-friendly.

So, how exactly do you go green with your marketing? Start out by doing your homework. There are multiple resources available to help you, including the Green Meetings Industry Council, the Convention Industry Council’s Green Meetings Report, and the EPA’s Green Meetings and Events Guide.

Analyze your event, consider your strengths and weaknesses and determine what resources are available within your organization, the meeting venue’s management team and your own event team. Identify who already has the capacity for executing green strategies and engage them in implementing, monitoring and tracking the performance of your sustainability action plans.

When establishing your goals, it’s important to set achievable objectives. Prioritize your efforts so that you put the most energy into green practices that are the least disruptive, least controversial and which yield the greatest return on investment. Here are some ideas that I’ve used with my clients to help them go green in their event marketing:

• Design your materials to reduce their environmental impact. At the design stage, you can reduce paper weight, size and mailing format. You can even choose fonts that reduce the amount of ink used inprinting brochures and flyers. Select graphic designs that use less ink and use white space in place of swaths of color where possible.

• Print graphics, flyers, handouts and banners on recycled materials. More and more, recycled paper, fiberboard, cardstock and fabrics are being offered by printers in place of those made with virgin materials, and recycled materials often cost less these days. When using recycled papers, look for brands that list a minimum of 30% post-consumer content that is processed chlorine free. Most legitimately recycled papers and papers that use sustainable fibers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Reducing the size and weight of your mailings can save you money and help your green marketing efforts in several different ways.

• Reduce the total weight of your mass mailings and marketing materials. Self-mailers eliminate extra envelopes. Double-sided printing cuts paper costs in half. Additionally, this reduced weight can also generate secondary benefits like reducing emissions of the trucks delivering your materials. Check out the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) website for more tips.

• Choose Energy Star printers, copiers and other equipment for use by your team. Look for eco-friendly inks and other solvents when you buy supplies. The Forest Stewardship Council provides a chain-of-custody certification for printers that meet their environmental standards.

• Clean up your mailing lists. Millions of advertisements and direct mailings go out to bad addresses each year. Use available tools provided by software and mailing services to clean up bad addresses, missing fields, incorrect zip codes, retired attendees and those who have moved or switched positions without leaving a forwarding address. Make it as easy as possible for your attendees to opt out of your traditional mailing list in favor of receiving notices by email. Email is far cheaper and impacts the environment less than traditional letters.

• Go with LED lighting for advertising displays, banners and billboards. LED lights deliver all the lumens you’ll need at a fraction of the power consumption of tungsten or halogen lights. Bonus tip: Be sure to point out the power savings you achieve in your marketing materials for the event.

• Add a substantial electronic media strategy to your overall marketing efforts. The Internet’s capacity to micro-target customers through websites, mobile apps, email, traditional outbound and inbound online advertising, blogs, social media, and newsletters dramatically reduces the environmental impact of your marketing campaign and at a fraction of the cost.

• Use Online PR distribution resources like PR Web and PR Newswire to get your message directly to attendees. Electronic press releases can include a direct call to action that most print news media won’t tolerate. By optimizing your release for search engines with keyword-rich copy, you can move your news to the top of the electronic heap, again taking advantage of the Internet’s cost savings and energy efficiency.

Survey says women want online meetings

Posted by Exhibit City News

TeamViewer, one of the world’s most popular providers of remote control and online meetings software, has announced the findings of its survey of over 2,500 American adults age 18 and older, conducted online by Harris Interactive in January. The survey, which was drafted based on TeamViewer’s experience hosting online meetings in the workplace, highlights that women are at the forefront of technology in the American workplace.

The results showed that, in general, women were more likely than men to see the benefits of taking their meetings online, with a majority of U.S. adults (77 percent) saying that online meetings are on the rise.

Specifically, women were statistically more likely than men to say:

  • They could save money in transportation costs – (78 percent vs. 71 percent)
  • You don’t have to waste time traveling to meetings – (77 percent vs. 71 percent)
  • Online meetings are less nerve-wracking – (37 percent vs. 26 percent)
  • People are less distracted – (22 percent vs. 16 percent)

Surprisingly, Generation X/Baby Boomers (ages 45-54) were more likely than young people (ages 18-34) to say they think online meetings save money in transportation costs (80 percent vs. 71 percent) and don’t waste their time traveling to meetings (80 percent vs. 68 percent). When asked about the characteristics most important for an online meeting host to have, women proved much more demanding than men in almost every category, including:

  • Organization (81 percent vs. 68 percent)
  • Fast-paced (64 percent vs. 52 percent)
  • Respectfulness (60 percent vs. 50 percent)
  • Fair (57 percent vs. 51 percent)
  • Decisive (40 percent vs. 34 percent)
  • Clever (17 percent vs. 12 percent)

Some women even said they thought online meetings hosts should be passionate (15 percent), attractive (5 percent) and blunt (6 percent).

“These findings demonstrate that women are on the cutting edge of technology and are having a big impact on the way the modern office is evolving,” said Holger Felgner, general manager at TeamViewer. “TeamViewer 7 gives them the freedom to do just that, providing a platform for online meetings at any time and on any device.”

How Restaurants Are Using Technology to Deliver Better Customer Service

GLENDALE, CA - JUNE 21:  A Domino's Pizza deli...Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife

The next frontier for social media and smartphones may well be the restaurant table.

Consumers want to see the new technology they use integrated into their dining experience, a new study from Technomic on consumer-facing technologyshows, especially if it will speed up the process of getting their meal or paying their bill.

Just over half of respondents to the survey said it’s important for restaurants to start using these technologies, and that they expect to use technology more often in the coming year to order food.

Sounds like the first restaurant that lets you order dinner from their mobile-enabled tweetstream wins.

So far, restaurants have been slow to take to technology, but a few chains are breaking new ground. Here’s a look at some of the recent innovations:

  • Mobile ordering. This is one area where fast-food chains are in the forefront. Domino’s Pizza is so far along with it, they recently introduced their Spanish-language mobile-ordering app.
  • iPad order kiosks. Why wait in line if you can file your order at a kiosk immediately, and then sit down and relax? Blazing Onion Burger Company is testing this system out in a new restaurant opened last month in Seattle. Expect more of this, since it could help prevent walk-aways and result in more orders.
  • Facebook ordering. This may be the biggest technology leap coming in the next year, as nearly 100 percent of restaurant owners say they plan to have a Facebook presence by next year. Companies specializing in Facebook-payment integration for restaurants such as ChowNow and NetWaiter are helping chains to get their ordering onto the popular platform. This is a fairly low-cost add-on to make, and it has the potential to grow sales, which always gets a restaurauteur’s attention. For instance, the Taco Spot in Charleston, SC saw a 10 percent sales bump after implementing Facebook-based ordering, trade magazine Fast Casual recently reported.
  • Tabletop e-waiter & checkout. Diners hate it when waiters take their credit card away and run it up at the register — it’s a common point for credit-card fraud. Hand them a restaurant iPad they can self-checkout on where their card doesn’t leave their sight, and they’re happy. That often-endless wait for the card and bill to return doesn’t win fans, either. E la Carte’s Presto tablet is one solution that offers tableside self-checkout and more — it even suggests additional items to order, and the company reports it cuts 7 minutes off the average diner’s stay. Customers are happy with the faster service, and restaurants can serve more diners per night. Airport-restaurant chain HMSHost is among the operators using Presto.
  • Digital menu boards + smartphones. Watch for fast-food restaurants to change menus more often, because digital menu boards make it so much easier than manually changing prices and items. Digital signage also allows quick-serve restaurants to provide entertainment and interactivity while you wait in line — for example, Boston-based burrito chain Boloco’s digital signboard allows patrons to play tic-tac-toe against friends or the computer while they wait.
  • Games while-u-wait. Gaming industry sources report McDonald’s is projecting gesture-enabled games onto restaurant floors for kids to play while they wait for Happy Meals, in 150 of the chain’s higher-profile locations. Now that’ll keep kids busy — and we all know happy kids mean happy parents who come back to your restaurant.
  • Online coupons. More restaurants are using digital coupons, and diners gobble them up — in the Technomic survey, 58 percent of diners said they’ve already used them.

Tech-savvy diners expect elegant solutions that work, as McDonald’s clunky test of bolted-to-the-table iPads showed. But for restaurants that can get it right, integrating technology that makes customers happy and turns tables faster will be a no-brainer.

The five G’s of tradeshow success

Posted by Linda Musgrove, The TradeShow Teacher

Welcome back, class. In school, there are many techniques and tools – such as acronyms and mnemonic devices – designed to help students learn and memorize crucial information. In this column, we will cover much of the information that we have in past columns, but this time, we are going to use the literary device known as alliteration to teach the five G’s of tradeshow success.

The following are the five G’s critical to effective exhibiting:

Groundwork

If ever there were an area of marketing/business that needed keen preparation and groundwork, tradeshows would be it. Laying the groundwork involves reading the exhibitor package from cover to cover. This includes educating yourself as to deadlines for registration, deliveries, setup, speaking and award opportunities. Being fully versed in the location of your booth will help you visually lay out booth materials, furnishings and demonstrations ahead of time. Ample booth staff training and on-call backups, shipping and handling of materials and hotel and travel coordination all speak to good preparation. Coordinating raffles, promotionalgiveaways and literature/collateral all fall under the “groundwork” umbrella as well. Anticipate and troubleshoot problems before they happen.

Graphics

Graphics and messaging should be cutting-edge, progressive and aesthetically pleasing – but effective over all else. The graphics on your booth should be consistent with graphics on the other materials you are distributing and consistent and cohesive with your brand. It is noteworthy to remind exhibitors to make sure graphics and messaging on booth displays are large and colorful enough to be seen from a distance but not so large that it is tacky and unintelligible from up close. Always be sure that the messaging on the booth display is not conflicting or being concealed by standing booth staffers, booth furnishings or other extraneous materials. A common mistake is booth displays designed with messaging copy below knee level. Make sure the graphics and eye-level messaging are designed to speak to your target audience and that they are meaningful above all else. A common mistake is overloading a booth display with too many messages and graphics. Remember – often, less is more.

Giveaways

Promotional giveaways always are popular and necessary for exhibitors to remain competitive. The most basic function of promotional giveaways is as awareness and goodwill builders and brand re-enforcers. Promotional giveaways have grown up from their original and popular roots as pens, notepads, key rings, desk accessories and rulers. These days, there are many more creative and more mainstream options including cell-phone desk chairs, mini first-aid kits, hand sanitizers, rubber jar grip openers, and tote bags. Of course logo-cloaked bottled waters and sweets always go over well, but be sure they do not conflict with catering rules in your tradeshow manual. Remember – it is not always necessary to include the show info on the promotional items but rather your company’s logo and contact information. This is an economical way to have widespread use of these often costly investments.

Gimmicks

There are a number of creative gimmicks that exhibitors are utilizing to create and generate that highly coveted booth buzz. On top of the list are QR codes – which are used as a way to enter/link participants in some kind of prize giveaway via their smart phones leading them to a specific promotional landing page. QR Codes are also used as a way of exchanging information between exhibitor and attendee as well as a tracking and lead gathering technique. Create your QR Codes in advance of an event and make sure they are tested, tried and true. Other booth gimmicks involve the use of celeb/model spokesperson representation at a booth, a mascot or even some kind of costumed character representing the brand. Bubbles have been used to garner attention, but prove to be most effective if there is a tie-in to the product/service – such as a launch of a new soda or cleaning product. Other gimmicks include the use of a photo booth – which generates booth buzz and dispenses the promotional giveaway with a personal photo strip show memento. When allowed – a cotton candy or popcorn machine can create a nice synergy if the booth is showcasing cloud-based technologies or anything relating to 3-D movies or hi-tech entertainment, respectively. Any kind of raffle prize or scavenger hunt giveaway is a creative gimmick to get attendees back to your booth multiple times.

Gadgets

To be sure to convey that your company is in tune with the marketplace at large, it is imperative that you show some cutting-edge technology in your exhibit – even if you are not a hi-tech exhibitor. A charging station for multiple smart devices (phone, tablets, laptops) has double duty in that it guarantees attendees stop by your booth multiple times as well as extending their visit and exposure to your brand’s products and/or services. Other impressive gadgets to consider would be interactive demonstrations on tablets or 3-D Presentations in a booth set up as media viewing room (here’s where the popcorn comes in). If you are a hi-tech exhibitor, there is nothing an attendee wants more than to push your buttons. When it comes to electronic or hi-tech gadgets, hands-on is the way to go.

Homework:

1. When delegating responsibilities for an upcoming show, consider using the G’s as a basic framework or breakdown.
2. Remember that there are many factors that add up to trade show success; if you follow the five basic G’s – you’ll be off to a GREAT start.

About Linda Musgrove, the TradeShow Teacher:

Linda Musgrove is founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, an award-winning trade show management and marketing firm. Linda, along with her team of specialists, focuses on assisting companies increase trade show ROI through a comprehensive results driven formula. As the author of “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows,” published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing; Linda is also a regular, expert contributor to several industry publications and sites. Learn more online at www.tsteacher.com and sign up for the FREE monthly Trade Show Tactics newsletter. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/tsteacher or e-mail atinfo@tsteacher.com .

QR Codes: Take Your Trade Show Marketing To The Next Level

From The Burns & McDonnell World

How to use QR codes at trade showsQR codes are undoubtedly one of the hottest new marketing tools, and when presented in conjunction with traditional swag and promotional materials at trade shows, can help you leave a lasting impression — and make it easy for prospective clients, customers and connections to find you again.

Let’s look at some creative ways you can use QR codes at trade shows, conferences and other professional events. First? A crash course in all things QR.

What Are QR Codes?

A QR, or quick response, code is typically a square-shaped, high-contrast barcode that can be scanned with a smartphone. Once a QR code is scanned, the user is taken to a website — typically a mobile version of a website, a landing page, contact information or purchase details — depending on the goal of the campaign. For example, if you’re selling a product, it makes sense that your QR code would direct users to a web page from which they can buy your product, or at least learn more. Specific goals may differ depending on the company, brand or individual that’s using the QR code, but in the vast majority of cases, the general purpose of the code is to inspire further action.

If you stay up-to-date with marketing news, you might have read that QR codes have gotten a bad rap — or few users, anyway. This is usually attributed to poor use and implementation of the tools. For example, some companies opt to have elaborate QR codes designed that may include an image and/or a logo. Yet if the design is too complicated, the code won’t scan, which defeats its purpose. They may also be too small (a common problem) or placed in an inconvenient location, such as on a billboard or a vehicle. Keep in mind, too, that older smartphones may not be as adept at scanning and/or reading QR codes, so consider them to be one tool in your marketing strategy rather than the end-all, be-all of your promotional efforts.

When used correctly, QR codes can help boost traffic to your website, raise brand awareness and act as a networking facilitator — perfect if you have a trade show or conference in your near future.

Creative Ways to Use QR Codes at a Trade Show

Before you start slapping a QR code on your business card or promotional items you’ll have at the trade show, stop and consider your strategy. Your primary question: What do you want to accomplish? Some other things to consider include who you’re representing — are you promoting yourself or your company? What types of materials are you taking with you? And once you’ve established your goal, you can decide where the QR code will lead. Do you want to point users to a mobile version of your website? A specific landing page designed just for QR code users? Or elsewhere?

Now that you’ve covered the basics, try some of these ideas to put your QR code to work at your next event.

*Skip the brochures. Instead of sending booth visitors away with a bunch of paper, set up a large sign with a QR code that they can scan to receive electronic copies of your information via email. As Sarah Baker of MarketingProfs writes, “QR codes are a great solution for marketers because your materials will escape the clutter of the trade show bag and make their way into your prospects’ email inboxes, all the while helping you cut down on the cost of printing and transporting sales sheets.”

*Promote your event. If you’re speaking at a trade show or sponsoring an event, ask the show organizers if you can include a QR code in event signage or in the show’s program. That way, you can give attendees an additional way to access more information about you and your company without necessarily connecting in person.

*Tap your inner creativity. Sure, QR codes are business tools, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Have a T-shirt designed with a large QR code on the back — consider yourself a walking billboard, not to mention an instant conversation starter! The only caveat? Thoroughly test your code before you go. You’ll want to make sure that it can be scanned on fabric.

Or tie your QR code into a promotion. On the materials that contain your code, state that you’re giving away a prize to someone who scans the QR code. You can set up a promotion-specific landing page to act as the code’s gateway, and by incentivizing the experience, you’ll likely have more people who choose to scan the code. After all, who doesn’t love winning?

As you prepare for your next event, take some time to consider incorporating QR codes into your networking and promotion strategies. These handy little tools can have a big impact when it comes to brand visibility and enlarging your reach.

If you’ve spied QR codes while you’re at tradeshows or conferences, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how they’re used and what’s been effective — or not. Feel free to share your experience in the comments!

Read more: http://www.burnsmcdblog.com/2012/02/06/qr-codes-take-your-trade-show-marketing-to-the-next-level/#ixzz2C1MvN7Cu

If You Care Enough to Send the Very Best: Write Your Customer Cards Now

From GC WorldBiz by Katherine O’Brien

At this time of year my thoughts often turn to my late friend and long-time contributor Dick Gorelick. “Consider sending Thanksgiving rather than holiday cards,” Dick suggested. “The theme of bounty is secular and appropriate for business, and a Thanksgiving card is more memorable. It won’t be lost in the clutter of December cards.”

It’s good advice—to this day I think of Dick every November, and yes, I do send out Thanksgiving cards.

We’re entering the time of year in which a decision needs to be made regarding holiday gifts and communication with customers and important suppliers. Consider the recipient’s policies about acceptance of gifts, religion, costs, etc.

“It might be worthwhile to consider a contribution to a worthy cause in the name of selected customers and suppliers,” Dick wrote. “The cause might be a hospital or philanthropic organization. The recipients of your firm’s gift are usually willing to send acknowledgement cards to the individuals or firms in whose name the donation has been made. This is a gesture that is universally appreciated and usually non-controversial.”

Just don’t pull a George Costanza—no donations to “The Festivus Human Fund!” While nobody likes to rush the season, it is amazing how fast November and December fly by. Get an early start with those Thanksgiving cards!

Online events and video: No longer a question for associations

From TSNN by Lauren Mulherrin

We’ve all been there…miles away from our loved ones feeling tired, stressed and desperately wishing they were by our side. Not that long ago, voices of a parent, friend or child through the phone were as close as we could get to their touch. Now Apple’s FaceTime, Skype and numerous other platforms have given us a greater sense of connection through the use of video.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I think back to a Thanksgiving holiday where I found myself in a similar long distance predicament. It was Thanksgiving 2010 and I had been studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, for several months. Up until that day, I had managed to avoid the homesick bug entirely, but waking up on my favorite holiday 9,235 miles away from my family was an exception. Before I had left for Oz, I made sure that my mom not only had a webcam, but also knew how to use it. Being able to Skype my parents that morning helped bridge the thousands of miles and time between us (it wasn’t even Thanksgiving in the US yet) and gave me a sense of comfort. Our Skype session could never have replaced their physical presence, but it was the next best thing. How we use and feel about video in our personal lives can also extend into our educational lives.

The New Era of Video: edX

The adoption of online video has skyrocketed. Seventy-five percent of all executives said they watched work-related videos on business Web sites at least once a week. Educational institutions are using this trend to reach students far and wide.

This past spring, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the launch of edX. EdX is a technological platform designed to offer online versions of courses featuring; “video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories, and student paced learning.” MIT President Susan Hockfield said, “EdX represents a unique opportunity to improve education on our own campuses through online learning, while simultaneously creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide.” Hockfield’s views on edX are similar to mine in regards to the online extensions of events.

The Dilemma

Associations are being faced with the dilemma of not only finding ways to extend their great content, but also attracting the incoming Millennial generation. Like Hockfield states about edX, online extensions of association events are an opportunity to improve education and they are creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide. Millennials are familiar with video technology and are starting to expect it as an extension of their events and education. While some may look at the Millennial generation’s expectation of video and online extensions of events as another argument for our entitlement stereotype, that is not the case. Just as we Skype with our family miles away because the technology is there and adds value to our relationships, associations should stream sessions because the technology is there and adds value to our membership.

To be sure there are many associations doing it right. However, it is increasingly evident to my generation (GenY, the Millennials) that most are behind in this important aspect of their business. The fear of cannibalization of face-to-face attendees is hard for many associations to shake. dom information . What associations need to keep in mind is that online extensions are not a replacement for attending a live event, but are rather the second best seat in the house.

Millennial Perspective

I had the opportunity to discuss edX with two of my friends that attended MIT. Jordan Medeiros, MIT ‘06 said, “I think there are certain aspects of the educational and college experience that cannot be mimicked through online education and are important to the social development of our future generations.” MIT President Hockfield agrees that, “edX is designed to improve, not replace, the campus experience.” I think we can all concur that the online extensions of association events are no substitute for the face-to-face experience; however, similar to embracing video to enrich our personal lives, it is time that video is embraced for continued education. Tarikh Campbell, MIT ’09 believes that, “EdX is not only a supplement for everyone in college, but now an option for everyone who can’t go to college.”

Again the parallels to association conferences abound. Online extensions of sessions from annual conferences allow not only those that attended to reprocess all that they learned, but also gives those unable to attend a chance to learn and grow within their industry.

The Solution

It is no longer a question of whether or not associations should embrace the online extensions of events; it is a matter of developing a team and strategy to implement this value-addition to association membership.