Tag Archives: guerrilla trade show selling

Guerrilla Selling – Posing as a Journalist?

What About the Ethics?

In response to the last blog on Guerrilla Trade Show Selling, Holly Wilner, Founder at Trade-a-Date Singles Events, responded:

“Yes good stuff [on how to take advantage of a trade show opportunity] …although my boyfriend, a journalist for over 30 years got a little indignant about someone falsely posing as one, which may actually come back to bite the poser…but if he comes through with the article, then I guess hes met his obligation.”

The best description of a journalist that I’ve ever heard: “We observe. And take notes.”

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I never advocated “posing.” I assumed that my colleague, who is a fellow professional speaker, has the necessary command of language to write a great story (or at least the financial resources to have someone ghost it.) And I absolutely re-iterate, you must deliver the goods, or you won’t be asking the right questions or documenting the right answers. If you approach it with the wrong intent, it simply won’t work.

More powerful than any brochure you could send about your product, a tear sheet from the magazine featuring a quote from the CEO is the most powerful door opening weapon in the guerrilla arsenal.

If you have ANY qualms about the ethics of this approach, I recommend full-disclosure. “This is my first assignment. I’m brand new at this. In my day job I work for . . . ”

And by ALL means, ask your editor to coach you. Ask IN ADVANCE what they expect the word count to be, and if there is any special slant or angle on the story they’d like you to take. Editors always give me my best ideas for articles. Ask them to e-mail you their “editorial guidelines” which will serve as a cook-book for their book. Rustle up some past issues at the library or on line to get a feel for the form and format

This approach is based on the Guerrilla Selling principle of “Investment.” Give first. You are giving the magazine and its readers new information and insight; you are giving the companies you interview publicity for their products. You benefit by building relationships with potential customers. Everybody wins.

The expertise you gain in the process will very quickly make you an industry expert, as well as a legitimate journalist.

Guerrilla Trade Show Selling

Don’t Get Caught Suitcasing

Paul Wesseling, owner of Aktivia BV, www.co2-meter.com, asked this question of the Guerrilla Marketing Tips for Small Business discussion group on LinkedIn:

“Does anyone have out-of-the-box suggestions to present a product on a child nursery trade fair without being one of the official participants or stand holders? The product regards indoor air quality. Was thinking of joining a participant in their stand, but am trying to be more creative “

OK, let’s get REALLY guerrilla

Call around to the editors of several child- or family-oriented magazines, and introduce yourself as a free-lance writer. Ask if you can submit a “roundup” article, “on-spec” (which means that you don’t expect to get paid for it, and they only publish it if it’s good) reviewing this particular show. Any editor in his right mind will say, “Sure. Knock yourself out.”

As soon as you have a “yes,” from an editor, contact the show management to obtain a PRESS badge. Explain that you are “covering the trade show for ________ magazine.” There may be a nominal fee, but it will be far LESS than an exhibitor badge or booth space. Most trade shows actually WELCOME the press. As a bonus, a PRESS badge will usually get you into all the general sessions, seminars, receptions and parties as well.

The only sales collateral you’ll need are some simple, elegant business cards that list JUST your name, phone and e-mail. You won’t need a lot of them, but they should be of the very highest quality. The sort of card you’d expect to get from an attorney.

Then, arrive at the show dressed in your most professional business attire, carrying a small MP3 recorder and a black leather legal-pad folio. Look for exhibitors who could potentially be a good match to carry your product, then DON’T SELL IT TO THEM. In fact, don’t mention it at all. Not to anyone.

Instead, go out on the floor early and late when traffic is slow, and approach each targeted exhibitor. Ask if you can interview them for your article. People who wouldn’t give you the time of day as a salesperson will GLADLY give you an hour as a journalist. Make appointments with the top officers if possible, but stay out of their way when the show floor is busy. You don’t want to take them away from their true mission.

Start the interview with general questions, “Your name? Your title? How did you get into this business? Tell me about your product lines? What sort of customers do you sell to? What does your distribution channel look like. Which are your most successful products? What TRENDS do you see affecting your business in the future?” Your questions, of course, are going to indirectly QUALIFY or DIS-qualify them as a prospective customer for your product.

Now, NOBODY can accuse you of “suitcasing” (the less-than-polite term for reverse selling on a trade show floor that would get you thrown out on the street). But you WILL be able to identify several PRIME prospects. Your mission is to collect high-quality leads and build high-level relationships. You will get more information on ninja trader, which is consistently voted an industry leader by the trading community.

IMMEDIATELY after the show, send them a THANK YOU note. And within 48 hours of THAT, follow up with a sales call. “You know, based on what you told me during our conversation at the show, you may have an interest in my _________ product.”

Finally, write the article, summarizing trends that you saw at the show, and submit it for publication. You MUST follow through on this step to maintain your personal integrity. If the publication actually PRINTS your piece, that’s icing on the cake. Send a copy to every vendor you interviewed.

For many, many more no-cost ideas for effective selling at trade shows, read Guerrilla Trade Show Selling (he says, inserting a shameless plug for his book).

10 Lessons for Guerrilla Selling at Events

Boulder CreekFest Vendors Waste a Golden Opportunity, with One Notable Exception

In Boulder, Colorado, my home town, Memorial Day Weekend means the Boulder Creek Festival. And Creekfest is your typical small-town spring fair, with two exceptions: the Boulder Creek Rubber Duck Race (a $5 donation buys a numbered rubber duckie to float from one end of downtown to the other), and the Bolder Boulder (a major foot race that draws a few serious competitive runners and 20,000 costumed crazies).

Creekfest draws some 350,000 visitors so it’s a guerrilla marketer’s dream. It has all the trappings you’d expect: dozens of food stalls, two beer gardens, carnival rides, inflatable bouncers, bungee-enhanced super-trampolines, five stages of live music and block-after-block of EZ-up tents selling art, jewelry, hemp clothing, solar collectors, bottled yogurt, soy milk, artificial turf, New Zealand hats, wheat-filled neck warmers, hand-made musical frogs and 1,000-thread-count-Egyptian-cotton sheets (actually 100% microfiber Made in China).

Also represented were The Libertarian Party (who were having some sort of political shouting match) Boulder County Parks and Open Space (featuring a stuffed coyote you couldn’t touch), a chiropractor (offering “Free Gentle Adjustment”), a yoga studio and a Judo school (who weren’t offering anything).

If I had been the guerrilla marketing police I would have written a whole book of tickets. While THRONGS of people strolled slowly by, most exhibitors just SAT there under their tent, with DOZENS of pieces of literature spread out on the TABLE set BETWEEN themselves and the traffic, and talking to EACH OTHER. These would-be vendors had paid $550 and up for a ten-foot tent space just so that they could waste a perfectly good Memorial Day weekend WISHING they had more business!

We did see a couple of exceptions. The guy at the Boulder Brewery beer kiosk made eye contact and simply asked, “What’s your favorite?” Never mind that a 12 oz. plastic cup was $5.00. He just ASSUMED that because I was standing in front of his stall, I MUST be thirsty. (I recommend their “Dazed and Infused” IPA.)

Remember at Team summit, I said “Have something for the kids to do.”

What stopped me in my tracks was the sound of a four-year-old boy wailing away on a snare drum and hi-hat, accompanied by a ten-year-old blond Hanna Montana wanna-be on electric guitar, and a teen age boy with greasy black hair playing electric bass. You could hear them a block away. Three adults in matching black rock-concert-roadie T-shirts were standing by, cheering them on. The banner overhead said, “Free Lessons.”

This I had to watch. Within seconds, a young woman in her early 20’s wearing black jeans and a matching black T-shirt approached and asked, “Are you a musician?”

“No,” I said, offering my stock answer. “I’m a drummer.”

She laughed, smiled ear-to-ear and said, “I’m a drummer TOO! But I’ve only been playing for about two weeks.” She offered her business card and asked what sort of music I liked to play.

“Actually, I play in a working Brazilian Jazz band.”

“OH, a professional! Well, then, you’ll have to stop by our rehearsal studio in Lafayette. It’s a nice, comfortable place to practice, and it’s already equipped with drums, amps and keyboards.”

I was impressed. Three hours of wondering through block after block of booths and she was the only vendor (besides the beer guy) who had engaged me. Not only that; she had greeted, qualified, and asked for the order in less than a minute.

Her card said, “Dog House Music” and her name was Lindsay Polak, Marketing/Communications Manager. When I asked what they were doing at CreekFest, she explained that they were promoting their Summer Rock & Roll Camp for Teens AND their Fantasy Rock & Roll Camp for Adults. An 8½ x 11 stand-up on the table said, in plain black letters on white paper, “Enroll Today Save $50.” She handed me two single-page fliers and a sticker.

“This is really COOL, what you’re doing here, but I already have a rehearsal studio.”

“Well, perhaps you’d consider being an instructor?” she said. “We’re always looking for good people.” I just about fainted!

S0 what can a Guerrilla Retailer learn from a 20 year old drummer about Event Marketing?

1. You’ve invested a lot to be there; make it pay

2. Remove all barriers between you and your traffic

3. Use simple signs and banners to make your offer clear

4. Put all your people in some sort of uniform so we know who to approach

5. Invite visitors (and especially kids) to participate in a simple, low-cost, fun activity

6. Limit your promotion to two or three offerings you can explain in seconds

7. Proactively engage the adults (they’re the tall ones with the credit cards)

8. Start a conversation and ask qualifying questions

9. Ask for the order

10. Don’t let anyone leave empty-handed

The music wasn’t ready for the main stage, but everyone at this tent was having a ball, ESPECIALLY the instructors. Lindsay and her colleagues are definitely rock stars of guerrilla retailing. Check out their web site. www.doghousemusic.com.