Visit Your Users Where They’re At. Don’t Force Them to Go to Trade Shows.

Was reading up on the latest thoughts from the great Scobleizer.  In a recent post, he wrote:

Walking around Broadcom’s booth at CES also taught me a lesson. That the CES show is going back to its roots: interactions between tech companies and the buyers. That’s something that can only efficiently happen in a tradeshow: getting all those people to visit your company’s headquarters just won’t happen.

So, tradeshows won’t disappear.

If your a company and you want to build community with and have relationships with your users, a trade show is the LAST place you should look.

I just spent the last week at MacWorld and saw a lot of cool stuff but I can tell you that no one working booths was trying to have a relationship with me.  They didn’t want to have a conversation.  They were too busy dealing with all their booth visitors.  They wanted to get their talking points out, get their demo done, maybe sell a product, and move on to the next person.  It was all 90 second interactions.  It wasn’t anything real.

At MacWorld, I doubt very many of the people that were working the booths actually worked for the companies that they represented.   There were a few exhibitors that had OBVIOUSLY hired booth babes.

Instead of spending LOTS and LOTS of money on a booth, go visit your users where they’re at.   It’s the reason that Apple decided to pull out of MacWorld.  They have their retail stores.  There the company can get to know people individually.

I’ve been really impressed by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress and founder of Automattic.  He travels around the world to WordCamp, the WordPress user conferences.

Every time gang at FreshBooks goes to a new city.  They hold a customer dinner and take their customers out to dinner.

This is how you build relationships… friendships… winning life long customers.

Random Thoughts After Day One on the MacWorld Expo Hall

Yesterday, after I arrived in San Francisco and checked into my hotel, I headed over to Moscone South Expo hall for MacWorld Expo.  I’d never been to a MacWorld before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

My first thought was… WOW.  The booths were massive and the hall was even bigger.

As you walk around, you see a little bit of everything, from iPod/iPhone case manufacturers to ToDo list software developers to Brain Toniq to the biggies like Microsoft and Apple.

Now I can imagine that for the biggies like Microsoft buying a booth is kind of like paying your annual dues for being a part of the cult of Mac.   But, if you’re one of the small guys and all you have the money for is a few big marketing pushes a year,  what makes you want to buy a 10 by 10 booth?

You definitely saw every trick in the book being employed to get people to stop at a booth.  One group had the car from Back to the Future at their booth, which was cool but I’m not sure what it had to do with exhibitor.   There weren’t many women roaming the hall because they were all working the booths, which is kind of funny.  Some were passing out food.  Some were luring people with celebrities.

It just seems like it’d be hard to make an impression.  What could you do at a booth which is going to leave enough of an impression on people that they’re going to engage further with your brand?

I talked to a handful of vendors and all in all you walked away like someone had just given you a pre-recorded pitch.

For me, the more valuable time yesterday was the parties.  Those were more centered around people meeting people and exchanging ideas, plus they had drinks.

Seriously, You Need To Stay at a Kimpton Hotel. They Treat You Like Royalty.

I know that I’ve expressed my love for the Kimpton Hotel chain before but I want to say it again… these guys get it.  They treat you like you’re guests in their house… like you’re royalty.  It just makes you excited about staying there.

I’m a member of their loyalty program.  One of the perks is that they’ll bring you a gift to thank you for your stay on the first night you’re there.  This time they brought me a half bottle of French wine and a plate of fruit.  That’s AWESOME.

This makes me think back to the experience that Jason had at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK airport.  Treat your customers right.  Give them what they want and they’ll come back for me.  They’ll tell their friends about it.

This is something that we can all take away as we look to shape the products and services that our companies provide.  Are we meeting our customers’ needs?  Are we giving them what they want?  Are we giving them a superior experience?  Are we treating them like they are guests in our house or like family?

Threadless Uses Their Prints Packaging Tube To Show Their Personality

My new Threadless Print Instructions for what to do with the Threadless Prints Tube Packaging

I’m definitely a fan of the online community t-shirt company Threadless.

They recently launched a new product… Prints.  It’s some of the best t-shirt designs put on a thick stock poster.  I had never bought one before so I thought I’d give it a shot.  The walls of my apt need some decoration.

I puchased the ctrl + z print pictured above.

In the package was a piece of paper (pictured above) entitled “It’s Not Just a Tube.”  It goes through and shows you all the fun things you could do with the packaging tube that the print came in.  Examples are things like… ninja sword, giant spit baller, peg leg, and others.

Most of the items that they mentioned are just all out silly but what the piece of paper does is show the personality of the company.  I already felt like I had a relationship and knew the people at Threadless, through their Web site.  Getting this sense of who the company is just endears me to them more.

What kind of personality does your company have?  Do you show it?  If so, how?

Curious About the Power of Word of Mouth? Just Ask Barack Obama.

Was reading the Washington Post this morning and found a story about Barack Obama kind of interesting. Despite mass media telling a town other wise, people still hold onto incorrect rumors spread via word of mouth.

On the television in his living room, Peterman has watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service. But on the Internet, in his grocery store, at his neighbor’s house, at his son’s auto shop, Peterman has also absorbed another version of the Democratic candidate’s background, one that is entirely false: Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The article goes on to say:

Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama’s Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

When things get out there into the open, whether they’re accurate or not, there is almost no stopping it.  People talk.  People believe what their friends say and will repeat it, regardless of the truth.

I think this shows that mass media isn’t what it used to be for starting a nation-wide personal dialogue with voters.

Politicians need to find a new way to get to know and form a relationship with the voters.

The Guitar Hero Widget – A Great Teaser for the Video Game

A lot of my friends have been talking about the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games but I haven’t really gotten into them yet.

The other day I found the Guitar Hero Widget over on one of the Wired blogs.  Inside the widget, they give a mini version of the game.  It includes three songs.  It’s really cool.  Instead of using a plastic guitar, you’re using your keyboard but none the less it’s fun.

It gives me a taste of the game and would get me potentially excited about buying it.

Making a widget is SOOOO genius for a video game company.   If i’m a big fanboy of the video game, I’d send this widget to my friends who were yet to be converted so that they too could get a taste.  It empowers word of mouth advertising, which is the most powerful advertising technique.

So… Go play with the widget.

(Note: I would have embeded it here but I use WordPress.com and they don’t allow me to embed third-party flash. *frown* )

Where’s your personality?

LOL… I have a problem.  I like buying books. It’s this impulsive thing.  I can’t walk into a Barnes & Noble without walking out or wanting to walk out with a book.

The book I’ve gotten myself into recently is Rohit Bhargava‘s new book Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How Great Brands Get it Back.” I have to say that it’s a real gem.  GO BUY IT!!!

A lot of PR books today advise you on new and more effecient ways that you can sell your soul for the sake of advancing your company and your product.  This book posits the exact opposite thesis.

Rohit talks about how if you want to really endear your customers with your company, brand, and product,  you have to show your personality (or open the kimono as Merlin Mann likes to call it.)  This is SOOOO true.

Hmm… what are the brands, companies, or people that I’m excited about?  As my readership, you can probably identify them just as well as I can because I talk about them A LOT.

Murky Coffee (I’m sitting here right now)…  It reaks of personality.  Whether it’s the eclectic collection of tables and chairs, their Arlington location’s house-turned coffee shop, or their amazing coffee.  It’s personality.  Just look at their slogan, “Totally committed to serving the people of Washington with the best damn coffee there is.  Yes, we said damn.”

Gary Vaynerchuk/Wine Library TV…  Yeah, there is LOTS of personality.  If you don’t get what I mean, tune into any of the episodes of Gary’s shows.  Meet Gary in person and HELLO there’s personality.  You can’t help be endeared to him and what he’s doing.

Fun side note: Coincidentally, the one time I’ve met Rohit was at a game of Werewolf that was initiated by Gary at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas.  Had a GREAT time.  Wish I could have stayed longer.

Leo Laporte/This Week In Tech…  Seems like I’ve been listening to Leo Laporte’s podcasts forever.  I think it started in college when I first saw Call for Help on Tech TV.  I instantly became a fan.

Now if opened up my iTunes podcast section, you’d see most of the TWiT podcasts.   There is something about listening to Leo and his merry band of brethern which is just really fun.

On one show they gave out an AWESOME t-shirt idea that I’d totally buy, “I hear a voice in my head and his name is Leo Laporte.”

Rochester Institute of Technology… My alma mater holds a special place in my heart because of its great level of personality.  It’s just different.  The people, place, and personalities are just different.  My favorite professors were the ones that let their passions and personalities show.

Capitol Hill… Of all the places I’ve lived, it is by far the favorite.  Why? It has personality.  You walk by a building and it will have a plaque saying “Established in 1820.”  In the distance, you see things like the US Capitol Building or the Library of Congress Jefferson Building.  You get to walk through things like Eastern Market.  It’s the kind of stuff you can’t get any where else in the country… PERSONALITY.

There are so many others that I could talk about, like BarCamps, One Laptop per Child, Apple Computers, Naked Smoothies, Twitter, Flickr, Iron Chef, and many many others.

What brands, organizations, or people are you passionate and excited about because of the personalities that they exhibit?  How do you exhibit personality?