Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy
Analytics and Dynamic Customer Strategy: Big Profits from Big Data (1118905733) cover image An Interview with Jeff Tanner on his Book
Analytics and Dynamic Customer Strategy,
Big Profits from Big Data

by John Zeltin.


John:  What is your newest book, Analytics and Dynamic Customer Strategy, Big Profits from Big Data, about?

Jeff:  Analytics and Dynamic Customer Strategy is the culmination of a decade of research on how companies develop customer strategy. The result is an approach called Dynamic Customer Strategy that brings real rigor to decision making, enabling effective use of Big Data.

John:  What is Dynamic Customer Strategy and how would it work in trade shows? Are trade shows fully utilized in strategic development?

Jeff:  Perhaps the best way to think of Dynamic Customer Strategy is to contrast it to the Design School. Design School is the name given to traditional business strategy approaches, those big strategy tools that help you set a general direction for the company. Dynamic Customer Strategy is a toolset that marketers use so that marketing can contribute fully to that overall strategy. But additionally, let’s say the big vision is wrong – Dynamic Customer Strategy helps you to pivot to the more effective strategy because you’re able to identify that new opportunity.

The way it would work in trade shows is the same it would work in other areas of marketing. For example, everyone has probably already used A/B testing to develop copy for a pre-show promotion. Amp that up about ten notches and you’ve got Dynamic Customer Strategy.

In general, I don’t think trade shows are fully utilized, for several reasons. The first is data. For Dynamic Customer Strategy to be fully utilized, you have to have a sound data strategy, which is also covered in the book. Many companies have yet to develop sound data strategy. The second reason is that few CMOs fully comprehend or value the decisions attendees make when choosing to attend, what to see, and what they’ll do after. These decisions represent mini-purchase decisions. Trade shows can help CMOs understand the mindset of their market more fully but they don’t look at it that way.

In the study I did with Nancy Drapeau (What Attendees Want, sponsored by CEIR), it was clear that attendees are looking for information regarding issues they face now and products that can meet needs for upcoming purchases.  From their perspective, the show is part of a specific decision or set of decisions. CMOs, on the other hand, tend to silo the attendee’s decision to attend, as if it is separate and therefore, they lose the opportunity to learn in a way that could contribute to strategic development, something that would not be possible if they adopt Dynamic Customer Strategy.

What is the role of customer data? Why is collecting customer data so important in the first place?

Jeff: Without a sound data strategy, you can’t rigorously determine what works and why. You’re left to guessing, typically based on anecdotal evidence. While it may be true that the one big sale you got from a show gave you the ROI you needed to justify it, without the right data strategy you can only replicate that by being lucky. But with a sound data strategy, you can begin to not only understand why things worked or didn’t, you can start to make better predictions as to what will work and integrate your trade show plan more fully into customer conversations that generate revenue, not guesses.

John: There’s been resurgence lately in getting marketing and sales aligned. How does data do that and how can trade show marketing contribute to that alignment?

Jeff: Data helps get marketing and sales aligned because then the truth is known. Marketing learns what works and what doesn’t, and I mean really works, and that iterative process of try and learn that is the heart of Dynamic Customer Strategy, creates conversation between marketing and sales, yields real revenue results, and gets everyone on the same page. Trade shows can contribute in many ways, beginning with show messaging. I remember years ago a case study I did on Alcatel’s show strategy. Andrea Wharton, the exhibit manager, developed her messaging strategy from salesperson conversations with customers. What Dynamic Customer Strategy does is enable customer conversations well above the sales funnel – pre-lead, if you will.  If trade shows are a part of that, and they should be, then that flips to become marketing telling sales where each lead is in the conversation and what should happen next. That’s a high degree of alignment, but it’s possible.  Companies such as Sage, the software company, are successfully making this happen now.

John: What factors are holding up the development of data-driven decisioning in marketing? Particularly in trade show marketing?

Jeff: There are really only two, and one is a product of the other. The first is mistrust of data, in part due to a fear of math. Let’s face it, most of my marketing students at Baylor are in marketing because they aren’t math people, they’re creative people.  So if they don’t trust data, they then create the second factor, which is a lack of a data strategy. I see few companies that really have good data systems with their trade shows. Yes, they can scan a badge and know I showed up, but what if I downloaded a white paper just before the show? Wouldn’t it help for your booth staff to know that? Those kinds of data systems are possible, we’re just not using them.

John: We keep hearing about how today’s consumer is more empowered due to the internet and social media. What does this mean for trade show strategy?

Jeff:  The example I just gave of an attendee having downloaded a white paper just before the show illustrates how our customers are far more empowered than ever before. They do a lot of pre-purchase search, they chat and ask each other questions, they look at product reviews – everything you do at home, they’re doing at work. This means you can make a huge difference with a better data strategy because you can know where they are in their search, you can determine the value of each marketing activity and how to use it best, and all of that falls right in line with trade show strategy, from attracting attendees to giving them the experience they want while they’re with you to following up in the right fashion.  The beauty is you don’t have to wait for a CEO or CMO to open up the budget; the chances are that many of the technologies are already in place. All that’s needed is to apply these with the right tools begin developing Dynamic Customer Strategy.

John:  Thank you for the great insights into your book which should be mandatory reading for everyone on our profession. I ordered a copy today and am recommending it to all of my colleagues.

Jeff: It was a pleasure meeting you and I appreciate your questions and thoughtful comments,

© 2016 by John Zeltin