Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
Meet Our Thoughtleaders:
An Interview with Rob Murphy
by Gordon Nary
Gordon: What changes have you noticed in the tradeshow and event marketing industry over the past few years?
Rob: Most notable is how the influence of live events and trade shows can immediately “leave” the floor and become part of a social media stream. The proliferation of social communications needs to be considered when designing and setting strategy – we are playing to a wider audience. I could liken it to when sports became televised. All of a sudden there were new influences to consider and exploit.
Gordon: What are some of the principal communications challenges in the tradeshow and event marketing industry?
Rob: I would say a pre- and post-show communications strategy. Reaching people before and after will always be a huge challenge. There is just too much competing information vying for your prospect's time. Too much mail, too many messages. The best part of face-to-face marketing is making solid contact with customers and prospects – but you can’t hold people in your exhibit forever. As the graph shows, the longer you wait to follow up after a show the slimmer your chances of making contact.
Gordon: What new challenges do you foresee affecting the tradeshow and event marketing industry in the next few years?Rob: The demographics are changing and so are their buying habits. Shows still continue to pull audiences and research shows they will maintain the clout they currently have. That being said, with online interfaces replacing most traditional interfaces – the trade show industry needs to continue to prove to young marketers the value of people meeting people. We in the industry know the value and the unbelievable ROI exhibitors can experience. The industry has the continuing responsibility to make shows more exciting, interactive and educational. We have to maintain the “you had to be there” experience and deliver the value for the investment.
Gordon: What was your first trade show experience?
Rob: Going to a boat show with my dad. Since I was a boat fanatic at birth, the presentations and the displays were very exciting for me. I had no idea that people made a living providing these wondrous displays.
Gordon: What are some of the more common challenges in establishing an effective Tradeshow and Exhibit Marketing program?
Rob: Corporate marketers need to really consider a holistic approach to their programs. They often get the exhibit design part right but they rarely consider staff training or the communications cycle, which is often ignored. An overall strategy is what usually separates real success and mixed results. That strategy needs to be woven through the entire experience keeping in mind desired show goals, sales needs and brand management.
Gordon: What has been your most rewarding experience at MC2?
Rob: Being on the team that landed the Samsung account for the Consumer Electronics Show. We had very tough competition from the best in the industry, difficult design challenges and a very particular, demanding set of clients. When you win a project like that – the biggest exhibit at one of the biggest shows in the country – you know you have arrived. As it turned out, we performed exquisitely and have run the program for many years.
Gordon: Could you give us an overview of MC2 and the services that you provide?
Rob: We partner with our clients to provide strategy, design, management, construction and installation of trade show exhibits, specialized environments and corporate events that can function anywhere in the world. That requires a whole lot of talent and reach with many specialized individuals doing amazing things – every day.
Gordon: We have a significant number of students interested in the exhibit and tradeshow profession that subscribe to our Journal. What advice could you give them that could be helpful in applying for their first professional position?Rob: This is an industry of creative and dedicated people but above all – real hard-working people. Just look at what we do! The challenges can be enormous, the timeframe may be ridiculous, the clients may be unreasonable – but in the end we provide one of the best returns for our client’s marketing dollars. Delivering a show can sometimes feel like childbirth but the bond you will build with your client can last a lifetime. We have clients in our family for more than 30 years. What marketing job builds friendships like that? We have a saying in the industry: If you survive the first 6 months you will probably stay in the business for life. It becomes part of your life and the excitement becomes addictive