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‘Jetson’-Age Tools Click with Big-Event Planners Trade Shows Expert Shares 3 Cutting-Edge New Technologies

jane-jetsonMost of us think about technology on a mostly two-dimensional plane as we flick our way from screen to screen on touch glass. But today’s tech includes applications that are far from flat, says major-events expert Ann Windham.

“What if you could control all primary aspects of major events like trade shows, big weddings and awards ceremonies through your iPad or smartphone; imagine shutting everything down at the end of a long and exhausting night by pushing one button on your phone – that’s just some of what’s possible with today’s software,” says Ann Windham, president and CEO of Imagine Xhibits, Inc. (imaginexhibits.com/events).

Lights, climate control, projectors and monitors, curtains, fountains and much more can be controlled with an app, and the data that you take away from trade shows can be used to quickly follow up on sales leads, says Windham, who will be showcasing this cutting-edge technology July 9 at Trade Show Technology Summit 2013, to be held at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas.

The summit will show attendees how to manage technology such as QR codes, mobile apps, virtual trade shows, social media, on-line asset management, interactive media and live stream video on electronic devices as simple as a mobile phone, she says.

“We’ll show planners the newest event management tools for efficiency and streamlining tasks before, during and after their event. We’ll also have hands-on, educational workshops to show them how to use management,” she says.

Windham shares three of her favorite new technologies:

• Pre-show – Event Management Software: This one-stop source for managing every detail about your event – from Fed Ex tracking numbers to vendor contact information to photos from the show – even allows you to manage multiple events from any location. “In the past, we carried all the details for each show in one huge binder. If you were at a show in Texas and someone called with a question about the show in Oregon, you wouldn’t have that information handy,” Windham says. Event management software relies on cloud storage, so members of your team can access it from their smart phone or iPad no matter where they are. Another benefit: You’ve got just one place to input all that data.

• During the show – Remote Sensors: Sensors built into the walls of an exhibit allow you to control all of the electronics from your smart phone or iPad. Not only does it save time, it’s an easy way to add valuable theatrics during a demonstration. “Say you’re standing at the back of the room and you realize the speaker can’t be heard, you just turn up the volume on his mic, right from your your iPad,” Windham says. “Or, if you want to create special effects using lighting and room temperature, you can dim the lighting and drop the temperature.” Her favorite feature? At the end of a long day, rather than walking from one device to the next, shutting off each, you press just one button and turn everything off while walking out the door.

• Post-show – Sales Leads Follow-up: Seventy percent of percent of exhibitors who capture sales leads at trade shows don’t collect qualifying information, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).Scanners collect only the most basic data from visitors to each booth – there’s no way of knowing whether they were a “hot” lead ready to buy, or someone who stopped by for the free T-shirt, Windham says. Now, however, event management software allows exhibitors to include qualifying information every time a visitor’s badge is scanned. “At the end of the event, you can quickly see who your hottest leads were and send them an email or postcard before you’ve even left the event,” Windham says.

For planners who’ve been hamstrung by personnel cutbacks in recent years, these new tools are lifesavers, she says.

“The days of ‘The Jetsons’ has arrived.”

About Ann Windham

Ann Windham is the president and CEO of Imagine Xhibits, Inc., a full-service trade show marketing company that offers custom design exhibits using modular components. Windham’s company offers customers more than 50 percent savings on operating expenses; expert face-to-face marketing consultants that will work to increase ROI with four-step marketing; quarterly seminars offering continuous education by certified trainers; in-house design services for custom structures, graphic design and brand development; turn-key services and exhibit management program for all logistical needs; and a one-stop shop for meeting planning, promotional products, collateral web-site and more.

 

 

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How Businesses Can Take Advantages Of QR Codes

QR codes (aka Quick Response Codes) can help you provide customers and potential customers with instant access to your services online. QR codes are often displayed in magazines, newspapers, mail, and even some retail establishments. The idea of a QR code is to complement your ad and allow your customer to learn more or to complete a speficic action (e.g. redeem a coupon, join a mailing list, place a purchase, etc…).

Benefits of QR Codes

These computer-generated images are basically direct links to particular mobile websites that you set up to coincide with the message of your QR code. Using QR codes minimises the time spent on typing in web addresses or URL’s. Potential customers are able to scan QR codes with their smartphones, and are directed to the intended online destination. When scanning the QR code the customer is presented more information about upcoming events sponsored by your campaign, provided more information about your services or offered more information about your product.

How it works

By placing QR codes in the right locations, your proposal, service, or offering will attract more leads or customers. Using their smartphone’s QR code scanner application, they simply scan the image, and the desired information is displayed almost instantly on their smartphone. One thing that you should not do, while using QR codes as your way of advertising, is to cluster the images any and everywhere without purpose or cause. Use QR codes to allow your audience to take a specific action.

Placement is one of the most important aspects of QR codes. You should make sure that people that will be most interested in your products, services or offers are viewing your content. Your marketing campaign is used to persuade your audience, as well as to inform them of any upcoming promotions or events.

Actions

As we said before, putting a QR Code randomly in your ad with no purpose will likely result in very few amount of people actually scanning it. If you want to maximize your returns, ask people to scan the QR code for a specific reason (aka incentive). Example: let them know that the only way they can redeem a coupon or take advantage of a special offer is by scanning the code.

QR codes on Pinterest

While many teachers have already learned the value of QR codes on Pinterest for their classrooms, the business community is quickly catching up. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media forums. On Pinterest you are allowed you to deliver significant images and videos to your supporters, and increases your ability to set up or grow a social network. QR codes give your customers a direct link to whatever messages you are trying to give. While you are extremely limited in the amount of words you can use on Pinterest, you should try to explain to your audience exactly what the QR code will link them to and the benefits of scanning it.

Growing a Mailing List

If you are trying to grow an email list, a QR code may be the perfect answer for you. This feature is ideal for your marketing campaign. These QR codes allow supporters and customers to join mailing lists by using their mobile devices decoder application. More people than ever before are using their mobile phones to surf the web so do not overlook the potential of marketing in this way. Once the customer scans the QR code they can become members of your email list and receive newsletters and other valuable information.

Increase your Fanbase with QR Codes

Directing supporters and potential supporters to your website using QR codes saves you time and is a quick way to obtain likes and followers, on popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter. A QR code can be used as a direct link to your Facebook and Twitter page and This is a direct link to your campaign and gives supporters and inquirers a chance to view any posts, images, or uploaded videos on your Facebook or Twitter page.

When using QR Codes as part of your marketing, it is important to use your imagination to come up with a way to seamlessly integrate the code within your ad. Check out some great examples of QR Code usage here.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

Marie Maslow is a tech enthusiast that enjoys writing about technology and marketing.

 

 

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What Your Business Cards Says About You

What Your Business Cards Says About You

Business CardsLike many things in life, all business cards are not created equally. For this reason, it is essential that you truly think about what you want your business card to say about your business when you are creating it with an online printer. After all, your business card is much like a good hand shake. In fact, it is a business card that usually allows someone to form their first opinions about you and more importantly your business. Keep reading below to avoid making business card mistakes that can allow people to develop a poor opinion of your business.

Create High-Quality Business Cards Online

The best way to impress your customers, potential customers, and those you are going to network with is to make sure you wow them with a high-quality business card the very first time you meet them. In order to be considered high-quality, a business card should not look like it was hastily put together. For this reason, you must take the time to proofread and edit your business card template. A quality online publisher will take care of using quality products and centering the information, but it is the business owner‘s responsibility to make sure everything is spelled correctly, and that all phone numbers and contact information is correct.

Negative Effects of  Poor Business Cards

Consequently, if your business card contains noticeable errors, your customers and contacts will notice, which will give them a negative reaction to your business. In fact, customers and networks may think that you rush through your work and can’t be bothered with details if you pass out a business card with erroneous information. Also, if you try to create the business cards yourself on a home printer, they will likely look cheap, and unprofessional, which will reflect poorly on your business.

For the reasons listed above, it is incredibly important that you take the time to proof your business card template, and order from a high-quality online business card publisher.

Positive Effects of Stellar Business Cards

On the other hand, if your business card immediately wows customers, potential customers, and network contacts, you will make a great first impression on these people. A great first impression means that when the need arises, people are likely to contact you first.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow your business by passing out less than stellar business cards. Instead, make sure you deal with a quality online printer who will ensure that your business cards are professional and useful.

Once you have created the perfect business card for your business, make sure to choose an online printer who will save your information for you. This way you don’t have to recreate your information every single time you need a fresh batch of cards.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

Guest post by David Dobson – Using my 30 years of experance in the printing industry to pass on information on business card printing

 

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Are QR Codes Good For Local Marketing? A Contrarian View

 by Chris Silver Smith

Quite a few marketers have raved about QR codes as the best thing since sliced bread. Small-to-medium local businesses wonder if they should jump on the bandwagon as well, but is there enough substance to justify the buzz? Consider this contrarian view before deciding if you should.

Are QR Codes Good For Local Marketing? A Contrarian View

With new and emerging technologies, it can be challenging to identify whether integrating them will produce a good-versus-bad ROI. With some experimental interactive marketing ideas, the “law of diminishing returns“ eventually kicks in, meaning you expend progressively more time and effort for lower and lower returns.

If the tactic you’re considering has an extremely nebulous potential return, it might not justify any time spent on it at all. QR codes may fit into this category.

Reasons To Nay-Say QR Codes

They are not a substantial improvement over URLs. At its most basic level, a QR code is a method for communicating and storing a very precise ID to be associated with some thing, such as a product, an advertisement, a business, or an individual. In this respect, it works very similarly to a URL. (They can also store plain text, but most of their best business functions seem to be in the role of ID/product-numbers or URLs.)

For instance, if you saw an ad in a newspaper or magazine that looked interesting to you, you could scan it with your mobile phone, and the app on your phone would translate the graphic code into a URL which you could save or have it launch straight into a browser window on your phone.

While this theoretically could save you from having to manually type in a URL you read off the ad, it’s not necessarily all that much faster (I’ve watched people pulling up the app, getting close enough to the QR code, aligning to snap a pic, etc.). If one frequently wanted to visit URLs found when reading newspapers or magazines, this small time savings could drive one to install and use the app.

But, I’d venture to say that most people reading print media are not in a mode to take notes or go look up websites all that frequently while in the midst of that activity — I think those moments are more sporadic. And, when a consumer reaches that point, it’s not difficult to type in a URL, which incidentally might be easy to remember, too.

Some of the main uses for QR codes where local business marketing is concerned has been the practice of placing QR code decals on storefront windows or in print ads, and the matrix codes are linked-to the company’s website URL. This was pushed by Google Places, and many small businesses got the decals and placed them on their windows in a nearly knee-jerk reaction based on the assumption that if Google thought it was good, then it must be. Or, perhaps it might give them some sort of advantage in Google rankings.

There’s no reason to think that QR codes help in local search rankings on Google or elsewhere. Many marketers are desperate to push against any perceived lever there may be in making the needle move in Google rankings, so quite a number of people fell in line and posted the matrix code graphics on their store entrances. But it likely did nothing for rankings. In fact, there’s reason to believe that messing with your site URL structure to make better QR codes may de-optimize it for search.

Rhetoric around QR technology has been suspiciously hype-laden

The online marketing community’s enthusiasm around QR codes has made it sound compelling and the excitement that all of us have around clever tech is catching. But, there needs to be a good reason to use it or else it won’t have a natural place in consumer ecology.

The short life-cycle arc of the CueCat indicates this could be an evolutionary dead end

The CueCat was the product of a flashy startup during the dot-com era which allowed people to scan in small barcodes which could be later uploaded on computer to sync up with URLs.

A CueCat Scanner used technology similar to QR codes.A CueCat Scanner used technology similar to QR codes.

I remember when I was called in by the print side of my old yellow pages company to integrate CueCat code with our website for a brief, thankfully-abortive time period. I was so horrified when I realized what it was and how far in bed the print product manager had gotten with the Digital Convergence company that produced the CueCat.

It was so patently obvious that it was a nearly-pointless novelty item that I could not see there being sufficient consumer adoption of the technology to justify the amount of yellow pages ad print space to allow for the barcodes.

So, it was no surprise to me within a mere year or so when I was called upon to vet Digital Convergence’s technology for consideration of being acquired as the company was about to go bankrupt — and I had no hesitation in killing off the proposed buyout based upon technical incompatibility with our server environment and assessment of the CueCat’s complete lack of sufficient consumer adoption.

It’s still horrifying to me how eager some unsophisticated companies were to associate themselves with technology they understood poorly, and how much money they lost from investing in the technological dead-end.

Debbie Barham of the Evening Standard described the basic failure best when she said, “[the CueCat] fails to solve a problem which never existed.” And, that unfortunately seems to describe QR codes, too.

Slight inconveniences with products can amount to huge barriers for adoption

With QR codes, there are a few different inconveniences: you must download and install the app(s) on your phone. You must scan the codes. You must FIND code to scan and be near enough to capture it.

Could it be easier to use? Well, imagine if your cell phone had an app which allowed you to snap a photo of a URL, and then it might automatically launch your browser window with the URL. This isn’t far outside of our current technology.

There must be a compelling incentive for consumers to adopt it

If it doesn’t quite speed up some interation enough, then it needs some sort of premium to bribe users into getting involved.

Google dropped support for QR in Places

After initially pushing intensively to get SMBs to adopt them and use them as decals at their places of business, Google dropped QR code support. If this had been working for local consumers, Google wouldn’t have abruptly halted it. This is a significant indicator that it has yet to hit critical mass.

The vast majority of average consumers haven’t a clue what it is!

Poll the men-on-the-street in your area and see how many of them know what a QR code is and have a QR app installed on their cellphones!

As a unique identifier for people, businesses, things — it likely will not have a long lifespan

For businesses, apps becoming more adept at identifying/linking based upon ubiquitous geolocations, for instance. And, what about RF IDs (a.k.a. “NFC” – “Near Field Communication”)?

Nanotech devices with embedded RF ID detection could offer seemless ID detection and invisibly bridge the gap to connecting with online/virtual info. (There is speculation that Google dropped QR code from Places in order to replace it with NFC-enabled decals.)

URLs have wider recognition and might be preferable to using QR codes in print ads

Unlike QR codes, a URL doesn’t require locating an app, downloading it, installing it, and using it to snap a pic of a code graphic. For consumers who don’t have smartphones or have yet to download the appropriate app, a URL (including conveniently shortened URLs) will work better.

Multiple, warring code protocols result in some consumer confusion

The fact that there are multiple QR flavors may necessitate loading multiple apps to read different codes for different purposes. A consumer who feels unsure of which app to use for a code will tend to avoid participating. A service which requires a degree in Internet technology to use it is a service destined for failure.

Reasons To Believe In QR Codes

It’s easy to find reasons to nay-say QR code. However, it has gained some number of devotees and some growth of users. It would be simplistic to ignore that the technology has a few reasons to believe in it and consider that it might become sufficiently robust to gain traction. Here are a few of the reasons which I think have some merit.

It is an evolutionary step up from the CueCat

QR Codes only require smartphones for the device, compared to the specialized CueCat scanners — so, it is founded on a device which many consumers already have. While this is an adaptive advantage, it’s also insufficient in my view, because I didn’t believe the specialized device was the main flaw of CueCats in the first place — it was their lack of compelling reason to be used.

Still, this incarnation has the advantage of a slightly lower barrier-to-entry, and each incremental advantage helps bring the concept closer to the tipping point where it might finally reach critical mass.

QR code might manage to achieve a necessary degree of cool factor

Just one clever PR stunt could help propel it from the digiterati/early-adopters over into popular culture. There have been quite a few different companies, organizations and individuals which have done something innovative with QR in order to get some publicity buzz.

For example, a few days ago Ballantines whisky company got a tattoo artist to ink a QR code onto a friend which was linked to an animated version of the tattoo illustration:

Yet, this is more of a novelty than something which will bring QR tech over the top. Few people have access to the tattooed guy to scan in his matrix and get the animation to launch, so there’s no incentive for people to download the app and play along. For a stunt like this to really convert the non-QR-enabled, it needs to involve a more popular subject and it’s got to get a lot of people interested in making the scan themselves.

There is still some time yet before omnipresent ID technologies catch on and become standard

NFC or some nanotech ID handshake may be just around the corner, but they haven’t arrived. Until then, there may be some useful applications for QR protocol.

Google’s purchase of Punchd indicates it may still have plans for QR where local is concerned

Punchd is a service that has a built-in incentive that can drive consumers to seek out the special QR app, download, install and use — frequently. Mashing up a loyalty program which users can engage with via cellphone makes for a compelling raison d’etre.

Innovative QR code use indicates that the tech could be one small leap away from becoming really useful

A South Korean grocery store, a Homeplus company, figured out that providing busy shoppers with a virtual store in subway stations where they are a captive audience might be solid gold, and enabling the shopping cart functionality by having consumers scan QR codes for each product they wish to purchase is actually a brilliant application.

Now, if someone comes up with an equally compelling application here in North America, you could see QR codes really enter the mass consciousness in a big way.

Conclusions

QR codes have yet to achieve sufficiently widespread awareness in popular culture. Their usage  could still grow at a rapid rate as some have cited, but their penetration is still insufficient to justify time spent on integration for most small, local businesses. But, don’t ask me — ask a small, representative sample of your usual customers and see how many of them know about it.

If you’re a small business, consider first if you’re in a tech-savvy industry where your customers will commonly know what this is and use it, or if you’re in a highly tech-aware location, such as Seattle or Silicon Valley. If you fall into these segments, you may fall within a narrow exception case category and this could be worthwhile for you to experiment with (particularly offering Punchd loyalty discounts).

Additional innovative applications like the South Korean grocery use could happen in the North American market, but until that happens this still may not have reached the necessary tipping point to be worthwhile.

Some future innovative stunt like the QR tattoo might manage to tempt large numbers of consumers into trying out the technology, helping it to jump past the tipping-point.

For larger companies with sufficient resources to spend, a QR integration could be used as a speculative experiment similar to the Ballantines company’s tattoo gimmick, and they still might get some publicity/buzz value out of it even if it doesn’t evolve into a more worthwhile medium.

But, for the majority of small, local businesses, this is a speculative curiosity which simply doesn’t yet merit any expense of time/resources to mess with. As such, for most of these businesses any time spent playing with this will translate immediately into lost money.

However, stay tuned on the QR code topic where local interactive marketing is concerned!

Where I could’ve predicted the rapid death of CueCat, the story isn’t completely over for QR yet, and it might yet climb its way up over the tipping-point and make it into a sustainable position in the marketplace here.

It will need something to help propel it further, though — some increase in the ineffable “coolness” factor such as a Lady Gaga full-body QR code tattoo, or virtual shopping malls in subway stations — but, it might still happen.

 

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