There are colorful graphics all over the Internet illustrating various marketing strategies that are “ideal for the digital age,” many even depicting the classic “three pillars” of sales, awareness, and advocacy. But those pillars now support all manner of faddish notions and countless high-tech helpers that blast your marketing message to the world. With all the confusion over tweets, texts, and bandwidth causing many marketing campaigns to seriously under-perform, now is a good time to get back tobasics with timeless marketing principles that work.
Before you make goals, before you devise tactics to carry out your strategy, you must take stock of your current situation. Sometimes referred to as an “environmental scan,” this in-depth overview considers everything involved in your enterprise: technology, equipment and computer rental needs, production processes, industry metrics, competition, general and specific economic indicators, customers, and local, regional, state, and federal laws. You can’t chart a course without a map, okay?
Goal setting Now that you know your starting point, you can decide where you want to go. When you do sit down to create your corporate goals and objectives, you might find the “SMART goals” system worth your attention. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, which echoes the high standards Steve Jobs set for his secret iMac developers in the late 1990s.
Strategy There are as many opinions on business strategy as there are stars in the night sky, so your best bet is to read widely, remain skeptical of grandiose claims, and come to a reasonable position. As much an educational process as the other steps, developing your business strategy might introduce you to such tools as perceptual mapping and portfolio analysis.
Tactics Businesspeople conflate tactics with strategy and tell their marketing directors that they want a “viral marketing campaign” that will hit every inbox, smartphone, and iPad rental in the Western Hemisphere. But that’s a tactic, not a strategy, and no one can guarantee that anything will “go viral” (and beware of anyone who does). Truth be told, many campaigns go viral but have little effect on sales or PR.
Monitor We’re trying to keep this advice jargon-free, but part of an effective strategy means defining your key performance indicators (KPIs). Monitor performance with KPIs and you will know how well your tactics are working to fulfill the company strategy. Needless to say, it is vital to be completely honest in making these appraisals.
You will continue to revise, update, and perfect (ergo, “evolve”) both tactics and strategy based on your KPIs. (The indicators themselves may need some revision, too.) When the campaign is ongoing, it is wise to continue with a healthy optimism, as well as a healthy skepticism. You may have had an intelligent design for your strategy, but it’s good old evolution that will keep everything on track as the world barrels forward in its unpredictable way.
Now, here’s something that’s completely predictable: CRE’s top equipment and unparalleled customer service. With 21 offices in major metro areas, we offer technology rentals that could help you achieve your marketing goals (or help you complete a last minute project or prepare you for an upcoming event). Give us a call at 877-266-7725 to learn more.
We blogged recently about avoiding vision-related problems when you’re looking at your backlit cell phone screen, the Retina display of an iPad rental, and other eye-candy for hours each day. Equally problematic are the injuries and conditions today’s workers face (and not just in the office) while working with high-tech gear at an infinite variety of desk and workstation setups. Carpal tunnel syndrome is not the only musculoskeletal condition that you can avoid with some planning and self-awareness. Let’s get to it.
NOTE: This is not medical advice. All diagnoses and treatments, for any kind of injury or condition, are a matter between you and your health care provider. That said, here are some basic approaches to get you started on creating a healthier workplace.
Check those chairs — Herman Miller’s Aeron chair is touted as the modern paradigm, but it’s costly, and other manufacturers make high-end chairs for less. A good chair has the proper seat size: at least an inch wider than the hips and not so long that it catches the knees. If it doesn’t have lumbar support, add a lumbar roll or get a footrest to raise your feet (it aligns the spine).
Keep moving — If you only get up when, say, your Xserve RAID goes offline, you’re sitting too much. The advice varies depending upon whom you ask, but just getting up for a few five-minute “moving breaks” a day not only correlates with better health, but with increased productivity, too.
Rethink your work area — Workstations, like chairs, should promote good postures (yes, plural). There are your sitting and standing postures, discussed above, as well as a proper “typing posture”: when using a keyboard, keep forearms and hands flat with your elbow at 90 degrees or so. As touch technology continues advancing, devices like our LCD touchscreen monitor rental can help you do more work with less movement, too.
Support your weak spots — To avoid wrist and hand problems, there are various ergonomic keyboards from Belkin, Logitech and others. You can also reduce arm movement by using your mouse less, which can be accomplished with a keyboard that has extra, custom-assignable function keys for opening oft-used apps and running macros.
Increase your self-awareness — Among media pros like those who use our render farms, it is common to get “totally lost” in the work. If you are so focused that you’re glued to a chair… well, as they say, there’s an app for that! There are plenty of alarm clocks and reminder utilities, but at the top of the “preventative care” software heap are programs like RSIGuard that monitor your typing, mousing and time management.
From the best trade show convention rentals to the widest range of high-powered post-production gear, one e-mail is all it takes. If you know what you need and time is tight, our Quick Rental Quote page is a breeze to use—and it’s always open. Questions? Give us a call at (877) 266-7725!
Small businesses suffer a larger percentage of productivity loss for each absent worker. When such absences are preventable, it is as frustrating as it is costly. When repetitive motion injuries and conditions—now mostly subsumed under the diagnosis of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)—first made headlines in the 1980s, they were known as “office worker” afflictions. Now that desktop computers and other modern electronic tools are being used in the shipping/receiving department, too, more people are doing repetitive actions daily—data entry, typing, using a mouse. But everyone, literally everyone, is looking at screens and monitors. Reports of vision problems, like RSI, continue to rise. But vision gets less press.
An ounce of prevention…
Today we will cover the basic methods of safeguarding your vision, and in a future blog, “Avoiding Tech-Related Inuries: RSI,” we will discuss improving your posture and setting up an ergonomically smart, physiologically correct (read, healthy) work area. NOTE: This is absolutely, positively not to be considered medical advice, a means of diagnosis, or a suggestion of any certain treatment. Consult a qualified medical professional at all times.
In addition to watching TV, using a smart phone and looking at Tom-Tom nav screens on the way to work, when we get there many of us stare at monitors for six or seven or 10 hours a day. This is hard on the eyes. Consult your own eye care specialist, of course, but in general most people should follow this advice:
- Take advantage of monitor technology: Most people plug in a monitor and never adjust a single thing. Not good. Familiarize yourself with your monitor’s (and OS’s) display controls (and Control Panel). On modern monitors you can set white points, adjust “temperatures,” brightness, and contrast, and make any number of tweaks to personalize your monitor—and give your eyes a break. The work monitor you use daily is probably not like our plasma display rentals, but your home TV may be. Every monitor should be uniquely “tuned” to the vision of the user(s) and the environment they’re in.
- Develop protective habits: There are numerous things you can do to avoid eye strain and related vision problems. If you can’t replace that overly reflective screen, you can cover it with a monitor filter/film that reduces glare. If you spend long periods of time in front of your screen, there are free apps you can download to remind you to take regular breaks and give your eyes a rest. Dry eyes? Talk to your eye doctor – they can point you to the right kind of artificial teardrops for your eyes.
- Practice preventative eye care: Simply put, get your eyes checked! Consider: Tech advances such as our iPad rental and virtual keyboards put power into people’s hands, but can also contribute to RSI and other conditions in the very same hands. Now consider how you long you’ve been looking at various sizes of screens—and, by the way, are you old enough to have used CRTs? Don’t wait until your vision is blurry to get a test if it’s been a while. If you have to pay for it yourself, do so. You’re pretty much restricted to the two eyes you were born with, which puts them in the priceless category. Treat them—treat yourself—well.
Whether you’re renting laptop computers for a special project or iPads for a training session, take workplace safety into consideration and ensure that ergonomics are taken into account. CRE is always looking out for our clients, and that’s why we encourage healthy technology practices! Call or e-mail, or Request a Rental Quote online to get the technology rentals you need.
Sun Seeker (iOS $8.99; Android $5.99) maps Old Sol’s path via “augmented reality” and indicates hourly intervals, sunrise/sunset and winter/summer solstice paths so you can set up outdoor shots. A map view gives you the sun’s direction for every hour of the day.
Moviola’s Final Cut Pro Field Guide (iOS $3.99) is a must-have for anyone working with FCP (for which you want Mac Pro rental power). Get help with troubleshooting, editorial workflows, emerging tech (RED, P2, etc.), keyboard shortcuts and more. With great resources – from software and hardware to reviews and online forums – shutterbugs, lensers, and cutters are never alone.
The Filmmakers Guide to Location Filming (Android, free) from the Location Managers Guild of America is the primo resource guide for auteurs in every niche: feature films, TV episodes and newfangled webisodes, music videos, commercials and more. Whatever you do, if you need render farms or a van full of servers, this guide will steer you to the right people, places, and things.
Using TCoder (iOS, $3.99) results in “notes with a timeline” to keep notes from interviews, live presentations and press conferences in sync with, say, audio captured on one of our digital recorder rentals. You can e-mail your notes from within the app, a real time-saver.
Producer (iOS, $14.99) is finely tuned for managing film and video projects. From budgeting and personnel to shooting schedules and inventory, it’s right at hand on the set or in the field. Export PDFs to share with other crew that may be using tablet PC rentals running Windows.
ProPrompter (iOS, $9.99; Android, $9.99) does an effective job as a teleprompter on an iPad rental or Android tablet. You can import MS-Word files directly from Word and control scrolling speed, looping, countdown, cue points and more, via Bluetooth remote control if you like.
Softbox Lite (iOS, free; Android, free) is a portable lighting system with soft box or light table options, color temperature support for matching white balance and an efficient, minimalist interface. Don’t get caught in the dark again.
Reel Director (iOS, $1.99) offers HD output with little quality loss due to editing, and has a full range of effects, from totally customizable text to 28 unique transitions. With real multitasking, it’s like having iMovie on an iMac – except it’s on an iPad or iPhone.
FiRe 2 (iOS, $5.99) is a recent upgrade of the first iPhone recorder to display real-time waveforms accurately, support markers and offer native SoundCloud integration. New features: advanced editing, EQ and effects by Audiofile Engineering, iZotope input processing, Dropbox integration and region support.
The last app is actually half app and half service, and comes with a lot of different labels for the same commodity: cloud storage. You can get from 2GB to 10GB free from Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, ASUS WebStorage and Drive from Google, among many others. Why do you need cloud storage? We tell you all about it here and here.
Besides having the post-production gear and trade show convention rentals you need, we can’t stop thinking of new ways to help. So watch for more blogs like this one to give you the top apps for meeting planners, conference organizers, trade show exhibitors, marketing managers, and other professionals. A single call or e-mail puts an experienced Account Executive to work developing solutions uniquely suited to your situation. If you already know what you need, hit the Quick Rental Quote page and get it handled ASAP!
There really are ways to use web-based tools to spread the word and “do PR” for your firm, in your own words and own style, without one-size-fits-all apps and services. If you need help writing, or developing a strategy, check out our blog archive for entries like 6 Top Marketing Tips During a Recession. If you’re ready to take control of your promo efforts, read on. In future blogs, we will expand on some of the points in this overview, but for now, just soak up the following observations…
The SEO Game | Everyone knows about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), that semi-mythical, infinitely flexible process that puts your site or press release at the top of the search results. You have to tweak SEO to your specific industry, and you will forever be aiming at a moving target, but it can be to your benefit if you can keep a low buzzwords-to-keywords ratio. (In other words, minimize jargon to maximize understanding.) Bottom line: Don’t expect miracles.
Virtual Clubhouses | Social media marketing is nothing new. You still need to “meet people where they are,” where they congregate with others according to a galaxy of interests, but now it’s as (or more) likely to be virtual as physical. Multimedia works well (test your material by viewing it on everything from a smart phone and 7-inch tablet to one of our plasma display rentals). Release your message through Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others for maximum exposure.
PR, Wired and Wireless | You have a story to tell: That’s the way to think about PR. Get your story to “key influencers” and get them to tell it to others for you, preferably millions of them. This is called multiplying your efforts, and a growing number of web-based PR services (Marketwire, PRWeb, PitchEngine, Vocus, etc.) make it mouse-click-simple for others to do just that with your story, hence more of them will.
Your Real-Time Newsroom | Whether you add it to your website, Facebook page, or web PR account, having a “newsroom” lets you reach customers, consumers, friends, fans, prospects, and key influencers, in real time. You can manage breaking news as readily as regularly scheduled features, even working remotely. Take one MacBook with its standard, installed applications, add some creativity and an Internet connection, and you’re (literally) in business.
Customize Your Distribution | A media distribution database for a small to mid-sized business (SMB) needs three to five thousand entries: news aggregators, news websites, online publications (consumer and trade), wire services, news bureaus, TV/radio news desks, print media (newspapers and magazines), business journals, cable programs, community news outlets, trade groups, and business associations. You will doubtless attend a conference or two (or 20, or 200), so CRE’s trade show convention rentals and marketing expertise will come in handy.
Google once held a press conference to announce that the firm and its partner, EarthLink, would provide San Francisco with free Wi-Fi. It didn’t instill much confidence in the attendees that the conference Wi-Fi was down until the event’s last few minutes. This is not rare. Wi-Fi gridlock at conferences is embarrassingly commonplace.
“OUTGROWING THE SPEC”. When wireless devices first appeared and the iPad rental was a novelty, conferences offered free Wi-Fi to keep attendees surfing happily. All that personal, bandwidth-wasting activity continues to this day with many more users, even as conference Wi-Fi is also pressed into service for official activities and communications.
The problem? Wi-Fi was not designed for auditoriums with thousands of people milling about, backpacks and pockets stuffed with iPods, tablet PC rentals, laptops, and smart phones. (Truth be told, there’d be no Wi-Fi problem if people would leave everything in those backpacks and pockets.) What to do? Let’s review…
EVOLUTION OF WI-FI. Standard Wi-Fi covers relatively small areas, providing access to devices making only modest demands for bandwidth. Even now, conference organizers and Wi-Fi consultants still underestimate bandwidth requirements and other factors. It is not only a matter of attendance figures, or how many attendees will have a net-ready laptop computer and other gizmos. Many things come into play, from the size of the room(s) to the amount of reflectivity (hard walls) and absorption (bodies, carpets).
CONFERENCE SOLUTIONS.Simply adding access points won’t guarantee success. In fact, that is likely to make things worse by creating more interference and introducing additional security flaws. The following actions can help:
Choose wisely: Read our blogs, do some research, ask questions, and check references so that you can choose a venue that has already solved the problem.
Down, boy: Attendees can be advised to turn off devices that aren’t mission-critical, and to avoid downloading large files. It won’t be the most popular mandate, but it will help.
Wired ports in a storm: Our MacBook Pro rental has an Ethernet port, but Apple’s next generation won’t. As many wireless problems (interference, signal loss) have yet to be resolved, a wired Ethernet port comes in handy. Of course, this won’t help all of your attendees and it’s far from ideal. But in a pinch, it can be helpful.
The simplest move? Talk to us. We have custom event Wi-Fi service solutions that can put signals in places that have none (it sounds like magic, but it really works!) and can distribute Wi-Fi access to hundreds or even thousands of simultaneous users without service drops.
EXHIBIT SPACE SOLUTIONS.If you will attend and/or exhibit at a conference that you know will have Wi-Fi problems, you can soften the impact with some planning:
Minimize Wi-Fi: Make phone calls and access online resources in advance, and locate wired access points to use when needed.
Try Mi-Fi instead: Personal hot spots through many carriers can support up to five devices, but there may still be interference issues.
Teamwork: One conference team member can be the communications hub, securing a wired access point, even if it’s in a hotel room, and keeping everyone connected and informed. If you rent laptops, you can share files without Wi-Fi via flash drives, AirDrop (with Macs) or cross-platform with the nearly ubiquitous Bluetooth.
In Tuesday’s Part 1, we began defining the essential terms of hotel venue contracts (a study you should finish up with your attorney, if necessary). Today we will continue with the terms Group Cancellation, Group Rate, Meeting Space, Reservation Method, and Room Block.
Like Attrition and Performance, Group Cancellation clauses can be misunderstood. However, the clause is not invoked nearly as often as Attrition, and most hotels will specify a penalty for cancelled events, whatever the reason, often on a sliding scale (how large an event, how early it is cancelled and so on). You want all this tightened up before investing in trade show equipment rentals, that’s for sure.
When you negotiate for rooms, you will encounter the Group Rate, which is affected by the rates for different room types (single, double, triple, multi-occupancy suites). The hotel guarantees this rate for reservations made after the contract is signed and before the Cut-off Date (see Part 1). The rate should be lower than that offered individual travelers, and “set in stone” (read, “written in the contract”) so attendees can make an informed decision.
Planning a conference requires you to determine the proper amount of meeting space. You may need tables and chairs for a dozen desktop PC rental units, a dining hall for a keynote luncheon, or “all of the above” (and more). The contract should therefore describe the rooms, their dimensions and seating capacity, date/time availability and the exact fees. Meeting space is sometimes included at no cost. If you don’t think you’re a tough enough negotiator to get it, study up or get (paid) professional help.
Even with a signed contract, attendees at your event need reservations. Having a Room Block (below) does not mean attendees can simply show up and check in. All attendees bring unique needs – different arrival/departure dates, smoking and handicap preferences, single/multiple occupancy room, etc. – so they should handle their own reservations. There are different ways to do it – some easier for the hotel, others for the meeting coordinator – but online registration programs have simplified the process tremendously.
This simply means the number of rooms that the hotel will hold for a group on particular dates at agreed rates. As the foundation of the hotel venue contract, the Room Block guarantees a rate for a specific period of time. After the contract is signed, the hotel takes the rooms off the market and attendees must make reservations before the Cut-off Date. Such room details as ensuring Wireless Internet Access for your iPad rentals should be handled at this point if not previously negotiated for the group as a whole.
Call or e-mail a knowledgeable Account Executive about your upcoming conference and we’ll make it a real winner. Know what you need? Visit our Quick Rental Quote page and you’ll be in and out in no time!
If you need to book a hotel for a conference, you will quickly become familiar with the intricacies of the hotel sales contract. They are convoluted enough that lawyers hold seminars about them. Because conference bookings are often done a year or more in advance, the hotel sales contract must explain how to manage potential changes in pricing, availability, equipment, and so on.
We are certainly not providing you legal advice on your contracts, for which you should consult an attorney. However, we will define the major clauses and contract elements to give you a good start at understanding hotel sales contracts. Today, in Part 1 we will define:
In Thursday’s Part 2, we will give you the scoop on:
Let’s get to it!
The interchangeable terms ‘Attrition’ and ‘Performance’ and are possibly the most confusing terms in the hotel and conference industries. If you book a certain number of rooms, for lodging as well as breakout sessions with Audience Response Systems (ARS) and other CRE meeting technology, the hotel will expect them to be used and paid for at the agreed rate. Hotel professionals realize the near-impossibility of predicting room reservations accurately, especially when booking in advance, and typically set the contractual obligation at 80-95% of the full booking. Unless the hotel is able to book those rooms at the last minute, you’ll pay for this minimum irrespective of attendance, so consider your needs carefully before reserving.
Audiovisual equipment services included in the contract (sometimes as an “exclusivity clause” and sometimes as part of the Food & Beverage package), is often worth negotiating. The in-house AV provider may be limited in both variety of equipment and technical support. And, using an outside company like CRE for your audio visual (AV) equipment rentals, for the keynote presentation and everything else, is usually far more cost-effective than renting from the hotel. Be sure to look into local AV rental options before signing away your options.
Concessions are all the extras, upgrades and freebies included in the contract. Absolutely everything is negotiable and the number and variety of extras that can be included in your rate may surprise the uninitiated. You can get free suites and meals, use of the spa, frequent flyer miles and more. Negotiate like a pro (or hire one) and you’ll save enough for extra plasma display rentals or other equipment.
This vital date must be clearly defined in the contract, as it’s the date that your group rate and room reservations expire. A typical cut-off date is from 10 to 30 days before the arrival date.
If you are reserving space for receptions, cocktail hours, lunches, dinners or other events, you will be negotiating a food and beverage minimum. This may be a flat dollar amount that you must spend on food and drinks, and you may be responsible for the unused balance. Make the hotel guarantee the meal prices for any catered events and ensure your attendee count is accurate.
Force Majeure supersedes any group cancellation clause (covered in Part 2) and was once called the “Acts of God” clause. It offers a penalty-free cancellation if your plans are altered by “events beyond control,” protecting you against losses from terrorist acts, government regulations, natural disasters, labor strikes, and other situations beyond human control.
Modern buildings are among the largest single contributors to greenhouse emissions. In the U.S., as much as 40% of the total CO2 released annually comes from office buildings, homes and other structures. And everything’s involved from the kinds of materials being used to the upgradability of the installed systems, as well as every imaginable environmental impact.
So when buildings house conference centers and those start filling up with attendees and exhibitors, who start plugging in plasma display rentals and digital signage, we are presented with yet another opportunity to think and act “different”. We’ve blogged many times on green conferences and technology, and today we’re hitting some of the major points do some simple, innovative conference greening of your own.
Choose centrally located conference centers with a number of hotels and restaurants incorporated or within walking distance.
Note nearby stores for basic things conference-goers always need.
Ensure that enough hotels and other nearby businesses offer free WiFi, as you will rely on it to communicate with team members via smart phones, iPads, tablet PC rentals or their own laptops.
Transportation & Logistics
Encourage people to walk, use public transportation and car pool.
Coordinating transportation for attendees can be a huge undertaking, so contact an event transportation specialist if you need help.
Registration & Communication
Codify your commitment to sustainability, as CRE did with its corporate Green Statement, by posting your policy on the conference website.
Use e-mail and web-based forms for registration and attendance tracking of conference-goers, as well for communicating with both vendors and support staff.
For agendas, program materials and other giveaways, reduce or eliminate paper, ink and printing processes by distributing them online, via WiFi at the conference, on a CD or copied to a flash drive sporting the company logo.
Presentations, Meetings & Meals
Devise a recycling program within the meeting venue itself, starting the very first day, then promote it continuously.
Meals: Use no disposable items, not even napkins, to eliminate paper waste – and serve water only on request.
Consider enlisting the help of reputable event production experts such as CRE Rentals to ensure the best possible results. A single call or e-mail, or a visit to our Quick Rental Quote form, will get you what you need so you can get back to “greening” your conference. Call now!
Today, we conclude “10 Best Ways to Get People to Your Booth” (check out Part 1 if you missed the post). We are concerned with maximizing booth attendance. Your actions should follow from your pre-conference preparation, and dovetail smoothly with your post-conference follow-up. A trade show booth is a huge investment, and event production rentals are just the start. Done right, your trade show appearance can spark a measurable sales increase, so turning uninterested attendees into attentive booth visitors is the vital first step in making the most of that investment.
Here are the final five of our 10 ways to get attendees to your trade show booth:
6. Tickets: These remain much-desired items of swag because many people value experiences over material things. Tip: Do not offer tickets to tech events, but to something with a “cool” factor like a music concert, VIP-only gallery opening, sporting event and so on.
7. Food: Food is a uniquely powerful way to entice visitors to your booth. Advertise (PDFs, e-mails, tweets) precisely what you’ll be serving at your booth, and make people’s mouths water with an image-laden sign-up notice on a strategically placed all-in-one multitouch display PC or two.
8. Contest: If you expect to attract conference attendees to your booth with a raffle or contest, the prize must be something that people will actually get excited about (and show up to claim). A new model like CRE’s iPad rental qualifies but, as some recent show exhibitors have discovered, the discontinued models do not. Don’t be cheap!
9. Subscription: Because of today’s information overload, magazine and newsletter subscriptions are not as highly valued as in the past. However, information sources that are truly exclusive, and boast inside information remain valuable and, thus, are effective “hooks.”
10. Personal invitations: If your conference team is connected via tablet PC rentals or other wireless gear, you can coordinate efforts to “work the floor” and encourage booth visits with a variety of strategies. Dale Carnegie might suggest you ask people a small favor, like coming to the booth for a two-minute video – and some peach cobbler (see #7, above).
Know what you need? If so, use the handy Quick Rental Quote form. But if you want expert advice on breaking through old bottlenecks and preparing for new challenges, then one call or e-mail connects you to an experienced CRE Account Executive. You can ask us a million questions, but we really just have one for you: How can we help?