How to be a marketing maverick in an old-fashioned industry

marketing maverickBy Elaine Ball, {grow} community member

What if I told you that I could get your target customers to wear your branding on their butt?

That these customers would actually be coming up to you, asking to put your branding on their butt?

Oh yeah, I saw that eye roll. And I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like a wacky breed of marketing that might work fine in an edgy industry like fashion or music… but your sector? Nope. These guys are as straight-laced and serious as they come.

But that’s where you’re mistaken. Because this isn’t a hypothetical boast: not long ago, I really did manage to get my marketing company’s logo onto the derrieres of hundreds of willing convention-goers.

And not just any convention: a Geospatial technology convention.

That’s just about as geeky as it gets.

Why I became a marketing maverick

We’ll get to that in just a moment. But let’s start at the beginning: who am I?

… Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief (excuse the pun).

I’m Elaine Ball and I set up EBT Marketing back in 2013 with my whizz kid colleague, Amanda Bradshaw. We’re a niche B2B consultancy working with the surveying industry, otherwise known as Geospatial. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s anything to do with measuring an area, be that land, buildings, muck, you name it.

I grew up in that world – my father was a surveyor and designer of survey equipment, with an energetic attitude to trying out new ideas, and I worked in the family business in Marketing and Sales, dealing with my father’s latest invention for the traditional surveyor.

It’s geeky, it’s techy, it’s old fashioned. And we decided it was time to shake things up.

We wanted to jump right in and try something a little bit different. We wanted to strip out the usual jargon and give surveyors, survey equipment manufacturers and geospatial software houses the courage to do something that’s fun and unique, but at the same time focused on growing their consumer base and making them more money.

In May 2015 we ran a crazy test: we created branded Star Wars and Muppet socks and held them out at a popular industry exhibition held in London each year. The socks were a hit – pictures of them are still being retweeted to this day – and we realized that the dudes and dudettes in the Geospatial world were open to our quirkiness.

Armed with that knowledge, this year, we decided to step things up a notch.

Industry wisdom suggests that Geospatial companies are weak on social selling, but we had a sneaky suspicion that things are changing. We hosted a live Twitter chat with exhibitors and 20 companies joined the chat.

The chat lasted for just over an hour and generated a huge amount of excitement among exhibitors. It boosted their pre-event marketing by generating content to be posted live, impacting their SEO, and sparking conversations between exhibitors and attendees ahead of time. What’s more, it was fun and engaging, and set a great tone for the show. In fact, a number of people asked if we could go a step further and run a live Twitter chat during the show next year!

But we didn’t stop there. We’d got their attention, and now it was time to show off our marketing superpowers… by dressing up as superheroes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, at this year’s Geobusiness conference, yours truly and my trusty sidekick Elly donned bright turquoise capes and soared (well, ran) through the exhibits giving away branded boxer shorts. Before long, we had people coming up to us, asking for their very own EBTM underwear.

… Within two hours, we’d given away all 90 pairs. What’s more, we spotted not one, not two, but three different people sporting last year’s branded Muppet and Star Wars socks!

We also realized concrete benefits from this wackiness. We developed several important leads from walking/ flying around the show and we secured four new meetings with new prospects right at the show. One prospect specifically told us how much he loved how crazy we were and said that was one reason for the meeting. We later ran a workshop and five attendees were secured from our “super hero” days.

Focus on the pants!

Much of my work involves teaching the global Geospatial Industry about market segmentation, needs analysis, and focused marketing campaigns. But it’s precisely this appetite for mischief and disruption that helps me inject fresh perspectives in the industry. We’re helping it to shrug off the stuffy, boring, “old boys’ network” image, and capture the imagination of a brand new generation.

Simple ideas, such as creating event timelapse videos, gain huge traction. Just look at this 10 second video of me pretending to drive a KOREC/Trimble land survey buggy over rough ground – a playful little piece of content, yet one that picked up 1,900 impressions and was retweeted by GIS professionals around the globe.

It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things no one else in your industry has the guts to do. Trying something left-of-field definitely works – we’ve proved it. But you can’t just throw out something weird, hope it goes viral, and then switch back to dry old industry jargon the other 364 days of the year.

You have to be prepared to see things through. To be consistent. To learn and grow. That’s how you’ll keep building on your successes, year on year.

elaine ballElaine Ball is the founder and CEO of Elaine Ball Technical Marketing (EBTM) Ltd, a professional and devoted International Marketing Consultancy, which specializes in helping companies grow and become profitable through strategic marketing and marketing communications.




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