Be Creative But Dont Forget to Test Your Concept First!

A client called me yesterday, We want to make a splash at an upcoming event and weve been brainstorming some ideas that were really excited about. Do you have time to review them? At that point I was on a train heading into London so we agreed to reconvene via Skype this morning. I had no inkling of what was to come, but I was excited by my clients passion for his idea.

The upcoming event is one of the industrys largest user conferences which also boasts a substantial trade show floor for demonstrating hardware and software solutions. People that know me well also know that I am not a major fan of the trade show as a lead generation device; there are many cheaper, more measurably effective ways to sell stuff. But I am rather partial to a trade show as a platform for learning more about users and prospects. I love to hear about the challenges people face and the solutions they adopt as they apply our stuff to their workflows. And there are few opportunities that provide for greater feedback on your own offerings.

With so many exhibitors on the show floor you have to work extra hard to make a splash and stand out from the crowd. Many vendors aim to stand out by wearing show uniforms usually sporting logod tops and matching bottoms. Some arrange timed events on their stands and pull people in with the lure of prize opportunities while others aim to grab your attention with their compelling graphics and videos. Some even extend their presence by flooding the hall with branded caps, tote bags, t-shirts, and other cheap forgettable junk as they transform attendees into walking promotions.

I wondered which strategy my client had in mind and I didnt have to wait too long to find out. When we connected by Skype this morning he launched straight into his plans; We want to have some fun at the upcoming event, we will use social media to prime the pumps beforehand and we want to make our brand fun on the show floor. All sounded good to me. He went on to explain how he wanted to seed the twitter sphere with jingle-like phrases, hoping they would catch-on rapidly with his target market and provide instant ubiquity on the show floor where his stand would continue the messaging. I liked what I was hearing and it didnt stop there. His plan includes appropriate dress and freemium giveaways to extend his presence beyond the show floor, and hes already checked that relevant URL domains are available for this campaign. In just about every sense he is ready to pull the trigger.

Sounds great, I said, I love the integrated ideas. Just one question: Have you tested your concept on your target market to learn from their reactions? He said yes, but really the answer was no. Hed only tested the idea on tame people inside his organisation. He hadnt reached out to customers or prospects to gauge their reactions. He hadnt accounted for cultural differences in different countries, for different interpretations of the same word or phrase, and he hadnt thought through the many possible pitfalls on the road ahead.

In many situations perspective is everything; one mans like is another mans dislike it all depends on their perspective. When a technology firm builds a campaign that rings all the right bells for them, there is no guarantee that it will ring the right bells for their customers. For example: a misguided approach to this event could damage his brand. His theme might communicate the wrong message and leave people thinking that his offering was something it was not. What if his campaign plans did little more than provide a new platform for his competitors to hijack and run with? And if that did happen, might they execute better than him? And what if his fun campaign just fell flat? What if it made his offering seem irrelevant and uncompelling to the decision makers, influencers, and decision breakers in his target customer base? It could all turn really bad. Without testing his ideas on a market sample he might never know until it was too late.

To prove the point I have compiled a brief survey online at My aim is to learn how your opinion of valued public servants changes based on different perspectives we ask you to adopt. Please follow the link to take the survey, it should take you less than one minute to complete. For my part I will commit to update this article in a week or two with results and analysis so your time will not be spent in vain.

What followed was a great conversation, fuelled by my clients enthusiasm, about how he might test these ideas. We also wondered what other options might prevail so we analysed his chosen phrases and theme to decipher the logic used and we hunted around for other phrases and themes that applied the same logic to provide a different perspective. In short we extracted all of the positives from his ideas and brainstormed other options that included similar positives but avoided any of the potential negatives. We wrapped up with agreement to reconnect in a few days after he has reached out to friends and foes at home and abroad to gather their reactions.

I have high hopes for his attention-grabbing antics, so long as they grab the right people and communicate the right things to them. If we properly test his message and refine it before the event we are sure to get a much better reaction from his customers and better returns on his investment.