The Tradeshow Season Is Almost Here

With a smaller budget and smaller teams, a lot of startups selling to the enterprise market face a difficult decision this year when it comes to attending the right tradeshows.  Some startups may only have the budget for 2-3 shows per year, which makes it even more difficult to choose. As a side note, the tradeshow budget includes much more than the tradeshow fee; it includes the booth and everything that comes with it (electricity, carpet, etc.), shipping, travel, giveaways, and while the days of fancy vendor parties are almost gone, for a small company, a tradeshow can be a significant expense (that’s why virtual tradeshows are not cheap, but cheaper than the real ones, although they don’t give you the face-to-face time).

I have attended my share of tradeshows and conferences, and, while I can say that what works for one company may not work for another one, all vendors are pretty much looking for what social media, which we all love and experiment these days, can’t bring: face-to-face time with end-users, press, and analysts (and yes, I include bloggers in the “press” category).

This year, some shows are more popular than others, because they offer exhibitors access to a qualified audience, reducing the sales cycles and maximizing their return on investment. Three of our customers, Pivot3, StorMagic and VirtenSys, will be attending VMworld. VirtenSys will also be speaking at the show if you want to learn about I/O virtualization. Pivot3 will have demos of its Serverless Computing solution, available now for VMware environments (and I didn’t want to use the marketing cliché “award-winning” here, but it really won numerous awards and received industry recognition at other shows, because of its original approach to storage and server virtualization). StorMagic will offer demonstrations and free copies of SvSAN, the StorMagic virtual appliance for ESX environments that allows you to build a high-availability SAN for less than $2,000. The free versions that they are giving away at the show are not trials, but regular licenses, which support up to 2 TB of capacity.

For those trying to save some money and virtualize what is already or what should be in their IT environment, this show certainly brings together small and large vendors, and the focus on virtualization is quite helpful for both vendors and customers. Vendors know that their target customers will be here, while users have the opportunity to attend any virtualization session they can think of, and then see the demos of the vendor solutions that will help them solve real-world problems.

Anyway, there are plenty of other shows this fall (some downsized, but still there), and, from what I hear, a lot of start-ups choose to attend VMworld and maybe another show in the fall. The good news is that these startups still do and believe in PR, they still do some advertising (mostly the online programs that can give them leads right away, such as webinars, white paper promos, etc.), and they still chase their customers for application stories to share with the world.

Our advice to startups looking to maximize their marketing investments: know your target audience, which ranges from potential partners, customers, and investors, to media and analysts, and know where to go in order to reach it. Go back and forth between the real world and the virtual world as long as you attend targeted tradeshows and build targeted Twitter follower lists. You can’t afford to be everywhere and do everything. Also, when ousourcing your marketing functions, such as PR, it will save you time and money if you work with people and agencies who know your market.

It is a tough year for startups, but those knowing where to spend their marketing money in order to reach a qualified audience will get the best ROI. The others will probably end up paying silly money for highway billboards, with no specific targets, but with the pride of having their name up there with the bigger players’. The difference is that those players already have a strong brand name. The billboard only reminds people of it. Building a brand name requires so much more than a billboard, and it can be done in a cost-effective way.

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Only Two Fortune 100 CEOs Have Twitter Accounts

While some execs are open to using the latest social media tools, even though they are still trying to figure them out, testing them, and looking for the best ways to measure ROI, other execs are not embracing them yet. Research results released only a few days ago by the website UBERCEO reveal that the top 100 CEOs in the country are not too active in the social media community.  The report looks at how and if they are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia, and if they have a blog.  It turns out that only two CEOs have Twitter accounts. On LinkedIn, only 13 CEOs have profiles, but out of those, only three have more than 10 connections. Numbers are disappointing on Facebook as well, because 81 percent of CEOs do not have a personal Facebook page. While three quarters of the CEOs have some kind of Wikipedia entry, nearly a third of those have limited or outdated information. On top of that, not even one Fortune 100 CEO has a blog. The sites suspects that the top three reasons CEOs (and probably some consumers and enterprises) aren’t using social media is because of fear (of unknown), lack of (social media) knowledge, and time constraints.

We work directly with CEOs of various startups, and I would say that #1 reason for them would be time constraints. At a startup, you wear many hats and CEOs are no exception. While most of them are looking into starting a blog, I always advise them to keep posts consistent and interesting, rather than start in full force with many posts in the first month and then slow down or even stop posting, as the novelty wears off and they have to focus on other tasks. Another option would be to share the blog with other members of the executive team such as one of the founders, the CTO or other VPs. This way, different people will cover different topics, with unique insights, increasing the quality of the blog and making sure there isn’t a big gap between postings.

The quality of blog posts attracts visitors, who may turn into loyal readers. By providing them with interesting, consistent posts, you know they will read every post, comment on it, tweet it, or simply talk about it with others. If you have something to say in more than 140 Twitter characters, a blog is the perfect place to do it. Even if others have already covered a topic, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write about it anymore. Sharing your opinion with the world can only make it better.

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Should PR Agencies Blog?

There have been many conversations out there about the validity of a PR agency’s blog. Would anybody trust us, knowing that our clients pay for our services, and we can’t really say anything negative in a blog? So, should we or should we not blog? If we do, should we blog about our clients? Is the PR agency meant to be only an invisible force? (Oh, I just love the word “force” in this context. I had to use it.)

My opinion is that, as any other blogger, we should blog if we have something to say, if we know how to say it, and we understand the commitment we need to make when writing a blog. The blogosphere doesn’t need another blog if it is just a shameless marketing tool, and it is not able to give something back to its readers. Having said that, we will definitely talk about our customers if we think that the information is useful for our target audience; otherwise, we will certainly not discuss it here.

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Hello Silicon Valley PR!

ClassyTech PR becomes Silicon Valley PR. This is our first blog post, and, as we have just finished transferring all of the content from our old website to www.siliconvalleypr.com, I am going to cover the reason why we had changed the name.

It’s not a strategy change, not a management change, and we are not looking for a fresh start either, because the old one was pretty good. We simply outgrew ClassyTech, a firm we started back in 2005 to provide Marcom, web, and graphic services. A few months later, at our customers’ requests, we added PR, which was Georgiana’s expertise, and since then, we have been a full-service PR firm for high-tech startups. More than this, we are targeting the storage, server, and networking markets, and we have launched many start-ups, relaunched others, and provided ongoing PR support for various companies in these industries.

The new name will certainly eliminate the “where are you located” question when talking to prospect customers. While our customers are all over the world, some of them have Silicon Valley offices, and most of them visit the Valley quite often on business. A lot of their partners are here, a lot of our partners are here, and this new name will, hopefully, honor the place that that gave us ClassyTech four years ago. We are glad to continue the work we started with ClassyTech, and we hope that the new name will be at least as powerful and – why not say it – lucky for us as the old one was. We “tested” it already on our current customers and they loved it; and, as making our customers happy is our goal, we just had to change it. Hello Silicon Valley PR!

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