My family and I love movies. In our last home, we spent eight years slowly building out our basement. The main feature of the basement was a theater complete with Dolby Surround, a 120-inch screen and an HD projector along with stadium-style seating. This was so important to us and so often used. Watching movies together as a family has brought a lot of value to our relationships. So much so that when we spent three years looking for a new home, one of the absolute requirements was that it either had a theater or had a proper area to build one. We found and moved to our new home last September, and the first thing we did was hire a contractor to build a theater. Today, it’s used multiple times per week.

We have a rule in our home that a “Conklin new movie release date” isn’t the date of the theater release but the date it’s released on iTunes. There’s something awesome about watching a new release movie at home for the first time. Our friends pick on us about this, but we love waiting with anticipation as a new release goes through the motions of shifting from movie theater release to DVD release. Of course, it’s also nice being able to pause the movie to go grab another Costco-priced can of soda or have a biorelief moment on a whim without missing any of the movie.

Great Scott - Back to the Future - Conklin Media

There is one time when we always hit the theater first, though. It’s those mega-action movies in which you just have to see the IMAX or 3D versions to really get the feel of what the director is trying to do. And, of course, Star Wars.

The COVID situation, however, has put a damper on this family tradition for all of us. Content from the big movie studios isn’t being released, and there’s really no telling when things are going to be back to normal—whatever “normal” will look like in 2021 and beyond. And this isn’t happening just in the movie world; there’s a strong possibility that it’s happening in your “business’ world” as well. If there was ever a time for a real-life Doc Brown who could take us back to Wuhan, China, in late 2019 to “vanish” some bats, it’s now.

As we continue to work with our clients through this challenging time, we’re discovering things that are working for them and may be able to work for you as well. This is a new time for all of us, but I’m blessed to be sitting in a front-row seat as we watch true entrepreneurial spirits work to continue growing. If you’re really suffering right now, I hope this gives you some hope and gets some ideas moving in your mind that you can execute.

Trade Show Marketing Budgets

Trade shows meme - Conklin Media

Almost 100 percent of our clients who sit in the B2B (business-to-business) world have historically used trade shows as a way to meet new customers. As you likely know, many trade shows have canceled. I’m actually heading to Portland, Maine, for one of our popular On-Site Growth Strategy Sessions (GSSs) in a few weeks to discuss this exact challenge with one of our clients. All their new revenue comes from people they meet at trade shows or from referrals from their existing clients. So although they don’t need to spend the money on these trade shows, they also don’t have the profits in the upcoming business growth season from trade show efforts.

We actually experienced this internally as well, so we feel the pain. We meet a lot of our new customers through speaking at business leadership events geared toward business growth. Many of these were canceled or postponed in 2020 so far. We’ve also experienced a shift in the response we get from those speaking opportunities because many of them are now virtual rather than being in person. For example, I’m fortunate to be a Vistage International speaker, putting me in rooms with hundreds of CEOs of successful companies every year. At those events, I share business growth concepts with them that they can implement in their organizations to grow. When we’re in person, we can expect about 10 percent of the group’s members to reach out and meet with us about how we can help them. These discussions often lead to new client relationships. Since they have shifted to virtual, however, that 10 percent reach-out rate has decreased. I would suggest that this likely is due to a lower level of excitement and engagement that you just can’t get virtually. Maybe I should invent some kind of a hologram delivery system or something. “Beam me up, Scotty!”

But there are some opportunities here as well. We often don’t explore new opportunities unless we’re forced to, and many of us are being forced to if we want to survive.


There are two very specific things you can do (well, there are many more than two, but we’ll zero in on in a bit here) to continue to engage in the same audiences you’d be meeting at those trade shows.

Create Facebook Audiences of Trade Show Attendees

If you have a list from past trade shows of attendees, you can create a custom Facebook Audience and speak directly to those people through Facebook or Instagram. Make sure you understand the ins and out of the laws to make this happen, but I can tell you from experience that this can be extremely effective.

You can also take your best customers you may have met at those trade shows and build a lookalike audience and Facebook will, over time, make the audience better and better if you have your conversions set up properly.

Lastly, you can simply advertise directly to people who have shown interest in the trade show or other industry groups. It’s extremely powerful.

Use Google Display Ads to Speak to the Trade Show Audiences

A lot of people think of Google and limit the advertising capabilities to people searching online. You can also target people who are on certain pages of the web with ads, however. So, you can have Google find pages that talk about your phrase “Insert trade show name here” and have ads show on those pages. You’ll then see a report of all the sites on which your ads are running, and if you have your Google Analytics set up correctly, you’ll be able to see where you’re getting a solid ROI on your investment.

Caution: Think Value, Not Sales, in Content and Ads

If you implement any of the aforementioned ideas, it’s very important not to go straight for the sale. Think of the audience you’re communicating with and create something that would be of value to them. A few ideas could be:

  • 10 ways (industry type) are staying alive through COVID webinar
  • 5 charts that show the (industry type) can have hope in 2020
  • How to pick up new customers that were left in the dust by your competitors

I just thought of these as I’m typing this, so you and your team can probably think up things that are much better. But here’s the important thing: Give value that proves that you know what you’re talking about and that you understand their situation. When you give relevant value to someone, it increases their confidence and respect for you and your organization. The best customers come from these interactions, leading to discussions about how you can help them.

Shift the Budget

Every business growth endeavor is a risk. They don’t always work out. Our team has literally more than 100 years of combined experience in working with companies large and small in building successful business growth campaigns. This puts us at a huge advantage when it comes to building new campaigns because we get to take the lessons of old and “input” them into the new. It decreases the learning curve on what will work in almost every situation we’re put in.

When you shift the budget, though, you have to think of it as if you’re mining for gold. You know the gold is there but have to find it. Sometimes, you have to dig and dig and dig. But once you find that gold vein, it’s well worth it.

Create an Intentional Relationship-Building Text Outreach Plan for Your Current Customers and Prospects

I have to give credit to Chip at Warwick Auto Park for this idea. A lot of businesses do texting, but it’s usually irritating, if I’m being honest. I’ve been taking my cars to Warwick for a few years for service. With people not driving as much over the past few months, I’m sure most car dealerships experienced a decrease in auto repair revenue. To be clear, Chip didn’t tell me that his shop experienced this; it’s just an assumption.

Chip and I text once in a while directly to chat about car deals and such, so I have his phone number in my address book. One day, after I had taken my car in for service, I received this message from Chip:

Warwick Auto Park - SMS - Conklin Media

What a great way to make sure that everything was good. I’m not sure if Chip and his team are doing the following or not, but in addition to this, if the response was like mine, “Perfect,” he could start asking for reviews on Google or Facebook.

That was “normal” in terms of an experience from an auto dealership, but here’s what I thought took it to a new level. It’s a message I received just yesterday.

Warwick Auto Park - SMS - Conklin Media

This is great. It feels authentic. It’s not asking for money or for me to book an appointment. But this touchpoint is perfect.

The only reason I even know this is automated is because it came from a different number than the one I have in my phone for Chip. Which, by the way, isn’t a problem at all in my view. I imagine most of Chip’s customers don’t have his cell phone number. But saying it’s Chip helps create a personal experience. This is different from what you get from a huge dealership. This same personal connection can be used regardless of your business.

If you’re wondering where to get started or how to implement a service like this, check out this review of a bunch of services from BusinessNewsDaily.com to find a solution that matches your needs.

How to Discover Opportunities by Launching a Legal Spy Program

Spy on competitors - Conklin Media

By far, utilizing a legal spy program is my favorite way to grow because it’s scalable and gives you a huge advantage. To do a lot of the research phases here, you’ll need a free account with SEMrush.com. We have a pro account for our team, so I’m not sure whether you’ll see exactly what I’m seeing or not. Regardless, if you read through this and are prepared to take action, the $99 you’ll spend for a month of the service is well worth it.

Everyone’s familiar with flower shops, so I’m going to use them as an example. Specifically, a shop that sells roses exclusively. Now, don’t get stuck on the idea that I’m using flowers as an example. The same would work for super industrial organizations that manufacture gerotors or those organizations wishing for more leads for their sales team.

So, let’s get to spying.

First, log in to your account on SEMrush.com. At the very top, there’s a bar where you can either type in any domain name, whether it’s yours or your competitors. You can also type in a keyword phrase. For our flower example, I’m going to type in “flowers” just to get started down the rabbit hole.

When you do, if you scroll down, you’ll find a “SERP Analysis.” This shows you the top 10 pages that are ranking in organic search for these phrases. More importantly, it shows you how much traffic is estimated to be landing on that URL from Google under “Search Traffic.”

SEMrush SERP analysis - Conklin Media

I’m going to click on “ProFlowers.com” and then click “Domain Overview.”

SEMrush organic research - domain overview - Conklin Media

When we do, we are now seeing the greatest business competitive intelligence information the business world has ever had access to. That’s not a joke.

SEMrush organic research - page authority - Conklin Media

What I want you to pay attention to as you’re looking at your competitors in this tool is the “Paid Search Traffic” number. If the competitor you have pulled up doesn’t have any, go back and click on other domains until you find one. If you still can’t find one, then Google a few terms you believe that your potential clients are typing in and find one who has a listing that says “ad” beside it, and put that domain into this tool.

14.7K in the “Paid Search Traffic” box above means that SEMrush estimates that this site is paying about $14,700 to Google every month in Google Ads. That’s cool info but not even close to the best info.

Go ahead and click on that number. When you do, here’s the real magic:

SEMrush advertising research - Conklin Media

We are now looking at the specific keywords for which your competitors are paying Google to send them traffic. You can also see the exact text ads they are running, the landing pages they are sending that traffic to, etc. Take a minute and understand how powerful that is.

No testing needed. You have a working campaign right here in front of you.

Build a landing page with similar offers, buy these specific keywords, use similar ad text and you’ll be off to the races.

Now, what you’re looking for here, however, isn’t a list of keywords but rather new concepts for you to sell. Do this exercise with all the competitors you can find, and you’ll quickly discover new easy ways that your competitors are successfully selling their products and services. It’s truly magical.

If you’re feeling this is a bit overwhelming, just get on a GSS (Growth Strategy Session) with our team, and we’ll walk you through it for free.

Run, Forrest, Run!

Look, I can share all the information in the world, but without action, there are never results. So, get going—go play. Think! A friend of mind became well-known in my circle for saying the great book by Napoleon Hill called Think and Grow Rich is actually titled, THINK. <insert pause> And Grow Rich.

We don’t spend enough time thinking in many cases about what’s next. We’re so busy doing what’s in front of us today that we forget to build the future. So go think. And then do it.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda portrait - Conklin Media