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Big space, more focus: How Lynda.com doubled its leads at Macworld

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Objective: Attract show attendees to the company's largest-ever booth while not overwhelming them with branding or messages. Also find a way to populate the large booth with useful information on a reduced budget. Strategy: Target messaging by eliminating excess signage, cutting free giveaways, selling only a few of the company's products and turning show attendees into walking ads . Results: The company more than doubled leads over the previous year, despite a drop in attendance at the show. At Macworld Expo this month, Lynda.com, which provides online and CD-based software tutorials to businesses and educational organizations, showcased its largest booth ever. It grew from 10 feet by 10 feet five years ago to 80 feet by 40 feet this year. Rather than overwhelming the show's attendees with signage and information, however, Lynda.com's co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Bruce Heavin, simplified the company message, eliminating many booth details from years past. “We had more messaging [in the original, smaller booth] than in our 80-by-40-foot booth,” Heavin said. “There was so much going on that I think it just confused people.” This year, a refined, targeted campaign, combined with a less-cluttered booth design was key to Lynda.com's success. With such a large booth, the most difficult part of the process was deciding what not to include. “It's easy to be at a show and want to promote every single one of our products separately. But if we showed two things [for example, if we promoted the fact that you can access our products online and on CD], we actually sell less of both. [By choosing to promote only online products and services,] we have a better longtime value with the customer,” Heavin said. The booth appeared more like a VIP lounge than the usual trade show space and had several areas that featured 30 computers for attendees highlighting Lynda.com's online training library. At the back of the booth was a large wall, 40 feet wide by 20 feet high with a pared down design. On it, a sign displayed the Lynda.com logo with the tag, “Lynda.com/Online Software Training/Learn it all. Learn it fast. Learn it now.” “[The wall] was designed and positioned to look down the aisle,” Heavin said. “We bought the aisle so it would look right at the booth. Now, I have visibility going all the way across the hall. [Before the show,] I made maps and models of the floor and saw what my competitors around me used in previous years. Looking at their height and their size—knowing they were more likely to reuse their booths than make a new one—I looked at that as part of the planning process.” Additionally, the booth had two small private rooms at the center, located behind a velvet rope, where salespeople could take business and education clients to talk in more detail about how the company can provide enterprise solutions. “The VIP lounge feel makes them feel a little more special,” Heavin said. Originally, Heavin said, the company had planned a slightly larger booth that contained an 80-foot wall. The economic climate, however, required rethinking some strategy. Decreasing the size of the wall was only part of it. “When the budget's not there, you have to go with what you have,” Heavin said. “It's way too expensive to buy billboards or banner space on the show floor. But for a fraction of the cost, I could buy [ads on] news racks and bus stops. So, I bought a news rack in front of the Apple store and at bus stops around hotels and [the convention center].” Additionally, Heavin eliminated nearly all free giveaways. “I actually got rid of things [that people assume] help get better leads,” he said. By getting rid of the giveaways, “you eliminated people looking for freebies. The freebies don't translate to dollars.” Instead, the company created custom yellow iPod Nanos, etched with its logo. The company distributed stickers with the Lynda.com logo that they asked attendees to wear on the show floor. “If we spotted you wearing a sticker with our logo, you would be awarded an iPod Nano,” Heavin said. “People walked all over the trade show floor wearing our stickers.” They were walking advertisements for the company. Ultimately, the decision to streamline messaging and design resulted in the company doubling the number of leads generated at the booth over years past. “[Most important is] being on point—and knowing what you want to sell and the customer you want to reach.” M
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