Why Did The Chicken Cross the Road, A Marketing Mystery

It is perhaps a universally known children’s riddle: Why did the chicken cross the road? The standard response is, of course, (SPOILER ALERT) to get to the other side.

Every marketer should think like the chicken.

  1. The chicken had a clear goal: get to the other side,
  2. She identified a strategy to achieve that goal: cross the road
  3. And she achieved her goal.

What is not revealed in the riddle is how the chicken crossed the road. As children, we assume that she walked across the road, but nowhere in the riddle does it say that. In fact, it is the least important detail.

Too often, we get caught up in the how, the tactics, before we’ve clearly defined the why.


What was in the chicken's head?


Walk                       Advertising
Run   PR
Skip   Social Media
Fly   Events
Roll   Research
Dance   Direct Marketing
Drive   Point of Sale

I have been both victim and perpetrator of starting with “How.” Have you ever said or been told, “We need to get on Facebook!” or “We need a brochure!”?

Next time this happens, repeat this simple response: Why?

“Why” is the only appropriate response until you define what you want to achieve – independent of the favored tactic. Forget about the how for a minute and think about:

  • What is your objective? Sales? Brand exposure? Reseller development? Stifle competition?
  • Who are you trying to reach? Describe them in as much detail as possible.
  • What will success look like?
  • How much time do you have to achieve success, or progress toward success?
  • How much can you afford to spend on the pursuit of your objective?
  • Is it important that the “how” directly and measurably contribute to success?

Once you have a clear understanding of the “why,” only then can you begin to consider the “how.”

You can start using it during your annual program review. For each of your marketing activities, ask, “Why are we doing this?” Compare the answer to the result you’re achieving and rethink any tactic that doesn’t align with the stated objectives.



How to stand out from hundreds of competing trade show exhibits.

The aisles were not all that crowded from the projected 30,000 attendees at IHMRS in NYC in November. Yet, some booths remained consistently busy while others were mostly dead. Why the difference?

Based on my observations, busy booths were staffed by engaging, purposeful, positive individuals. Also the busy booths clearly displayed operator benefits, while quiet booths merely exhibited equipment or supplies with no clearly defined benefits or ROI. In which camp does your exhibit stand?

Based on attending IHMRS, NRA, NAFEM, FMI, RBA and many major trade shows for more than 30 years, let me share some of what I’ve learned. To help you make the most of your upcoming trade shows, I can boil it down to 7 primary principles:

1. DEFINE WHAT EACH SUCCESSFUL TRADE SHOW WILL LOOK LIKE. Do you want to establish new contacts with XX attendees from chains? Schedule XX meetings with current customers to introduce a new product? Start conversations with XX new distributors or sales reps? Present new products to XX industry editors?

2. SELL KEY PROSPECTS IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS. Can you communicate – in the length of a tweet – why a qualified visitor to your booth should want to buy?

If not, you may need a Messaging Workshop to hone your mantra. Or you may want research to verify the importance of the message.

3. REACH KEY PROSPECTS BEFORE THE SHOW. Which of the thousands, or tens of thousands of attendees would make your show a success if they visited your booth? 75% of today’s attendees come to an exhibition with a “must see” list. (Center for Exhibition Industry Research)

If you want them to schedule time to visit your booth you need to get on their list through pre-show promotion. Yet, less than 20% of exhibitors actually conduct some form of pre-show promotion! Here’s a big opportunity to make key prospects want to visit your booth.

4. TRANSFORM YOUR BOOTH INTO A BILLBOARD. The typical attendee walks by a 20-foot booth in less than 5 seconds. How quickly, clearly and powerfully will your booth communicate a compelling reason to slow down and look at your booth?

5. WHEN THEY SLOW DOWN, START TALKING. A Skyline survey of 3,000 trade show attendees reveals that booth staffers started 89% of the engagements with the attendees. So you need to train booth staffers how to engage visitors and create leads.

6. CONVERT NAFEM LEADS TO SALES. 50% of leads buy within 24 months and 80% of sales occur after the 5th contact — but only 20% of leads are followed up. (Sources: Sirius Decisions, Aberdeen Group) When you increase meaningful contacts with qualified leads after the show, you increase your conversion of leads into sales.

7. MEET WITH 8 OR MORE INFLUENTIAL EDITORS. Trade editors have the power to carry your message beyond the show. Don’t neglect them. Do you have the resources and relationships to deliver key editors to your booth and maximize post-show publicity opportunities?

As you can see, when you’re in the speed-dating environment at trade shows, your exhibit and your booth team need to work hard and work together. How many tools can you use to proactively draw in prospects?