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Paula Williams: Welcome to aviation marketing Hangar Flying episode number 99, This week, John and I interview Pat Lemieux of C&L Aviation Group.
We wanted to a do a great podcast about getting great aviation trade show results – and this is the best example we’ve seen of a really dramatic improvement.
Pat oversees all aspects of marketing for C & L Aviation Group. Including all traditional and social media advertising and marketing efforts, live events planning, email promotional campaigns and company branding. Pat’s experience involves live events, social media, sponsorship and donation acquisitions. He also does audience development and online marketing, as well as traditional marketing in media.
In his personal life, Pat resides in Bangor, Maine with his wonderful wife, 5 year old son, and two wild dogs. He enjoys running, binge watching Netflix, reading, live metal shows, and playing with his son’s toys. And who doesn’t love playing with their kids toys, right? Seriously, we enjoy exchanging ideas with Pat in our office hours and mastermind groups.
And quite frankly, we are blown away by the fresh and bold approach he really brings to the industry. Pat’s been working in the aviation industry for not quite a year and already his projects have been noticed by a lot of thought leaders in the industry. And of course, he didn’t waste a lot of time getting started.
Not many people would recommend tying up your boss and throwing him into a basement as their first big project on the new job. But let’s go ahead and go right into the interview.
Today, we are really, really happy to talk with one of our clients. Of course, they’re all our favorite clients.
Pat Lemieux, C&L Aviation and SevenJet, and several other companies, right Pat?
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, there’s this small handful that I work on.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, so John and I are here in the ABCI studio. And we wanted to talk to Pat, because we’ve been getting a lot of questions from listeners about how do you really kill trade show results in a good way?
I mean that in a good way.
Pat Lemieux: Of course, you do.
Paula Williams: And Pat has done a really phenomenal job and he comes from outside the aviation industry which is kind of interesting. I suppose that probably adds to some of your insights. You don’t know what’s been done in the past, so you’re doing things that are really original here.
So you’ve had a great year in 2016, I understand that C&L got ten times as many leads in 2016 as they did in 2015, and of course, you started at C&L in 2016.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, let me verify that. Yes, it was as a result of the NBAA show last fall. And we were trying to use leads from this show and when I say leads, it’s actually quotes that we sent out for work to perspective clients.
So we got so far into conversations with them that we were able to do kind of a work scope. And so actually, that was kinda what we were using as one of the metrics. We were using the quantifier successfully from that show from the previous year. So in 2015, the company was able to leave that event with seven quotes for work.
And then in 2016, it was over 70, so it was a much more successful trip for us the second time around.
John Williams: Impressive.
Pat Lemieux: And it can always be a struggle with trade shows, to really try to understand what your return on that investment is. And so for us to be able to at least take that piece of it and say, this was one of the metrics that we looked at, was really helpful.
Paula Williams: Right, I think one of the mistakes that people make a lot of times is that they aren’t looking at a long enough time frame. So if they haven’t made their money back in a month or three months, they think the show hasn’t been good for them. But if your sales cycle is six or eight months, you have to look at much longer time frame to see what your return on investment’s going to be.
And I think it’s really cool that you’re counting everything including those quotes, that’s fantastic. So let’s back up and talk about how you got there from the beginning. You started at C & L last year, what situation were you looking at when you came in and what problems did you have to solve, just in terms of the trade show situation?
Pat Lemieux: Sure, so let me actually back up just a little bit. When I first showed up, there was a smaller trade show, and it was for the regional side of our business. We do work for both corporate and regional aircraft. And so it was a South Pacific show, and long story short, we wanted to make an impact in that.
And we wanted to do something a little different, so I suggested to our CEO that we do kind of a humorous video to try to capture that audience’s attention. And see if that worked out for us differently than just kind of a traditional sponsorship would and it absolutely did.
And that something that we considered to be, or what I consider to be one of my early successes here, was kind of what we did around that event. So with that in mind, I kind of knew that, and again, I was new to aviation, but I wasn’t knew to their events.
I knew that NBAA show, the big one was really important or could be really important for us, as we continue to try to grow into the very fragmented corporate aviation market. One of the problems we had was getting our name out there in a way that let people know that we were having a big player.
And that we could do a lot of a lot of different services for people. Sometimes we’re inhibited or the perception is that we’re inhibited by our geography, because our base is in Maine, when we can easily get around that stuff with video and some other things to get attention from people.
Otherwise, it’s pretty difficult to do.
Paula Williams: Right.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah.
Paula Williams: I remember that video, that was when you made Chris wear a kilt. [LAUGH]
And I had been here, I don’t know, maybe a month. And I said, “I think I want to tie you up in a basement.”
Pat Lemieux: I thought I was going to get my walking papers right there, but luckily I didn’t, so.
Paula Williams: Yeah, so for my first move on the job, let’s tie up the boss and throw him in the basement.
Pat Lemieux: So it ended up already, I knew I wanted to do some videos and try to have a large impact. But I also knew that I wanted to reach specific people with it. So there was a whole kind of behind the scenes component to that campaign beyond kinda the email marketing and the social media aspects of the videos that we did.
We did some personalized video players that we wanted to send out to key industry people, that we wanted to meet with at NBAA, to try and get attention for the event.
Paula Williams: So you actually sent a video player in the mail? Is that what I’m understanding or?
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, we did a lot of things with this.
It’s kinda funny because it was really both ends of the marketing advertising spectrum. We invested in video and social media on the digital side, but then we also went back to a very traditional mailing-
Paula Williams: Right, I’ve seen that done with financial services.
Where people will get this big box in the mail and it’s a video player with a video queued up, but I’ve never seen anything like that in the aviation industry. I think you’re probably the first.
Pat Lemieux: Well I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it did very well, those that we sent it to were incredibly receptive, and they thought it was very original.
And what it help do is kinda flip the tables a little bit. So typically, if you’re trying to reach out to somebody to set up a meeting or in a sales aspect, the onus is completely on you as the sales person or the marketer to try to get the attention of their busy decision makers and CEOs.
What we found was the impact of sending the personalized videos out to people kind of flipped that a little bit. Where we had those decision makers reaching out to us and trying to make sure that they could schedule meeting times with us at NBAA. And they looked forward to meeting with us and that sort of thing.
So it was a complete role reversal if you will.
Paula Williams: Right, it put them in the situation of contacting you, instead of your sales guys having to beat the bushes. So that’s inbound, that’s fantastic, and very under used I think in the aviation industry.
So let’s talk about, you said beyond that there was quite a bit behind the scenes. You tied everything together with a great theme, a great boost design, the whole series of videos, email, you mentioned, social media. How did you tie that all together, and how did you keep track of it, I guess?
Pat Lemieux: So let me answer that one at a time. So we did three different videos and a fourth one, but that was an after event, kind of follow up piece. We did three videos before hand, and they were all short, comical videos, based on the idea that there was fault, there was a typo in an email.
And so my boss should have gotten an email that said, he was going to be NBAA, and what he got was an email saying, he was going to be NBA. So the videos are of him basically running around the office trying to build a basketball team because that’s where he thinks he’s going.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Right.
Pat Lemieux: Just very slap stick and very silly, but you kind of took the elements of basketball and tried that into everything. So he had a kind of a standard 20 by 20 booth that we had bought the shows in the past. We got a little bit more floor space, and brought that regular booth and put a basketball court next to it.
So that got a lot of the media to come check out the show, where this was something different. People hadn’t seen it before, and we also did basketball themed giveaways. We had the knee high socks, and mini basketball hoops and kinda some fun stuff like that. And we also went so far as everybody who went to the show from our company, rather than having kind of traditional business cards, they had basketball trading cards.
So it all kind of tied in and played out really well, and what was nice about it is when they saw the videos ahead of time. And then they got to the show, they could immediately make that connection. Even if they weren’t looking for us, they’d see our booth.
Paula Williams: Yeah, nobody had anything like it. Right, and also got mentioned in the show Dailies, and actually for weeks after the show, you were being mentioned by other marketing companies and everything else.
Pat Lemieux: It was nice to get some of that earned media, I mean and I’m sure all your listeners know. Paid media placement from the aviation publications can get really expensive really fast.
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Pat Lemieux: So it’s nice to get some earned media attention.
John Williams: You’ve learned all kinds of stuff even, because I know just watching people walk by, everybody that walked by just looked at, and just got this big smile on their face.
Paula Williams: Right.
Pat Lemieux: It was fun to do and it certainly stood out.
Paula Williams: Yeah, another fun thing that I think you did was the show dailies – photography of the booth. Showing how busy it was and then posting that. I don’t remember if that was during the show or right after that you posted that time lapse video of people milling around and-
Pat Lemieux: That was during the show. I was trying to kind of, I don’t know if it’s proof of performance or whatever, but-
Paula Williams: It’s a proof. [LAUGH]
Pat Lemieux: You’re always kind of looking for for unique content that’s going to catch people’s attention on social media. And we’re at these events, and a lot of what you see is just your sales guys standing in their boots.
And here we are at whatever show hashtag can stop by and see us. I tend to try to take that stuff is fine, but I want to take a different approach. I want to do somethings that, try and catch somebody’s eye a little bit better. And I tend to think that video is the answer, it’s easy enough to shoot time lapse on a GoPro or even an iPhone, and upload it to social media right from the show.
Paula Williams: Right.
Note- you can see the time lapse video on C&L’s Facebook Page if you go to the Videos Tab and look for NBAA Day 2
Pat Lemieux: That stuff itself is not that difficult to do.
Paula Williams: Right, exactly, and everybody has the technology, but not everybody has the thought or the idea. So how do you come up with this creative ideas? Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
Pat Lemieux: So sometimes they just come to you, and I think some of it is that I have a background in events. And I have a background in marketing for amedia company as well. And so I can tend to look at something with a fresh set of eyes and see some of the stuff that’s kind of been there.
To me the basketball thing was was like why hasn’t anybody made this famous comparison before. Because everybody else is just in the industry and I think being an outsider a little bit to say, this is actually quite funny. And I should also add that I work with a local firm here that actually produces the videos for me, for us.
Because I’m not a videographer by trade, we’ll kind of brainstorm a little bit. But basically, ended up being three of us, and we’ll throw ideas against the wall. And sometimes we’ll immediately dismiss them, and sometimes we don’t like it then. But then we walk down the path a little bit and think, maybe that would’ve worked.
We put a couple different ideas together for each show before we kind of decide what makes the most sense.
John Williams: So did you hire a camera guy or did you just do it yourself? Or how did you get the videos to start with that you can play with?
Pat Lemieux: So yes, so we did actually hire a video production company to come in and help us with that. And I don’t have the know how to be able to shoot video at a high enough quality, that people would want to watch it for any length of time. [LAUGH]
Pat Lemieux: I think if you want to do good quality video, you want to make sure that if you’re not an expert to bring in somebody who is, who can help you with that.
John Williams: So did they shoot the video at NBAA as well?
Pat Lemieux: No, no that was just me with my iPhone. Those parts are fairly easy, it was the three videos that they came in to do.
Paula Williams: Fun.
John Williams: So you hired this company, and you together with them, storyboarded the entire process?
Pat Lemieux: Correct, yep.
John Williams: Cool.
Paula Williams: Excellent, great.
So yeah, I know you were really, really busy last year at NBAA. But did you get a chance to walk around and see some of the other exhibits?
Pat Lemieux: Yep, and one of the things that I knew from talking with our CEO was, we were going to kind of go bigger with our booth down the road.
And we would probably want to redesign our booth to something else. So I really wanted to see what was out there, kind of what people were doing and what I noticed, that stood out to me. And basically, I don’t want to call it surveillance, but it’s just kind of-
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, kind of you want to see what, I think it’s important to pay attention to what others are doing and what actually makes them stand out. And if I notice it, or our CEO or somebody on our team notices it, well there was probably something to what they did.
Paula Williams: Right, so any big ideas that you saw last year that really stood out for you or? Really, good or bad, [LAUGH] without naming names or with naming names maybe.
Pat Lemieux: You know what? I will say though is I think is particularly in booth design and the presence people put forward at shows, especially in this industry, I think you can spend a lot of money and not stand out at all.
So I tend to think you need to spend the money anyway to do new booth or if you’re trying something, it’s okay to be different. What we did last year is proof that people are people are pretty accepting of different.
Pat Lemieux: Because we really didn’t know how it was going to go.
We hoped it would do well, and it did, thankfully. But we weren’t 100% sure, going in that this was going to work. I mean it could have easily gone the other way.
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Pat Lemieux: But you can spend tens of thousands of dollars, basically just on table stakes in this industry and not stand out at all.
And I think that’s fairly unfortunate.
John Williams: Yeah, we see too much of that actually when we go down there.
Paula Williams: Right.
Pat Lemieux: You know what I note? And this comes from when I did events, so I’ve been part of or helped put on a lot of smaller expo, the kind of community style expos in the past.
Where you have a lot of small businesses, and I mean really small businesses that could be Etsy businesses or could be one person operations. Or they could be a side project businesses for people, and they don’t have huge budget of any kind or a budget of any kind.
So they have to get really creative to stand out, and I think sometimes those are the best. You see some of those ideas, and you’ll say that’s a great idea. There’s no reason an idea like that can’t work at a much bigger show.
Paula Williams: Right, there’s a saying that the biggest sin in marketing is to be boring.
And we see an awful lot of people spending a ton of money to be very boring.
John Williams: Boring, right. Every year we see that.
Paula Williams: Yeah, so I think it’s really refreshing to see what you do. We have seen a couple of your videos for this year, and we’re really excited to see what you’re going to do.
But tell us about this year’s campaign as much as you’re willing to share at this point.
Pat Lemieux: Again, we were really happy with the way it went last year. And the thing we took away from that show is everybody says, well what are you going to do next year?
This is great, what are you going to do next year?
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Pat Lemieux: What are you going to do?
Paula Williams: Top it. [LAUGH]
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, [LAUGH] so I felt like we were almost in a position where we had to try to follow it up with something.
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Pat Lemieux: So we should at least stick with the videos for another year to see how it plays out.
And so we came up with a couple of just, at that point I had a template. I knew when I had done things in the previous year and when I needed to do things this year. Now that doesn’t mean everything ended up being on time, but [LAUGH] at least I knew where to start.
So we tried to do a little bit more this year. We tried to do instead of three videos, we actually did four. And we still are trying to reach people specifically before hand with the intent that we want to have those meetings pre-booked for NBAA. We want to make sure that people write it down in their calendar, that they want to stop by and see us, and find out more about what we can offer them.
Paula Williams: Right, so if I were to kind of summarize a couple of takeaways that I’ve noticed from what you’ve done and things. Thing number one, I think is just to think big and go big or go home, right? [LAUGH]
Fortune favors the bold, right?
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, in this case, it seems to, a little bit, yeah.[LAUGH]
Paula Williams: Right, and the other thing is just to pay attention to the details because not only, did you guys use a lot of big splashy humor and things like that. You also took care of all the details like what we call digital craftsmanship. All of you links worked, all of the emails were connected.
Everything fit together, really well. It was obviously a very polished campaign, so even though it was outrageous, it was also very polished on the inside. We want to put it that way.
John Williams: Integrated, I think is what-
Paula Williams: Yeah.
John Williams: You’re looking for.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, I mean you always want to try to do things a little bit better.
There were some things last year that I wished we would have done and I didn’t really think of until after. So we kind of wrote those things down and we worked on them this year. So for instance this year, we actually did a whole page of our website that’s just dedicated to our NBAA videos.
And on that page, people can submit a request right there if they want to meet with us at the show.
Paula Williams: Nice.
Pat Lemieux: So that’s something we hadn’t done last year and again, we just want to make humor and the video element brings people in. But we also want to then be accessible to people who’d like to talk to us about the services we could provide them.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, so that back end is really important.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, that’s kind of the most important part, so-
Paula Williams: Yep.
Pat Lemieux: And I think we’ve done a better job with that this year.
Paula Williams: Right?
Pat Lemieux: And hopefully, it works out for us.
Paula Williams: So you get their attention and then you have to do something with that attention, while you have it.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah.
Paula Williams: And to point number three, is that you now have a template and you’re continuing what works. And then you’re also improving on the things you wish you would had done better. But you’re not starting from scratch, you’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting from scratch over the year, which I think a lot of companies do.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, absolutely, I mean I feel like no matter what you’re doing, you’re always trying to build on success.
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Pat Lemieux: So we consider last year’s event and the marketing around it to be successful. So we wanted to at least continue with the pieces that work and there’s more than that too.
I mean especially in the analytics that you can look at on the website and then also the insights that you can get from Facebook and LinkedIn and YouTube, all that. I mean that really paints a really good picture for any business around if their digital marketing was successful.
And what that did was show me where I needed to focus a little more time this year, but also where I could afford to let some things go.
Paula Williams: Right, that’s fantastic. Great, so I’m going to link from the show notes to your page, of course.
And I really recommend that everybody who’s listening to this, go see the C&L booth at NBAA, and go find Pat. Shake his hand. [LAUGH]
John Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah, you won’t be disappointed in what you see.
Pat Lemieux: Yeah, stop by we will have a couple of fun surprises, we had some fun stuff last year.
We’ve got a couple of fun surprises planned for this year, so definitely stop by the booth. And I’d love to talk to anybody who is interested in aviation marketing and events that’s, that’s what I do. [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: Absolutely, and tell us what C&L does?
Pat Lemieux: So C&L, we do a lot of different things, but we are kind of a one stop solution for corporate aircraft needs as far as MRO work, paint, interiors, parts, sales and acquisitions.
We work here to help out customers in just about any way that they need.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, and you guys do fantastic work. You can tell from all of the pictures and videos on your site that’s a really good way to show rather than tell. So we’ll link to some of those really cool things as well.
And thank you for joining us, I’m glad you were here.
Pat Lemieux: Thank you, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
John Williams: I’ll see you at the show, Pat.
Pat Lemieux: Take care.
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