Know The Brand

We often make references to “Living the Brand”, which covers not just how you present yourself but also how you approach working on a new project. To create and maintain dynamic programing you will want to “know the brand” throughly and also have some insight into the industry. While we did extensive research about our German Headquartered client’s unique attributes, it was also essential to understand their American competitors. Had we developed the program with a narrow view there would definitely have been small elements we would missed that participants expect.

It is rare that you will be given the opportunity to reach new consumers who have zero exposure to your client’s segment. Whether they know your brand already, or at least some part of it, there are going to be expectations. Understanding how the competition approaches their marketing and programing allows you to not miss out on any triggers. But how do you find this info? The best place I have found to not only gather industry info but also what those top companies are doing is via a website called PR Newswire. This is a clearing house for organizations, PR Reps, and marketing firms to share press releases. There are also a number of research and statistical groups that contribute.

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For example my firm has partnered with Target in the past to showcase products from specific brands via a “sampling” truck.  While Target is a unique brand with some very distinct attributes it was necessary to also merge that with special features of the other brands.  Not only was it key to see what the other product lines in the segment were doing that summer but what sampling events had been done at the specific location the new program planned to visit.  Guests don’t get the full effect of a program if they don’t understand what is going on or how they are supposed to participate.  By doing a little research we could shape the experience in a way that consumers would be excited to enter and hopefully come out with a full enriched impression.

With a jumping off point it’s easy to get started and also figure out what questions you should be asking. Checking this site or one like it should become a habit, knowing what is going on around your client puts you in the position to give them solutions before there is a problem. Keeping a program fresh sets you apart as a vendor, keeping the client happy.

Make the Most of It – Tips for Starting out On The Road

Being on the road can be very taxing and sometimes isolating but there are many ways to make the most out of your time.  It just takes a little effort and knowhow. This is another post that is focused on new MRA employees.

Yelp: There are all kinds of services you are going to need between visits home.  Yelp is a great resource for finding anything from a hair dresser to a dry-cleaner. You can see rankings, reviews, and get an idea for how their services are prices against others.  I use this site for everything but especially restaurants.  There are ways to use filters and preferences when looking for food that will give you just the right place.  You can choose price, atmosphere, food type, and many others. I love that they also have a category of take-out and delivery.  I know there are other apps out there for those two specific categories but I still use Yelp first (at least right now).

Blogs: Obviously I am a true believer that blogs are a great way to find information, I write a few myself.  A quick google or WordPress search can lead you to someone who is local or has traveled to your destination with the inside scoop.

Other Social Media: Some find that Twitter is a great place to find info, others like looking for Facebook Pages, I use all of these are others like FourSquare.  It’s all what you like to look at.

Travel Apps: There are so many apps to add to your phone that do one or many different functions for travel and making it easier.  I encourage you to try a few, decide what you prefer later.  I can’t live without Google Maps, The Weather Channel, Honors, eBates, Target (tells you the closest store, map programs often send you to a closed location like on near our office), Starbucks, USPS and all other shipping apps, Yelp and Uber.

Staying Fit: Everyone, EVERYONE gains weight their first year on the road.  This is a huge lifestyle change, even for drivers who are coming from OtR.  You will eat all your meals are a restaurant and work odd schedules.  Finding a routine is difficult.  I encourage you to look into an activity tracker app (Fitbit or MyFitnessPal, ext).  Hotels will not consistently have exercise equipment or good equipment.  Josh and I have had great success from committing to exercise programs like Insanity or T25.  Neither of these require extra equipment, just your time.  The last thing you are going to want to do is drag anything else into a hotel at night.  I’m happy to let you try either if you reach out to me.

Staying Connected: Download and use Facebook on your MRA issued smartphone.  There are lots of other apps and sites to stay connected to your family and friends but nothing like Facebook.  A bad day or a lonely one can get much better by connecting to friends.  You will be surprised as you use it how often you “forgot” someone lived in a town you are visiting.  I share a weekly post about where we will be.

Staying Entertained: There are lots of ways to fill your time with fun activities instead of vegging on the hotel bed all night.

Overdrive: This is an online lending program sponsored by your local library.  You check out books just like at the library but they are electronic.  I read an insane amount and listen to audiobooks checked out from the library.  All you need is a library card and the account is really easy to set up.  Your taxes already pay for this service so use it.

Netflix: Stream videos right to your MRA issues laptop or tablet.  Most hotel’s wifi is strong enough these days to stream.

Amazon Prime: This is a two-part program I encourage you to purchase.  For $100 a year you get access to a huge library of TV and movies along with free two-day shipping.  That last part will save your life out here.  There are just so many times you don’t have time of a way to get something you need and prime shipped to a hotel is just the ticket to stay happy.  I often use it for items that I need for the tour.  This annual fee is not reimbursable from MRA but can be included in your taxes.

 

These are just a few of the options you have, try things see what you like.

 

***This is part of a series of posts called “Travel Tuesday“, each covering topics unique to our lifestyle***

Sign Up – Tips for Starting out On The Road

I am going to share a short series on here aimed at new employees of my firm MRA.  Learning how to make the most out of road life is hard.  Most of this we figured out the hard way.  While these posts are focused on how my fellow employees can maximize benefits any one can take a little of this away.  The way our budgets works makes some of this proprietary.

 

Hotels:

The first and biggest tip is to sign up for every hotel rewards program, this is easily done the first time you book at a particular chain. Don’t let any points pass you by. When you sign up (can be done during the reservation process) you will either be given the option to create a username and password then or sent an email with instructions. We are all issued smartphones and a very effective way to keep track of these member numbers, usernames, and passwords is in the notes application on your phone.

Example:

Hilton Honors – 4181749, user@gomra.com, MRAru1es

Many of these rewards programs offer special bonuses throughout the year. Signing up to receive these emails and making sure you activate the offer can skyrocket your rewards.

Example: Hilton Honors offered 2000 bonus points for all weekend stays.

While there are great benefits to using one brand over another, gaining status at certain brands includes upgrades and freebies, seeking to only stay at one brand is against company policy. Don’t make a habit of going off route of staying far from event sites just to make Diamond status, that will lead to reprimand.

MRA has discount rates with some chains, you can find that information in your employee handbook.

If you have AARP, AAA or any other discount program yourself, use them. It could be the difference between a 2-star and 3-star stay. You are not reimbursed for these memberships but the cost can be viewed as gaining a more comfortable lifestyle.

The reward points can often be used for more than hotel stays. Choice Privileges allows you to purchase gift cards with your points. It would be good to take some time and note what you can use and what expires.

Lastly you can make the decision about what points you earn.  For exaplme I want my Hilton Honors points but my Best Western Rewards go to airline miles.  We don’t stay at enough Best Westerns for them to add up but the Airline points help with vacations.

 

Having status gets you upgrade, bigger room and bigger beds

Having status gets you upgrade, bigger room and bigger beds

Airlines:

The same goes for signing up for reward program, however you will not get the same benefits.

Airline reward points expire more often and are harder to use on “other” items. Try to be proactive in checking and find ways to spend your points. Think outside the box, like using points to purchase a magazine subscription for someone as a thank you or even donating them to charity. I give my in-laws magazine renewals for all the little things they help us with.

Yes Pippi, it would be terrible to miss out on some points.

Yes Pippi, it would be terrible to miss out on some points.

 

Rental Cars:

While many rental car firms have membership programs, they do not all offer reward points. These are simply ease of use programs. While this does not seam like a huge benefit, being about to pull up receipts quickly is.

 

Other Programs:

Signing up for Staples and Best Buy Rewards can also be another way to see a little extra money in your pocket. Keep an eye out for things like this when making purchases for your tours.

 

So much to think about, it can be exhausting

So much to think about, it can be exhausting

Pass-through sites:

The biggest kept secret to gaining extra benefits on the road is using a pass-through site like eBates or Fatwallet. These sites give you a cash percentage of the money spent just by shopping through them. While this is an extra step in all your bookings it pays. Get in the habit of looking at the pass through site before you make a purchase. Hotels, cars, airlines and retail outlets all offer a percentage back. It can really add up. With hotels you will need to do the entire reservation from the pass through but with many retail stores you can shop, fill a cart and then go to the pass though before the final purchase.  Feel free to sign up with this link.

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=pRmHzixCLA%2F1CfdYKn13yw%3D%3D&eeid=26471

Credit Cards:

You will now be making a larger number of daily purchases, think about the amount spent on food. These are personal expenses. Look into a personal credit card that can give you cash back, reward points or some other kind of advantage. Paying it off monthly will give you the rewards and keep you with a good credit score, something a bit tough when you are moving.

Overview – the main benefit for signing up for reward programs is to gain some sort of financial benefit but you also get ease of use. Having a username with saved info saves you time and effort.

***This is part of a series of posts called “Travel Tuesday“, each covering topics unique to our lifestyle***

What MRA Does

If you have been following us for a while or have read the About Page you might know that Josh and I work for a firm called MRA. With so many new followers I thought it was a good time to share a bit about the company. What we do for a living is unconventional so I figured it was time to run a few posts about our job. I’ll start with MRA.

We have been working for this Michigan based firm for going on seven years, all of that as field staff. MRA is a premier provider of experiential tour operations and equipment. They give clients with many options for self-contained marketing vehicles. They provide these services for a wide array of industries and uses. We usually work with educational based projects, which include many traveling museum exhibit project but also our current tour, which is a mobile classroom for a German firm. That is just us; the amount of industries MRA touches sometimes amazes me. I’m still not really explaining it.

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There are really two things we provide; help with brand issues and the equipment to get right in front on a consumer. Well what the heck does that mean? First of all we build, design and maintain self-contained marketing vehicles. MRA specializes in a double-expanding trailer with nearly 1000 sq ft of usable space. These are pulled by a custom semi-truck that has its own generator.

R&S TEXAS (2 of 6)

This is what Josh and I are with 99% of the time. This is the bulk of the fleet but my firm is innovative and now has a variety of units that serve the needs of customers that want something smaller but will create an impact.

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MRA provides design, staff, logistics and well all kinds of other untold services to aid their clients in creating an impactful marketing tour.

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That is where the second element comes in, branding help. We are here to help our clients with their brand issue, which means everything for correction to awareness. When we were on Library of Congress our job was to inform people of that massive available resources they had free access to. The LOC struggles with people not realizing how much they can get from the digital archives. Our current project is really fun for two marketing people like us; we get to help create a brand image. Rohde & Schwarz has not reached the point within the US where all of their potential consumers have an understanding of the products and services they provide, we get to help make that initial impact. For us that is exactly what we love doing. Fixing a brand image is what most folks like us do, but creating one is what we thrive on.

There are many firms that provide one or more services in the event marketing field but no one does it all and certainly not as well as MRA.

 

I Heart My Client

I would never say something negative about one of our clients on this blog, but I will share the positive.  We have been with Rohde & Schwarz for almost three months now, traveled about half the country too.  We have visited two of their central offices and met more employees than I can recall.  I’m happy to say that we feel like a part of the family now.

 

MRA (who we work for) has always been a small company where most of us are close friends, but our clients are usually large organizations that you only know one or two departments.

Rohde & Schwarz is actually a family own company and even with 100’s of employees they are a family.  Each region we enter is unique but we are given the full welcome.  Many of the Account Manager, Field Engineers and Technicians we work with on the tour have known each other for years.  Not just at R&S either.  They have migrated from other companies to form strong and resourceful teams.

 

With only one-week left of the initial tour it’s exciting to see what they come up with next.  After our trip to Canada we return to the US and start a different round of educational seminars with them, same truck but different presenters.  This next round of travel will take us back around the country and to a few places that we rarely visit.  Maybe even to your backyard.  As soon as I can post the locations I will.