National Constitution Center

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Over the past two days, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76), which naturally makes me think about parking. Thanks to its legendary jams, the Schuylkill is purported to be the inspiration for The Soul Survivors’ regional hit, “Expressway to Your Heart.” Yesterday’s standstill on my return trip from the city was due to a regatta and a lot of rerouting along the river drives. Tonight, after picking up my son from the Bolt bus, I got stuck in traffic leaving the Sixers and Phils games.


However, it was all worth it because on my way into the city this evening, I passed one of the all-time great advertising icons — the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Definitely a sight that commands your attention, even in the dark. Guess I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Hot dog! I passed the Wienermobile on the Schuylkill Expressway!!

Vehicles of all sorts have been on my mind ever since Thursday when I attended a seminar put on by one of our clients, Time and Parking Controls, at the National Constitution Center. Spend a day with these guys, the manufacturers they represent, and their clients, and you realize how critical parking solutions are — to municipalities, to hospitals, to private city lots, to companies with secured employee facilities. We all drive. We all need a place to leave our cars, day and night.

The Constitution Center has its own underground lot off Race Street. When I came up on the elevator to the lobby, there was a car parked IN the lobby. It was the classic Corvette that Bruce Springsteen purchased when he could first afford one following sales of Born To Run. The Bruce exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land,” is featured at the Constitution Center till September. In the words of a certain California governor, “I’ll be back.”

As it turns out, the Constitution Center, besides being a great place to learn about the namesake document, and its amendments, that have served our nation well since colonial days, is also a terrific site for hosting an educational event. Time and Parking Controls lined up two excellent speakers to address very different concerns under the banner of “Parking Operations – Internal and External Threats That Affect Your Business.”

Time and Parking Controls is one of many VARs of Lenel, the leading provider of access control and security software. Mick McDaniel provided an excellent overview of the United Technologies owned industry giant, which works with just about every major government agency and large corporation you can think of. Its impressive suite of solutions puts tremendous monitoring and control capabilities in the hands of key security personnel (and always just two mouse clicks away). Access control points and CCTV cameras, coupled with a variety of enterprise databases, enable amazing response time and instant decision-making, with parking lots being a critical first line of activity and defense.

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Larry Donoghue, Parking Fraud Consultant Zen Master

Following Mick to the podium was Larry Donoghue, a member of the Parking Hall of Fame and a one-man consulting dynamo for parking lot operators with automated revenue control equipment who need to detect fraud and prevent it. Larry’s 65-year career puts him at a very youthful 93 years old. This man came from Chicago, loaded with case histories that stunned me and other audience members with the ingenuity that parking lot patrons and parking lot employees employ in figuring ways to cheat business owners out of recurring revenue. There is big money to be made in parking. And also big money to be lost in parking. Larry has made a career identifying the ingenious ways in which people game systems and line their own pockets.

Capping off the seminar was a visit from a Philadelphia mystery guest whose knowledge of parking seems stuck in the horse-drawn carriage  era, although his kite and key experiments are finally helping spur development of electric-powered, rechargeable cars. If you ever need to hire Ben Franklin to add colonial authenticity and wit to your next event, he is a personal friend of this marketing agency and he knows how to party like it is 1776.

Last night gave me plenty of time to ruminate on the importance of having a good, safe place to leave your vehicle whenever you venture into the city. Parking on the Schuylkill Expressway has that effect on people .

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The term event planner conjures up images of someone who micro-manages the flowers, cake, band, and myriad of other details for a wedding. Or the swat team that stages major corporate sales meetings and user group extravaganzas with elaborate video, music, pyrotechnics for senior execs who secretly long to be rockstars.
Lately, however, more and more of our clients have been discovering events of a less intimidating nature and scale as an under-appreciated marketing method. Some thoughtful planning and new tools provide ways to interact with existing customers and new prospects in settings that lead logically to sales.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

Museums like The National Constitution Center are great places to hold corporate events.

When you have new facilities or processes to show off, it only makes sense to hold an open house and invite interested parties, including the press. But sometimes an outside location is part of the attraction. Earlier this year, systems integrator Time and Parking Controls held a knowledge seminar for area parking companies at the National Constitution Center, giving attenders advance access to the exhibits prior to lunch, an afternoon of guest speakers on PCI compliance, new high-tech parking technologies, and energy-saving opportunities. ROI isn’t always instant, but if the presentation content is worthwhile, the participants will remember and likely reward you for inviting them.
You don’t need to make your event a teachable moment either. Sometimes a fun evening out is a great customer appreciation method. Companies who can afford suites or luxury boxes at the stadiums understand this and budget for it. However, these opportunities are worthwhile whenever and wherever they occur. World Café Live is a terrific venue for corporate outings, built around live music (although they have other quiet space and catering for more traditional events). Next year, they’ll be opening a great second venue in Wilmington. The historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville does lots of film and entertainment events, but recently renovated a more intimate community room for smaller gatherings.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

Eventbrite is a terrific web-based tool for e-marketing your event.

If you’re going to hold an event, you may as well avail yourself of new tools for making it a success. Later this month, one of our PR clients, the Quietmind Foundation, is hosting an international Alzheimer’s researcher and inventor for two days of presentations. We have them using to handle promotion and RSVPs. Eventbrite gives you a web-based dashboard for easy e-mail invitations mailing and tracking with printable coded PDF tickets.

Webinars are a great way to reach audiences in real time, in multiple=

Finally, the next best thing to being there in person is the under-appreciated webinar, especially if your customer base is global and technical. Last month, we worked with a great team at Advanced Materials and Processes magazine to help materials testing systems maker Tinius Olsen present an overview of extensometry technologies and an introduction to its new multi-camera video-based system. By conference call, web linkage, and PowerPoint, Tinius Olsen was able to reach a well-targeted technical audience in multiple time zones for just an hour of everyone’s time.
The next time someone at your company asks how you’re going to improve sales, quote the great Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, who’d retort, “Hey, let’s put on a show!”

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