Bling My Booth

Are things finally on the up tick?

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 28th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

Friday I exhibited in a tradeshow organized by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, It was held at the Westin Kierland Hotel and I have to say that I was impressed.  I was impressed not only with the professionalism of the show (I’ve exhibited in this event for years) and the quality of the exhibiting companies (about 130 of them), but with the fact that we got so many good, interested, “A” quality leads from the show! Yes I actually was excited and impressed that people were finally getting serious about buying stuff again.  I was actually encouraged that after a miserable first and second quarter, there seems to be a renewed interest in exhibit marketing again.   Of course no company should have ever stopped using tradeshows to promote their business and sell their products because it is one of the most cost effective ways to meet hundreds of potential clients in one place, but they have.  And our new President can share the blame for telling companies across the county not to have meetings, not to travel for sales conferences and not to fly.  Yes that has caused my industry to experience a 35% decline in business.  The media picked up on that and caused a horrendous backlash that impacted small businesses like mine across the Nation.  Those irresponsible comments and the continuing perpetuation of the the issue by the media did not just impact hotels and airlines and meeting planners and restaurants.  It effected the thousands of taxi drivers, brochure printers, florists, electricians, delivery boys, food servers, bell hops, exhibit installer , tradeshow display sellers, truck drivers and other small business owners in every city in every state.  Anyway, I am encouraged by the results I got from the show, by the comments I heard from the attendees and by the excitement other business owners had that also felt the up tick of interest.  I am going to think positive about this next half year and I hope you will too.

NSBA supports Small Business in Washington

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 12th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

Well, I didn’t win the Advocate of the year award in Washington DC on June 9th, but I was the only woman in the country to be honored as a finalist.  Congratulations to Thomas C. Pitrone of the Integrity Group from Ohio who is the outstanding recipient.   I had a great time meeting with the leaders of the National Small Business Association and hearing from representatives from Congress regarding the White House plans for small business.  All I can say is we, the small business owners, had better unify, voice our concerns loudly and show our strength  in numbers if we want to preserve free enterprise and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit because we are not going to get much support from the current administration.   There are 26.5 million small businesses in this country and 19.5 million of them are solepreneurs.  4.7 million of those are micro-businesses employing  less than 10 people.  Unfortunately it’s the actions of big business that make the headlines, and big business that gets the attention and the money.   I always thought the economy would be stimulated the most if small business owners could keep more of their hard earned money so they could hire more employees, produce more goods and expand operations.   Oh well, we will persevere regardless,  because that’s what we do.  Let’s stay positive, keep working  the system and make lots of noise. 


It’s nice to be recognized

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 5th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

If you’re like me you enjoy sharing your knowledge and offering support to other entrepreneurs and business owners.  When I started my first business in 1988 after my son was born, I joined the Entrepreneurial Mothers Association.  The comraderie, peer networking and fun we had trying to juggle business and babies made the stress of motherhood and the challenges of business building a little less worrisome.  It was there that I discovered how much I loved being a small business advocate and too special interest in the causes of women business owners.  For 20 years I have  continued that mission and today I was recognized for my efforts.  I hope you don’t mind me bragging a little.  I am proud to share this announcement with you here and encourage you to become a small business advocate and cheerleader in your community too.

June 3, 2009

Molly Brogan

NSBA Announces Finalists for Advocate of the Year Award 

Washington, D.C. — NSBA today announced the finalists for the 2009 Lewis Shattuck Small Business Advocate of the Year Award. The award winner will be announced during NSBA’s Annual Advocate of the Year Award Luncheon on Tuesday, June 9 at 12:00 p.m., which is the kick-off of the event for the NSBA Washington Presentation on June 9 and 10.

“After evaluating a very impressive pool of candidates, I am honored to recognize these exceptional individuals for their tireless efforts on behalf of America’s small-business community,” stated NSBA President Todd McCracken. “We need them now more than ever.” 



Susan Ratliff, President of Phoenix based Exhibit Experts, has been named one of five national finalists for the 2009 Lewis Shattuck Small Business Advocate of the Year Award.  The award, presented by the National Small Business Association, recognizes the best and brightest small business owners from around the country who go above and beyond in advocating on behalf of America’s small businesses. The criteria used in determining award finalists was a commitment to small business advocacy, a proven history of volunteer activism on behalf of the small business community and success and growth as a small business owner.  Susan is the only women among the five finalists to be honored in Washington, D.C. on June 9th at a prestigious luncheon where the winner will be announced.  

The event will kick off the NSBA Washington Presentation June 9 & 10 followed by an evening reception attended by Presentation participants, a myriad of Washington insiders and influential Hill staff.  The following day starts with the Congressional Breakfast on Capital Hill including reports from policy experts and lawmakers at a White House Briefing.  The finalists will then meet with elected representatives for an opportunity to provide critical feedback and make suggestions to the Executive Branch regarding relevant issues impacting small business owners across the nation every day.  “I look forward to representing Arizona in Washington and hope to engage in some stimulating conversations regarding what this administration will be doing to assist small businesses in the future” says Ratliff.  

Susan Ratliff has been a small-business owner since 1988, during which time she’s taken an active role as small-business cheerleader, supporter, encourager, teacher and promoter. A true believer in the power of entrepreneurship, Ratliff created the first Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, and has taken her inspirational message to the women’s prison in Perryville, Arizona. Ratliff has been involved with NSBA, the Entrepreneurial Mothers Association, the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Chambers of Commerce, the National Speakers Association, NAWBO and the Arizona Small Business Association, to name a few. 

The four other finalists are Michael Bowlds, President of Mountaintop Marketing Group, LLC of Maryland, Michael Mitternight, President of Metairie, La based Factory Service Agency, Inc, Thomas Pietrone, The Intrity Group from Cleveland and Robert C Smith, President and CEO of Spero- Smith Investment Advisers, Inc, in Beachwood, Ohio. 

To learn more about the Washington Presentation and the NSBA go to,

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Expand your exhibiting knowledge at TS2

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 1st, 2009. Posted in Come to TS2 tradeshow in Chicago

If you are an exhibit designer, event manager, meeting planner, business owner, sales manager or a supplier to the 100 billion dollar event and exhbition industry, then you must take a trip to Chicago July 20-23rd and attend one of the foremost tradeshows for education and supplier information in the country.   For more than 35 years, TS2 has served as the premiere event for exhibit and event professionals. Formerly the “Trade Show About Trade Shows” TS2 has evolved to provide timely and relevant resources and education to the ever-changing exhibit and event industry.  I am excited and privileged to be speaking at this event and welcome you to attend my session:  Exhibit Like an Expert.  at 8:30 on Wednesday the 22nd.  I will be teaching the five key elements you must master to turn your booth into a powerful profit center.  Whether you are a tradeshow  novice or a seasoned exhibitor you will leave my session with relevant and practical tips and tools to give you a competitive edge on the show floor.  There are countless sessions to choose from presented by the best experts in the business.   In addition there are hundreds of exhibiting companies with resources you need to be successful and boost profits.  Network, learn, receive certifications and have some fun in Chi town.  Check out all the details at  I hope you can join me there.


Get Quality leads at trade/consumer shows

Written by Susan Ratliff on May 13th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

I just read a great post from Janine Popick at Vertical Response.  about how to work a tradeshow.  A comment by Bill Potuchek about following up leads prompted me to offer the following article for your review (By the way, Vertical Response is a great service for staying in touch with your customers and prospects by sending emails, newsletters an other communications. I use them and think they are more user friendly than their competitor, Constant Contact)

Follow-up tips for turning tradeshow leads into sales

This amazing statistic from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research reinforces the necessity for a formal procedure for following up all those valuable leads you’ve collected at tradeshows, consumer shows and events. The studies revealed that 73% of companies that exhibit in tradeshows gather qualified leads, yet 85% of those leads never receive post show follow-up.  Don’t let your company lose out on the chance to turn those valuable leads into sales.  Any leads that have not been sent back to the office for immediate follow-up must be contacted no later than one week from the closing of the show.  Make this a mandatory requirement for all sales staff and request a monthly written report charting the follow-up progress on the assigned leads.  Every staff person who collects show leads should rank them according to quality and make notes on the back regarding customer wants and needs.  In addition, a personal note should be included so whoever follows- up can have create a personal rapport with the prospect.  If you are following up your own leads refer to the ranking category and the notes made at the time of the meeting to remind you of what was discussed, what was needed and what personal tidbit was noted to help jog the prospects memory when you speak with them.  If you are not following up your own leads make sure whoever is assigned the task understands the notes and references on the lead and the name of the salesperson who met that person at the show so they can refer to them during the call.

Below are a variety of ideas you can add to your follow-up efforts that may help to close the deal or gather other valuable information from the prospect. Decide in advance whether to contact the prospect by email, phone, fax or mail.  Here is a money saving tip to keep in mind.  You can mail five, 8 ½” x 11” sheets of paper in one #10 envelope for the cost of one stamp.

Say Thank You

I’m especially impressed with companies that send out thank you notes to attendees who have visited their booth, entered their contest or made a purchase at the show. This special gesture promotes goodwill and helps prospects remember you when they are ready to buy. If the prospect did make a purchase you might consider sending a promotional item along with the thank you note.

Make An Announcement

Include interesting information about your company that is not part of the sales pitch.  Announce who won the drawing, mention an upcoming anniversary or invite them to an open house.  Give them a calendar marked with the dates of all your future shows.  Don’t hesitate to brag about your good fortune or share useful and interesting information about you and your company.

Give Preferred Treatment

If you own a department store credit card then you’ve received inserts in the mail that tell you about the special sale days prepared just for you because you are one of the store’s preferred customers.  They don’t shut the store down for you, but that acknowledgement does make you feel special.  Give your prospects or customers the preferred treatment when you are introducing a new service, policy or product line.  Let your customers or a select group of prospects be the first to hear the news and have the option to look over the offer or purchase the item before it goes public.  Make it clear in your solicitation that they are receiving special treatment and preferred status. This works well to develop brand loyalty.





Take a Survey

If you did not conduct a survey at your booth during the show, consider soliciting your survey response in the follow-up package.  Send along a short questionnaire that asks for opinions and information you need for future marketing.  You can determine how memorable your branding was by asking if they remember your name and what you sell.  Can they recall your marketing message or theme?  Ask them questions that will uncover their value as a client and if they have a need for your services.  Request information about timeline and budget.  If you allow the prospect to answer anonymously, your returns will double.  Another way to encourage the return of the survey is to offer a gift for responding by a certain time period.  Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope and you will be sure to get a large number of responses.

Ask For Referrals

Referrals are the backbone of the sales industry. Unfortunately, most sales people don’t remember to ask for referrals. When soliciting a sale or sending information to your prospect list, ask the customer to give you the name and contact information of any person or company that might benefit from your product or service.  If you include a gift or incentive for the referral you will increase your responses.

Share Publicity
Publicity is very powerful and can lend credibility to your cause. If you or your company has been lucky enough to get an article written about you in the local newspaper, make copies and include them in your mailings.  You can put a list of the tradeshows you will be exhibiting in over the next few months at the bottom of the page.  If your industry is making headlines include a copy of the article.  Use publicity to your advantage and share the news.

Solicit Testimonials
A complimentary testimonial from a satisfied customer is a valuable marketing tool. Whenever a client expresses overwhelming satisfaction with your product or service ask them to put their kind words in writing on their company letterhead. You can also solicit responses with your follow-up materials.  Send a form that asks what the customer likes best about your company, products or employees.  Ask permission to quote them. After you accumulate a variety of responses, produce a flyer with all the comments and quotes listed.  Hand these out at events, repeat the quotes on company literature and mail them in your follow-up materials.

Include a Call to Action

In order to solicit a sale and encourage a purchase when you follow up a lead, send more than the standard brochure and sales literature.  Include a special incentive to purchase that will encourage a response and increase sales.  Offer a two-for-one special, a gift with purchase, a percentage off the price, buy one get one free, free shipping with an order or a gift certificate. To motivate a prospect to act in rapid fashion, be sure to include a deadline date by which they must respond.  Don’t forget to include a show code in the literature that will make it easier to track which show the response came from.

Let Susan Ratliff teach your exhibitors how to turn a tradeshow booth into a powerful profit center.  For great resource information on exhibit marketing or to Hire Susan Ratliff to speak at your next event contact her at, 602-437-3634,