Bling My Booth

Slow economy? Let’s exhibit

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 14th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

When capital is in short supply, the tendency for most small companies is to slash the marketing and advertising budgets.  It is with this knowledge that the shrewd business owner seizes the opportunity to increase market share and get an edge
on the competition.  While everyone else is waiting it out, the smart entrepreneur is finding new ways to reach their
customers.  One of the most effective ways to capitalize on a down market is by exhibiting in a tradeshow.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research says you will reach 7 times as many prospects at an exhibition than you would through any
other type of marketing. In addition, the leads you collect will cost you 56% less to close.  The caliber of prospects
attending a tradeshow is excellent. Research shows that 49% of tradeshow attendees come to buy
something.  82% have buying influence, while 29% are the decision makers. 26% will sign a purchase order and 94% will
compare competing products.  It’s an audience ready to spend money with your company.

There are 11,000 tradeshows and 2,500 consumer shows a year attended by 120 million people who spend 100 billion dollars.  Nine out of ten companies ranked exhibitions as the #1 most useful source of purchasing information, because they could
examine and evaluate competing products in one location. Big business has been capitalizing on the benefits of exhibit marketing for years.  With a little knowledge and some careful planning, even the smallest business can tap into this lucrative marketplace.

The key is in the planning. To maximize your exhibit marketing budget consider working with experienced professionals that know how
to save you time and money on everything from labor and decorations to those last minute emergencies at your booth. When it comes to problem solving on the show floor, turn to your show decorator. Their knowledgeable staff is able to resource solutions in quick fashion to most any challenge and they will often partner with local entrepreneurs who can offer unique products and services that fulfill every show producers or meeting planner’s needs.

Small exhibits can produce big profits

Written by Susan Ratliff on June 11th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

I recently exhibited in a local Chamber of Commerce business expo. There were around 120 exhibitors offering a wide range of products and services to see. I estimate that 1200 attendees passed through in a four hour period. That’s a pretty good amount of traffic in a short period of time, especially when you compare it to the fact that the average sales person can only call on about 6-10 client in one day. The quality of the attendees was excellent, most being business owners themselves so the environment was perfect for gathering leads, finding valuable resources, branding and networking. Many of the exhibitors had tabletop displays which are economical, compact and can still make a great impression on the show floor. Unfortunately, the majority of booths I visited seemed to be under the impression that all they needed to do to get me to stop was stick a stack of flyers on the table with a bowl of candy. Hey, they were there, what else did I want? The truth is, I didn’t want anything from them because if they didn’t think enough about their company’s image to take the time to look professional why should I think they would give any attention to detail to my needs as a customer? Large or small, image is
everything on the show floor. Whether you are in the show for four hours or four days you better make a good impression. A droopy vinyl banner hung from the back curtain and a foamcore sign with the contents of your brochure printed on it will not get my attention.  Here is what will:

  • Professional signage/graphics that tell me who you are along with a short tagline or slogan that explains why I should do business with you.  (be sure to remove that awful cardboard ID sign that comes with the booth. That should not be your company sign).
  • Text that is short and sweet.  I don’t have time to read more than a few lines of text on your display.  Make sure your message conveys that you understand me, my needs and the solutions to my problems.
  • Pictures that tell the story and explain the product and how it relates to my needs. Show people in pictures using your product or service or how the product works.
  • Provide me with a simple takeaway that addresses my interests. Not a five page portfolio of your company history.  Target the needs of your audience.
  • Loose the candy bowl.  It’s not Halloween.  (unless of course you are selling candy)
  • Elevate the items on your tabletop area so you display your literature and offerings at a variety of heights.  Boxes covered with cloth or acrylic holders or baskets work well.
  • Invest in an imprinted table cover with your logo on it or at least a nice cloth that color coordinates with your exhibit.

I’ll cover more next time

Women Entrepreneurs From Pakistan visit Arizona

Written by Susan Ratliff on March 5th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

I was recently contact by the World Affairs Council of Arizona.  The WACAZ serves as the designated programming arm for the U.S. Dept of States International Visitor Leadership Program and arranges the professional itineraries for all the foreign leaders that come to Arizona.  They had a group from the Women’s Business Empowerment Project from Pakistan coming to the city and they wanted to meet with me to discuss my Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp and learn more about the challenges and issues facing women business owners in the US.  I was thrilled to accept and it was distinct honor to meet and talk in depth with seven vibrant, intelligent, passionate, beautiful, inspiring and accomplished women business owners from across the world.

I was excited that they all spoke English and impressed with their extensive education and business accomplishments.  Several of the women had traveled extensively, but for most it was their first trip to America.  I invited Joel Martin of TriadWest and Kristin Slice of Three Dog Marketing to join me and we spent over two hours fielding questions from this inquisitive group.

They wanted to know about women in American business and entrepreneurship; Commerce in the U.S. exploring the industry from small companies to large corporations, in smaller towns and major cities; best practices in starting up and running businesses, support for female-led organizations from federal and local government, the private sector, non-profits, and academia, Challenges faced by women in the workplace: sexism, harassment, and the pay gap; changing attitudes and promoting diversity in the workplace. They were a savvy group involved in many diverse enterprises.

Nabeela is a clothing designer and would like to expand her line to include some Western style dress wear.  She launched a business incubator and works closely with the WBDC (women’s business development center),

Fozia and her husband developed Danbys Skincare, herbal cosmetics and skin care products and markets them world wide through the web.  She seeks distribution outlets and alliances with companies in the US.

Najma is the Gender and Enterprise Development Officer for Youth Empowerment. She brings knowledge of business and commerce to women in the rural, tribal areas of her country working who are developing small cottage industries such as handicrafts and honey production.

Sidra is the Chief Executive Officer for StatusPro. She produces, researches, and hosts media projects such as “Corporate Coffee” for PTV News, “KIVA

Ayla a professional financial services industry expert and the first woman broker at the Islamabad Stock Exchange and the first female Director on the Board of the Islamabad Stock Exchange.

Noreen has spent the last nine years working for Kashf, Pakistan’s leading NGO in providing micro-financing to women, and oversees a current program that has 30,000 female clients. Ms. Adeel is also interested in providing training for women’s rights and stopping violence against women.

Ambreen has a silver jewelry and leather handbag business and markets though formal exporting channels. She would like to have introductions to companies that could help her import her products to the US.

One of the refreshing observations I made during our visit was that women business owners have the same goals and fears about business ownership and growth no matter where they live.  The most encouraging revelation I took away was that all women have burning passion for what they do, compassion for others and a common desire to elevate the lives and opportunities for success and self sufficiency for all women everywhere. I do believe, if given the chance, women could really heal the world.

Rounding out the top 10 resolutions for your booth

Written by Susan Ratliff on January 15th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

Here are two more New Years Resolutions for your 2011 exhibit marketing program.  Let me know if you have any others to add. 

9.  All chairs will be removed from my booth from this day forward.

Nothing makes me rush past an exhibit faster than seeing someone sitting behind a table looking restless and bored except two people sitting behind a table talking to each other. Your representatives should be standing up and attentive to all those passing by. If a break is needed, leave the booth.

10.  At no time will I resort to purchasing cheap graphics or display materials to represent my company.

Image is everything on the show floor. You have only one chance at your booth to show attendees you respect your company brand, believe you have value to offer, and will be around a long time to service and support them.  Hand-written signs, graphics printed from your computer, cardboard displays from the office supply store, cheap plastic exhibits from the school supplies catalogs, used products from unknown manufactures on the internet, do not convey an image of success or longevity.  Purchase your display  materials and graphics from a reputable exhibit company that sells commercial-grade display products and provides professional guidance and graphic design services so your company can shine at the show and project an image you can be proud of.

Susan Ratliff is The Exhibit Expert.  Nationally recognized as an authority on tradeshows and event marketing, Susan is an author, professional speaker, event producer and founder of the award-winning portable display company, Exhibit Experts Inc. Contact Susan for exhibiting products and services or to speak to your group:    602-437-3634   Copyright 2011 Susan Ratliff Presents Inc.

8 New Year’s Resolutions for your tradeshow program

Written by Susan Ratliff on January 10th, 2011. Posted in Uncategorized

This is it. The perfect time to turn over a new leaf, change your ways, improve bad habits.  It’s a fresh start for you and your tradeshow team to make improvements so 2011 will bring you maximum profits and productivity from every tradeshow.  Take note of my suggestions and pass them along to your crew with my blessings for a prosperous year.

1.  I will refrain from staffing my booth with too many people.

 Prospective clients find it very intimidating to approach your exhibit when four men in dark suits are hovering behind the table at the front of your space.  Maintain a maximum of two people for every 10’x10’ booth.  Present a welcoming smile and inviting posture that encourages engagement.

2.  I promise to create graphic messages that describe the benefits our company offers.

While the long list of services and products you provide are important to explain, the message you should be shouting to your target audience from the text on your graphics is that you feel their pain, understand their problems, and most importantly, can deliver the solutions they need.  For every feature you mention, be sure you include the benefit it provides.  Better yet, leave the features off entirely and focus on the benefits that are important to your customer and separates you from the competition.

3I will never place another bowl of candy on my counter/table again.

What do you think this is Halloween? Unless you sell candy it makes no sense to feed it to attendees.  At no time has anyone asked me one qualifying question as I walked by and grabbed a handful of chocolate. Find a more strategic promotion to draw customers to your booth and speak to them when they are there in front of you.

4.  I will stop purchasing miscellaneous pens, mouse pads, key chains and other irrelevant give-a-ways.

 A clever freebee can create a buzz throughout the exhibit hall when it compliments a theme, reinforces a marketing message or reminds prospects of your company or industry.  The company name, phone number and website on a fly swatter for a pest control business, a deck of cards for a casino theme or a wireless mouse for a technology company makes a memorable connection. Take some time to coordinate your freebee to better connect to your purpose and message.

5.  Brochures, flyers and handouts will no longer lay flat on my table.

Use a variety of elevations to bring your important marketing pieces closer to eye level and make them easier for the prospect to access.  Acrylic literature holders are readily available, but an interesting container or one of your products would be a more clever way to deliver the information to attendees.

6.  I will always maximize the effectiveness of a corner booth space.

Corner booth spaces are prime real estate, very desirable and often cost more than a regular booth location.  If you land a corner spot, be sure to remove the side rail next to the open aisle.  Just slip it out and lay the pipe and drape in the aisle during set up and the decorator will take it away. You will then have two open sides of entry to your booth.  Avoid blocking that open space with a table, unless of course you are retailing products from those tables. 


7.  I pledge to set up and evaluate my display at least two months before it ships to the show. 

Millions of dollars are wasted by thousands of companies every year because they wait until the last minute to prepare their displays for the show.  When graphics are designed in a rush, parts are ordered too late, products are shipped at the last minute, the extra charges required to meet your show deadlines can be significant.  Take time, months before the show, to set up the display with the sales staff and evaluate it together.  Does your display model need updating or is it ready for the trash bin? Are your graphic messages still relevant?  Is the hardware in need of repair?  Are the lights working? Do your existing properties still accommodate the needs of the booth staff? By setting up your exhibit and looking it over before it ships to the show, you will have plenty of time to add, change, improve or eliminate what you need to without rushing.

8.  I vow to maintain an organized, uncluttered exhibit booth space.

Have you heard the saying: Trying to put 30 pounds of %$*&! In a 5 pound bag?  That describes many exhibits I’ve seen.  Why would a company spend thousands of dollars creating a beautiful back wall exhibit only to block it from the customer’s view with boxes, counters, products or people?  I know it is tempting to bring everything you sell to the show, but if you are not retailing merchandise, don’t.  Showcase only an attractive variety of styles, colors, models for viewing and use collateral or portfolios to explain the rest. 

 Maybe you have a few good ideas rto add.  I’d love to hear them.  If you’d like a personal evaluation for improving your program give me a call.