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.

EXPO! EXPO! read all about it.

Written by Susan Ratliff on December 15th, 2010. Posted in Uncategorized

It was with great anticipation that I attended my first International Association of Exhibitions and Events conference. As a new member of IAEE (www.iaee.com) I was not disappointed. I enjoyed four days in New Orleans immersing myself in the event production industry. I met a fun and facinating assortment of show organizers, tradeshow managers, consumer show producers and industry experts willing to share their knowledge and experience and welcome me into the fold. I had a great time exploring the tradeshow floor, attending educational sessions and eating my way into oblivion cajun style. I met Roy Turner a bigwig at GLM, the largest producer/marketer of consumer product shows in North America. If you want to see attend a crazy cool show check out their Surf Expo at www.surfexpo.com. it’s like the X-Games on steroids with 2000 exhibits and 15,000 attendees looking at products from surf gear to snow boards. I also met Denise Medved, CEO of the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining show. www.MetroCooking.com. Her shows feature 300 exhibitors and celebrities like Paula Deen, Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay, how fun is that! I went to the event by myself, not knowing anyone there and want to thank Isabella Wai, Director of Convention Events for the Ontario Hospital Association for taking the time to visit with me and tell me about her roll in this industry. The team from Shepard Exposition Services were especially friendly throughout the four days. I have a four inch stack of business card to follow up with from service providers, potential companies that could hire me as a speaker and contacts that I can do business with as I expand my Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp. I left the conference encouraged by the positive news that the industry is on the uptick. Not by much, but there is evidence of an overall increase in show attendees, number of exhibitors and net square footage at shows. We must continue to promote, support and defend the face to face marketplace because there is no better way to meet thousands of potential customers in an atmosphere more conducive to doing business than a tradeshow or consumer event.

99 Ways to Market your Business

Written by Susan Ratliff on October 6th, 2010. Posted in Uncategorized

My head is spinning from all the useful informati0n I received at a marketing for entrepreneurs event put on by networking Guru Dave Sherman which was sponsored by my friends Paul Sanders and Ilana Lowry from the Phoenix Business Journal. There were three panels of experts who spoke for five minutes each then took questions.  I spoke on a panel along with Brad Beller from Signs by Tomorrow and Pat Marco with Heritage graphics.  Brad said to remember that borders increase readability of a sign by 26% and adding a second color increases message retention by 78%, Pat reminded us to use a professional graphic designer and that a good relationship with your printer could save you lots of money.  I shared the five keys you must focus on that will help you turn your exhibit booth into a powerful profit center.  You must set goals for the show, have a sales strategy, design a dynamic display, include promotions at the booth and follow up leads fast. We learned some great strategies for gettimg more media coverage.  Tips from Christina Wagner at KFNX included: Contact the hosts of shows, don’t wait for them to contact you.  Engage hosts and reporters on facebook.  Steve Carr reminded us to know your audience and craft a compeling message before you make the contact and Paul Sanders said to use the paper’s editorial calendar to tie in your newsworthy angle with what the paper will be focusing on in a given month.  My favorite panel was the heavy hitters on the social media panel.  Dave Barhart of Blogging Business Pros, Matt O’Brien from Mint Social and Ward Andrews, Design.org & drawbackwards.  Here are some of there valuable tips:  Launch a contributor network, forget the home page emphasis, create every page on your blog as a landing page.  Use those key words to drive traffic from Google, your blog should be your launch pad. Blog every day, write about solutions to problems, ask your audience questions, know your page visitors well, know what you want people to do or know when they land on your webpage, revise and change content often.  Dave Sherman left us with some great networking tidbits. Talk to people about non-business topics, stop selling start connecting, create a higher level of commonality with the people you meet.  Thanks Dave, for a great day.

Today consumers are buying differently, they are taking the leap to cheap and want everything at a bargain price, they want to find you fast and get what they need quickly.  Be visible, know your audience and give them what they want.  Marketing smart is critical in this marketplace.

The Perfect Exit Strategy

Written by Susan Ratliff on September 13th, 2010. Posted in Uncategorized

Every business owner ponders what it will be like when it comes time to sell their business. How will you let your baby go? After 16 wonderful years building a successful tradeshow display products company I was ready to move on, but didn’t want to go very far away. It was a dream come true to find a couple with youth, energy and a new view on moving my business to the next level of success who appreciated what I could add to their journey. I love the exhibit business and have great passion for using my 35 years of expertise in the industry to help exhibitors maximize their profits, but lost some of my excitement for the everday grind of running the operations. Now I have achieved the perfect exit strategy. A win-win for both myself and the new owner of my company. I get to continue to work with my valued clients, consult with them on their display products while speaking and training exhibitors around the country. I am very fortunate to have a great new relationship and a lucrative job. For those of you looking for a similar perfect exit strategy here are my suggestions:
1. Work with a professional business broker when selling your business.
2. Make a list of ways you can bring value to the new owners by staying connected to the business.
3. Look at the big picture and the long term opportunities.
4. Can you work for the new owners?
5. Can you offer valuable consultation services going forward?
6. Can you contribute long term and set up a bonus system that rewards you for helping the business continue to grow?
7. Never burn your bridges.
For information on my business sale go to http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2010/09/06/daily43.htmlsurround=lfn

How is a tradeshow like a hockey game?

Written by Susan Ratliff on April 15th, 2010. Posted in Uncategorized

Yesterday I attended the first Phoenix Coyotes playoff game in seven years.  (That’s how long it’s taken them to make the playoffs again)  I have been a hockey fan since high school and a season ticket holder since the Yotes came to town.  The Coyotes do something at playoff games that is the envy of the NHL.  It’s called a White Out. Imagine 18,000 people, dressed in white T-shirts, screaming and waving white towels at their fabulous team in action.  We whipped the Detroit Red Wings 3 to 2, by the way.  All three goals were power play goals, for you hockey fans.  I am bringing this up because as I was howling my support for our team I marveled at the elements that made the night so special.  They were the same elements that make a tradeshow exhibit memorable. 

First there was a theme:  Dressing up your booth staff in costume or coordinated clothing to enhance a marketing theme always draws attention.  Many fans went beyond white T-shirts.  To stand out, (and get on National TV), they came in white tuxedos, white hair, painted faces and white beards. 

Next there were props.  Using unique or interesting items in your booth to decorate it, hold merchandise and literature and draw attention is very effective.  At the arena I saw many Stanley Cups made from tin foil, plush coyotes waving in the crowd and coyote tails hanging from hats. 

Eye’catching Graphics-  Using the right images and words on the graphics in your booth is critical to your success.  Your message must be succinct, attention grabbing and evoke emotion in the reader.  I must say the signs I saw in the crowd were very succinct and sure got me excited.  Some were  in support of the team:  Hockey belongs in the desert. Some were expressing feelings for the opponent: Burn the Red Wings Tonight, others were clever:  Taking Care of Bryz ness  (our record setting goalie is Illya Bryzgaloff)  Anyway, I think you now understand how a trade show is like a hockey game.  Get a glimpse of the White Out, support the Phoenix Coyotes and follow us to the Stanley Cup finals at www.PhoenixCoyotes.com    Go Yotes!!