Heading to Tradeshow – What do you need?

HEADING TO LAS VEGAS!!

Next week (January 10-16), we will be heading to Las Vegas to the largest Promotional Products Trade Show in the industry with over 1400 booths!!  While we are there, we would like to take the opportunity to help YOU with your marketing needs for this coming year.  

Over the past couple of months, we are sure you have been working on your marketing plans and incentive and award ideas for 2010. If you have a list of ideas and dates, we can walk the show floor and be your eyes and ears. Give us an idea of what you need and your budget and we will look for the hottest, most creative ideas out there, just for YOU!

 

If you would like our help we will make it easy – Just email us: CustomerService@CEShoppes.com with a list of event dates, the theme of the event, what types of items or ideas you are looking for, quantity, budget and any other information that would be helpful to have as we are walking the tradeshow floor. Please respond prior to January 12, 2010. We will follow up with an email to let you know we received your email before we leave for the show, so you will know we will be thinking of you while we are out there.

Promotional Towels- FAQ

Over the weekend my boys went swimming in our backyard pool. I never really looked at all of the towels we have accumulated over the years until now. Last week we began training our staff about the differences in beach towels because so many of our customers are purchasing promotional towels for their events and they were asking a lot of questions.

Beach towels are great for swim teams, school fundraisers, company picnics, beach outings and any other summer event you can think of. We get a lot of questions from those that are tasked to purchase the beach towels for their event. Many have no idea why some towels cost more than others and some can’t figure out why it cost so much to put more than 1 or 2 colors on a towel. 

To solve this, we have put together a sort of cheat sheet. This page explains the towel types, terry loop vs velour, screen printed vs. fiber reactive towels in a clean cut, user friendly form that everyone can understand. If you are in charge or know of someone in your company that will be tasked to order your summer promotional items and they want to know more about beach towels visit our FAQ on towel decoration or call one of our trained staff.

Tradeshows – Part 2 of 2 Exhibiting At A Tradeshow

How
successful your tradeshow experience will be and your return on investment will
all be pre-determined by how well you do your job BEFORE you ever get to the
tradeshow.

 

1)      You will need to determine your
objectives before attending the show:

a.       Produce sales at the show

b.       Target key buyers

c.       Encourage early ordering

d.       Produce sales leads/Requests for
information

e.       Improve client relationships

f.       
Demonstrate
products

g.       Attract new customers

 

2)      Many exhibitors determine the
success of a show based on:

a.       How many catalogs were given out

b.       How many attendees they scanned in
the booth

c.       The number of sample requests they
received

d.       How many people attended a special
presentation

 

While
these may all be “feel good” indicators of success, what you do with this
information and how many objectives were reached after the show, will actually
determine the success of the show.

As we
know, many attendees will walk down an aisle and take every single catalog,
promotional sample etc without the slightest thought about using your company
or even knowing who you are and what you sell. Your sales team may even scan
these people in to your database or take a business card . . . never to be
heard from again. At the end of any tradeshow it is amazing to find out from
hotel staff and convention centers how many catalogs and promotional items are
left in hotel rooms or found in the convention center trash. Your marketing
message may not make it to your intended target!

 

It is very
important to seriously think about who you are targeting at these shows and
why. Do you want to give out 1000 catalogs to 1000 attendees when a fraction of
them may ever buy from you?

 

Here is a
list of Top 10 Ideas for Having a Successful Tradeshow

 

1.   
Set
specific show objectives

2.   
Train
your staff on how to qualify a potential new customer. Make sure they know the
products benefits and features.

a)      If you are a one man operation –
hire a spokesperson or model to help you with your booth. There are many
persons that hire themselves out for tradeshows. Ask others in your area, call
the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the area where the tradeshow will be held
and get the name of some possible temporary employees.

b)      Send them a copy of your catalog
and a link to your website prior to the show.

c)       Have them meet you at the tradeshow
on set up day. Have them help you set up your booth and discuss the product
line as you are putting your wares or information out on the shelves. The
spokesperson does not have to know everything there is to know about your line,
but a few hours of training can make them look like a viable part of your team
and help you with your potential customers.

3)      Give your staff a list of preferred
customers and target list of new customers to watch for at the tradeshow.

4)      Make sure they scan all visitors
coming to the booth. Many show badges will now show you which attendees are
qualified buyers, staff members or visitors.

5)      Give your staff a list of
qualifying questions to ask possible new customers. Make sure they are not
questions easily answered with just a yes or no. An example might be “How
familiar are you with our product line?” This is a great lead in for your team
to explain the line.

6)      Train your staff to take good notes
and to follow up with any promised information directly after the show. – If
possible, they can call in to the home office and have this information
delivered to the attendees email or sent to their office before the attendee
leaves the show.

7)      Make sure to send out Pre-Show
invitations with some sort of show promotion.

8)      At the show use the pre-show
promotions to strengthen your relationship with the preferred or targeted
customer.

9)      Use “at show” promotions to attract
more attention to your products while in the booth. One of our customers gave
away an entire line of stress reliever animals, to highlight a new book series
featuring animals, to a group of educators. Their booth always had high
traffic. The tie in was perfect and that just added to the sale!

10)   Make sure to follow up after the
show. Send out another email to those who attended. Add some type of offer to
the email, or reiterate or extend the “at show” offer. – Send a “We missed you”
direct mailing to those who could not attend or to those you wished to target
but did not see while at the show.

 

More
in depth information on “How to Exhibit Successfully at a Tradeshow,” can be
found at CEShoppes.com under News/Calendar.

Changes… for the better

It’s been over a month since I last wrote this column. We have been spending a lot of time creating new websites and putting together an exciting new venture. There will be a lot of different things happening over the course of several months including the way we handle our advertising and our email campaigns. Changes happen all around us and sometimes you are so stuck in what you are doing at the moment that your blinders are on and you miss the bigger picture.

 

We are starting to look at that bigger picture and making changes to adjust to doing business in a different way. More on this as things start to heat back up. – We recently sent out postcards to showcase our three newest websites. We are very excited about them and the new ones that we will be working on over the course of the next 3-6 months. Creative Expressions is committed to customer service and product knowledge. It is very important to us to be able to help our customers find just the right item to fit their promotion, increase their brand awareness or thank their top sales people or best employees. With the economy getting so off track this past year, everyone needs a pick me up and corporate gifts, no matter how small, are the perfect fit.  

 

Here are links to 3 different price ranges, so no matter what your budget might be, you can find a gift to thank your clients and your employees this holiday season.

 

Budget Corporate Food Gifts under $10


Corporate Gifts $15.95 or less

 

Corporate Gifts Sets as low as $12.95

It’s Not Just a Bag!

Increasingly, customers are looking for new ideas, not necessarily new products to use in their promotions. It is always interesting to me what products are being used by different industries to market their company. If we sell the same one product to 7 different companies, we would get 7 different idea or 7 different uses. I decided today just to highlight a few products and how they are used. Maybe this will spark some ideas at your company to help you find a different way to use these product ideas.

Hotels, resorts, spas, and cruise lines have come to rely on bags as excellent marketing tools in their resorts to create continuous brand awareness and forge lasting relationships with their visitors, both business and leisure travelers. The creativity seen in their use of bags offers wonderful insight into how such a cross-functional promotional product can be leveraged for ever-increasing market exposure.

Here is a case history from our packaging manufacturer on how bags are used for the travel industry:

Just as with leisure travelers, hotels rely heavily on the business traveler for their success. A national hotel chain was looking for an elegant way to welcome its premier business travelers upon their arrival and turned to their promotional consultant for creative ideas. The consultant’s solution? A Reverse Trapezoid Euro tote. The hotel’s premier members received this unique bag upon check-in and each one contained a bottle of specialty water, gourmet snacks, and a coveted key to the hotel’s concierge door. What made this choice of bags so creative was its distinctive shape, which in the eyes of the hotel’s manager, symbolized a mountain or peak to be summited.  Imprinted on the bag was simply the hotel’s logo and a cleverly apropos tag line, “You Have Arrived!”

This tag line held a deeper reference than simply its literal sense of having arrived at the hotel. It also provided a figurative sense in that by receiving this bag, they had earned the rewards of their premier membership – a sense of accomplishment for reaching a pinnacle which was now being rewarded. And the message was further reinforced the moment they inserted their key to access the concierge door! For the hotel, the distinctive shape of the bag augmented their current branding campaign and resulted in an increase in business travelers qualifying for premier membership. They quickly realized that, when delivering an important message, it’s all about the presentation!

This same bag can be used for wedding favors to great customers who arrive at the hotel, imprinted with the bride and grooms name or for a convention where your theme can be imprinted on the bag. In both cases the bags are very elegant looking and inside can be the event itinerary, some type of snacks and any mementos that the convention or bride want to present to their guests.

Another great idea for hotels, cruise lines or destination resorts is the drawstring backpack. It allows your guests to explore the surrounding area, go on a cruise excursion, to the beach, an area park, or local museum. A drawstring backpack is the perfect promotional item to give away to your customers to carry towels, books, sunscreen, cameras, snacks, maps, and so much without having to worry about where to put all of their belongings. Many people forget to pack a smaller bag when they are on vacation so this is a great branding opportunity for the hotel/resort/cruise line or travel agent.

So many wonderful ideas for such a simple item.

To Charge or Not to Charge – Part 2

This past week I attended another tradeshow/expo. (I know, I spend a lot of time going to shows). This is the show I told you about a while back where we decided not to charge to attend. I really believe the same thing happened as in the past. We had over 1200 registrations, and they tell me approximately 700 people actually showed up. I truly believe that our numbers would have been closer to the truth had we charged a nominal amount as we have in the past 4 years.

 

There were many comments about the show and its new venue and the new show managers. Some were good, some were bad. More communication could have been done on the part of not only our association’s expo committee, but also with the shows management. More signage was the common complaint from vendors as well as attendees. In the past, there were signs from every entry way possible and additional signage all along the way to guide the attendee to the show. Instead, there were barely any signs to guide you and the convention security was no help in directing attendees to the expo. – Second, in the past, we had provided box lunches to the exhibitors. Many exhibitors came with more than one representative. In the past, we provided more than one box lunch. I heard many complaints from vendors that they only received one ticket for lunch, even when there were 3 people in the booth. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been publicized ahead of time with their vendor packets to make everyone aware that this was the case this year. 

 

I believe this will be a live and learn experience. I am just sad that we had this all figured out over the past few years, and then when we switch management companies, it was like starting over again. I just read a recent article in our industry magazine that said that one of the other regional Expo’s who had hired a new management company was giving them notice two years in to a three year contract.  The grass is not always greener.

 

 Please think twice about making a change to an event that was working well – AND consult those “who were there when it was working” –especially if you are new or weren’t a part of the event when it was working well.  Reinventing the wheel can be painful in the end. We may have saved a few dollars, but we may have also alienated exhibitors as well as attendees with such poor organization and lack of communication.

It’s All in the Invitation – Part 1 of A 3 Part Series

I started thinking recently about all the great events I have planned over the years. We are in the midst of planning new and exciting happenings for our company and this brought all these wonderful memories floating back. I think the best thing about putting on an event, whether it is a fundraiser, or a grand opening or the launch of a website is the planning of that event. I get really excited when I start writing down all the things that need to be done, creating the lists, and the lists for those lists, and then purchasing the items that are needed to make it all come together. Somehow, this all gives meaning to your days and you eagerly wake up because you know that today is going to be filled with fun while you make your game plan for your event.

I really believe that an invitation to your event sets the tone for how the event is going to be perceived, and whether you are going to have a good crowd attend your events. – My personal parties are always very crowded. I always go out of my way to put them on, and I think my family and friends come to expect this from me. A few years ago, when Harry Potter was popular, I put together a 9th birthday party for my son. It took me 3 months to plan that event, but it was the best party his friends and the neighborhood children had ever seen. They all talked about it for weeks after the event.  It started out with invitations that looked like a scroll on parchment paper inviting them to come to the party in costume. The invitation was even sealed in wax with a big H for Hogwarts. We had 21 children arrive dressed as characters from the movie and we even had a sorting hat party, made magic wands, drank out of light up goblets and played quidditch in the back yard. Even the inside of our living area walls were lined with flagstone patterned gossamer. It was the care we took in the invitation that brought those 21 children to our house, and the attention to details once they arrived that made the party memorable for everyone.

Zipper Coconuts as a unique Party InvitationI started to think about different invitations I have received over the years for different events and I came up with some really creative ideas. A few years ago I received a zippered coconut. It was a real coconut that actually had a zipper attached to the middle. When you opened it up, inside was the invitation to the event, some sun screen a lei. This set the stage for an educational business meeting with a Hawaiian theme to be held at a local beach resort. 

Another invitation that we actually used a couple of summers ago for a “Christmas in August” open house to get our local clients thinking about the upcoming holiday season was a mailing tube decorated in red and white with Season’s Greetings imprinted on the side. A mailing tube is a great mailer that gets opened right away because it is not an ordinary envelope, so the recipient is excited to see what is inside. We has quite a few attendees who loved the invitation idea. 

Next time you are planning an event, think about a theme that will excite your guests. Then plan accordingly. If you look around, there are a number of very creative invitation ideas that you can purchase from your promotional consultant that will add to the excitement of your next event.

Next Edition -Part Two: Creative Party Favors and Give-Aways

 

Rising Product Costs

Recently, I read a report from the National Association of Realtors that said we have finally hit the bottom of the housing slump and home sales may rise in the second half of 2008. As Americans are feeling more pinched at the gas pumps and their grocer this sounds like it could be good news. Hopefully, the economy will begin to move out of its holding pattern too.

Unfortunately, as the state of affairs for the housing market is looking up, I received no less than three different reports this past week, from our industry suppliers, that prices of promotional items, mainly sourcing from Asia (which is where nearly all promotional products originate) are going to increase significantly over the next year. We are already seeing our suppliers reprinting catalogs with pricing inserts, so they can easily be changed out for new ones without the cost of creating a new catalog every time there is an increase. We also have a great many suppliers that are coming out with “Mid-Year” catalogs to combat having to absorb the price increases.

The increase in costs is stemming from the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar against the RMB – (China’s currency). Our dollar has fallen by about 15% over the past three years. Then there is the cost of metals, oil, petroleum (from which plastic is made) and other raw materials where the price is consistently rising due to higher demand and waning availability in China. Now add in social compliance (remember my article last month), where as of January 1, 2008 China has implemented a new labor law requiring employers to offer employee benefits such as an annual leave, medical coverage, insurance, and overtime pay. Chinese employees now realize that they can go elsewhere and get paid better. When this happens, just like here in America, it costs more to find and train new employees which can affect production.

As American’s expect, as they well should, that the items (whether promotional items, costume jewelry, clothing or toys) purchased from overseas are compliant, meaning the materials these products are made from are not dangerous, the factories where the products are made have sanitary conditions, and employees are well treated, the prices of these goods will continue rise.

The good news is that you have choices too. When working with an experienced promotional products distributor your budget and the quality of the products selected should be foremost in their minds. By planning your events and promotions as far as 120 days or more in advance you can effectively beat price increases. Look over your marketing plans for the next 6 months to a year and determine the products you will need to fit those promotions.

Call Creative Expressions for help in determining which products will best fit your plan. By ordering at least four months out or longer you can take advantage of having your product imprinted, debossed or embroidered overseas at the factory, saving you money and help offset the rising costs of products coming in from overseas. Shipping these products to you will not cost more, as they will be FOB: USA Factory.  If you purchase the amount of items you think will last you for the next six months to a year, you will save money by protecting yourself from price increases that may be incurred by ordering smaller amounts, having them decorated in our normal 10 business day or less production time and then having to reorder at a higher price in the coming months.

If you can plan ahead, ask your Creative Expressions Representative to quote you pricing and times for overseas production or help you to find similar products to replace products that may not fit your budget because of increased costs. We are here to partner with you.

Expo –To Charge or Not

This week I attended our regional association board of directors meeting. We were discussing if we should charge members to attend our yearly Expo. Most of the board was against charging members and some of us who had been on and off the board and now on again and knew the history of why we charge members to attend still wanted to continue this practice.

So, the question I wonder is “do we really get what we pay for”? Is there value added when we pay for an event rather than have the ability to attend for free? If you don’t pay and still sign up, do you feel an obligation to attend or do you feel that if something better comes along, you don’t need to attend because you don’t have anything invested?

Personally, I feel the latter. If I don’t pay for something and I choose not to attend later, even though I have RSVP’d, what difference does it make? We did not charge for the Expo before 2005. We had 1200 people sign up each year. Many didn’t sign themselves up, but rather a secretary or the owner of the company would sign up all their sales people to attend “just in case”. Then on the days of the event we would actually have a 45% drop off rate!

In 2005, our committee instituted a $10 per person member fee to attend the Expo. Non members and same day registrants would pay more. We billed it as pay $10 and you received a free parking pass at the convention center, a free awards breakfast, free drinks and hors’doeuvres at the cocktail party and a coupon book from suppliers with thousands of dollars in savings, plus of course free education with CEU credits and the tradeshow. Because registrants actually had to pay to attend we now had qualified sales people sign up and pay and our drop off rate was less than 15%, allowing us to more accurately budget for the event.

The board members who wanted to charge for the Expo, lost. The rational was that we are going to be in a new venue from the previous years, the economy is bad and those who approved the no fee rule felt that the drop off rate wouldn’t be an issue. – The Expo is at the end of August, I will keep you posted on what actually happens.

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Technology and Vacation Time

Isn’t it wonderful to have all of this technology at hand? Here I am sitting in Daytona Beach in a timeshare directly on the ocean, with my family, and I am still able to keep track of what is happening in my office via email, my Blackberry and the phone. I even dialed in to a webinar on Tuesday for our company’s WBENC certification.

Here in our room we can only get dial-up service, but with that wonderful technology, I was able to connect my Blackberry to my laptop and get a faster form of dial-up than the room can provide, which allowed me to keep tabs on my office, update a mailing list for our next two mailings, and upload this blog.

And since I am speaking about vacations and summer, a few great things are happening in our office this summer. Starting June 1, our Corporate Gift Give Away Contest begins – Sign up to win either an Xbox 360 or a $400 Gas Card. I believe that now that gas prices have hit $4.00 a gallon and still rising, the gas card will be in high demand. See official rules for details of how you could win! Even if you don’t win, just for signing up, every qualified entrant will receive a Free Music Download!

Not only did we create a contest to add to this summer’s excitement, we also became certified this past month as a women’s business enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), the nation’s largest third party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the U.S.   We recognize the commitment to supplier diversity that is embraced by corporations and government agencies today, and we can add diversity to your supply chain.

WBENC’s national standard of certification implemented by the Women’s Business Development Center, a Florida Regional Partner of WBENC, is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and a site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. – They could have just asked anyone on staff and they would have immediately known who runs the day to day operations in our office.

 

We are looking forward to working with many new corporate partners this summer and in the future. This is a huge opportunity and we don’t take this honor lightly.

 

Monday will come too soon, an end to the vacation and the beginning of another work week, but meanwhile, I better get back to my boys and the beach while they are still building that sand castle!