Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Essential Oils and Trade Shows

Ok, what in the world do essential oils and trade shows have in common?  I recently made a discovery that I thought I would share.

Many of you know that I am quite passionate about the use of essential oils.  We use them for many things.  Most of those things, the FDA won't let me tell you about because we are not classified as a drug.  Therefore I can't even use any words like allergies, arthritis, asthma or anything else in relation to the oils.  I do love to learn about, try and share information about the oils.  I teach many classes and workshops so that others can learn too.

The first "ah-ha" moment for me is with our showroom.  We have a large showroom in our Trade Show exhibit and event company.  When we moved in we had a cherry picker to hang the large overhead in our showroom.  While hanging the sign the cherry picker leaked oil or transmission fluid on our gray carpet in our 20 x 20.  This is an area where all our prospects come to see our showroom and visit with us.  The stain on the carpet always bothered me.  It was clearly noticeable and honestly embarrassed me when clients and prospects came in.

One day I had a revelation.  I had heard so much about lemon oil being great for cleaning.  We have used orange oil mixture to eliminate pet urine smells and were amazed!  You can read about that here if you want.  All Natural Pet Odor Removal.  So I decided to try some lemon oil.

Seriously I dropped about 12 drops of lemon oil on the stain and got a rag.  I rubbed a little bit and the stain started disappearing.  I was honestly surprised.  So you ask again, what does this have to do with trade shows?

  1. Do you ever find stains on graphics or on your flooring?
  2. Do you try to clean it and it looks worse?
  3. Do you decide to leave it behind and just spend more money on new flooring for the next show?
  4. Do you try to cover it up with furniture or a reception counter?
Be sure to spot test it on things like graphics before you try it.  I have not yet tried it on dye sub graphics.

My hope is that this tip makes you look great and saves you some money.  I would be happy to sell you new flooring, but would feel badly if I didn't share my trick for cleaning this up!  We were going to throw this away and get new carpet when we redo our showroom this summer.  This little bottle saved us a bunch of money!  Essential oils are all natural and contain no harsh chemicals like traditional cleaning products.

Add a little bottle of Young Living Lemon Essential Oil to your trade show kit!  You won't be sorry.  It smells really fresh and wonderful too, like a little bottle of sunshine while we are trapped in convention halls for hours on end.  I always have one in my office if you want to stop by and sample it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A 30 Year Vendor Relationship That Wasn't Worth $1500

We sell trade show exhibits.  This is not a blog trying to get you to do business with us but a little background is necessary.  Total Displays has been in business for over 30 years.  My husband and I have owned the business for 11 years as of this writing.

As a company we look for partners, long term partners.  We are not the kind of company that goes out to partner with just any company to say that we offer absolutely every product out there.   When looking for partners we are looking for companies that have the following attributes:

  1. They sell to re-sellers or distributors only.  I have no need to compete directly with any of my manufacturers.
  2. They understand small business.  This can be a little trial and error.  I talk to people in the industry to find out about their reputation.
  3. I do like to be courted a little bit.  If I have to chase the partner, chances are they are not going to support me very well.
  4. I need to be able to make money.  That seems self evident but when someone wants you to sell their product and you ask them what your margins will be and they can't answer?  Run, run very fast and very far.  I will post more on this issue another day.
Once we have found a partner, we will make every effort to represent their product and their brand well while integrating it into our offerings.  These products are not such hard products but include services.  We also want these relationships to be long term.  We truly partner with companies.  Their success is our success and vice versa.  We don't expect a partner to be perfect, but to make things right when they are not.

Now on to the story.  One of the services we provide is freight and logistics.  Of course we don't have a fleet of trucks so we partner with companies that are experts in this field.   So here is what happened.  We have had a long time relationship with ABC Shipping Company.  They have been a good partner.  We have spent a lot of money (at least by our standards) with them over the years.  We referred three of our largest clients with the most shows.   They set up direct accounts with ABC Shipping Company.  They move a lot of trade show products throughout the year.

They shipped a booth for one of these clients, XYZ Company.  This was a brand new booth.  It had never been set up.  It was shipping directly to the show.  This booth was valued at 65,000.  We get the email from the carrier saying the following:

"Please take a look at how your freight arrived into San Diego our carrier did not handle this  crate very good. I am working with them to see how this happened. David and I thought you would need this information in case you rec’d a call. My agent could not get this crate out of their trailer being it was falling apart and could not be salvaged or repaired. They did a great job at regrouping the freight inside the crate. I will send them in the next email. One of the concerns we have is the transportation back to you. I am thinking we can have our agent skid, band, and bubble wrap for the trip to MN. Please let us know your thoughts. This freight was delivered at 1030 today signed for by Susie Showmaker.  I am very sorry that your freight did not arrive as it was shipped."

They were unwilling to pay to replace the crate.  Luckily the booth was not damaged and went up just fine.  Here is my issue.  I know that their procedures and policies would require us to insure the booth at a cost of an additional $500 per trip for any replacement cost.  Also the terms on the replacement cost were very vague and subject to interpretation.  What became clear is that they were unwilling to stand behind their service.  This may be standard policy for shipping companies.

Where is the principal in the matter, where is the service?  As a result, we have pulled all business, and told our clients that we are no longer recommending ABC Shipping Company.

Personally if it were my business, I would have done the right thing and offered the client SOMETHING.  Half of the value?  Anything would have been better than this.  Remember that key word partnership.

From www.meriam-webster.com

Full Definition of PARTNERSHIP

:  the state of being a partner :  participation
a :  a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principals in a business
b :  the persons joined together in a partnership
:  a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities
Partnership implies two companies in a relationship working together.  I am sure I will ruffle some feathers with this one.  But sometimes you have to throw away policies and do the right thing by your client.  FYI, we have already paid for the new crate for our client.

What did that $1,500 actually cost them?  A LOT.  

What would you have done?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Can CRM Help You Retain Customers?

CRM, Customer Relationship Management?

When I speak about CRM best practices one of the first questions I ask is, "Do you have customers?"  The follow up question is, "Do you want to keep those customers?"

CRM systems are not just for new sales.  Traditional thought process on CRM is new business, sales funnel, opportunity management, etc.  All throughout your organization you touch your relationship with those clients.  Here are some areas where a customer can be "touched".
  • Customer Service
  • Service & Repair
  • Credit & Collections
Let's say you go to make a sales call to a long time customer.  They have had some difficulties and were slow to pay a couple of invoices.  You call them up to ask for more business and you get slammed because your credit and collection rep has been hounding them for the last two weeks and has completely alienated them.   Another day we will discuss how to turn credit and collections into a customer service and sales tool!

Tracking those customer touches is vitally important to your overall relationship with your client.  Maintaining a strong relationship with the client makes them come back for more!

Customer Relationship Ownership

This is something that is often over looked by Sales Managers or owners of companies.   Often a company's biggest asset is their customer list.  Without that customer list it wouldn't matter how much inventory you had, you would not have any sales and any repeat sales without customers.

If your sales reps are keeping all their sales notes and or conversations on paper, you do not have access to a very valuable part of that customer relationship.  How many times have you heard the stories where a sales rep leaves, takes a copy of the proprietary customer list and all their notes and calls on them from their new company.  We all know how hard it is to truly enforce non-competes right?  As a business owner, you own that customer relationship and all the data that goes with it.

If you want to make the job easier for the next rep for that account, be certain that your reps are utilizing CRM to track their conversations.  There are some great tools and tricks to be sure that happens.  We will cover that in another post too!

Of course the same holds true for sales leads but we are talking about customers today.

Customer Turnover/Churn

Customer retention is incredibly important to any business.   The cost to acquire a new account vs. keeping and nurturing an existing account is significant.  Here is a great article to read on the true cost of acquiring a new customer.

Customer Acquisition Cost

 There is nothing worse for a sales rep to call a customer that hasn't bought from you for a while to find that they are now buying from someone else?  Do you know how many of those customers you have lost?

Or what about the customer where your contact leaves for a new job?  Will you build a relationship with the new person?  Will you know that there is a new person? Will you call on your former contact at his new job to see if they may be a prospect?

A good solid usage of CRM with a defined universal process within your organization can help with these issues.


Lori Allaman Hanken has spent over 25 years working with various CRM packages.  She was part of a development and design team for a nationally released CRM product in the wholesale distribution market.  Ms. Hanken has been featured as a national speaker and has helped many clients create best practices procedures and documentation while consulting on CRM usage.  She has implemented hundreds of CRM installations.