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Monday, April 11, 2016

Structure Design Doesn't Matter


The most important thing when purchasing or looking to purchase a trade show exhibit to consider is the partnership you will create with the company you select to provide your booth or exhibit. There are many reasons I say this. Many of our customers have been with us for over 25 years. They trust us. We are honest with them. We provide them with phenomenal service. They like us. They could get a booth from MANY other companies, many of them even local.

But they stay with us. They know we will provide them with great product and a partnership that will last for years.
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  1. How long have they been in business?
  1. Are you working strictly with a salesperson that is compensated based on how much you spend?
  1. Are the owners of the company engaged in the business and active on a day to day basis?
  1. Does the company offer multiple lines of products so that you have a great selection or are they limited to only what they manufacture?
  1. Is the graphic printing technology the most current and up to date getting you the best products?
  1. Are the products well made, do the break easily, stand the test of time?
  1. Is the company listening to your needs?  Weight, function, set up time?
  1. Ask for references on the company, the products, their service.

We had a prospect visit our showroom last week.  They had been renting and 10 x 10 booth for 8 years from a local supplier.  I was shocked to say the least!  That company spent boatloads of money over the 8 years to rent that booth.  They could have bought 4 nice 10 x 10's for the money that had spent.

Everyone gets hung up on structure design.  Here is the reality.  Most of the decent trade show houses out there can build a nice booth.  If you have seen something you like, they can most likely build it.  Don't get me wrong, I am not encouraging taking another companies design and building it.  That is unethical.  Also don't misunderstand the difference between quality builds and cheap builds.  That is a whole different issue to be addressed later.  Cheap imported structure with fabric or vinyl graphics printed on printers that are 3 or 4 generations old are not a good investment.  But I digress.

Design is very subjective.  Think about clothing.  You can stand someone in front of 6 different people and ask them if they like the outfit you are wearing.  If they are honest you will most likely get 6 different answers.  Designers try to take thoughts, words and sometimes scrawling from a cocktail napkin and translate it into just exactly what the prospect wants.  Do they "nail it" every time?  Probably not.  But don't make your decision just on the concept alone!

If the prospect that had come into our showroom was our client, I would have chatted with them after the 2nd rental about potential purchase.  I never want to see a client throw away money.  It is a complete disservice to them!

Customer service and the partnership are ultimately more important than the booth design itself.  Guess what?  If you don't like the preliminary concept you can make changes.  Sometimes we have completely scrapped the first design and started over.  Did we miss the mark?  Not necessarily.  Sometimes the prospect is learning through this process more about what they want and can articulate it better as the process goes on.

Do you know what is ironic to me?  New companies buy from us all the time.  Often our best prospects are referrals.  But you know what?  I almost NEVER have anyone ask me for references.  I almost always offer.  I find that honestly a little strange.  That tells me people are focused more on the product than the service they will receive and I believe that to be a mistake.


Here are some questions to consider when selecting a partner.

Check out this great article from one of our manufacturing partners here for more insight in selecting an exhibit partner.

Happy Hunting
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Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients.  Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events, trade shows, in retail, museums and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more, email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/


Monday, April 4, 2016

A Unique Perspective on Exhibitor Live 2016

All the hubbub from Exhibitor Live 2016 is starting to die down thankfully.   You may be wondering, what is Exhibitor Live?  Just like every major industry there are trade shows.  This is the trade show for the trade show industry.  Imagine all the exhibit providers, designers, graphic providers, trinket providers, video, av and more in one place.  It can be very overwhelming.

Industry veterans love going to connect with their partners, their clients and to research and seek out trends in the industry.  We go every year for those very reasons and we always enjoy it.   We don't exhibit at this event.  We are actually a prospect or customer for many of the exhibitors.  We are a competitor of some.

A large majority of the attendees are actually in the trade show industry as a provider of some sort.

Now before I get into the orange tags, a few facts.   I actually grumble about going every year.  I don't want to take the time away from family and from our business.  I don't want to spend the money (I am frugal, not cheap), but every year I go and many great things happen.  This year we built a relationship with a new provider about which are very excited.  We are about to become a distributor for a brand new product in the United States.  Unbelievably excited about this.  We had dinner with some of our favorite people, drinks with many others and got to see friends and partners that we have known for many years.  This is not an opening for anyone to say, "I told you so."

Now we get to the coveted orange name tags.  I say coveted because every exhibitor is watching for those orange tags.  An orange name tag indicates that the attendee is an exhibit buyer.  So these are end users that are interested in learning more and are possibly looking to buy an exhibit, services or other accessories that the exhibitors at this show provide.  I actually just read a blog post from someone that had been to Exhibitor Live for 23 years.  She ran into someone in an elevator with an orange tag that she chatted with and they became a prospect.  Not a criticism, just an observation.  Nearly everyone at Exhibitor Live that doesn't have an orange tag is looking for the orange tags!

Many years we have brought clients to this show and walked the show with them, looked for ideas, introduced them to our strategic partners and spent time with them.

This year we had the unique opportunity to walk the show with a prospect.  This company is making a decision in the next month on a large custom island booth with audio visual.   They have not yet selected us to build their booth.  Maybe my perspective was different this year.  Maybe that made the dance different.

There were some unique things that really surprised me this year while walking the show with this prospect.
  • One of our competitors for this prospect registered the company for the show under the exhibit house name.  So they had the coveted orange tag but they had a well known exhibit house listed as a company name.
Let's talk about this one a bit.  Interesting concept right?  If they are scanned, they don't get scanned with their actual company name.  Could this exhibit house be afraid of other display houses talking to what they consider as their prospect?  I am not afraid of competition.  You can't win every deal but if you fear you competition you will lose more frequently.  But that is a discussion for another post.
  • While walking the show floor with them I was amazed (appalled) at the vultures.  I mean seriously people almost tripped our prospect to get to them.   Even if we were in the aisle having a conversation with them, people would approach our prospect quite aggressively.  Of course the ultimate prize was to scan them.  
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But I guess the joke was on them when the company name was actually another exhibit house.  I am surprised by the aggressiveness of the exhibitors.  I thought we were supposed to be the professionals in this industry, the leaders, the role models?
  • One of our suppliers had a booth directly across the aisle from a competitor.   After booth set up was complete our supplier left the show floor.  When he returned to their booth he found the competitor had taken some graphics off the back of their frame and they were looking at the frame.  
Just an interesting bit of trivia.  The same company that registered a prospect with their exhibit house name is the same company that was taking apart a competitors booth.   Please do not guess who it was as a comment on this post.  I won't disparage a competitor like that.

Am I the only one that finds these behaviors disturbing?

If you have read any of my posts, I believe in business with integrity and honesty.  We may get beat by someone that is dishonest but I can guarantee they won't keep that relationship for 25 years like we have with many of our clients.

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Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients.  Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events, trade shows, in retail, museums and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more, email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/