Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for October, 2009

Word on the Street — October 26th thru October 30th

October 30th, 2009 1 COMMENT
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Variety is the Spice of Life

How many times have we heard that? For me, it is something I truly believe — both in business and in my personal life.

Earlier today, I watched a great online seminar by Malcolm Gladwell who, as many of you know, is someone I admire greatly. In this video, Malcolm speaks about Howard Moskowitz, the man who revolutionized the way the food industry looks at and delivers its products to consumers. And I mean revolutionized!

Take some time over the weekend or at lunch and watch this video:

His philosophy boils down to two main points — which Malcolm Gladwell highlights:

  1. The mind knows NOT what the tongue wants
  2. In embracing the diversity of human beings, you will find the path to happiness

How does this relate to the trade show industry? Well, it’s no stretch to apply it to our world.

For years, the guiding principle of Custom Builders has been to focus on projects that keep their saws turning. End users have been conditioned to think that when they need an exhibit of a certain size and a certain capability, then they call their Custom Exhibit Builder.

When the same customer finds themselves in need of a smaller, more “portable”  or “modular” exhibit, then they call their Portable/Modular Exhibit distributor.  

I would suggest that both of these transactions happen because “that’s just the way it’s been done historically.”  However, if you were the owner of that Custom Exhibit Builder business, what would you say if that customer told you they spend $500k – $1 million per year on their Portable/Modular/Hybrid Exhibit program? Do you say, “Sorry, I’m in the custom exhibit business . . .  not I’m in the exhibit business.”

The idea of Horizontal Segmentation in business is so critical, yet often ignored. I am not saying it is ignored intentionally. But too often, no one recognizes it until there is an emergency. For many of us, the economic downturn has been that emergency. 

Whether you build Large Custom Exhibits, Portable/Modular/Hybrid Exhibits, or P.O.P Displays, your client may have a need for all three. Why not offer them Plain Sauce, Spicy Sauce, and Extra Chunky Sauce? Because what we know from Howard Moskowitz’s research is that 1/3 of consumers love Extra Chunky sauce, but unless you have it to offer, you will never know that.

Have a safe and restful Halloween weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty


Word on the Street — October 19th thru October 23rd

October 22nd, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Selling Value in A Price-Driven Market

This week, I’d like to share an online article. The article struck a chord with me because it addresses “Value.” In nearly every face-to-face meeting I’ve had over the past 12-18 months with distributors, suppliers, and co-workers, they have  asked me how I define and sell value in a market dominated by price.

When apples are being compared to apples, especially in a price-driven market, how do I, as a salesperson, differentiate myself from the competition?

Rather than copying the entire article, here is the link: Give it a read or a listen. 

Everyday, we face many of the same issues. For example, rentals exhibits are huge right now. For those who have rental divisions that’s a good thing. But as a salesperson selling new exhibits, how can you move a prospective renter into a new purchase? In the current economy, the cards are often stacked against you.

But let’s use Bill’s logic from the article and apply it to exhibits . . .

Why not make your “new” exhibit offering so different and include so many additional benefits that the buyer assigns a value that exceeds the cost differential?

So how do you do this? I am not pretending to have all the answers, but for me, it starts with realizing that “Value” is not a concrete thing. It’s a moving target that can mean a million and one different things to different people. It doesn’t always mean the lowest price, and it’s something that cannot always be seen or shown in renderings or on a quote sheet. More often than not, it’s NOT something on the Front Page, but on the inside pages.

In the exhibits we design and manufacturer, value starts on the inside pages:  What happens once the order is placed? Here are some valuable add-ons that I believe sets us (and you) apart from our competition and allows you to succeed in less obvious ways: 

  • Fast and reliable turnaround times. With customers holding on to their money until the last minute that’s often the difference between getting the order and not getting the order.
  • Detailed setup instructions with actual photos showing the more complex components.
  • Setup instructions that are available 24 hours a day for download off the web should they ever get lost, misplaced, or destroyed (just go the home page at Classic and enter your job number).
  • Detailed, level-by-level or slipsheet-by-slipsheet packaging instructions. These details make it much easier to repack the exhibit and extend the life of the exhibit. EVERYONE wants and DESERVES obvious and reusable packaging.
  • A complete preview of every exhibit prior to leaving the shop, including graphics if provided. This allows us to send photos to you either before the exhibit ships or the next morning so you see that the display looked and functioned as designed. It’s immediate peace of mind. 
  • People:  Based on the feedback we receive from distributors, we believe our people are better. Whether they’re in customer service, design, production, or administration, our employees do more, care more, and are more knowledgeable than our competitors.

Finally, when it comes to selling exhibits, don’t get me wrong . . . design sells!! It’s the sizzle! Our designers are expected to hit a  home run on a 30′ x 30′ island for example. There is tremendous value in that. But when it comes to deciding whether to sign that $100,000 check, there better be more on the table than just design.  

How do you add value to the exhibits you sell?

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty

“Is Our Industry Model Obsolete?” by Dan Cantor, President, EDPA

October 19th, 2009 2 COMMENTS
Is Our Industry Model Obsolete by Dan Cantor

"Is Our Industry Model Obsolete?" by Dan Cantor

Our compliments to Dan Cantor, President, EDPA, on his recent and insightful article in the Global Insights Newsletter (Q3.09):  Is Our Industry Model Obsolete?

We highly recommend reading this article, especially in light of the challenges facing the exhibit industry over the past year. Business is improving, but it won’t ever be healthy unless we fix the underlying problems.  

To quote Dan, “Our industry has a much bigger challenge: our business model is not globally competitive, and our industry will soon be in crisis as a result.”

There doesn’t appear to be a link on the EDPA website to the article, so we have included a link to a scanned PDF version: 

Is Our Industry Model Obsolete?

10 Things Classic Exhibits Probably Shouldn’t Tell You — #10

October 19th, 2009 COMMENTS

logo-fedex-freightFor the next two weeks, we’ll share 10 Things We Probably Shouldn’t — one each day. Actually one, plus another one.  Enjoy!

#10. Unlike many of our competitors, we do not dictate your shipping options. It’s your choice. We can arrange your freight, or you can arrange it through your carrier and your account number. We’re flexible. However, there are several reasons why allowing us to arrange your freight is advantageous. First, our FedEx and UPS discounts are probably much better than yours based on our volume and history. We consistently ship 10-20 orders per day. Second, we purchase freight insurance, not through the carrier, but through a separate policy. This insurance is MUCH BETTER and typically covers the full cost of the exhibit. 

We encourage you to discuss your freight options with your Project Manager. You may discover that allowing us to arrange your freight makes a lot more sense both for your peace-of-mind and your bottom line.  

Plus 1. We are not in the habit of weighing in on national policy issues, but we thought we’d share our corporate policy regarding healthcare benefits. Our owner believes very strongly that Classic Exhibits has an obligation to provide healthcare benefits to our employees. Our benefit package includes medical, dental, and vision, and Classic covers the cost of the premium for every employee who works 20 hours or more. Our employees are responsible for the premium for their dependents. In the past year, we had little choice except to modify the deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expense as costs escalated (nearly 30% in the last year alone), but we didn’t waiver in our commitment to covering the full premium.  

Scroll down to see entries #1 – #9.

Word on the Street — October 12th thru October 16th

October 16th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Back from Atlanta and Still Scared!

Well, I don’t know about you, but this has been a very long week. That’s not to say it’s been a “bad” week, just long. Whenever airplanes, airports, and airlines are involved . . . . 

I was in Atlanta for much of the week. On Monday, I participated in the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic. What a great event as always, and kudos to Rich Johnson, Jim Wurm, and Ted Petersen and their whole team for putting on another successful and fun event.

Tuesday and Wednesday were reserved for Classic and ClassicMODUL sales calls. These calls reinforced my feeling that the economy is gradually improving. Everyone’s attitude was more positive, and distributors were actively seeking and building alternate streams of revenue within the industry. Unlike the last industry downturn after 9/11, when industry relationships fragmented, I’m seeing just the opposite this time. Suppliers and distributors are looking for long-term partnerships. I’m not sure I completely understand why, but I have to believe that we’re all making bets, bets based on the viability, stability, and success of our partners. We all want to hitch our wagons (and our future) to winners as business improves.

Thanks to everyone I saw on this trip. As always, I really appreciate your time and feedback.


Now for the weird highlight on this trip. On Tuesday night, several of us had dinner with Kim, a customer and friend from the Atlanta area. After dinner, she decided we should go to to a haunted house. We were skeptical . . . It’s not exactly what you picture doing on a business trip. Right!?!? Well, we’re good sports so we went.

Let me tell you about this place called the Netherworld. It is a production that Hollywood would be proud of, if not envious — everything from people flying at you from 10 ft in the air, to characters  jumping out from seemingly nowhere, to subway trains almost slamming into you. All in all, it took about 30 minutes to walk through the entire attraction.

I love haunted houses and scary movies, if they are truly scary! This was! I literally screamed like a little girl for most of those 30 minutes, and most of the time I found myself using Kim or Reid as my human shield.  I jumped so many times that I was actually sore the next day. It felt like I had run 5 miles the night before.

Little things like that can really make a business trip. It’s a nice unexpected break from the normal routine, and this was one of those unexpected events that I will remember for a long, long time.

How about you? Are there things or events that you have done on past trips to break up the norm? Please share some of your best travelling experiences below.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Atlanta area over the next two weeks, make sure you take I-85 to the Jimmy Carter Blvd. exit and check out Netherworld! You won’t regret it. When you’re done, you’ll know why it’s rated the #1 Haunted House in America.

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty