Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for May, 2010

Word on the Street — May 10th thru May 14th

May 16th, 2010 2 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Distributor Sales or Direct Sales? Why Distributors Matter.

This has been a hot topic all week.

Not that it’s something Classic has contemplated. Much to the contrary. But for some reason, I was asked about this several times.

“Do you sell direct?” . . . “Hey, can I order directly from you?” . . . “Why don’t you sell direct?”

I thought I’d take a moment to address our philosophy on this matter.

First let me say that this is not to slight any manufacturers that sell direct and work through distributors at the same time. Some of our friendliest competitors do that in specific markets, like their own backyards, and it works well for them. Which is fine. Others have opted to go for Company Branded Locations or Company Stores in key markets, and that works well for them. Classic, for instance, has Exhibits Northwest, which sells exclusively in Washington and Oregon. But, Exhibits Northwest is not exclusive in those markets. We have other distributors in Oregon and Washington as well.

When we first entered the market in 1993, there were many established manufacturers already. We were essentially five guys in a garage . We weren’t, but you know what I mean. As such, we did not have the “reach” of other companies, so we needed to rely on distributor relationships to spread the word about Classic Exhibits’ products.

Then in about 2005, when we decided to re-brand the company and really start marketing the our products and services, we made a conscious decision. We recognized that we were not a “National” brand, nor did we feel that was the right approach for our company. Instead, we opted to focus on branding our marketing materials for distributors in each given market. In other words, we recognized that it was THEIR brand that mattered — not ours. Our products and our marketing materials would serve to strengthen their brand.

That is the essence behind Exhibit Design Search. Provide distributors with a professional search tool at very little cost, brand it for their website, deepen their product offerings, and substantially elevate their web presence in their market. A larger presence means more opportunities to close sales and more opportunities to sell Classic products. In other words, Shared Success.

Classic Exhibits Distributors

Now, fast forward to the present. We have invested a large amount of time and energy to develop what we feel is the best Distribution Network in the Industry. And in most cases, we have created Partners, not just Distributors, and forged relationships with companies that believe in the philosophy of Shared Success. Classic started with a distribution model and has kept it that way since the company was incorporated. Our Distributors are our life’s blood.

Having said all that, to answer the questions from earlier this week, we will never sell direct. We have too many good partnerships and friendships. Why risk a solid partnership and years of sales by selling a Perfect 10 or Visionary Designs direct? That makes no sense. We’re NOT THAT STUPID.

To quote Mel White, our resident curmudgeon, “Working with distributors is a big enough pain in the ass. Why complicate our lives even more by working with end-users.”

Thanks to you all.

Be well and have a safe and restful weekend.

–Kevin Carty

Shooting from the Hip — 3.10 (Feedback from Distributors)

May 14th, 2010 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip

This week, I’m working from my home office and preparing for another trip on Sunday

The past few days have been interesting. Typically we begin to slow down dramatically in mid-May, but it isn’t slowing down like past years. I have had a dozen or so conversations with distributors who are saying, “Wow, we expected a crash in May, June, and July, but through the middle of May it is pretty decent.” I agree.

As you know, Classic has tried to provide attractive, cost-effective solutions over the past 18-20 months, including our Top 3 — Perfect 10, Magellan and Sacagawea. That approach has been very, very successful. But opportunities on projects larger than 20’ x 20’ have been scarce over the past 16 months, and we are pleased to see  those budgets coming back.

One of the ways we solicit feedback from our distributors is through a Feedback Email. I’m sure many of you have received this email from Mel White, VP of Marketing. We don’t send them for every order (that would be really, really annoying), but we do send about 30 or so every month. In general, the response is positive and if there are any negative comments, they are always constructive. We want you to know that we really appreciate your responses, but we also want you to know that you don’t have to wait for an email to give us feedback. Happy or sad, morose or suicidal, we want to hear from you. Well, maybe not suicidal. You’d probably be better off calling one of those 1-800 numbers instead.

Spring is finally in the air (even though 41 degrees and rain doesn’t feel like it) and that means it’s time to get the Parrothead gear out. I will be seeing Jimmy Buffett for the 43rd time next week while I travel the Midwest, so don’t be shocked if I am dressed funnier than normal.

Let’s work hard to make sure every day is better than the day before. Until next week . . .

–Reid Sherwood

Word on the Street — May 3rd thru May 7th

May 9th, 2010 COMMENTS

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

What’s Your Corporate Culture?

Do your customers and stakeholders share your perception of your corporate culture? Too often, the answer is an emphatic “NO!”

I read an interesting blog post this week regarding American Airlines. Let me start out by saying that I am an “American Guy” when it comes to flying. I fly American Airlines almost exclusively. Having said that, this blog posting really made me reflect on my recent AA flights and realize a few things.

The blog posting, Becoming a Bus Company, is by Seth Godin. He mentions American as an example of a company that has let its standards and culture erode. It’s a symptom of companies (and cultures) under long-term stress. And certainly, no one would deny that the airline industry has faced repeated crises over the past 10 years beginning with 9/11.

When I think about recent flights I’ve had on other airlines, I realize that there was a more positive energy on those airlines.

In the end, it is a Corporate Culture problem. You have to shed your visions of the pretty ad campaigns on TV and print. Culture is not created there, rather it is created in the actually environment. What do people feel and see when they are in your workplace?

Don’t get me wrong, we all put on a little extra lipstick when we’re out in public talking about our businesses, but once someone walks through our doors, it becomes much more difficult to “hide” any product, people, and culture issues.

Ironically, someone sent me a video clip from Tony Robbins this week that talks about building Brand Culture.

What’s your Brand Culture and is it a key competitive advantage in the marketplace? As he mentions, you have to create a culture where others want to do business with you. Once they do, they stick with you. Its the Coke vs Pepsi argument. You either like one or the other right?

So, my beloved American Airlines, after this week and some reflection, you have a lot of work to do I am sorry to say. I will still probably keep flying with you, but with so many other options out there, I am not sure for how long.

What are some good and bad examples of Corporate Culture or Corporate Branding you have seen recently?

Please share your comments here.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! And a very special Happy Mother’s Day to my mom.

Be well and have a safe and restful weekend.

–Kevin Carty

Shooting from the Hip — 2.10 (Customer Assembly Experience)

May 6th, 2010 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip

This week I feel like Willie Nelson — I am “On the Road Again.”

Yesterday, I had one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences I’ve had with a new customer in a long time.

I arrived at the distributor’s office/showroom a couple of minutes early for my appointment, only to find out they were re-packaging a client’s brand new Magellan MOR Hybrid Display (VK-1078). The client was there as well. I introduced myself and was thanked profusely for the great job Classic Exhibits did. They had assembled it without looking at the instructions, and the re-pack was a dream. We loaded the display in his car and sent him on his way, but not before he told us that he needed an identical unit for his European office by June 1.  I was feeling so lucky I wanted to run out and buy a lottery ticket, but we went for sushi instead (which is just another form of gambling in my book).

The business climate is still decent although we all know that June and July are coming.  Remember, the slow times of the year are great times to contact customers just for the heck of it.

Last week the steelhead were hitting on the river. On Friday, I had a great vacation day reeling my heart out.

Special thoughts go out to the Tom Ciemiega family. Tom was a long-time customer and friend of mine from Detroit who passed away from cancer last weekend. Rest in peace my friend!  Until next week . . .

–Reid Sherwood

Sacagawea Portable Hybrid Display — 60 Day Guarantee!

May 5th, 2010 COMMENTS

It’s Back — The Sacagawea 60 Day Guarantee!

Through 7/31/2010, Your Customer will Love the Sacagawea .  . . OR we’ll Take it Back. No Questions.

The Sacagawea has been a SPECTACULAR hit since its introduction last fall. Recently we added the new PS-Series to the already popular P- and T-Series designs. Now there are 54 standard 10 x 10 and 10 x 20 portable trade show kits.

What makes Sacagawea kits so popular?

  • Complete kits starting at $3100
  • Large, lightweight tension fabric graphics
  • Portable assembly with attached knobs
  • Simple shipping in portable roto-molded cases
  • The industry’s BEST in CLASS packaging
  • Optional counters, pedestals, monitor mounts, headers, and workstations
  • Three attractive designs (P, T, and PS-Series) and 51 inline kits

Contact Classic Exhibits or a Classic Exhibits Distributor for all the details. And don’t wait too long. This promotion ends on 7/31/2010.