Jen LaBruzza, the National Sales Manager for Classic Exhibits, sure gets around. Let me rephrase that… Jen travels, rather extensively, visiting Classic Distributor Partners, which gives her a unique perspective on industry trends. In addition, she hears from small one or two person distributors and from larger custom houses with over a 1000 employees.
Jen shared her thoughts on the industry and Classic Exhibits in the interview below. Her answer to Q6 is a must read.
Q1. You talk, email, and text with Classic Distributor Partners every day, which makes you the resident Distributor Whisperer. What’s that like?
The fact that I have worked in many facets of our industry really allows me to step into a distributor partner’s shoes. Whether it’s helping a distributor partner come up with a gallery of design ideas or showing up in a hot pink polo shirt on setup to make sure an install is going well, I love helping our distributor partners succeed.
Q2. What do most people get right (or wrong) about Classic Exhibits?
Well… there are two things really they get wrong:
1. That our primary focus is as a portable/modular manufacturer. While we still VERY much pride ourselves on creating the best portable hybrid designs in the industry I think it surprises many people when I tell them that the largest growth segment in our revenue stream is custom, in the purest sense of the industry definition. Log on to our Peek-A-Booth on any given day and you will see the wide variety of projects on our setup floor. It’s ASTOUNDING!
2. That we sell direct. As Kevin mentioned in his State of the Company Letter, we are a non-direct selling company that is largely invisible to end-users. That is by design (although makes Mel’s job harder), and we all believe it’s ALWAYS being about our Distributor Partner’s brands. In so many ways besides, packaging, branded Exhibit Design Searches, and setup instructions. Our Classic Distributor Partners are always a primary focus for what we do as a team and company. It’s in our DNA.
Q3. What was your proudest accomplishments/moments in 2018 as the National Sales Manager for Classic Exhibits?
First, being recognized by our industry peers and partners for being #1 in Service and Reliability for all Exhibit Builders in North America. Words can’t even describe the pride I felt accepting that award with Kevin on behalf of Classic Exhibits at EXHIBITORLIVE last year. Second, helping a long-time Distributor Partner win a FANTASTIC project that catapulted their business to the next level. It was one of those A-HA! moments where everything clicks into place and many years of consistent partnership paid off for all.
Q4. At EXHIBITORLIVE 2019, what are the three questions you want attendees or Distributor Partners to ask you about Classic Exhibits?
- Why does Classic only sell through Distribution Partners?
- What is your favorite Classic Exhibits product and why? Hint: It didn’t just fall from a tree!
- Why should I consider Classic Exhibits as a partner for my custom build projects moving into 2019?
Q5. What were the biggest trends you saw in 2018? Any predictions about 2019?
I think the biggest trend was the continued push for custom projects both for trade shows and non-trade shows. Call, email, text me or better yet…come to EXHIBITORLIVE and ask (see #3 above :D). I’m happy to give insight on this value proposition, and how and why you should be leveraging it.
As far as 2019 is concerned, what I have seen on the show floor so far is the continued focus for brands telling their stories with visual engagement. Whether that’s with large video wall presentations, bold use of graphics in lightboxes, or interesting themes and shapes. The limits are constantly extending beyond your traditional exhibits even in inlines.
Creative use of space is VERY in right now! The smart exhibitors are opening up their inline spaces and instead of using the standard 6 ft table, skirt and chairs to “supplement” their backwall, they are adding in bistro height charging tables or lower soft seating. And lightboxes are favorites for those wanting to engage in their inline spaces as well.
Q6. You visit with Distributor Partners all across North America. What advice do you give them when they ask about increasing their sales?
Every market is different, but there are several commonalities for increasing sales in the exhibit/event space.
1. Stop using Rentals as a “Hail Mary”! Lead with purchase and rental options because either way you make money. And if we are all honest with ourselves, rentals gives your a greater opportunity to engage the client show after show.
2. Move away from the commodities. Yes, some customers need them. Yes, some customers will never move beyond them, but that doesn’t mean your business has to stagnate. Don’t shy away from those larger projects because you don’t have in-house capabilities. Lean on us as your manufacturing partner. Which really brings me to…
3. Engage the Classic Exhibits Design Department. The closure rate for projects that have started with a Classic Designer being involved on a discovery call with your client is about 80%. 80%!
Q7. What do many exhibitors not understand about trade shows?
This is face-to-face marketing people! Which means you need to engage people. Don’t think that you can show up and stand in your booth and wait for people to walk in and ask questions. Say hello, offer them some candy, have a charging table where they can charge their phone while you give them your elevator pitch. Looping a video is GREAT! But again, smile, say hello, don’t just let the video do the talking. There is no substitution for that one-on-one interaction. And for god’s sake, please don’t EAT in your booth!
Q8. Rentals have become more popular over the past six years. Any idea why?
Flexibility and budget! Many trade show budgets have become quarterly spends vs. annual capital expenditures. A custom exhibit rental gives exhibitors the flexibility of staying on budget while still meeting their trade show marketing goals. Plus, they are able to try different things, repeating graphics that work, or modifying a design to better engage their attendees.
And if we are truly honest with ourselves, as trade show sales people, an exhibit rental gives us more opportunities to interact with a customer as their need becomes quarterly or annual vs. every three years for a purchase.
2019 is going to be an EXCITING Year! We are proud of every. single. opportunity we get from our Distributor Partners. Thank YOU for trusting us with your business!
Visit Classic Exhibits Inc. at www.classicexhibits.com. You can contact Jen LaBruzza, National Sales Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her at EXHIBITORLIVE in Booth #1623. Use Code 4044 when registering for a FREE show hall pass.