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An Interview with Jim Shelman, GM of Classic Rental Solutions

January 5th, 2019 COMMENTS

Interview with Jim Shelman at Classic Rental Solutions

Trade Show Rentals have undergone a seismic shift not only in design but also in sales. And, this trend will continue in 2019 and beyond. This week, we chatted with Jim Shelman, the General Manager of Classic Rental Solutions. So what should you expect as an exhibitor or a Classic Exhibits Distributor Partner? More of the same, which is a VERY GOOD THING. 

Q1. You’ve been in the Rental Exhibits space for over 20 years. What’s different now than say 6-8 years ago?

A lot of things have changed, but there are two things that really stand out to me as major changes. One, is the implementation of customization to rental designs. Almost every order we produce includes some element of customization to provide specific needs that exhibitors request during the design process. Today, it’s difficult to spot a rental design, versus a purchased design on the show floor.

The other thing that stands out are the reasons exhibitors decide to rent vs. purchase.

In the past, the primary reason to rent had more to do with only exhibiting in one or two shows per year, and if you were unsure of your long-term show schedule. The thought process was to test the waters with a rental, see how it goes, and purchase once you’ve committed to exhibiting in multiple shows per year. Now, it has become more about design flexibility, and perhaps not wanting to be stuck with the same design show after show. Or, maybe not wanting to deal with storing, shipping, or repairing a purchased exhibit.

Today, many exhibitors approach each show as a clean slate by working with new rental designs that match their specific show-to-show needs.

Q2. Classic Rental Solutions sales have increased year-over-year since 2010. Nearly 20% in 2018. Why?

There are several factors. With the risk of sounding corny, I’ll credit our team of dedicated people, and our incredible distributors, but I also think it’s because of our business model. We understand how important it is to be flexible, and to offer customized design services, and continuously add new custom designs to our rental gallery through our Exhibit Design Search feature on our website. And we’re committed to adding inventory as needed, to fulfill new opportunities for our distributors.

Classic Exhibit Rental Rewards ProgramAnother key factor is that we have the unique support from our in-house manufacturing professionals that produce new exhibits for our 200+ Distributor Partner Network. All of our rental components are produced right here, and we’re able to make last minute modifications.

I like to make it clear that we don’t just offer rentals, but that we offer a complete rental program. From start to finish, we have detailed processes that are followed by our production team and project managers. Every rental project gets staged and photographed before shipping. The highest quality standards are strictly enforced. We include setup instructions, and staging and packing photos with every order. After orders are returned, we provide a complete check-in report to close-out the project.

Several years ago, we implemented our Rental Rewards Program, which offers a reward discount of 2% of the total rental and graphics order when your exhibit returns without major damage and/or missing components. The program also offers two annual prize-drawings, and other rewards for our distributor network.

Q3. What are your biggest challenges headed into 2019? Biggest opportunities?

The seasonal nature of the trade show industry is always challenging. Everything hits at once several times throughout the year, which makes it challenging at times, but we plan and adjust accordingly. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so it’s never a real surprise, but it can hit at slightly different times.

2019 should be an amazing year for us. I would say that our biggest opportunities will be to continue to work on larger island design projects. We’re doing larger projects all the time, and I expect that trend to continue.

Another big opportunity that I’m anticipating is doing more large quantity component orders. We do large quantity orders for workstation kiosks, monitor stands, iPad kiosks, counters, and charging stations. Our large inventory, and willingness to add more, allows us to offer quantities that others typically don’t have available.

Trade Show Island Rental Exhibits from Classic Rental Solutions

Q4. What do you think the typical exhibitor gets wrong about renting a trade show exhibit?

Some of the newer exhibitors think that they are limited to standard designs, and they’re surprised when we start the design process and realize that we offer so much more than they were expecting.

Q5. What do you wish the typical Classic Distributor Partner understood about Classic Rental Solutions?

For those who aren’t aware and haven’t worked with us, I wish that they understood our full capabilities, and our design flexibility. And that we offer a complete rental program with nothing but high-quality “like-new” components. I want them to understand that we can offer something unique for their client base. Something that has proven to work successfully for distributors all over the country.

Q6. Have you seen more event-related rentals vs. trade show rentals? Are their more similarities or differences?

Yes, we ship a fair amount of event-related projects. In the last couple of months, we had multiple large quantity orders for charging stations. And last week we shipped (49) backlit counters to the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.

Q7. How has the Gravitee One-Step System impacted your rental options?

Our Gravitee Modular System has been a great addition to our rental program. It works extremely well for towers and conference rooms, but also for entire island and inline designs. It’s super-fast and easy to setup and disassemble, so it’s used as much as possible to save on labor costs. We see a substantial savings in time during our staging process here in our shop as well. We have a large inventory of standard and custom panel sizes, and we’ll continue to add to it.

Q8. Assuming you’ll be at EXHIBITORLIVE 2019, what are the three questions you want attendees or Distributor Partners to ask you about CRS?

Yes, I’m planning to be there, and here are three of many questions that I would welcome during our conversations.

  • How can Classic Rental Solutions assist us with our current rental program?
  • How do we get started working with Classic for our rental projects?
  • What are your customization capabilities?

I’m looking forward to the show, and I’d be happy to schedule meetings during, before, or after show hours.

You can contact Jim Shelman at jshelman@classicexhibits.com or at 503-345-0525 ext, 103. 

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

The Truth about Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

December 10th, 2018 COMMENTS

Renting vs. Buying a Trade Show Exhibit

Over the past year, I’ve read quite a few articles about renting a trade show exhibit. Most are innocuous, some helpful, but others are just plain wrong. Frankly, that annoys me, but I understand why. Exhibit rentals are growing. Rapidly. And exhibit companies are positioning themselves based on their individual strengths.

“Positioning themselves” — what does that mean? In our industry, there are (1) person companies to (2500) person companies. Some build. Many do not. Some have large rental inventories. Others have little to none. Is their rental inventory metal, wood, modular walls, portable components? And how much of it is new, newer, or beat to hell? How does it assemble? Does it come with detailed setup instructions? What about design support?

These are the questions the average exhibitor never asks. Not because they don’t care, but because it would never occur to them.

I can’t answer all these questions in a blog post, but let’s untangle some of the most common misconceptions.

#1. Renting is An Option, Not THE Solution

Some rental-only exhibit companies are touting renting as the only solution. They say, “Why buy when you can rent? No more storage fees. You can change the display for every show. The cost is less.” It sounds attractive, and it’s a solid argument for many exhibitors. However, renting an exhibit, just like leasing a car, can be more expensive than purchasing. It depends on usage, lifespan, ongoing modifications, etc. It’s not as cut and dry as it appears at first glance. It’s important to run the numbers.

And, it’s not an either/or choice. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase a portion of the exhibit, say the main tower or overhead sign, and rent the components, like the counters, workstations, and charging stations. It depends on what you might want to change from show to show. But, again, you have to run the numbers and at least have a “general” vision of your short- and long-term trade show marketing goals.

Finally, sometimes it’s not about the numbers. Some exhibitors want to own their display. Others do not. Cost has little to do with their decision.

Trade Show Island Exhibit Rentals#2. Rentals Can Be Customized, Which Isn’t the Same as Custom

Whenever someone tells you your rental exhibit is “custom,” you might want to dig deeper on what “custom” means. It might mean the design is custom, but the components come from stock inventory. Or there are several custom elements which are unique to your exhibit and are being depreciated over multiple rentals, either yours or other future rental clients. Or you are basically “purchasing” the custom element, but everyone is calling it a rental since you won’t own it.

While it’s true, you can technically get a custom exhibit as a rental, there are always strings attached such as a commitment to multiple rentals or a higher price for the one-time rental.

In most cases, a rental exhibit is a “customized” display using stock components, based on a preexisting or “customized” design, and client-specific graphics.

#3. You Rent the Structure, But You Own the Graphics

Remember you are renting the structure, but you own the graphics. Each time you change the messaging, you are buying new graphics. Be realistic about how often you plan to update your graphics. Clients often assume they will reuse the graphics 3-4 times, but marketing campaigns aren’t like a pair of jeans. They change. Sometimes every single show.

#4. Your Rental Components May Be Used for Another Client’s Rental

Recently, I read a blog post where the rental exhibit supplier said that your rental property would never be used for another rental. If that’s true, it’s either the smartest or the dumbest business model I’ve ever heard. Now, in the real world, rental components are reused. That’s why rental exhibits can be less expensive. Duh?! Does that mean another exhibitor will have exactly the same design as you? Perhaps, but it’s very unlikely since every exhibit has unique needs and distinctive graphics. However, the modular aluminum wall used in Job ABC will get reused two months later on Job XYZ. And then again, until it’s no longer serviceable as a rental component. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. 

#5. Size Matters. Inventory Matters. Design Matters.

Do you remember when I said that there are companies ranging from one employee to several thousand employees? Those companies all have different rental capabilities, either in-house or through a strategic partner like Classic Exhibits. No one has an unlimited budget to stock every possible rental design. Ask yourself this… Is the design guided by their limited rental inventory or by your trade show design requirements? Whatever rental company you choose, they should treat the process as if you were purchasing a display, and the final display should look visually indistinguishable from a new exhibit.

#6. Packaging Matters. Instructions Matter. Quality Matters. 

Trade Show Inline Exhibit RentalsHere’s the very sad truth. No exhibitor ever asks about packaging, setup instructions, or quality, particularly on a rental property. And aside from design capabilities and inventory, nothing distinguishes an OK rental supplier from an AMAZING one than packaging, instructions, and quality. Too often, exhibitors save money by renting an exhibit only to piss it all away during setup and assembly on the show floor.

You should expect detailed drawings, numbered or labeled components, photos (showing where the supplier pre-assembled it at their facility), jigged packaging/crating, and clean hardware. The hardware should appear new or newish, not like it just fell off the truck, rolled around in the dirt, and then was tossed into a crate. When you open the crate, it should make you smile, not cringe in fear.

#7. Rentals are a Long-term Partnership with Your Exhibit Supplier

Depending on the rental schedule, you are going to see each other a lot. And, based on that ongoing relationship, you are going to flourish or falter. Exhibit rentals require a communication commitment. What’s your show schedule? Does the design need to change? Were there any issues at the last show? How about new graphics? Is your next show an inline vs. an island? When do you want to booth to ship and are there any services you need such as rental furniture, I&D, electrical, flooring, etc.

Rentals force both sides to communicate, often far in advance. It doesn’t take long to decide whether it’s a fit or whether it’s time for you to start seeing other people. But, when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing.

One final piece of advice — not all suppliers are equally good at both. Your current supplier may be a magician at designing a custom exhibit but lack the skills, interest, or inventory to pull the rental rabbit out of a hat. Being good at one is no guarantee of being good at the other. Ask the hard questions and be willing to work with someone else if anything seems amiss.

In the end, your rental experience should be no different from a purchase, whether during the exploratory and design process or at the show. Always expect the best.

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

An Exhibit Design Search Video by the TradeshowGuy

December 3rd, 2018 COMMENTS

How to Promote Your Branded Exhibit Design Search

I’m often asked by Classic Exhibits Distributors, “How do I promote our branded Exhibit Design Search?” Well, in addition to making it prominent on your website and using it as a sales tool with clients, you should feature it on social media, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and even YouTube. 

Consider posting:

  • New Exhibit Designs
  • Unique Solutions such as Charging Stations, iPad Kiosks, and LED Lightboxes
  • Exhibit Specials and Lightning Deals
  • Photos
  • Trade Show Marketing Articles
  • Videos

Here’s an example. Tim Patterson at TradeshowGuy Exhibits created an EDS tutorial video which he posted on YouTube. He will use it as a sales and marketing resource for existing and potential clients, but just having it on YouTube will also increase the exposure of his company. It’s a straight-forward video and very effective. See for yourself. 

 

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

 

Comparing “A La Carte” vs “As Shown” Online Prices for Trade Show Displays

December 3rd, 2018 COMMENTS

When It Seems Too Good to Be True

It’s the Holiday Season. Whether it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the local flyer, you are constantly being enticed by low prices, many too good to be true. And sadly, many are. Either because the price doesn’t tell the whole story or because of limited quantities. 

Many online display websites are masters at enticing buyers with crazy low prices, which on further investigation are not quite as “cheap” as they seem. Then, there’s quality, warranty, and customer service questions to consider as well. 

There are two types of online display buyers. Some buyers prefer the “a la carte” approach, which allows them to add only the features they want. Makes sense. Others prefer the “what you see is what you get” experience. No surprises. No hidden charges. 

Here’s an example of the a la carte approach with a very attractive price on a 10 ft. portable display. Note the $275 price

How to compare prices on trade show displays

 

Basically, the $275 includes the tubing and a soft carry case (no graphic). Let’s say you want a double-sided graphic. Now, the price is $975

How You Can Compare Prices on Trade Show Displays

After selecting the graphic, the next choice is the turnaround time. If you need it in less than 7 business days, there’s an upcharge. In this case, $200 for a three-day turnaround which bumps the price to $1,175.

The Best Way to Compare Prices on Trade Show Exhibits

Although the soft case is included, you want your new display to last more than a few shows. Plus, it makes sense to incorporate a hard case into the booth presentation by adding a graphic. You’re now at $1495 which is considerably more than the original $275 price. 

Two Methods for Comparing Prices on Tradeshow Displays

The final two steps are graphic design assistance and adding lights. Graphic design requires a quote, which is reasonable and fair. The lights? Who wouldn’t want lights on a trade show display? Duh? 

When Comparing Prices on Trade Show Displays

The final price, excluding shipping and any graphic design charges, is $1595.

Does this mean this isn’t a good value? Depends. It’s a basic tube-assembly 10 ft. display ideal for many businesses, particularly for local events. The graphics may be fine but there’s no way of knowing if the company uses 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation dye-sublimation printing. Many low-end supplies used direct to surface printing rather than dye-sublimation because it’s less expensive. And, once again, that may be OK if you are only planning to use the graphic for a limited number of shows. 

My point, however, isn’t to question the quality of the display. Instead, it’s to demonstrate that online display websites use two different approaches, namely “a la carte” vs. “as shown.” There are merits to both, but it’s important to understand the difference. 

At Classic Exhibits, we believe that “as shown” prices are an easier method for exhibit buyers to compare designs and features. It doesn’t require you to “Build the Price” to see the final price. And since all our displays can be modified/customized to the exhibitors preference, drop-down menus can’t possibly list all the available options. That would be a nightmare for the serious exhibit buyer. 

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you. 

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

Before the Show Opens. After the Show Closes.

August 10th, 2018 2 COMMENTS

Yes… Even More Trade Show Planning

There’s no shortage of articles about pre- and post-show trade show tips. Follow those tips and you’ll not only have more qualified leads, but you’ll turn them into sales by roughly a bazillion percent. Check the research at CEIR and let me know if I’m wrong about that statistic.  

Even if you maximize your pre- and post-show planning, it’s possible to miss potential sales because your planning didn’t include right before the show opens and right after the show closes. Every day. On the morning of the show, especially on Day #1, we are nervous, tense, and uncertain about what the show will bring. So we clean, vacuum, organize literature, drink coffee and eat giveaway candy. That’s not to say those aren’t important. They are. But there are other trade show tasks that need to be accomplished before that first wave of attendees descends on your booth. As a solid Type-A exhibitor, you’ve already had multiple meetings with your team before the show. That’s what makes you wonderful and a pain in the ass. It’s now one hour before the show opens, not just on Day 1 but also on Day 2 and Day 3. It’s time to:

Trade Show Planning and TrainingBefore the Show Opens

  • Review the show goals for the team once again. 
  • Remind everyone how “we” plan to meet and exceed those goals
  • Discuss roles. Do those roles need to change from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3? 
  • Equipment. How does it work, who has the login information, who is the “Oh Shit” expert, and what’s the backup plan?
  • Who is expected in the booth today? Are they a customer? A prospect? What’s the plan?
  • Did anything happen during dinners, meetings, conference gatherings that the team needs to know? 
  • Does the “message” need to change based on conversations with attendees or announcements from competitors? 
  • What’s the break schedule?

Good job! You scheduled a team meeting each day with a specific agenda to review. Your team knows what to expect, has answers, and is prepared for another successful day on the show floor. 

Four to five hours later, the show closes for the day. You and your team are exhausted. They are ready to relax, have a drink, and leave the show hall. BUT… you’re not done yet. It’s time to review what happened that day. Resist the urge to do it in a bar, restaurant, or in the hotel lobby. Do it now. In the booth:

North American Trade ShowsAfter the Show Closes

  • Review the leads and determine next steps and priorities
  • Add notes to the leads (while they are still fresh)
  • Discuss any missteps and changes for the next day
  • Share critical news from attendees, clients, competitors, and suppliers
  • Cover plans for dinners, meetings with clients, and conference events
  • Lock-up and store any valuables
  • Is anyone leaving to return home? How does that effect staffing and roles for the next day?
  • (On the next to last day) What’s the plan for disassembling and shipping the exhibit after the show? Does any rented equipment need to be returned to the show contractor? 

Now, that wasn’t so hard. It just took a little planning, patience, caffeine, and the promise of food and alcohol.

What did we miss? Please let us know in the comments. Thanks.

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.