Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Customers’

Put Me in Coach: Word on the Street — Oct. 17th thru Oct. 21st

October 23rd, 2011 COMMENTS
Put Me in Coach

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

We’ve All Been There

We’ve all been in the position where we’ve been trying to get “that one account” for . . . forever. You patiently wait, all the while maintaining contact and slowly building a relationship, biding your time until the current vendor makes a mistake or there’s a project they either can’t do or aren’t willing to try.

Then it happens . . . you get the call. Like that rookie quarterback in the NFL who gets called into a game mid season when the veteran QB gets knocked out. It’s your chance to shine and show off.

One of two things happen: you dazzle them, eventually winning their business, or, you choke and throw four interceptions to lose the game.

While I agree it’s not always fair, if the latter happens you most likely will not get another chance anytime soon. And in our industry, you probably caused the customer a lot of unplanned time, angst, and money.

So what do you do when that opportunity finally comes? Let me make a few simple suggestions.

#1. Breathe deeply. 🙂

#2. It sounds simple, but don’t do anything different than you already do for your best customers. Remember what earned you your reputation, namely that you have a great company with great products. Maintain those same principles.

#3. While I don’t suggest you do anything differently, I would suggest that people at every level of your company be made aware of the new project. Heightened awareness is never a bad thing. And, let’s be real. You’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. So everyone needs to know.

#4. Understand that you are dealing with someone new. Adapt a bit. They are used to dealing with another company. Meaning they are used to working with a company that has learned what it is like to work with them for 5, 10, 15 years. You are new to them. So don’t assume anything.

#5. Finally, approach all aspects of it honestly. The customer will appreciate it. While we all appreciate when someone can pull a rabbit out of a hat, we don’t expect it. People are more forgiving than we give them credit for. It’s all new at that point, and you might as well own that together. It will only help to build the relationship. And at the end of the day, the new client will likely appreciate being “managed” a bit rather than feeling like they have to “manage” the project.

While those are just some brief thoughts, I am sure you can draw from your experiences to add more. Please do share.

Hope you have a great and restful weekend. Be well.

–Kevin Carty

Why I Attend Trade Shows — Love on Aisle #600

May 21st, 2011 8 COMMENTS
Love on Aisle #600 -- Trade Shows and Events

Love on Aisle #600 -- Trade Shows and Events

Shame. Shame, Shame. Get your mind out of the gutter. This is neither a steamy romance nor an even steamier fantasy. This is about the love of trade shows and why you, me, or anyone else attends them.

Over the years, I’ve read more articles than I’d care to admit about why trade shows are important, why exhibit marketing is effective, and why we MUST attend them. They make sense, in the same way that taking vitamins makes sense. On some level you know it can’t hurt and it’s good for you, even if you can’t always measure the results. I could give you the typical sales and marketing reasons to attend, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share nine reasons why I attend trade shows. It may not be as informative, but it will be a lot more interesting.

Reason #1: I have to. I work for a trade show exhibit designer and manufacturer. Even worse, I co-manage the business so I can’t even pretend to hate trade shows, even if I did. Which I don’t. (Just in case my boss reads this, let me repeat, “I enjoy attending trade shows!”)

Reason #2: I get to see family, friends, and acquaintances. That’s a big deal to me. Until about two years ago, my brother lived in Las Vegas. Attending a trade show in Vegas was an excuse to see my brother. When TS2 was in Philadelphia, I had dinner with my old college roommate. Mostly, I get to see colleagues and industry suppliers whom I’ve known for years. Since I don’t travel quite as much as I used to, the shows are an excuse to chat about business and politics, to have a drink or two, and to gossip, learn, and enjoy.

Red vs. Blue

Reason #3: Competitors. They are there, just like you, with the latest and greatest. Even if you don’t get to see all the whiz-bang cool stuff, you get a sense of what direction they are headed. Are they moving upstream? Downstream? Are they investing in R&D? Who’s hanging out in their booth this year? Who’s not? I never understand why companies forbid their employees from chatting with competitors. Obviously, you have to be smart about what you do or do not share, but from my experience, most competitors are friendly, and the stories, observations, and lies you share are at worse harmless and at best enlightening. And to those not so friendly competitors . . . your paranoia will shorten your life by about 10 years.

Reason #4: I love walking the show floor because there are so many folks with encyclopedic knowledge about an industry. I attended my first trade show in 1994, about a month after starting as the marketing director for an exhibit manufacturer. The owner, a man who knew everyone at the show, introduced me to what seemed like hundreds of people. As we walked the show, he shared his knowledge about the industry, the history of the various companies, and the benefits and features of the products. What I learned by walking the show, both on my own and with him, compressed my learning curve by a good year. I could have never gotten the same information without attending the show.

Reason #5: Ink pens. My wife is a writer. She loves pens, all kinds of pens, but mostly fat pens. I score major points whenever I bring home 3-4 cheap trade show pens, especially if they have some kind of gimmick (and are fat).

Reason #6: Trade shows are an amazing buffet of new ideas. How can you not be impressed by the collective creativity? Whether it’s EuroShop in Germany or the local Business-to-Business show by the Chamber, I always discover new products, services, presentations, trinkets, and people. Even if I’m not looking for something specific, I usually find something worth pursuing after the show that will benefit our business or our customers. Would a virtual trade show offer the same experience? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

Reason #7: Customers. Trade shows are a lot like annual employee performance reviews. There should be no surprises, unless they’re positive. If you dread attending your annual industry trade show because of customer complaints, then your company is in serious trouble. I attend for just the opposite reason. Like Reason #2, I really enjoy meeting customers, talking about their businesses, learning about the challenges in their markets, and hearing about their lives. I know it’s a cliché, but shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye changes everything. Sure there may be a negative here and there, but it’s mostly all positive. Over the years, I can only count a few times, working with various companies, that I haven’t left a show feeling upbeat.

What? No Sewing Kit!

Reason #8: Hotel/Motel Toiletries. Actually, I don’t really care about the shampoo or the conditioner, but I hoard the little soaps. I am cheap, but that’s not the reason. I can’t stand the liquid soap at the gym where I am a member, and over the years I’ve probably left over a 100 bars of soap at the gym because I’m absent-minded. The mini-motel soaps are perfect. I don’t care if I leave them, and I don’t care about the brand.

Reason #9: Potential Customers. Next to chatting with existing customers, potential customers are my favorite reason to participate in trade shows. You get to see your company and your booth through their eyes. Is your product and service relevant to them? What interests them? What have they seen at the show that appeals to them? What does the future hold for them? For you? Far too many exhibitors are simply carnival barkers with more teeth and less visible tattoos. They want to close the sale, not create a relationship. That’s unfortunate because no one wants to be assaulted at a show. “Listen and Learn” is my mantra at every show.

Reason #10: For purely selfish reasons, I need a #10 to complete the list. Please take a moment and share your reason for attending/participating in trade shows. Why do you love to stroll down Aisle #600?

— Mel White

Additional Blog Entries:
10 Quick Tips for Any Trade Show Novice
Trade Shows as First Dates

Shooting from the Hip — 14.10 (Making Customers Happy)

October 1st, 2010 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

(4+1) Ways to Make Your Customers Happy

A while back, I posted “6 Surefire Ways to Tick Off Your Customer.” Now let’s address this topic from another angle, namely how to make your customers happy, satisfied, and most importantly, loyal. We all know how much easier it is to retain a customer than to find a new one. This applies to the manufacturer/distributor model as well as a typical retail setting. Since I’m most familiar with the manufacturer/distributor model, I’ll discuss it from that perspective.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are many ways to make customers happy that don’t involve alcohol, massage parlors, or gift certificates from Rodeo Drive.

1. Make it a partnership not a dictatorship. I work for Classic Exhibits Inc. Every year we send a survey and ask what we can do to be better. There are a couple reasons for this. One — we want to know – heck we are begging you to tell us what we “don’t” want to hear. The other is because we value your input and you need to know that. Our customers’ input is priceless because it allows us to change, tweak, or implement policies, practices, and products that impact our customers and our business.

Are we sometimes disappointed by the comments or scores? Of course. Then we go to work and examine how we can fix the problem. After that we go one step further. We share the results with our distributors. They deserve to know what others said and how we plan to address these issues.

Happy Customers 2. Do the simple things. Return calls quickly. Admit when you are wrong. Fix problems as soon as possible. Keep them in your camp. You worked hard to cultivate a good relationship because you know that your customers are the “heart and soul” of your business. This isn’t rocket science — just good old fashioned common sense.

3. Visit them on their turf. Too often as manufacturers, we stage events either on at neutral site or at tradeshows and conferences and fail to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. In our survey, we had a customer request that we visit their showrooms/offices more frequently. Optima Graphics was my employer for eight years. My primary function was to travel and see customers on their home court. Jim Hoffmann (CEO of Optima) had a goal of seeing every customer at least four times a year. That simple plan not only helped put Optima on the map, but it also put them on the fast track when nobody else was growing.

4. Be willing to help your customers when THEY have a problem. I am not advocating pointing fingers, but you have all received calls where someone says – “Hey! Can you help me? I have a problem.” Here is a golden opportunity to build loyalty, friendship, and sales!

Sometimes it is as simple as answering a question or directing them to the right person. Other times, your customer simply wants reassurance that what seems “odd”or “hinky” is not really odd at all and will be fine. Then there are the situations where your customer deserves to be compensated because, frankly, you screwed up. Or let’s say they screwed up and need your help. Yes, you’ll fix the problem but a little price massaging may take the sting out of an order that was placed wrong or where they received the wrong part. It could be anything. Take the opportunity to be the good guy and fix it at cost, or split the cost with them. They will forever remember that you were there when they needed you most.

+1. People want to buy from their friends. That is not earth-shattering news, assuming your friends are not criminals, idiots, or pyramid marketing zombies. Frankly, I like most of our customers, and I treat them as friends, because they are. When you work with them on their turf, you get to meet their colleagues, employees, and families. That’s a bonus. They are more likely to be themselves than at a convention or corporate meeting with other “stuffed shirts” there.

Cindi Cody @ XzibitsOn one trip to visit Steve Gable at Innovation Exhibits, I was expecting to go to dinner at the Springfield Grille with him and his wife Monica. I arrived in business attire. He looked at me and said, “Do you have other clothes with you?” I always have, but I wasn’t sure why he was concerned. He said, “Would you mind, instead of going to dinner, if we take my son Andrew to the county fair to watch the demolition derby?” No problem at all. I would love to do that. So now a few years later, Andrew is my pal and so are Steve and Monica.

Several weeks ago, Cindi Cody from Xzibits in Atlanta came to Michigan to fish with me. It was a good time to relax for several days with a friend, who just happens to be a customer. The loyalty this creates is priceless.

At the end of the day, business does not have to be difficult. Let your conscience be your guide and PLEASE make friends with your customers. The alternative is just too difficult.

Until the next time,

–Reid Sherwood