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Posts Tagged ‘Optima’

How to Build Superfans for Your Brand: Word on the Street — July 8th thru July 12th

July 14th, 2013 1 COMMENT
How to Build SuperFans for Your Brand: Word on the Street -- July 8th thru July 12th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

This Makes Me Laugh

A friend and fellow music lover shared an article with me last week about my favorite band — Pearl Jam. And the reason it makes me chuckle is that as a card carrying member of the Ten Club (their fan club) since 1992, I firmly believe that Eddie, Stone, Jeff, and Mike would cringe if they knew they were being written about as smart “business strategists.” Pearl Jam is the band that is soooooo anti-Big Business. Nevertheless, they have paved a path that draws comparison to the likes of brands such as Apple, Facebook, and Coca Cola. Let me explain.

Pearl Jam

One of the things I love about the band is that they are in it for their fans more than for themselves. And while that may seem cliché (or naive), I have experienced it first hand. About two years ago, I had the privilege of building a 100 x 50 Pearl Jam Museum, thanks to Evo Exhibits in Chicago. The museum was at a music festival celebrating their 20th anniversary. During that process, I and the guys from Evo were interacting with everyone — the roadies, the touring manager, the band manager, the fan club manager, and the band itself. All along the message was clear. As Ten Club Manager Tim Bierman said in the article below, “Respect for our fans is the guiding philosophy.”

Please take a moment to read this short article from The Build Network that summarizes Pearl Jam’s philosophy:

Here’s a snippet:

Pearl Jam hasn’t released a music video in 15 years. It doesn’t do endorsements, commercials, or — heaven forbid — musicals. Yet its Ten Club is widely regarded as the most loyal and rabid superfan base in the music industry. Here’s what a 23-year-old grunge band can teach us all about building customer relationships that last.


Now think about your business and your customers. Do your customers merely buy stuff from you? Or do you have Superfans? And if you don’t have Superfans, then why? Why are your customers not brand zealots for you and your products or services?

While I am not suggesting that all Classic Exhibits customers are Superfans, I am willing to say that the lion’s share are, at a minimum, partners and friends. And that is something we are very proud of.

Just last week, Optima shared a story from a common customer. The basics are . . . The Distributor was a Classic Distributor, but we were their #2 vendor. Time after time, their long-term #1 supplier had let them down on service, quality, and delivery. The owner hired a new sales rep who had come from another Classic Distributor. After hearing her praise for Classic and then experiencing it himself, he realized he needed to reshuffle the order of his #1 and #2 suppliers.

But what tipped the scale? Yes, his positive experience with his first couple of orders, but it was our “fans” at Optima and the new SuperFan employee that got the ball rolling.

At the end of the day, as cliché as it may sound, the way you build fans, partners, or whatever you choose to call them is it make it all about them. Cater to their wants and needs.

Back to Pearl Jam. As a fan and in this case a service provider, you hope your client appreciates what you do. Pearl Jam, the roadies, and the managers all said to the guys from Evo Exhibits and to me, “The fans are gonna love this!” That’s what mattered to them.

Lastly, as PJ brand zealot, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Pearl Jam just announced their 2013 North American tour. So do yourself a favor and see them when they come to your town. You WON’T be disappointed. I promise.

Be well and have a great weekend.




Tips to a Successful Business “Open House”

July 6th, 2012 1 COMMENT

Been There. Done That.

Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

Whether it’s sports, cards, business or anything that involves a winner and a loser, competitors are always looking for that “edge” that puts them over the top. I am not suggesting cheating. I am suggesting we follow Jack Nicklaus’ advice, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Well, there are a lot of things you can do, but I’d like to propose hosting an Open House for your customers and/or prospects.

I have seen dozens, if not a hundred, different Open House events at customer locations during my years as a manufacturer rep. Do Open Houses work? Absolutely, if done right. But, you can’t whip them together in a day. Successful Open Houses succeed because of planning and execution. In other words . . . “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” You don’t need all the tactics I am proposing, but let’s explore some ideas together and the risk/reward.

Pick Your Date Carefully. I was recently at a customer event on the East Coast. They promoted the Open House via email and direct mail. They followed up with phone calls. They did everything right. They had food and they had decent commitment. About 16 new leads were supposed to attend. However, it was the week going into the 4th of July and attendance fell off considerably. The upside was that one lead came with a six figure budget for a rental, another needed a new 10 x 20, and a third plans to buy 25 banner stands soon. So, all in all, it was very successful, but it could have been more successful had a different date been chosen.

Have a Gimmick. I was at a recent Open House where they hired the local baseball team mascot to appear and entertain the attendees. It was a nice twist that brought a few extra bodies in. Nothing life changing, but very memorable. I’ve seen Elvis impersonators, magicians, you name it! One of the more successful events was held in mid winter “up north” with a “Lets Go to the Islands” theme. They had speakers every hour talking about the pluses and minuses of islands over inlines. They had musician playing Jimmy Buffett songs on an acoustic guitar in between sessions. Everyone was engaged, entertained, and informed.

At another Open House, the timing was right for an Oscar theme. So we rolled out the red carpet and had show tunes playing throughout. They had paparazzi taking pictures of everything. Everyone dressed to the 9. There were no speakers, but there was enough “going on” to keep people focused and on track.

Feed Them. If you feed them, they will come. It’s just that simple. If you want more attendees, offer beer and wine. I’m not talking about a sit down meal, but depending the time of day, it should at least substitute for breakfast, lunch, or appetizers. Peanuts and chips may be OK for your football buddies, but not for your customers.

Have a Speaker with a Compelling Topic. Whether it’s the owner, the creative director, a manufacturer’s rep, or a social media expert, it needs to be somebody with a story. Content is key. They attendees are looking for solutions that will make their business or tradeshows better. You could even consider featuring several top customers who talk about their experiences with trade show marketing.

Be Repetitive. Do it the same time each year. Pick a direction and run with it. Maybe every year you talk about the latest and greatest in new exhibits. Maybe it’s all about design trends. Become the expert so they know who to call for “all things tradeshows” and remove the reason for them to shop around.

Use Your Vendors. As suppliers, we look at these as an opportunity to spend time with you and a chance to learn more about your market and customer needs. We also get to see other vendors and share experiences and insights. At the Open Houses I’ve participated over the past three to four years, I typically see Optima Graphics, Brumark, DS&L, various freight and labor companies, Eco-systems Sustainable, and ExpoDisplays. We bring in new products and review services, which always makes for a educational and entertaining event.

Again, there is no magic formula, but pick a direction and don’t give up on it. Be reasonable in setting your goals and a budget. The first year may not be as much about new business as much as touching base with your clients. But, those contacts matter. Always remember, it only takes ONE to make it a successful event.

Give me a call or send me an email. I am very happy to share additional details about the Open Houses I’ve attended over the years, small and large, elaborate and intimate. There’s no one formula, except solid planning, careful execution, and a little imagination.

Till the next time,

Reid Sherwood

In the “Old Days” . . . .

May 3rd, 2012 4 COMMENTS
Shooting from the Hip (trade show tips)

Shooting from the Hip by Reid Sherwood

It was Better Back When (Except When It Wasn’t)

The trade show market seems to be back, maybe not with a vengeance, but certainly with a nice steady fire. (Yes I know all the fire comments are coming — but hey, I asked for it.) Classic Distributors haven’t complained recently about business, but they have all said, “It’s good, but still not like the old days.”

The “Old Days” are a little of what I would like to talk about here. Please feel free to add to my jaded perception.

In the “Old Days” . . . We had the Luxury of TIME

When I took my first order ever in this industry (circa 1987) from Mary Ann Kenkle at what was then Omni-Craft in South Bend Indiana, she ordered a very simple 6 ft. tabletop with a backlit, silk-screened header. We required six weeks production and needed to have a hard PMT of their artwork. PMT is photomechanical transfer. It typically came in the mail. Today, we have exhibits that look custom, are often available in “8 Days or Less,” and expect that Optima will ship us the fabric graphic in 48 hours.

In the “Old Days” . . . We had CUSTOMER LOYALTY

RFP’s were sent to three companies, and the incumbent was truly a partner. I had a conversation with a good friend and distributor a few weeks back about the fact that there are lots of opportunities out there, but not all are worth chasing. As we continued the conversation, he told me about a RFP that he received that included his company and 13 others. If they are looking at 14 companies, then the buyer really has no idea what the final goal is. Customer LOYALTY is a partnership.

Good Times?


If you have a computer with Microsoft Paint, then you are a graphic designer, or if you have Google SketchUp, then you are an exhibit designer. I have often heard Mike Swartout, the Design Director at Classic Exhibits, say, “Ya know, that really isn’t a bad design, but they forgot to allow for one critical element…..GRAVITY.”

Sometimes the design can be so complex with curves, layers, great backlit images, and with every bell and whistle that you would find on a Rolls Royce. Other times, a simple Sacagawea 10 ft. exhibit with a nicely done fabric graphic and easy assembly is just the ticket. The difference is in the thought that went into creating the solution. Not how many buttons can you click on your computer and make a pretty picture.

I am sure there are many more, but these are the things that I hear about most often. Please feel free to add on whether they are sarcastic or serious. We welcome all comments (as long as they are safe for grandma’s ears).

Till the next time,

Reid Sherwood