Rut Busters: Changing Your Trade Show Routine

It’s safe to say that routines are comfortable. Who would deny that knowing exactly what you’re doing and where you’re doing it isn’t nice? That familiarity prevents surprises and upsets. However, doing the “same old thing” can also prevent growth and restrain any sense of excitement. Routines can easily become ruts, especially at trade shows. It’s very easy to do, especially if you always go to the same shows, display in the same location, use the same graphics and literature, and go through the same sales pitch.

Exhibiting is, by its nature, a constantly evolving art. To be successful, you need to embrace what’s new and exciting. There’s nothing wrong with pushing boundaries. If you’re comfortable, then you’re not trying hard enough and will in return, run the risk of boring trade show attendees with your booth. If you’re not presenting something new, exciting, and engaging, to draw them in, then most attendees are going to assume they already know what you have to offer and pass you by.

Here’s 5 easy ways to break out of a trade show rut:

1. Realize the Difference Between Branding and Routine

Doing the same exact thing the same exact way time after time after time is NOT branding. Careful and intelligent placement of logos, consistent use of color, and overall design are all elements of branding. Look at McDonalds – they have one of the strongest brands on the planet, yet have changed looks, catch phrases, uniforms and menus over the years.

2. Step Outside of Your Industry

Great ideas come from unexpected sources. Examine what motivates people to buy products that are very different from your own and see if you can integrate those creative marketing elements into your own exhibit. Integrating doesn’t mean just “cutting and pasting” ideas either! To avoid breaking copyright laws, try putting a new spin on existing ideas and see how you can make them work for your display.

3. Get a Fresh Set of Eyes

Have someone who is in no way related to the trade show industry or to your company look at your exhibit. What do they notice first? Record their impressions and compare how they measure up to your marketing objectives. Sometimes we look at our own exhibits so much that we don’t ‘see’ them anymore. This fresh set of eyes will be viewing your booth the same way the attendees do – with no foreknowledge or preconceived notions of how the exhibit is ‘supposed’ to look.

4. Change Up Your Team

Take a careful look at your staff. Who is personable and professional, with excellent product knowledge, strong sales skills, and enthusiasm? Send that person to the trade show. Sending one new person to a show can create a new dynamic, sending a whole new team guarantees you’ll get anything but a routine performance. No matter whom you send, make sure that all staff members are trained. Old hands need to refresh their skills and rookies need to acquire them!

5. Call In Wardrobe

Something as simple as changing clothes can totally alter a booth staff’s performance. If they’ve been wearing business attire, consider switching to a more casual yet coordinated look. Have the booth staff break out the suits and ties. You’ll be amazed how differently they carry themselves and interact with attendees. If uniforms or logo clothing are a staple of your company, make sure your team is sporting them. If possible, try to reinforce imagery of the uniforms in your graphics and literature as well.

SOURCE: Susan Friedmann Marketing

The 5 Deadly Sins of Voicemail

In a world where e-mail has become the dominant form of business communication, the value of phone etiquette has definitely depreciated. If you ask any salesperson, they can recount the feeling of defeat that comes at the other end of a prospect’s voicemail. While it will be quite some time before the extinction of the telephone, it’s becoming increasingly important to exercise good judgment before dialing. If you’re calling someone because you have something you would like to sell them, then you better not commit one of the following sins or you can forget about a call back.

No Reason For Call

This one is pretty self-explanatory. When leaving a message, it’s essential that you explain why you’re calling, even if you’re best friends with the person. It’s very doubtful you’ll receive a follow-up if you don’t give a reason to.

No Value Presented

When you leave a message in a prospecting mode, you can get the recipients attention by mentioning something of value. Point them to an event, a free resource, or information that demonstrates you understand a vast amount about what they do and what their challenges are.

No Reference For Call

Cold calling in any way, shape, or form is detrimental to both parties and a cold call voice message is very easy to delete. Spend some time getting to know people who know the person you’re calling. Use the vast data available in your social networks and find virtual connections. At the very least, find a way to strike some common ground and suggest a reference that thought you should call. It’s much harder to ignore a referral.

No Suggested Call Back Plan

Phone tag isn’t really as fun as it sounds. When leaving a message, make sure you mention when you are going to try to call back or when the recipient can catch you. You can also suggest all the better ways, such as email, that you might be reached. This is particularly helpful when trying to move something forward without the ability to meet on the same clock.

Rapid Fire Phone Number

Have you ever noticed how often people will leave long thoughtful messages and then when they mention their phone number, they’ll speed up like they’re all of a sudden out of time. So now the person trying to call them back has to replay the message three times in order to jot down the number. Slow down when leaving your number and say it twice.

SOURCE: John Jantsch,

Empty Space Is Always a Good Thing!

Take a look at the picture of the display above designed and produced by our talented FBD2 team for Airsep Corporation. What area of the design grabs your attention first? I’m going to go out on a limb and say you either noticed the logo or the text first. Actually, I know either of those elements are where your eyes first focused. You’ve just experienced the visual power of negative space!

Negative space or “white space” (which isn’t always necessarily white) is an effective tool in creating compelling designs. These areas are void of any text or imagery and help draw focus and emphasize on the important elements that are present in the graphic. There are two types of negative space – Active and Passive. Active negative space is used intentionally in the design process while Passive negative space is added as a result of the layout process.

There are quite a few reasons why negative space works successfully in the realm of graphic design:

– Helps Direct the Viewer’s Eye – Eye flow is very important. The use of white space directs the reader or the viewer as to what the eyes could view next.

-Improves Readability – Books and other print materials utilize white space to allow the reader to see and understand the text. The same goes for designing. It allows for the message of your graphics to be comprehended well.

– Creates a Balanced and Harmonious Layout –Spaces create a balance in your output. Without white spaces, your design will seem to create unsteadiness in the eyes. Imagine reading a magazine or an advertisement with no spaces between letters and images. You wouldn’t want to read that anymore! These spaces also show the relationship of one element to another.

-White Space Attracts the Eyes – With certain graphics, the design can be more influential than the purpose. Using white space can attract attention to designs, even from far distances.

-Creates Professional, Sophisticated and Elegant Designs – Generous white space is used in the luxury market. Advertisements of expensive and branded items usually come with white spaces. Most of the time, cosmetics use posters that have more white spaces to show that their products are of high quality and expensive. If you are observant, most local and cheap products come in colorful packages but expensive ones use minimal colors.

Interestingly enough, human beings possess the “law of parsimony” in our visual stimulus, meaning we naturally prefer to look at things that are not crowded and heavy on the eyes. With the mindset of “less is better”, the use of white space paves the way to a clearer communication of ideas and highly effective graphic design.

SOURCE: Karren Liez,

Just Play It Cool

“There isn’t enough time in a day”. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase countless times in your working life. The fact of the matter is that the constant accumulation of tasks on any given workday can make time management a real challenge. Which assignments take precedence? How do you complete all your goals on schedule?

It’s hard to believe it but procrastination may be your best resource in achieving success. This simple act can help us structure our priorities and give each task the appropriate amount of attention it requires. Putting tasks off can raise our energy and free our minds to help us see opportunities where others perceive obstacles. Here are 5 ways to use procrastination to your advantage:

1. Release Unnecessary Guilt Associated With Putting Off Tasks

Sometimes finding an immediate solution to a problem is just not in the cards. Instead of focusing excessive energy on it, put this hurdle aside while you complete less daunting tasks. This will free your mind and allow you to naturally ponder a solution instead of forcing yourself to think of it.

2. Avoid Heartache By Taking a Moment

Time is a wonderful mood-changer. No matter how urgent it may be, never respond to anyone when you’re upset. Angry thoughts aren’t rational. In order to accomplish goals in a productive manner, wait until you calm down before sending any communication to the people on your team. Even if you’re behind schedule, it will still be more beneficial in the long run.

3. Allow Others to Provide Answers For You

Some actions we take can actually slow our progress in achieving goals. For example, if you’re constantly copied on e-mails from co-workers, try occasionally hesitating on your replies. This gives others on your team the opportunity to voice their ideas, which may prove to be more effective than what you would have just automatically formulated.

4. State Why You’re Procrastinating

Hesitation stems from not knowing our next action. Instead of wasting time making excuses when you get sidetracked, think about what caused the distraction. Write down these reasons and then try to develop a way to overcome the challenge. Investigate new solutions so the next time a similar distraction occurs, you’ll better understand how to resolve it quickly.

5. Practice Procrastination

As crazy as this sounds, set a certain amount of time each day to do nothing but imagine. Taking this time can help you focus on the results you want to achieve and may even lead you towards developing unique and creative methods to get to those results. Don’t think of procrastinating as something that’s bad. When utilized properly, it can be a powerful tool in helping you attain your constantly evolving goals.

SOURCE: Romanus Wolter, Entrepreneur Magazine – Sept. 2006

Is It Time For a Coffee Break?

Like a large portion of the people on this Earth, I cannot start my day without a cup (or two) of coffee. In fact, the team here at FB Displays & Designs, Inc. goes through at least two entire pots every morning! I doubt we will ever catch our Operations Manager, Troy Stover, without his “Three Stooges” mug in hand. The beverage makes up an interesting element of our office culture. For example, we share coffee at our morning meetings and while discussing projects. We also have coffee with our clients when they come here to meet with us. The drink is definitely a staple of our office environment.

From a nutritional standpoint, cream and sugar users aren’t reaping the full potential of the beverage. However, black coffee contains lots of antioxidants and is low in calories so, despite any myths you have heard, here are 5 reasons why coffee is good for your health:

It Protects Your Heart

People who drink 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day have lower rates of stroke than non-coffee drinkers. This is linked to the large amount of antioxidants in the beverage, which may help suppress the damaging effect of inflammation on arteries. Coffee’s antioxidants activate nitric oxide, widening blood vessels and lowering blood pressure in the long run. Since coffee contains more antioxidants than even blueberries, it can be considered the largest source of antioxidants in most diets.

It Diverts Diabetes

Chlorogenic acid and quinides (two specific antioxidants in coffee) boost your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. While studies have shown that people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there’s also the possibility of caffeine dulling the insulin-sensitivity boost in others, so heavy coffee drinkers should mix in some decaf.

Your Liver Loves It

While the research in this area is limited, it looks like the more coffee people drink, the lower their chance of getting cirrhosis and other liver diseases. One study showed that every 2-cup increase in daily coffee intake reduced liver cancer risk by 43%. Again, it’s those antioxidants—chlorogenic and caffeic acids—along with the caffeine that might prevent liver inflammation and inhibit cancer cells.

It Boosts Your Brain Power

Studies have shown that those who drink between 1 and 5 cups of coffee a day may help reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Those hard-working antioxidants may ward off brain cell damage and help the neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function to work better.

It Helps Your Headaches

And not just the withdrawal headaches caused by skipping your daily dose of caffeine! Studies show that 200 milligrams of caffeine—about the amount in 16 ounces of brewed coffee—provides relief from headaches, including migraines. Exactly how caffeine relieves headaches isn’t clear. But scientists do know that caffeine boosts the activity of brain cells, causing surrounding blood vessels to constrict. One theory is that this constriction helps to relieve the pressure that causes the pain, says Robert Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and director of the Headache Clinic at the University of Vermont Medical School.

SOURCE: Kerri-Ann Jennings, Eating Well Magazine

Marketing Lessons from “America’s Next Great Restaurant”

I had the opportunity last night to catch the pilot episode of a new reality program on NBC called “America’s Next Great Restaurant”. The concept of the show rather intrigued me – a group of contestants from various professions are given the opportunity to present their idea for a fast, casual restaurant to a panel of “investors” comprised of internationally renowned chefs Bobby Flay and Curtis Stone, Chipotle founder Steve Ells and executive chef Lorena Garcia. Like all reality TV series, the contestants will have rigorous challenges to go through every week and the last person standing will have their restaurant built in New York City, Minneapolis and Hollywood.

Yesterday’s episode showcased the top 21 contestants pitching their ideas for what they believe will be the next big thing in the world of fast and casual dining. Unfortunately, only 10 would be able to make it through to the next round. Throughout the proposals, I noticed some contestants integrating smart marketing strategies into their presentations to make themselves truly stand out. Here are some of the valuable marketing lessons I took away from the show:

Make Your Brand Memorable

When contestant Joseph Galuzzi presented his waggishly named “Saucy Balls” concept, I couldn’t help but laugh as the panel snickered at his amusingly titled restaurant. The origin of the name actually came from Galuzzi’s young daughter who had randomly suggested it based on one of his signature dishes titled “Grandma’s Meatballs”.

Despite the element of humor in his pitch, Galuzzi hit it right on the mark with his branding concept. Whether people get a chuckle out of the mildly inappropriate pun or deem it utterly ridiculous, “Saucy Balls” is quite memorable on either side of the fence.

Have Confidence In Your Idea

When former WNBA Champion and personal trainer Fran Harris conveyed her vision of a health and fitness based restaurant chain that would promote a nutritional menu with sports culture, she spoke with such conviction and enthusiasm that the panel instantly chose her as the first to advance on the show.

Pairing her confidence for her concept with knowledge of the restaurant business really helped Harris make an impact among the many unassertive contestants. This just goes to show that if you can’t stand behind your ideas, don’t expect to see them come to life.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short & Simple)

Presenting a 10 page menu with over 100 items is not an ideal marketing strategy for a restaurant defined as “fast and quick”. Neither is spending a good portion of your proposal time inflating a giant tent that has absolutely no correlation to your concept. While some contestants missed the mark of presenting a simple and unique restaurant, others hit it right out of the park.

Eric Powell’s “Meltworks” idea offered variations of the classic grilled cheese sandwich while Alex Terranova’s fusion taco concept “Hard N Soft Tacos” put a new spin on a traditional fast food item. The “Investors” were sold on both ideas due to the simplicity and focus on one speciality. With any new brand, it’s essential to start small and progress naturally, adding new divisions over time. Rushing to incorporate multiple branches into a new business will be a “recipe” for disaster.

Stand Apart From The Crowd

While a handful of contestants were eliminated for bringing the overdone “burger joint” or “chicken wing place” concepts to the table, other ideas held their own in the realm of creativity. Sandra Digiovanni cleverly designed a concept she called “Limbo”. Her idea was to create a restaurant that gave you the option of eating either healthy, bad, or both. “Limbo” would offer two separate menus – the first menu (“halos”) would offer healthy meal options while the second menu (“horns”) would present over-the-top “unhealthy” versions of the same dishes.

While Digiovanni’s food entry was well received, her concept didn’t rely on a specialty dish as much as it did on an interesting idea. It’s always fun and beneficial to find creative inspiration wherever you can. Take time out of your day to simply brainstorm and jot down any thoughts that may come to you. You never know when the next great idea for your brand may come about!

Scott Bykowicz is the Marketing Coordinator for FB Displays & Designs, Inc.

Beware of the Trade Show Zombies!

It sounds horrifying but I guarantee that if you have ever exhibited, you’ve encountered trade show zombies. Armed with oversized bags, these attendees wander up and down the aisles, grabbing all the free stuff they can find from each and every booth. They don’t plan to do business with any of the exhibiting vendors and surprisingly, a horde of trade show zombies can wipe a booth out of free candy or post-it-pads in mere minutes.

So how do you ward off these trade show zombies? It’s actually quite simple – proper planning. Focus on bringing qualified prospects into your booth. If you target the general masses, you’re likely to attract a high number of zombies. Identify potential clients as they enter the booth by evaluating their interest in your business. If they only make small talk, politely wrap up the conversation and shift focus towards other attendees. Also ensure visitors fill out a “qualification form” and talk to one of your salespeople before entering any of your contests and giveaways. The purpose behind these is to initiate relationships between possible clients and your brand, so make sure these are well planned.

Trade show zombies don’t necessarily have to be attendees either. Exhibitors can also fall into this category. I’m speaking of the exhibitors who design their exhibit to mimic the other booths around them and bring nothing new to the table. Carbon copy booth designs may attract trade show zombies but they’re unlikely to draw in prospects. Fortunately, the exhibitor zombie is a dying breed (no pun attended), as companies are constantly pushing the envelope to make their exhibits unique and their messages stand out.

The moral of the story here: don’t let trade show zombies distract your focus from qualified prospects. Giveaways can play an important role in your trade show strategy, as long as they’re aimed at the right people.

SOURCE:, “Trade Show Zombies”