Friday, November 22, 2013

Should You Start Your Own Business? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

In school, you used to daydream about becoming a writer... or a wedding planner... or a chef. Or fill in the blank, but you dreamed it. Maybe you still ponder the joys of setting your own schedule, being your own boss and making your own rules. But at some point, as the old saying goes, “Life got in the way.” You were practical. You found a job with benefits, something stable, something... boring.

If you’ve been thinking it might be time to revisit the idea of turning your passion into your own business, it’s time to do a little soul-searching. Start now by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Do You Hate Your Job?

It’s alright, a lot of people do. It’s really OK to admit it. If "hate" is too strong a word to describe your feelings for your current venture, ask yourself this: Do you feel dissatisfied, bored or empty when you’re at work? You deserve better. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), an average of 583,499 small businesses open each year in the U.S. If more than half a million people can go out on their own every year, so can you.

2. Do You Spend More Time on Your Hobby Than Anything Else in Your Spare Time?

Do you find yourself spending more time on your hobby or interest than you do on other leisure activities? While your friends are busy getting into fights on Facebook or browsing the Internet for nail design ideas, are you creating the next culinary masterpiece, crafting a work of literary genius or inventing a new product? If so, you might not even know it yet, but you’re already on your way to starting your own business.

3. Quite Simply, Is It Something You’ve Always Wanted to Do?

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to do it. Don't let life pass you by without doing what you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Get Going

If your "yes" answers mean the time is now, don't panic—starting your own small business doesn’t have to feel like a complicated and scary process. Some things to keep in mind at this stage of the game:

  • One of the first tangible items you need is a business card. They are still standard business practice, even in this digital age. Use a quality paper stock and a reliable printing service, as this piece of marketing collateral is often the first glimpse people (including potential investors) will get of your new venture.

  • Set aside some time to delve more deeply into your niche and the concerns that come along with your segment of the market. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has specific information about starting a business in your particular state as well as details about your chosen industry.

  • You are going to need the ability to make purchases. Government loans, bank loans and small business credit cards can supply you with capital—just make sure you explore all the funding options available. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Entrepreneurs: Get Your Ducks in a Row When Establishing Your Startup

Entrepreneurs: Get Your Ducks in a Row When Establishing Your Startup

The entrepreneurial spirit will take you far when starting your first business. That creative drive will get you through the process of writing a business plan, choosing and designing the new business location, and it may even land you the critical funding you need to realize your dream of owning your own business.

However, what many people with an entrepreneurial spirit lack, is the know-how to navigate all of the tedious paperwork involved with the multi-tiered local, state and federal registration processes. Here’s a quick guide to what you’ll need to finally get your business off the ground.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Of all the numbers you’ll need to get in the business registration process, the Employer Identification Number (EIN) is the most important. Think of it as a social security number for your business. Obtained through the IRS, an EIN is required before you hire your first employee. Most local and state registration numbers required you to have an EIN before you register with them as well. Your businesses EIN is the number you will use to identify your business in all dealings, including when filing taxes.

Register Locally
After getting the EIN for your business, you must register at your local and state level as well. Your city and/or state government may require you to register for a business permit, and you will need to apply for a Business Identification Number (BIN) with your state for the purpose of filing state taxes.

Withholding Tax Records System
Business records must be kept for a minimum of four years, so having a good tax records system in place is critical. It’s also a good way for you to keep tabs on the financial health of your business. The best record keeping systems allow you to keep track of expenses and receipts, as well as prepare tax returns and financial statements.
Form I-9
Familiarize yourself with the federal I-9 Form and system, and keep the information handy because within three days of hiring any employee, you will be required to confirm that employee’s employment eligibility in the United States. After reviewing employee-provided documentation and completing the I-9 form, you will be required to keep the paperwork on file for at least three years. Once the form is complete, simply transfer the information to the IRS and verify employment eligibility online.

New Hire Reporting Program
Within 20 days of a new hire date, you are required to report it to your state’s new hire directory. Just as with the I-9, this is a step that cannot be missed. So, keep the new hire directory contact information for your state close by.

Workers Compensation
Every business that plans on hiring employees is required to carry workers compensation insurance. This insurance provides benefits to your employees if they become injured on the job. The benefits not only help the employee financially, but they also cover medical costs associated with the injury.

Inform Yourself
Legal compliance is a must for any business owner. It will save you time, hassle and a lot of money in fines, fees and employee lawsuits. Inform yourself about the subject of employment and labor law. The more you know about the what the laws are regarding subjects, such as safety, wages, and workplace harassment, the better prepared you’ll be to identify and properly address issues.

Starting your own business is a dream come true for many people. When you take the time to set it up right the first time around, you can prevent that dream from becoming a nightmarish endeavor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making the Best Business Decisions When You Are the Only One Making Them

Making the Best Business Decisions When You Are the Only One Making Them
There are more than 22 million businesses solely-owned with no employees, according to the most recent U.S. Census small business data. If you are the only one making the key decisions for your business, then you need access to resources to make it easier to make the right decisions. These tips will give you some direction when you need a little support before making those big decisions.
Your Business Plan is Your Bible
Inc. states a poor business plan is a top reason for an unsuccessful small business. Your business plan is the roadmap you follow to make your business successful. You may be smart and a quick thinker, but you have many things to think about and your plan keeps you on track without worrying about missing something.
A good business plan lets you step back and review the big picture when you get bogged down by the details. It gives the bank and investors a clear picture of your business, where it’s going and how it will get there. It gives future partners a glimpse of your vision. The U.S. Small Business Administration has many resources on how to create a good business plan.
Creating an Honest and Genuine Team
When you begin hiring staff, you may consider doing background checks. This information normally comes from public records, available to you no matter how you retrieve it. There is other information not contained in public records, that you’d like to know before bringing on someone new. Some services will just do the research leg work for you. These resources could save you from making a serious mistake.
How much you can pay will also determine, to some extent, the talent you can recruit. You can research and calculate prevailing wages using various wage calculator tools online.
Capturing Your Business Niche
One of the top reasons a small business fails is the lack of market research, reports Forbes. You believe that you have a product or service that is in demand, but does the public feel the same way? To minimize the risk that you will be going live with a product or service that people really don’t want, you need to gauge the public’s opinion:
  • How important is it to people to solve this problem?
  • What value do people place on the ability to solve this problem?
  • How much would people be willing to pay to have this problem solved?
Let’s say you have a design for a running shoe that you want to market. The lacing on the shoe is off to the side instead of directly on top. You believe this is an easier way to tie shoes and that this design is more comfortable. Your in-depth market research should answer the above questions:
  • How big of a problem do people see with top-lacing running shoes?
  • How important is it to people to have a shoe that ties differently?
  • What is it worth to people to have running shoes that tie on the side?
  • How much would they pay for this design?
If the results show that the majority of people see the same problem and are willing to pay for your solution, then you may have a market winner. If they see this as no big deal, then you may be stuck with a warehouse full of running shoes that people won’t buy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ICSC Foundation Accepting Scholarship Applications

15 Scholarships to the John T. Riordan School of Professional Development

NEW YORK, October 21, 2013 – As part of its mission to encourage the continuing education of retail real estate professionals, the ICSC Foundation announces open application for the John T. Riordan Professional Education Scholarship. Established in 2004, 15 scholarships are available to retail real estate professionals who have demonstrated excellence in their careers, and wish to deepen their experience and knowledge by attending the John T. Riordan School of Professional Development in Scottsdale, Ariz., March 30 – April 4, 2014.

The John T. Riordan School for Professional Development is a retail real estate training program for industry professionals offering a week of rigorous study that can lead to ICSC certification. The school and the scholarship honor former ICSC President John Riordan’s legacy of promoting education and professional development in the shopping center industry. Attendees will deepen their knowledge of retail property and shopping centers, learn from subject matter experts, share ideas and identify successful strategies alongside colleagues from around the world. Attendees have the option of choosing to attend an institute of Management, Marketing, Leasing or Development Design and Construction.

The scholarship covers enrollment fees, textbooks, workbooks, airfare and hotel accommodations.  Scholarships recipients also receive an all-expense paid trip to RECon: The Global Retail Real Estate Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada to attend an award ceremony in their honor. Additionally, one applicant working in the Midwest of the United States will receive a similar scholarship, funded by he Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation

The application deadline is January 20, 2014. For more information visit

About the ICSC FoundationThe ICSC Foundation promotes and rewards community support efforts and provides undergraduate, graduate-level and retail real estate practitioner’s educational scholarships.  The Community Support Award program is designed to recognize exceptional contributions by shopping centers or shopping center companies within their communities.  Established in 1988, the ICSC Foundation is the non-profit public charity of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Inc. (ICSC).

About ICSCFounded in 1957, ICSC is the premier global trade association of the shopping center industry. Its more than 60,000 members in over 100 countries include shopping center owners, developers, managers, marketing specialists, investors, retailers and brokers, as well as academics and public officials. As the global industry trade association, ICSC links with more than 25 national and regional shopping center councils throughout the world. For more information, visit


Friday, August 30, 2013

3 Ways to Find Top-Notch Employee Talent

Just like employees should always on the lookout for a new job, employers should always be on the lookout for new talent. A CareerBuilder study says 74 percent of working folks have their job search antenna constantly turned on, and 35 percent admit to searching for a job within weeks of starting a new one. Stay tuned in to the job-seeking market and look for new employee talent by mimicking job-hunting strategies.

Act on Social Media

Social media profiles are gold mines for the job seekers, and employers can make them just as equally gilded. BusinessInsider suggests marketing your job opportunities and recruitment efforts the same way you would draw consumers to your products and services. Observe the active members of your online communities to gauge who is following you and who has a real investment in your company. Rev up your content sharing by consistently posting new information, building your network relationships and keeping your company profile stocked with the latest recruitment and employment needs.

Fill a Brimming Talent Pool

Even if you end up with 53 job applicants for an open position, don’t quickly delete 52 of those resumes. Establish and maintain what InformationWeek calls a “talent pool” where you keep tabs on the candidates who impress you the most and retain them within easy reach for future opportunities. "The idea is 'always be recruiting,'" IT recruiter Paul DeBettignies told InformationWeek. This type of move can be especially vital for a small, yet growing business that may need new employees in a flash.
Start filling your pool by adopting a recruiting platform, such as JobVite, which can help you target attractive talent. The subscription-based platform includes features like an automated talent search that alerts you about qualified candidates from any site. Using social recruiting tools, you can broadcast and promote your job announcements.

Go Where Good Candidates Go

Posting fliers throughout town or blasting job advertisements on every job site may seem like a cheap and easy move, but then expect cheap and easy-to-fire results. Narrow your pool and find a large cache of viable candidates in specific online communities. Post openings to a careers section on your website, and aim your recruiting tactics at sites that produce a steady flow of online applications for jobs, such as The site serves online applications for hundreds of entry-level positions and can affordably fit within your recruiting budget. Automated platforms and tools will improve your employee search, but never neglect the time taken to review and commit to only the best for your company needs. A hasty employment search and haphazard interview process will likely yield negative results and only cost your company time and money.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dress for Success as an Entrepreneur

According to researchers at Louisiana State University,
75 percent of employers surveyed in the U.S. claimed that grooming and dress strongly influenced their opinion about a job candidate even before the interview began. Make sure you nail that first impression and every one thereafter.

Why dress for success?

According to a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, students who thought study participants were wearing a doctor's coat showed higher attentiveness to those in the coats than students who thought participants were wearing a painter's coat. In reality, it was the exact same coat. The moral of the story? What you wear has an effect on how you perform, so dressing professionally allows you to perform like a professional.

The dos and don'ts of professional dress

Whether you're negotiating the best direct TV deals for your hair salon waiting room, or speaking with investors about partnerships and stock opportunities, your wardrobe says a lot about who you are as a professional and a person. Take advantage of the potential of style with these simple dos and don'ts.
  • DO show some personality — Dressing for success doesn't mean you're doomed to a life of black pantsuits and beige pencil skirts. However, choose colors wisely, since colors have stronger psychological reactions than you think, note researchers at St. Cloud State. You can add appropriate hints of personality in your professional attire with classic patterns, bright splashes of color, and some fun accessories to balance out the bland.
  • DON'T go too crazy — There's a time and a place for trying out the latest, funkiest fashion trends, but meeting with an important client isn't one of them. Some professional fashionistas like to experiment with risky trends, but it's best to save those for the weekend to be safe.
  • DO accessorize — Small and simple accessories can make any outfit pop. Not to mention, they're always a budget-friendly, versatile choice. Think pearls, thin waist belts, minimalist earrings, and nude clutches. Basic gold and silver jewelry can be used to enhance an attention-grabbing get-up, while colorful statement jewelry should have a relatively simple background.
  • DON'T underestimate the power of a nice cardigan — You don't have to spend a lot of money on a professional wardrobe. Blazers and cardigans are the ultimate fashion addition for toning down a loud look or adding a pop of color to something a little too basic. These versatile pieces are ideal for quick transitions from day to night looks.
  • DO consider the audience/setting — Like most entrepreneurs, you probably work with several different clients in different atmospheres, which all affect the appropriateness of your attire. For example, heels are a nice, professional choice for a quick meeting at the office, but if you're going to be running from place to place, they're not quite as practical. Furthermore, lunches, meetings at coffee shops and other laid-back settings call for casual professional wear.
Comfort and professionalism don't have to be arch enemies, especially when you have the opportunity to write your own rules. Even though you have more freedom than the average nine-to-fiver, it's important to keep up with the professional dressing standards of the traditional world, without losing that edge of personality that makes your personal brand stand out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Isn’t This Supposed to Be Easy?

By Kathleen Gage

There has been so much hype about how easy life should be and that all we need do is visualize what we want and presto! it appears. Although I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction, there have been major misunderstandings of what the law is about. It is about visualization, focus, and commitment. A great many people take initiative regarding visualization, but one needs focus and commitment to see the law through to its rewards.

Another aspect of the Law of Attraction is getting out of your own way and allowing events to unfold as they will. In many cases the outcome appears in ways we least expect it to. 

Rules regarding how we express who we are have changed dramatically over the last few decades. In the past we had to wait for permission to express ourselves – at least that’s what we were led to believe. And believe this we did. Today, due to the outlets and avenues available (literally at our fingertips), we can express who we are, what our message is, and how we want to impact the lives of others in so many incredible ways. Our expression is limited only by our willingness to step up to the challenge.

You are limited only by your own limitations. The beauty of the tools we have available today is that anyone – yes anyone – can take massive action to get incredible results. You will experience the best results when you take a holistic approach to your business. For example, rather than classifying yourself as solely a consultant, why not think in terms of becoming an author, speaker, and mentor? By doing this you are more fully able to serve your market by packaging your information into a book that is easy to invest in and learn from.  At the same time you help yourself as well.  When you are a published author, you garner more respect because you are an expert who “wrote the book” on your topic. When you are viewed as an expert you are more in demand as a mentor and can command higher fees.

Today an expert can easily become an author and reach online bestseller status by way of strategic marketing and promotions. Experts can package their information into various types of products. It’s possible to reach a global market as long as they have a computer and internet access. Even senior citizens can begin their first business in their sixties, seventies, eighties – the sky’s the limit.

Jane Falke is a nutritionist whose passion is teaching others about eating whole, natural foods. Jane spent over twenty years studying food and nutrition from a natural perspective. People often asked her when she was going to put her knowledge into a book. 

Not only did Jane have her first book published at the age of seventy-one, she also committed to learning as much as she could about reaching her market through online marketing. She is the first to admit that getting her book published and gaining an online presence wasn’t always a walk in the park, but it was worth it. Rather than being limited to sharing her message in her geographic region, she now has readers and clients around the globe. 

If a woman in her seventies can get her first book to market and gain an online presence, don’t you think you can, too? Of course you can! 

About Kathleen Gage: 
Kathleen Gage is the “no-nonsense, common sense” online marketing strategist, speaker, author, product creation specialist and owner of “Power Up for Profits.” Kathleen helps entrepreneurs make money online. Her clients are driven by making a difference through their own unique voice. 
Kathleen's mission is to help people understand that their business is merely a means to get their message out to the world. She teaches that it’s not just about what you do, but the reasons behind why you do it.
Her newest book, Power Up For Profits; The Smart Woman's Guide to Online Marketing is the perfect resource for any author who wants to reach more of their market in the fastest, most cost effective methods possible. For a very limited time when you order the book through Amazon you receive Kathleen’s full Six Figure List Building Program and Sell Thousands from Any Platform. Go to for full details.                            

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are Business Cards Dead

If you thought business cards were dead in this digital age, think again. Business cards are arguably as relevant today as they were 30 or 50 years ago. More than 10 billion business cards are printed and distributed each year in the United States— to contacts at trade shows, to customers and to people one meets in passing. Making your card stand out in this sea of business cards can be a challenge. Consider these five ways to make your business card rise to the top.

1. Make it different

Doing something a little unusual can make your business card noticeable in a pile of white cards with black print. This could mean using a different colored paper stock. For example, if you sell baby items, you might print your cards on blue and pink card stock instead of white. You can also experiment with different shapes and different graphics. For example, a book store owner might have a card shaped like a bookmark. Having a different-looking business card is especially important for those in creative fields, such as advertising and graphic design. Ordering your business cards online gives myriad options to create a unique and different look.

2. Use heavier paper

A heavier card gives the impression of being more expensive and more solid, both traits you want your clients to associate with your business. While the printing might cost a little more, the credibility you'll bring to your brand is worth the investment.

3. Insert QR codes

Adding a quick response (QR) code to your business card can be intriguing and is a good way to add additional information to your card. However, keep it simple. Too much information is not only visually distracting, but it usually fails to scan well. Also, make sure the "value-added" information from the QR code is up to date and interesting. Sending contacts to old information is a definite turn-off. Consider making your QR code send scanners to a coupon, so they're encouraged to engage with your brand.

4. Ask an open question

Inspiring curiosity is another good way to make your business card stand out. A travel company in Hungary asks on their business card for readers to call or email if they need a restaurant recommendation in Budapest. It's both different and intriguing, and a card that's likely to be saved.

5. Add your picture

How is someone who collects more than 50 business cards at a convention going to remember your card belongs to you? Add your picture to your card so the person you gave it to will instantly associate it with the conversation you had with them. You could even have that QR code send scanners to a video of you thanking them for considering you for their business.
Your business cards don't have to be boring. With a little effort and a little planning, your cards can rise to the top of the pile. What advice do you have for making business cards stand out? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How to Grow Your Business’ Twitter Following

Author, Jordan Graves

Since its launch in 2007, Twitter has become a driving social media force for businesses and individuals alike.  With 500 million users on Twitter sending 400 million tweets per day, this is a conversation you don’t want your small business to miss out on.  

So how should you take advantage of this important (not to mention free!) outlet?  To get the most out of your business’s Twitter account, you need to put in the effort to maximize your opportunities.  Here are five useful tips on how to increase your Twitter following so you can engage your customers, potential customers, and others in your industry.  

1.  Fill out your Twitter bio

First things first:  put your business’s information in your Twitter bio.  Users look at these blurbs to learn more about your company and to decide whether or not to follow you.  Make the bio short and sweet.  Add something that makes you stand out and grabs your audience’s attention.  Don’t be misleading or too wordy, both of which will turn potential followers away.

2.  Link to your account

Get more traffic to your Twitter page by linking your handle to your professional site, personal site and anywhere else you have a social media presence.  This way, you will benefit from the sites you have already established by sending those viewers to Twitter.  You can also add your Twitter handle to your work email signature and have your employees and co-workers follow suit.  

Don’t forget to think outside of the online sphere.  You can add your Twitter handle to business cards and other promotional materials, including flyers and billboards.  The more people that have the opportunity to see your Twitter account, the more followers you will obtain.  

3.  Quality over quantity

When seeking new followers, it is important to remember that it’s not all about numbers.  The quality of the connections you are making for your business is much more important than the quantity.  Spammy Twitter followers don’t add any value to your network because they aren’t participating in conversations that are relevant to you.  What’s the point of having followers who don’t read your tweets or engage in conversation?  Having a couple hundred followers who actually interact with your brand is much more valuable than having a couple thousand that are unreceptive to your messaging strategy.

The idea of quality over quantity applies to content as well.  If tweeting less is what it takes to produce more meaningful tweets, then by all means - tweet less.  Rich and engaging content that encourages retweets and replies will strengthen your Twitter network more than frequent tweeting.  

4.  Encourage retweets and replies

The more retweets and replies you can generate, the more users that will see your Twitter.  If you get a retweet from a business that follows you, then all 300 of their business followers are exposed to your messaging and have the opportunity to follow you.

Pictures, links and graphs are all more likely to get retweeted than longer text tweets.  Correct hashtag usage also encourages retweets, as well as new followers.  By #effectivelyhashtagging topics, users who are interested in that particular subject can search for it and find your relevant tweets.  Tweeting with popular trending hashtags also helps you engage with the Twitter community and become more visible.  

5.  Follow those relevant to your business and interests

Engage with people who have similar themes and followers to you.  It’s okay to mix it up a little and follow Twitter accounts that relate to your personal interests, as long as they are appropriate.  If you’re a runner, follow Twitter users that tweet about running. This will create a more well-rounded Twitter experience.  Everything you tweet isn’t going to be specific to your business, so your followers don’t have to be either.  

When you follow more diverse people, you also open yourself up to more diverse followers.  While this is not the case every time, following someone on Twitter you have the chance to gain a new follower, as well.  But don’t be discouraged if a user does not follow you back.  There are plenty of other Twitter user fish in the sea.    

Now that you have the tools to increase your Twitter following, get started today and see what an optimized Twitter account can do for your business!

About the Author:  Jordan Graves is a Marketing Manager for, the fastest way to turn a pile of paper receipts into digital data for effortless expense reporting and bookkeeping.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Using Your Competitor to Promote Your Blog and Bring You More Business

As an entrepreneur with a fledgling business, you have read a lot about how important a blog is for promoting your business. According to Google, 73 percent of Internet searches use location-related content. The Internet is the No. 1 place where consumers search for local businesses that provide goods and services. You specialize in rare collectibles and have begun a blog that discusses current news and finds in the rarefied atmosphere of rare collectibles.

So here is your blog sitting out on WordPress, and suddenly you have a eureka! moment — Eureka! How will I get folks to read my blog and enhance my online reputation? Will I have to dedicate my life to my company blog?

No, you will not. Following are some tips to help you to promote your blog without losing your soul, with help from an old pro.

GoDaddy specializes in selling domain names and setting up and maintaining Web sites. On his site, CEO Bob Parsons reveals his 16 Rules for Survival. Of interest to us is Rule 11:

“Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.”

You may ask, "What does this have to do with blogging?" Well, quite a bit. Let’s tie it together.

Use the Competition for Inspiration

Suppose your competitor’s blog tells a great story about a hidden set of collectibles found in some attic in the country that is worth thousands. An interesting story for sure. You can either recycle it, which is not recommended or use it as an inspiration for a new blog topic. It might be about a one-day getaway to country estate sales and how to pick winning buys, or it could be about how to get a collection appraised after purchase. The point is that your competitor had a good idea that you made better. Your content is fresh, relevant and fun.

Pictures Tell a Compelling Story

Your blog can use words sparingly. If you set your blog up on Pinterest, you can primarily use images with short descriptions. Pinterest is broken into categories, so by posting to “Collectable” you are already in an area where your blog will be seen. A good way to promote your Pinterest account is to invite others to post images of their collectibles to your board. Folks who do this will likely link to your Pinterest board by Twitter, a Facebook posting or a Google+ mention. In the interest of self-promotion, your blog should also call the above three additional sites home — or at least have pages that link to your blog. Explore these four sites to determine how to best place your blog for the best visibility.

Fresh, Relevant and Original

Blog content must always be fresh. You do not need to post every day, but frequently enough that visitors do not see the same content headlines for long periods. There is nothing less attractive to a consumer than a business blog with the last entry more than six months ago. We all have seen some blogs that are dying for lack of attention. GoDaddy's Bob Parsons started doing video blogs when he no longer had the motivation to write out blogs. Sometimes a new perspective can give your audience the fresh content they were craving.

Get Help

If you cannot commit to two to three posts each week, you have two options: do not start a blog or hire a content management firm to blog for you. They are cost effective and pretty much manage the entire process for you: from writing and editing to posting and placement. Social media and blogging are great ways to stay in front of current and potential customers. But, make sure that your privacy policy is prominent and that unsubscribing is easy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

TRADE SHOWS: Are ending?

As an exhibitor: Learn how to benefit and maximize your return. 
By Verna Lee

"Lights, Cameras, Action.”

You are not on a movie set.

Rather, you are in the halls of an illustrious trade show—and what a show it is! Looking at the exhibit hall, it is no surprise that you think that you are on the grounds of Universal Studios because many of the booths showcase grandiose sights befitting royal productions.

Companies invest thousands of advertising dollars into the design of their exhibit displays to create lasting and memorable impressions. Videos that resemble miniature movies are produced. Unique gimmicks and innovated, promotional giveaways are featured, and stages are set to lure attendees to their booths. Exhibitors set out to capture your attention and, oftentimes, they do!

Despite all of the pomp and circumstance, the bottom line and overall purpose of the tradeshow is to publicize, promote, unveil, market and showcase a company’s products and services. After all, that is why people go to exhibitor’s row.

Many trade shows provide educational seminars that feature nationally recognized speakers and celebrities. Unquestionably, the residual value and marketing impact are great. It is not surprising that the trade show industry is responsible for billions in transactions and sales annually.

It’s value is set—here are some tips to help your next trade show!

Below are marketing checklists primarily centered on preplanning, executing the plan, delivering the message, and facilitating the results for participating exhibitors. Summarized, it is a “things to do list, and provides an itemized approach for planning and success.

Step One: The Preplanning phase
  Things to do before you leave:

  • Commit and register early.
  • Select the most proficient and experienced team to attend.
  • Take along an adequate supply of business cards, company brochures, and promotional giveaways.
  • Remember that your logo engraved promotional giveaways become your companys walking billboard. Carefully select these items for optimal results.
  • Download the exhibitor directory and strategize beforehand.
  • Do research on companies with which you have limited familiarity.
  • Establish and prepare a "hit list.
  • Target companies to obtain the highest impact.
  • Determine who will host your exhibitor's table and who will prospect; rotate as necessary.
  • Utilize pretrade show marketing strategies by notifying prospective clients that your company will be an exhibitor; provide your booth number and extend an invitation.
  • Pick a prime location that will give your exhibit booth optimal visibility. A corner booth is ideal. Placement near a refreshment / coffee break area also drives traffic. Being located next to a prominent or national, non-competing company can be a bonus and draw additional traffic.
  • Ship the exhibit display and promotional items early preferably utilizing the trade show-shipping vendor so that all items will be delivered to your booth space. The shipping service will ship the items back as well.

Step Two: Executing the plan and delivering the message
Things to do while there

  • Take time to professionally "decorate" your exhibit space and table. Do not exhibit clutter. Place all unnecessary items under the table. An advanced preparatory sketch will produce a professional crafted display that delivers the desirable marketing message.
  • Produce a sophisticated, carefully orchestrated display that draws attention and projects powerful marketing messages. Photographic renderings, graphics, videos and continuous running power point presentations should be maximized.
  • Showcase a professional uniformed look by wearing your company's imprinted logo apparel that will enhance your corporate branding.
  • Wear comfortable shoes because of the long hours, extensive walking and standing.
  • Bring minimal items to the exhibit hall as you will be collecting information for later use.
  • Carry exhibitor directories as they become key informational guides and your exhibit hall road map.
  • Use your ingenuity; sophisticated gimmicks draw attendees to your table.
  • Put on and maintain a happy face at your exhibit display.
  • Employ the fair exchange model before distributing promotional giveaways.
Offer your business card and always ask for theirs.
  • Take a moment to make a notation on received business cards to rekindle your memory for follow up communication, if time permits.
  • Start the marketing dialogue. Invite yourself to visit their company or establish a form of engagement for follow up.
  • Visit your competitors booth. Collect promotional items from other companies. Take mental notes for comparative purposes. Pick up ideas and tips for future planning.
  • Attend selected social events to continue networking.

Step Three: Facilitating the Results
 Things to do after you leave.

  • Develop a detailed objective driven follow up communication system.
  • Remember that each business card represents a valuable contact and a prospective client.
  • Gather your collected business cards as they become your navigational guide for follow up purposes and possible engagement.
  • Place and organize business cards in a portfolio system labeled by the event.
  • Assemble your business cards by designated categories in terms of the importance of prospective clients.
  • Develop a tracking system by using specialized marketing software or an excel spreadsheet to capture basic information.
  • Personalize your communications if possible. Do reference a comment from your business card notations, if available.
  • Communicate initially by email. Follow up by telephone. Send a qualifying document, capability statement and a company brochure. If email personalization is not possible, use a form letter that it is succinct and well written.
  • Continue communications aimed at developing a “preferred client relationship.
  • Be persistent. Remember that you are in a numbers game until you differentiate yourself.

The “Value Added” Touches -
Step Four: Things to do and continue year around:

  • Seek to highlight members of your team as featured speakers at upcoming trade shows and conferences.
  • Keep reinventing your exhibit booth until you make it a state of the art display. Evaluate your current promotional items in terms of effectiveness; eliminate and upgrade your lineup accordingly.
  • Stay current by investigating the latest innovations, such as the Quick Response (QR) Codes, the new wave of the future for trade shows.
  • Determine marketing to sale effectiveness and return on investment.
  • Learn, grow, regroup, and improvise. Then, head to the next show.

Step Five: Things to do that will give your company extra publicity:
  • Consider sponsoring an event at the trade show.
  • Participate in raffles and gift drawings.
  • Advertise in trade show announcements.
  • Seek to be featured on trade show websites and magazines.

In conclusion, I must confess that I was “bitten by the trade show bug” while attending the 2012 National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Denver. It happened at the Office Max booth. I did not go to their booth to examine paper stock or view electronic equipment. Instead, I ventured over to their display to have my photo taken with President Obama. Make no mistake, the President was not there but with the ingenuity of photography, I was photographed next to him. I stood in the line like everyone else to have my photograph taken with our 44th President. Proudly displayed in my office is a photograph of President Obama and me! Thank you, Office Max!

Vernalee is President of Lee Enterprises Ltd.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, Ms. Lee is also an external marketing/business development consultant for McTech Corp. Her specialties are Marketing, Human Resources, and Retail consulting.  She has written numerous articles for trade magazines, local newspapers, and journals. She can be reached at