Feature Articles: Business Sense

The holidays are past, the New Year is officially in full swing and trade show season is upon us. Trade shows are great for getting out in front of buyers, networking with industry peers and writing orders. For all the benefits, however, there is a cost. The financial investment, not to mention the time away from the office, can put a strain on a business. Choosing the right shows, making the most of your time there and seeing a positive return on your financial investment can make or break a marketing budget. Following are some tips for determining which shows make the most sense for your business, ideas for maximizing your presence and strategies for ensuring a good show.

We are a nation of people who want what we want when we want it. American consumerism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GPD (Gross Profit Dollars) and nearly one-fifth of that worldwide. Our shopping habits carry quite the impact. That being said, when these buying habits begin to shift (as they currently are), businesses who want to remain relevant will happily shift with them.

Have you ever heard of the Snuggie®? How about Pillow Pets™? Chances are not only have you heard of these products; you probably have one in your home! The Snuggie® boasts sales in excess of $100 million; quite impressive since the brand has only been around for a few years. Pillow Pets™, on the other hand, have been around a little longer —about 7 years— and look to be one of the must have items for Christmas this year. What’s so appealing about these products? How are they thriving while so many other businesses are struggling? More importantly, what lessons can we glean to share in this success? The short answer: advertising.

Have you ever made a purchase without first looking to see how much the item cost? Most of us need to know the price before approaching the checkout counter, if for no other reason than to decide if we feel the item is worth its cost. Our willingness to pay is dependent upon a number of factors: our expectations of price based upon our knowledge of similar items, our perceptions of value based upon visual cues from the packaging and merchandising, and finally our knowledge or previous experience with the brand. Pricing is a challenging task. Maximizing revenue without deterring purchases is the goal of anyone who’s selling something.

Do you tweet? Have you updated your status on Facebook®? How many people are in your LinkedIn network? Have no clue what I’m talking about? No worries! I’m about to give you a crash course in the recent communication phenomena referred to as social media. Essentially, social media is the convergence of people online connecting with each other, sharing common thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. As individuals, we like to make decisions based upon our beliefs. As a business owner, you can benefit by getting in on the conversations that make up social media.

Retailers come in all shapes and sizes from the specialty boutique with those hard to find unique items to nationwide mass retailers who will sell a thousand units of the same product in a day. Knowing how to talk to each, and do so effectively, will greatly impact the results of the pitch. The keys to a successful pitch include: having a realistic and clear understanding of what you have to offer, demonstrating a respect and insight into the retailers needs, and finally having the business acumen to make your case illustrating the benefits you bring to the table.

In today’s brave new world where social media appears to dominate, advertising through traditional means is still a viable strategy for creating brand awareness and selling product. Of course, the ad must be executed well to be effective. The average American is exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of marketing messages each and every day. Therefore, creating an ad that will “break through the clutter” can be a daunting task. Understanding the anatomy of an effective advertisement will increase the probability for achieving these objectives: getting noticed, being memorable and persuading action.

It can be a company’s worst nightmare when a consumer is indifferent with respect to their product. If there’s nothing compelling to convince consumers to choose between one product over another, price or possibly the flip of a coin may decide the purchase. Branding instills confidence, manages expectations and is the foundation for establishing loyalty. Consumers seek out established brands, which in turn motivates retailers to seek out these brands to sell in their stores.

In marketing, perception is reality. Ironically, the perception of marketing is nothing like the reality. Marketing is one of the most underestimated and misrepresented activities in the business world. It’s often seen as superfluous and expensive. It’s often confused with sales and/or assumed it’s synonymous with advertising. Finally, it’s assumed that initiatives need to be tracked in order to justify each individual investment. In reality, marketing is one of the most important activities a business can conduct.