Sprucing Up For a Trade Show

Mining the SBDC

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on August 25, 1999. All rights reserved.

On Line Strategies: How to Catch Up

Be prepared for an onslaught of ads and commercials

this fall touting Internet companies, says the Wall Street Journal,

attributing the image-building to a pent-up supply of companies

seeking

funds in initial public offerings.

But if all the hype makes you think that your company has missed the

Internet bandwagon, think again, Tom Knight, principal at the

global management firm Sibson & Company, which has an office at 504

Carnegie Center (609-520-2700). "Faced with an ever-growing list

of questions about how to leverage the Internet, many managers are

increasingly reluctant, or at the very least perplexed, about how

to sell over the Internet," says Knight.

But, he adds, the key to transition is well within reach. Businesses

need to reacquaint themselves with their customers, learn what they

want, and re-deploy sales resources in a way that creates more value

to the company. To break into E-Commerce, Knight urges management

to take the following steps:

Choose the ideal product to sell via E-channels. "One

of the biggest initial challenges of E-commerce is determining which

products to offer and which customers to serve over the Web,"

says Knight. First, understand customer purchasing preferences. Then

come up with the cost to serve each segment via current channels,

and compare that to an estimate for serving this segment via

E-commerce.

Re-define sales roles and re-size the sales force. "A

lot of companies miss this opportunity," says Knight.

"E-commerce

affords most sales forces with significant freedom from transaction

processing and customer service-related follow-up." Decide which

services would provide additional value to the customer, and then

decide what skills your sellers need.

New roles mean you may not need as many sales people as before.

Determine

how many accounts each seller can cover, and which offer the most

growth.

Provide incentives for sales efforts and strategic

marketing

using E-commerce applications.

Use the Web to provide customers with an "experience,"

not just a product .

"As Web surfers know, all good Internet

sites create a `reason to return’," says Knight.

"Unfortunately

in the world of E-commerce, the equation is not so simple; not only

must the site be enjoyable, but it also must allow customers to do

business the way they want to do it." Websites therefore need

to be integrated and "customer-facing."

Prepare your production department to be ready for warp speed

demand .

"Many managers start E-channels because they allow

companies to get into business fast, but they fail to realize that

faster order capture also means geometrically faster delivery,"

says Knight. Information and production systems should be prepared

for the demand, or you stand to lose interested customers.

Research the Web to see how your prices compare

because

that’s exactly what your customers are doing. Set up a price

monitoring

system and decide if discounts should be offered on certain products.

Exploit new opportunities

that the Web enables, listen

to customers, monitor your profit margins, and move quickly. "If

you wait too long," he says, "you’ll be passed up by an

up-start."

Top Of Page
Sprucing Up For a Trade Show

Bringing your mildewed exhibition booth out of storage

is a good way to kick off the trade show season, but John

Punyko,

an independent sales and marketing consultant (215-757-5644) with

Pre-Paid Legal Services, says that companies should not stop there.

"All too often trade shows are a total waste of time for the

exhibitors,"

he says. "Companies send in their registration form, grab some

freebees to give away, select a trinket for their fish bowl, draft

some booth staff, get the tired old booth out of storage, and show

up 30 minutes before the show opens. After the show they are surprised

and often complain that they didn’t get any business."

A handful of business cards, in other words, is not worthy of your

time. This year, come back with solid contacts. It takes careful

planning,

diligence, and a touch of style, says Punyko, but here are some tricks

of the trade show — possibly useful for the nearly 80 companies

signed up to exhibit at the Princeton Chamber and U.S. 1 business

showcase next Thursday, September 2, at the Doral Forrestal:

Develop a concrete objective that takes into account the

demographics and resources of the company. More business is not

an objective. "Three new clients, $5,000 in new sales, and five

appointments with qualified people is," says Punyko.

Create a time line that states the firm’s objectives

relative

to trade show appearances . The time line should include benchmarks

and objectives for dates leading up to the show.

Personally invite those companies or individuals you most

want to attend . "Don’t expect the show’s advertising to bring

the right people to your booth," says Punyko. "All

advertising,

including newspapers, magazines, and direct mail should tell people

to visit you at the show."

Practice.

Try role playing with staff, or attend a sales

seminar.

Choose the staff to man the booth carefully. Only

employees

should work the booth, says Punyko, and never leave it unattended.

Leave behind the promotional trinkets, like pens and other

toys . Instead "give deep discounts on something directly

related

to your product or service," says Punyko. Keep the literature

slim and don’t use the television set medium unless you are in the

appliance or TV distributor business.

Have follow-up material ready in advance so hot leads

don’t get cold. "If you have a staff back at your office, lists

can be telephoned, faxed, or E-mailed several times each day,"

he says. The sad truth: "Most business cards collected at the

show will never be contacted."

Never underestimate the value of a fresh-looking booth.

"Determine what image you wish to project, and make sure your

booth is consistent," says Punyko. "Great trade show results

are not an accident; they require hard work."

Top Of Page
Mining the SBDC

Gourmet Junkfood: contradiction or marketing strategy?

For Loretta Kaminsky, owner of Lou-retta’s Custom Chocolates

Inc. in Buffalo, this clever oxymoron meant selling her

chocolate-laced

popcorn and gold-dusted pretzels at Saks rather than Sam’s. She

credits

the Small Business Development Center for helping her do it. "For

a person starting a business to be able to sit down with knowledgeable

people who can help you get a loan, get a marketing plan, find the

real estate, that’s amazing," she says.

Fifteen years later, Kaminsky is on the SBDC’s national advisory board

and a member of New York State SBA. She tells her tale at

"Millennium

Management: Practical Advice to Grow Your Business," a

teleconference

sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners,

on Monday, August 30, at 7:30 p.m. The teleconference is being

broadcast

at the Edward Jones office at 301 North Harrison Street. Call

609-497-4533

or 800-441-1384 to reserve a seat. For more information on a nearby

Small Business Development Center, call 800-8-ASK-SBA.

"I tell these women how to do it the right way, because I did

it the wrong way," says Kaminsky, who has a BA in education from

University of Buffalo, Class of 1958. Kaminsky taught kindergarten

for 20 years before a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1972, and

subsequent

double mastectomy, got her business up and running. "That was

my wake-up call to life," she says. "It may sound hokey, but

once you’ve had a life altering experience like that you say `I’m

not going out of here until everyone knows that I was here.’ I’m a

25-year survivor."

She started from her home by making desserts and unique chocolates,

like a three-dimensional stemmed rose, and sold them to grocery stores

and beauty salons. Then the SBDC stepped in. "We were making `one

of a kind’ chocolate with a melter and selling it out in front,"

she recalls, "and of course what these consultants taught us is

no wonder I wasn’t making any money." The SBDC helped Kaminsky

put together a business plan, marketing strategy, and get financial

backing at time when banks were hesitant to lend to women. "The

obstacles for a woman in business are always 20 times greater than

for a man in business," says Kaminsky who, as it happens, now

supervises a factory that is run entirely by women.

Then came the tasty offers from big chain stores. "I am approached

constantly by mass markets," she says, "and believe me it’s

very appealing when they say I’ll take two truck loads. It’s so easy

to be wooed in other directions and that’s how people go under. They

try to be too many things to too many people."

Lou-retta’s Custom Chocolates (which also sells corporate and holiday

gifts like gourmet popcorn, $24, and pretzels, $5, with personalized

labels, http://www.louretta.com) has also survived the transition

to the E-commerce era, Y2K compliance, and, earlier, this year a

collapsed

roof in her factory. The secret to her business’s longevity:

First walk and then exhibit at trade shows. "A lot

of people have called me and I tell them just to walk trade shows

before they even consider opening a business," she says. "Once

you see what’s there you go back to the drawing board and say: `What

can I do that can make me unique?’ Once you have a handle on one

little

niche that can make you different, you put together your business

plan and marketing plan and go after it."

For small businesses, the trade show has an extra advantage: "You

can be in a booth that’s 10 by 10 and you are on an equal playing

field with the Godivas of the world. That is a wonderful way for a

small business to be seen in every market."

Resist being everything to everyone. "You have to

make the decision: who do I want to sell to," she says. "Price

clubs came to us and wanted to sell our product at a very discounted

prices but they were not willing to take my product in a different

packaging. My daughter and I decided not to do it."

Stick to the business plan and be true to the product.

"This is what we want to do, this is how we see ourselves,"

she says. Even if it takes time, stick to it. "So maybe we didn’t

grow as fast as we wanted to grow, but I’m still here 15 years

later,"

she says.

Build mouthwatering web pages. "Get them hungry,"

is Kaminsky’s motto.

That’s the key for any business, certainly, but for people

dealing

specifically in food goods, Kaminsky offers a few extra words of

advice:

fat/sugar free (an exploding market) and tasting samples. "Anyone

who tastes it buys," she says.

"Organization is the number one thing," she adds. "It’s

not a 9 to 5 job. It could be 14 hours a day. But there’s nothing

more rewarding in the world than to be your own boss. It’s very much

like, for a woman, having a baby. You watch this baby grow."

— Melinda Sherwood


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