Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Trade Show

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There’s nothing like a trade show to get a new perspective on your industry and your customers. And while nobody will claim that getting successful results is a breeze, you can take advantage of some proven trade show tips to ease the way toward a better experience for everyone involved.

Grab Attention — Now!

Think about the environment of the trade show floor: booths all over, music and crowd noises, people walking by. This means you have maybe five seconds, tops, to grab the attention of passersby.

Your booth’s messaging; graphics and overall design will contribute to the success of your trade show.

  • Keep the in-booth text to a minimum — about 90 percent of written material will never get read anyway.
  • Promote one benefit statement, and make it a game-changer; something your competitors couldn’t claim. If you can keep the message under seven words, even better.
  • Use supplemental signage only to advertise here-and-now events and offers: a schedule of presentations, a grand prize drawing, an invitation to a luncheon or workshop, or an appearance by a notable figure in your industry. Save the overall sales pitches for your follow-up contact.
  • If you have the space, rent some comfy chairs to scatter around your display. At best, you’ll get a captive audience to see your booth; at worst, you’ll have the gratitude of attendees weary of schlepping.

People Love Free Stuff

No two ways about it. Something as simple as a candy dish at your booth or table will get the instant-gratification crowd stopping in, but the more you up the ante, the more traffic you can expect. Folks in the trade show business refer to promotional items as “trinkets and trash,” and some people merely call them “tchotchkes,” but the outcome is the same. Giving away stuff gets attention.

Popular tchotchkes include affordable standbys like pens, tote bags (stuffed with your sales literature) and lanyards. If you have something significant to promote — a new product or even your company’s logo — consider branded hats, T-shirts and lightweight drink containers.

The better the item, the more you should expect in return. Create a lead-generating contact form in print or online for attendees to complete, or save the giveaways until after an in-booth presentation.

Consider the Needs or Interests of Your Crowd

  • Are you exhibiting in Orlando in August? Give a battery-powered handheld fan.
  • Does your trade show play to a family audience? Give kid-friendly items that parents will want to take home.
  • Are you in among a “green” audience? Emphasize that your freebies are made from recycled materials.

Then there’s the heavy artillery: grand-prize items like an iPad or an AmEx gift certificate. A drawing at the trade show for a high-value prize can net you tons of leads, which you can follow up on later. Remember, though: By law, prize drawings must be random and “no purchase necessary” to enter and win; a purchase must not increase chances of winning.

Hit the Floor

Ideally your booth is manned by at least two, and preferably more, representatives. During the day, get someone out on the floor. This serves two purposes:

  1. Your rep can strike up impromptu conversation with attendees, and maybe give away some tchotchkes in the process;
  2. Your rep can get details on what your competitors are doing at their booth

Be a Business Guru

For you and your reps still at the booth, engaging visitors begins with a warm greeting. To that end, never ignore people standing by, even if you’re busy with other visitors. A quick smile and an “I’ll be right with you” can mitigate the risk of walk-offs.

Having made an acquaintance, follow your visitor’s line of dialog in conversation. Perhaps he’s interested in a product on display — let him get a hands-on demo if possible. But not all visitors are interested in the sale. You may have to earn the right to make a sales speech, so start your conversation at a higher level, talking about your industry and the customer’s needs.

Find Out Where the “Pain” is for the Visitor

  • What’s been their biggest challenge?
  • What would they like to achieve?

Once you have a handle on the visitor’s issues, then you can recommend a solution. If the potential customer is still hesitant, offer to follow up later.

How to Use Facebook to Build Your Customer Base

Make Sure You're Aware of This Important Tax Information

A 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost $3 million; not exactly chump change. Granted, that 30-second ad had the potential to reach an expected 110 million viewers worldwide; but what is interesting is that, this year, Super Bowl advertisers were not as focused on the immediate marketing impact of their ads as they were on using them as teasers to draw viewers into interactive Facebook and Twitter conversations.

The power of social media to connect with consumers, drive brand recognition and build customer base is changing the way businesses connect with consumers. Social media marketing capitalizes on the same type of good will and loyalty that people afford their friends to convert casual site visitors into product consumers. Using special promotions, contests, surveys, games, videos, polls and wall dialogues on their Facebook page, businesses develop a friendly, accessible, interactive relationship with potential customers. In effect, Facebook humanizes your business, transforming it from a faceless, corporate “it” into “one of the guys,” someone consumers can trust and count on and want to do business with.

As casual as this business-consumer relationship may seem, it is important to differentiate between a personal Facebook page and a business Facebook page, also called a fan page. Your business fan page should focus exclusively on your products and brand. Because Facebook requires accounts to be tied to a personal email, it’s smart to open a separate email account for this purpose to keep your business and personal lives separate. Access settings on your Facebook business page should also be adjusted to prevent access to any personal information.

The Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” promotion is an excellent example of how interactive Facebook promotions build brand recognition and excitement. Doritos was a fading brand in 2007 when it first invited consumers to create their own Doritos commercials, then allowed Facebook fans to vote for their favorites, and aired the top vote-getter during the Super Bowl. Since then, the annual promotion has drawn thousands of entries (5,000 this year), driven hundreds of thousands of fans to Doritos’ Facebook fan page, generated months of positive brand buzz, and made Doritos the best-selling tortilla chip in the U.S.

Savvy business owners know that to sell a product you have to take your pitch to the consumer. Today, that means social media, and Facebook is where the action is. Facebook boasts 500 million active users, 50% of whom log onto Facebook daily. The average American Facebook user spends about 15 minutes a day on Facebook, more than double the amount of time spent on all other web programs. Advertising your product where it can get that kind of attention at zero cost –Facebook is free — is a marketing asset you can’t afford to ignore. The real beauty of social media marketing, however, is that each consumer contact has the potential to explode exponentially as fans share “liked” sites with their friends. According to Facebook, the average Facebook user has 130 friends. If just one visitor to your Facebook page shares a link to your site with his friends, traffic to your site can mushroom quickly.

You don’t have to be a corporate behemoth to put social media to work for your business. Facebook is ideal for small business owners. It’s free, business pages are easy to set up and there are hundreds of optional applications available to handle Facebook’s more sophisticated features. Social media has the power to take your business to a whole new level and it won’t cost you a cent. If your business isn’t on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for?

Could the Price Changes for FEDEX and UPS Drive More Customers to the USPS?

California and Massachusetts Fulfillment Services

For several years, the United States Post Office (USPS) has struggled to remain a viable mailing and shipping option. Email and the Internet have steadily eroded first-class mail, its most profitable segment, while FedEx and UPS have cornered the package delivery business. Ironically, a significant portion of the shipping done through the USPS comes from its two private sector rivals.

FedEx and UPS both move a significant portion of their ground shipping business through the USPS. UPS won’t reveal actual numbers, but the post office delivers approximately 2.2 million packages per day for FedEx, which accounts for 30 percent of its total ground business. The good news is that the USPS desperately needs this increased volume. The bad news is that it’s taking its toll on an antiquated, overtaxed system.

Contracted shipping, by these two mammoth shippers, to the USPS falls under the umbrella of the post office’s Parcel Select service, which is designed to accommodate extraordinary high volume resources. Parcel Select accounts for about one-third of the USPS’s annual package-delivery volume, with a staggering 500 percent growth between 2009 and 2013 for a current total of 1.29 billion packages. Projections call for a healthy 12 percent growth next year.

Parcel Select, started in 2008, is incorporated in the less expensive two- to seven-day services of FedEx (Smartpost) and UPS (Surepost). These two companies move the packages across the bulk of the distance then sort them by ZIP code and take them to the local post office for final delivery. This final leg of the process is the most costly because it involves multiple stops to deliver single packages at each and FedEx and UPS are glad to do the handoff as a cost saving action.

The huge volume of business and dire financial straits of the USPS have many people wondering if the post office is undercutting itself by not charging enough for Parcel Select. UPS is even questioning whether or not the USPS is unfairly cross-subsidizing other services to keep prices down.

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe dismisses criticism of the Parcel Select pricing, saying that the delivery stops are being made anyway so there’s no appreciable increase in labor or costs. He has also stated that the USPS’s goal is to more than double its package delivery business in the next few years, seeing that as the area with the most potential for growth.

However, the post office is already starting to show signs that it may not be well-equipped to handle this surge. The agency was formed in 1775 as a way to handle correspondence during the Revolutionary War and has remained first and foremost a service to handle letters. When it comes to package delivery, the USPS is light years behind UPS and FedEx in terms of sophisticated technology, continuing to do many functions manually.Our new warehouse location.

In addition, almost three-quarters of the post office’s vehicles are more than 20 years old. Donahoe has plans to invest $10 billion in much-needed improvements over the next four years, but given the depleted coffers it’s a bit murky as to where this money will come from. The Postal Service exhausted its $15 billion credit limit with the Treasury Department back in 2012, so Donahoe is hoping for help from a proposed Congressional bill that would allow some flexibility in finances.

The USPS is at a serious crossroads with its Parcel Select service. If it misjudges its ability to effectively handle the business, it will create a domino effect putting all its other functions in jeopardy. Additionally, with the pending rate calculation changes scheduled to go into effect at UPS and FEDEX the United States Postal Service’s shipping options for businesses are looking like a deal, but can the USPS step up to take on the increase load?

Taking Care of Business While You’re On Vacation – Cool Things to Check Out

Tech Tips for Vacation from Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics

Like it or not, your work may be going with you on summer vacation this year.

Don’t get us wrong – a little R&R is vital to your physical and mental well-being. If you can completely detach yourself from the office or the warehouse and enjoy your time off, more power to you.

But by the same token, you’re not going to relax very easily if you spend your vacation time fretting over missing vital messages or constantly phoning in to stay apprised of new order-fulfillment opportunities.

Aware of this conundrum, technology providers have graciously stepped up to create devices, data plans, programs and apps that help you manage your business and your email from wherever you are. They go a step beyond texting and Skype to deliver some rather cool options.

Summer business tips for keeping up while chilling out

Whether you’re hitting the road or hanging out at home, you can enjoy some time away from the workplace without worrying about falling behind. You may find the answer in free apps, or opt to pay a monthly surcharge or subscription rate – but you may discover that the investment pays off in peace of mind.

The Choices Are All Yours

Single-number convenience
If you’re the kind of manager who gets tons of voicemails, there’s no need to subject your fellow vacationers to the sound of a fulfillment or shipping challenge being addressed. Free – at least until the end of 2012 – Google Voice is an app that delivers phone and texting from the same number and, even cooler, voicemail transcription. This means Google Voice lets you download your voicemail and read it like email. The app also boasts of “cheap international calls” outside North America.

Computer access programs
Stuck on the tarmac? Ditch the Skymall magazine and catch up with the folks back home. GoToMyPC is a screen-sharing subscription program that uses the Internet to connect your mobile device (laptop, netbook, tablet or smartphone) to the computer back home. Available in different pricing tiers for individual and multiple users, this program enables full access to the “host” computer, from email to documents to downloads – you can even transfer files between devices. Just remember to keep your work computer running and connected online before you leave, and GoToMyPC will do the rest.

Windows Live Mesh does GoToMyPC one better – it’s free. This app also recreates the host-computer experience, though you do need to have Windows Vista or Windows 7 or above. You’ll also need Internet Explorer downloaded on your computer to make it work – remember that if you’re tied to Firefox or some other browser.

Personal WiFi
The days of ducking into a McDonald’s or parking behind a Panera Bread to score some need-it-now WiFi are over. Now you can tote your personal WiFi hotspot in your pocket with a data-plan-enabled mobile phone. A variety of hardware and software options – at varying price points – can attach your phone to your laptop or tablet and enjoy Internet access anywhere. Just remember to carry a charger with you – WiFi functions are notorious battery-suckers on phones.

If your spouse and kids are similarly tied to the Internet, you can keep everyone happy on vacation using portable devices. Verizon’s Mobile Hotspot connects up to five phones, tablets, game systems, laptops and other devices simultaneously, while Droid Razr Maxx is a tiny powerhouse that fuels up to seven devices and frees you from the slow access and annoying service charges of hotel and airport WiFi.

Email folders
You use email folders at home; now you can use them anywhere. Creating email folders on your smartphone or tablet takes little time and goes a long way toward helping you organize your communications while away from the workplace. Most plans work with the most popular mail servers, like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Microsoft Exchange. If you have the iPhone 4, Siri will even transcribe and send your email for you.

It’s Your Time

You earned your summer vacation – make it a meaningful one. With robust technology at the ready, you can keep up at your convenience, return to the warehouse rested, ready – and without millions of emails and voicemails waiting to bury you.

Why You Need and How to Get a Federal Employer Identification (EIN) Number

Why Do You Need an EIN?

If you own and operate a business, you may be required to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) and should consider doing so even if not required. Commonly referred to as a federal tax ID number, an EIN is like a social security number for your business. Just as your social security number is used to identify you as a unique individual by government, financial and other institutions, an employer identification number is used to identify a business as a unique entity by government, financial, tax and regulatory agencies. Obtaining and using an EIN to identify your business to the Internal Revenue Service and the various federal agencies that regulate businesses is a smart way to separate and differentiate between your personal and business obligations and liabilities.

Issued by the IRS as a tax identification number, an EIN is a unique identifier assigned and tied to the individual owner of a specific business. EINs are used by employers, sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, non-profits, government agencies and certain other business entities. By using an EIN to identify their business, sole proprietors who have been using their social security number as both a personal and business identifier can create an important layer of legal separation and privacy between their personal and business affairs. Using an EIN rather than a social security number for business transactions prevents access to the personal information tied to your social security number.

An EIN provides the additional benefit of creating a continuous business identity even if the name, focus or location of your business changes. This allows business owners to capitalize on tax, financial or regulatory advantages developed in previous years. As long as business ownership and operating status do not change, your EIN follows your business through the inevitable cosmetic and directional changes that accompany the definition and growth of a business. You can use the same EIN even if you change the name or address of your business or add additional locations. However, because an EIN is issued to the specific owner of a business and not to the business itself, a change in ownership necessitates obtaining a new EIN. A new EIN must also be obtained if the status of your business changes; for instance, if you incorporate your business or take on partners and begin operating as a partnership. A new EIN is also required when a business files for bankruptcy or establishes a profit sharing or retirement plan.

Despite its name, you do not need to be an employer to obtain an employer identification number. You are required to obtain an EIN if your business operates as a corporation or partnership or you offer taxable products or services, collect sales tax, have employees, withhold taxes on income, have a Keogh plan or file any type of federal tax return. However a business owner can apply for an EIN even if not required and will generally find it to his advantage. An EIN is required on income tax forms, employment tax reports, social security records and tax payments and is required to apply for a business license. Most banks also require an EIN to open a business account.

The application procedure is simple and painless. While you can apply for an EIN by contacting your local IRS office and filling out form SS-4, online application is fast and easy. Available at, the EIN application form can be completed online. As soon as you complete the online application, you will receive your EIN and can begin using it immediately. Make certain you download, save and print the EIN confirmation page. Because it takes about two weeks from the date of issuance for a new EIN to be fully integrated into the IRS data base, business owners must wait two to three weeks before filing electronic returns or making electronic payments. The EIN is a federal identification number. While many states also use the federal EIN, some require state identification numbers.