SF University Session Recap – Events and Trade Shows: Tips for 2023

February 24, 2023 / Career & Networking

Events and trade shows provide an opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services, interact with potential customers, generate leads, and build brand awareness. Our recent SF University session took a look at the latest in promotional items and displays and how you can take advantage of the right branded materials to attract customers and prospects as well as how to promote your event and ensure you get to network with your target audience. 

Watch the video below for a full recap of this session to learn how you can make your next event, conference, or trade show a success. When you’re ready to get your planning underway, contact our experts at info@strategicfactory.com or 443.548.3500, and we’ll help you through the entire process to make sure you’re event-ready.



Speakers in order of appearance: Bobby Cardoni (Strategic Factory), Jon Beyer (Imagen Brands), Eric Campbell (Orbus Exhibit & Display Group), Jaime Herand (Orbus Exhibit & Display Group), Anton Smoot (Strategic Factory), Kaitlyn Conner (Strategic Factory)


SF University Session Recap

[Transcript Start]

Bobby Cardoni: So I’ll give you brief overview of Strategic Factory. We’ve been in business for over 20 years. We are a single-point provider for printing, direct mail, signage, vehicle graphics, branded apparel, promotional products, creative services, and marketing and digital services. Today, focusing on events and trade shows, we kind of talk about how all of these things can be useful, and you can make them work for you and to your benefit, whether you’re attending a trade show, exhibiting at a trade show, sponsoring a trade show, or putting on a trade show. 

We have a couple of presenters today. Anton Smoot, he is our sales manager for promotional products and apparel. He’s had 25 years in marketing experience, and he enjoys meeting with clients and identifying their needs, creating plans, and proposing the right solutions. So that’s what we’re, we’re a solutions-driven companies. We want to make sure, you know, we just don’t want you to walk out with anything that’s not going to help you achieve your goals. Kaitlyn Conner is a marketing account manager. She manages marketing efforts for companies. She helps identify how you can use, how you can market your business, whether it’s digitally, whether it’s through promotional products, whether it’s through signage. And she helps drive conversions through organic and paid acquisition channels. With Jon Beyer from IMAGEN Brands, don’t hold this against him, he’s from Philadelphia, and he’s an Eagles fan. But you know, Cowboys, they had a rough few months, but we’re in turnaround he says the basketball season and said that they…

Guest: Phillies.

Bobby Cardoni: Phillies 

Guest: All about the Phillies

Bobby Cardoni: There you go. But he’s going to be talking to you about promotional products and branded items that you can use at your trade shows and just with your marketing internally and externally.

With Eric Campbell, the Northeast Territory manager for Orbus Exhibit and Display Group, they are suppliers of all of the trade show setups and booths and tents and light-up signs, and they can help you determine what the best setup you’re going to have at your trade show will be. Eric comes down from New Jersey today, so we’re happy to have him here.

And finally, we have Jaime. She is also from Orbus Exhibit and Display Group, and she comes from Chicago. So they made a long journey to be here to present to you. So on that note, I am going to hand things over to Jon, and we’ll get things started. So, take it away. 

Jon Beyer: Thank you, everybody. Again, Jon Beyer from Philadelphia. I tell that to people, and they wish me condolences, but somebody gave me this today, and I was like, thank you. So you don’t like it? Well, well, tough. I’m here. and I can tell you where the best cheesesteak is in the city, where to avoid, how to see the Liberty Bell without waiting in line. So I’m talking about events and trade shows.

It’s great, you all said you’re doing trade shows this year, hosting events. We’re coming out of the COVID world. We’re not done with it, or it’s not done with us. But we are seeing more of that growing. Trade shows do have a history of going back to the 1800s. Agricultural fairs were the start of it. They got people from different areas to see what was going on because back then, people in different towns didn’t know anybody like they do now. They didn’t have the internet, social media, or transportation. So the good thing is this is expanded. Right now, there are 6,900 trade shows, conferences, and planning businesses in the U.S.A. That’s an increase of 5.9%. So that means it’s growing. Like I said, trade shows are a modern version of these early fairs. But basically, if there was a better format, I think somebody would have thought of it by now. And there’s not one. And we keep talking about like, what else would we do? But events, trade shows, and engagement is really the key to these days. And it’s a part of the big picture, including social media and things like that. Then with trade shows, again, it’s a $21.7 billion industry. The  promotional products industry itself is over 25 billion, and this is going—now we are past pre-COVID numbers. And again, the industry is growing. A lot of the stats people don’t know is they think people come, look around. But 50% of the people at trade shows are there for the first time, 46% of the show attendees are in executive or upper management roles. 45% of trade show visitors only attend one exhibit a year. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

So a lot of these stats, you’re going to see, people have buying authority, and 77% of executives find at least one new supplier. So some people say like you’re always looking at trade shows like, what’s my ROI? I bet you don’t know right then and there, but you’re going to see it after the fact. The other thing is 74% of trade show attendees believe engaging with an exhibitor makes them more likely actually to buy the product. 34% of exhibitors believe promotional giveaways are the most effective method for attracting visitors. 30% of attendees will wear or use swag items they receive. It’s pretty big. 85% of the exhibitor’s success in a trade show is dependent on the performance of the staff. I always like to do that because they say 80% of life is showing up, well, the other 20% is what you do there. You better have the right 20% with it because you bring the wrong people your first impression is not a good one. And then 57% of American consumers have kept the promotional product or swag item for five years. 40%, more than ten. 72% of people say that brand’s reputation is reflected in the quality of the promo they receive. And 62% of marketers say branded items increase brand visibility. People ask me what I do. My wife would say Jon sells swag or tchotchkes. I actually sell solutions. My solutions are hard goods. Now they’re not for everybody, and it’s a big piece of a pie. But the point being is saying you need a product under $5 is doing a disservice to yourself as a giveaway without the thought that goes behind it.

So let’s talk about some of the products. T-shirts and apparel: always one of the top ones. But pens, mugs, tumblers, water bottles, bags, these are stuff that’s all around. But certainly these items, especially now with sustainability coming up and everything like that, you’re seeing these products have staying power. So with a lot of these products, you can say, yeah, I have a stainless steel tumbler. It’s true. Do you have the right stainless steel tumbler? Does it say the right message? So some of the trends we’re seeing this year and beginning of the year, I go to a really big trade show and it kind of shows everybody’s product and what’s going on. So sustainability is one of the buzzwords. Games, games, and outdoor events have really been growing, and that’s just due to post-COVID. Now, everybody wants to be outside.

I like to say useful products and then branding and brand consciousness. The whole thing is, are you using the products to send the right message to your customers? So sustainability I got asked the question before. Sustainability could be expensive. It can be. But if you care about sustainability, you’re going to have to pay for it to save the planet. But does it have to be that expensive all the time? Not necessarily. So a lot of times we’re talking things like canvas tote bags and reusable tote bags and things like this, and you can pass these around if you like. I’m saying you can do this or you can do that. It depends what your budget is. So sustainability does not have to cost a ton of money. But if you think people are moving away from plastic bags, now is the time to present bag options or show your product in different bag options. Also, to me, sustainability means not plastic. This is an inexpensive aluminum water bottle. This is reusable. It can be full-color imprint. Something like this. Again for your budget, it can give you that sustainability factor. and having this at the show, but having the right people to tell about the product? 

A lot of times when you do these trade shows, you come up with your people, you better have a half hour or 20 minutes of real prep before this. Who’s your customers? But when you’re thinking about these products, I’m not thinking about them from a price point. If it’s an event, what kind of event is it? Because if it’s an Earth Day event or something else, you might want to spend more money on sustainability, which in this case, you have something like recycled plush toys. People sit there and say, well, what’s a plush toy got to do with my business? 70% of households have at least one type of stuffed animal. So having a recycled animal for the right person with either the bandana or the t-shirt with your logo on it and saying this, can help. I’m not saying it’s the cure-all for everything and sustainability market, but these can help.

The other thing you’ll see is sustainable materials. We came out with a tumbler this year with a bamboo linen straw. It’s reusable. It’s 20 hours, cold, 5 hours hot. Comes in five colors. So again, you can give them a plastic bottle. Do you want to give them a plastic bottle that’s going to end up in a landfill and everybody’s then going to complain, what are we doing? The plant is dying. 

So these types of things you can do, and it also turns things like tumblers. This is a stainless steel tumbler, double copper lined, insulated at 20 hours cold. It’s great. This is the same aluminum tumbler. This cost more than that. But this message, this was done for the Miami boat show. This type of message getting out there? People want to keep this, and it’s going to get more impressions. And the more impressions they get from this type of stuff, the more they’re thinking of you. The more get seen. So giving the right type of product when you do this is key. And the thing is you’re going to work with the people at Strategic Factory about this.

So if you’re coming to them saying, I have an event, you should think about things like where is the event? When’s the event being held? The time of year, who’s the customer, things like that. So they can present you ideas. I send them virtual samples. I sometimes send them spec samples for you guys to see it before you bring an action so you can see the product and be confident talking about it.

The key with sustainability is having multiple options now and being able to present why you have that option. Not just, I have an organic cotton bag. The other thing we talk about is games. So pickleball is the number one growing sport. There is no official pickleball association or pickleball racket or anything like that. I am not telling you this is the be-all-end-all set by any stretch of the imagination. Is pickleball a fad or a trend? Looks like a trend now. From a fad, it’s 5 million people and growing. So for the right event, you give this away, someone’s going to want to try pickleball, maybe go into the sport, but at least is happy to have something like this that is relevant to now. Outdoors is going, so they push pop bubble too. Now that, on the end, if anybody has kids or grandkids, they’ve seen those. That’s a fad. It’s not a trend. I’m hoping it ends soon because I’m tired of showing these things. And one of the guys I work with, he said, I know it’s going away soon. I said, how do you know that? It’s in my eight-year-old’sb giving all hers away. But don’t fear the trend. You know, you want products with staying power, but sometimes you’re going to have a trend product, but you have to know the difference between the fad and the trend.

So I always look at the games as, again, if you’re hosting an outdoor event, if you’re going to an outdoor trade show–games! So we have the ladder ball games and the cornhole games, those are the type of things that you can promote and get people to your booth or to your event. Again, it helps engage them, playing a game, and they have a chance to talk to you because again, these people want to be engaged. They’re here to see you. But once they’re there, you have to give them a reason why to see you. So some of these products can help with that. My personal favorite is useful products. I consider useful products, stuff I get that I would never knock—I won’t say never. I don’t buy for myself, but once I get it, I’m so happy to have it.

And I look at target age. How many people here have cars? Everybody? How many people have cars that are five years old? Anybody? Anybody have a car over ten years old? Average car on the road today is 12 years old. A tire gauge is less than 2 dollars. It’s a useful product. They’re happy to get it. They’ll take more than one. They’re going to use it. So something like that, you can say, but I’m a CPA. What’s that have to do with it? Give me that and tell them that better come over to see you. And if the tires are low, they’ll look before they come to see you can doing their taxes or something like that. I also look at things like this: the desk in a box. This is one of the most products—I look at it. It’s just…something that I’ve done with people who sell to real estate agents, etc. We’re also coming up on outdoors. Outdoor events. There’s an outdoor kit that has sunscreen in it after sunscreen, bug spray, things like that. 

So again, when you come out and say,” I have a budget of giveaways, and I need a product that, you know, your cost could be $5 or less. Okay? Why? You have a budget. I mean, these guys will be happy to spend your money. I’m happy to show you products that cost $1,000. But in reality, for trade shows, you want a product that’s going to resonate, that people are going to be be happy to get, that they’re going to think of you when they get it, that they’re going to come by your booth and something like this is going to give them a reason to talk to you.

So and again, having the staff that can say, “Oh, here’s what this is, not just here.” That makes a big difference in what you’re going to do. And I also do, this is one of my personal favorites, the light up armband. Now, this is for running. Every time we get this way, somebody is like, “oh, my pet has a green leash and I want a green thing to put around them when I walk them at night.” Somebody bought these to use for a New Year’s Eve event. So I look at this thing, you know, I don’t run anymore. I’m old. My knees hurt. But in all reality, there’s more than one way to skin a cat with these trade show giveaways. So like I said, when you’re looking at these things, don’t discount something that you don’t use because the people you’re doing business with might think this outdoor kit, if they’re going to the summer, is the greatest thing to have in their car. And they got it from you, and they have a reason now to talk to you about it. 

And I also do bags, more details. I do have, here with me, the hand warmer now. It’s 70 degrees out today, but here’s what’s funny about this. There’s a big promotion show. I give this away, and it’s a disposable one, but the insert is full color. And I usually get new giveaways twice a year. I gave this to somebody who thought it was the greatest idea. Somebody bought $10,000 worth of these for me. So if you’re hosting an outdoor event, you’re doing construction events, or things like that, these are the kind of things to show. 

Now trade shows are mostly budget-friendly items. When you start doing events, now you’re getting into brand consciousness. A lot of people want their name associated with the brand. I give them a yeti tumbler, Yeti’s the hot item. I give them a Sony speaker. Sony’s known. We can do that too, in terms of things like this: we sell Coleman. Coleman’s my brand. The good thing about Coleman is everybody knows Coleman. Coleman’s a heritage brand. It’s a 100-plus years in business. They know it. I have the tumbler with a bottle opener on the bottom. Some people like that, some people don’t because it promotes drinking. But, personally, you can get anything that promotes drinking. You can also do something like a cooler. Now, are you going to do this a lot? But if you’re doing a giveaway or, again, for the right event, the name brand can give the connotation because a good name brand is associated with your business.

A quality product means your business is quality. But conversely, when I showed you that tumbler, that tumbler I showed you before with the full wrap that’s somewhere out there. That’s not a name brand. I could tell you it’s 24 hours, made on the same plan, she had a year close to. But that tumbler allows you, again, to put a QR code on it and to really do a full impression on it. That kind of branding, even though it’s not a name brand? When I used to sell apparel, everybody wants Nike or Under Armour. You put the swoosh here. Well, guess what? Everybody has a polyester performance polo. You put your name and your logo here too, it gives you the same impression. So the key is with these higher events, bigger events, you do want to do something nicer. You have to think about how it’s being used, and you have to really brand yourself. But if you’re aligning yourself with these brands, it’s a reflection on you. So don’t just think I want the hot brand, because case in point, if that brand has a problem now where it does something socially irresponsible, that’s on you too. 

So as you do that, I also show umbrellas like this is a shed rain umbrella. This shed rain umbrella has a lifetime warranty. Everybody has a lifetime warranty. But this is a really good brand to show that, again, you’re giving them a product that is going to last and they’re backing it up. And then I always show this. This is one of our tumblers that allows a word cloud. So again, you could put inspirational words and the logo on it. And again, it gives you a different presentation look. So the point being is, and we will do, like I said, spec samples. This is what a virtual sample looks like before it goes into production. But the point being is before you start or when you start thinking about the stuff you want or the stuff you’re going to pick out, and again, I always get this question.” Jon, hey, what’s new and what’s hot under $5?” A cup of coffee is hot under $5, almost not even anymore. 

But the point being is when you’re working with Strategic factory, tell them all the information, what the event is, how many people, what time of year, who’s your average customer, what’s your budget and why. And they can present you with multiple options. Not just a pen. Not just a notebook. I am happy to sell $5 notebooks all day, but it’s really bad, the service, if you’re doing it at a construction event or you know, is it going to match what you want? So that’s why I say a lot of these products, it’s more to than just, I have a budget, show me something cool. What’s your message? That’s why these guys are here to help you. That’s why I work with them, to give them ideas, to show your message. Does anybody have any questions? I did such a good job, nobody asks questions. I love it. And I always say that’s why I’m the top guy. 

I appreciate your time today. I’ll be here if anyone has questions. Let me know.

Eric Campbell: Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Eric Campbell. A very nice day. Warm out, right? Let’s see, we’re going to get our other screen up here. I’m going to spend a couple of minutes with you to go over your options for your next trade show or display. Through Strategic Factory, we offer a very wide variety of products that will help you, I guess, to hit on what Jon’s saying, solutions. To find a solution for your next event.

So, through that wide variety of displays that we have, we have a website that’s set up, that’s going to help you with that. Of course, going through your rep or through your friend at Strategic Factory. We have everything from portable displays to modular displays to fabric cover displays to custom, fully custom capable. So these are the things that we were going to go over with you for a couple of minutes, and I’m going to bring Jamie up in a few minutes. So, she’s going to go through some of the product line as well as some of the custom stuff that we do as well. I guess I should not stand in front of screen right? I’m jittery. I can’t stand still.

A lot of what you see when you came into the building today, you saw a lot of displays up here. We have a very wide variety of displays, but some of them are price driven. Some of them are quality driven. Some of them are in between, some of them are specific. So we want to find what you are looking for. What we want to see is: are you working on a budget or are you working on something very specific? Maybe you don’t know what you’re looking for. So we’re going to help you narrow that down. When you go to our website, even if you weren’t with your rep and you just browsing around, our website takes you through the product by category. If you look on the top of the page, you’ll see products by category, and you’ll see a lot of what we have here, portable displays, and you’ll see a whole list of different things that are in that category, whether they’re banner stands or backdrops hanging structures, info centers, all the things that you would need to acquire for your next trade show or next event.

But also fabric structures, module displays, outdoor displays. Your event may be outdoors. We cover that as well for you. All right. When you go to an actual product category here, you know, we were talking about budget for a second. If you’re on a budget or if you’re shopping to buy something specific, if you, for instance, like let’s click on banner stand for a moment. If you go up to the top and click on banner stand, it let’s see, you’re looking for a retractable stand. Does everybody know what a retractable stand is?

So if you’re looking for a retractable stand and you click on that image there, we have filters that guide you. We have filters on the left-hand side of the page, and they say, am I shopping for something wide, am I shopping for something tall, do I need something with a lifetime warranty? Do I need something that I’m going to use once and then get rid of it afterwards? So we try to have something for everybody. 

Alright. So this is going to help guide you. We have criteria over here that also shows you that we are a manufacturer. We’re American-made. Through Strategic Factory, we have American-made products if that’s important to you. We also have an initiative to be green, to make sure there’s recycled materials. And we’re constantly putting out new products, new things to help guide you to solve what you’re looking for for your next event. I’m going to bring Jamie up. I don’t want to spend too much time, but Jamie’s going to have a bunch of slides that are going to show you different products instead of me clicking through all this. She already has a PowerPoint set up, but we have products around the building.

You’ll see a lot of what we have right here is illuminated. We have products outside that have pillowcase-style graphics. We have interesting products that have magnetic qualities to them that allow you to join products together, which is what describes module products. 

So Jamie’s going to talk for a little bit, then we’ll field questions together. Thank you.

Jaime Herand: Hi, good afternoon. I’m Jaime Herand, and I’m going to walk you through some of the examples of projects that we’ve worked on over the last few years and how our products get incorporated into bigger displays. So tradeshows is one avenue that we do a lot of work with. But there are so many different other applications where these products also come into play, whether that’s going to be corporate interiors, a retail store, or an outdoor event.

So we’ll kind of go through some of these different examples. We’ve got a few examples of retail spaces that we’ve done projects for. We do all of our manufacturing in-house. We have metal fabrication where we’re going to create this custom shape. It’s covered in in dye, sublimation, printed fabrics. This one is use of acoustic and plexiglass to kind of give an interesting appearance over the cash wrap and various window treatments and retail stores and beyond that, too. When I talk about interior, some of these are going to be more permanent. So we do a lot of custom application. We have exhibit design, in-house, where somebody might come to us with an idea for the use of a special fabric that is not maybe standard off-the-shelf fabric. We’ll source a special fabric, we’ll create a certain look for a particular environment like this permanent install in a museum.

This is Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The Dr. Pepper Project is pretty cool—all custom printed fabric and aluminum tubing and a pretty amazing structure when it all came together. So one of the other things that I want to cover in terms of corporate interiors and some of the architectural projects, we’ve come out with a new product line in the last few years where we’re taking acoustic boards, and we’re basically turning them into products that help in a corporate environment. We’ve done a lot of restaurants and retail stores where we might start out with a sheet of acoustic material that we’re basically printing and turning it into what looks like it would be. And so, we basically offer a series of stock woodgrain patterns where we can print any of these patterns and turn those patterns into a beam, into some kind of acoustic box, on the wall or the ceiling. So I can pass these around for everybody to take a look. 

One of the other acoustic products that we sell is called a hatch that you see over here. So these might be hanging above tables in a restaurant and in different meeting rooms. I’ve seen them above swimming pools for projects that we’ve done. So a lot of amazing things. And we also stock about 17 various colors that you can print on or just use blank. We can basically carve out or cut in different patterns in the panels. They can be used as dividers in an office space or a restaurant. So the sky’s the limit. You could also do like a full print and turn it into a canvas, which we call our acoustic art boxes. So those are really popular in office spaces. If you want to look, if you have a painting on your office wall, but you want acoustical properties as well, that’s a really good application. We do quite a few of those, and we can really do any size up to the 36×84. And again, this is our basic statement of line. We offer the standard wood grain patterns, different types of stone and concrete textures. We actually just did something with concrete wall where it looks like real concrete, but it’s really just printed acoustic.

So definitely a different way to incorporate textures and patterns with an acoustical property. So moving on to some of our trade show work, so all of these look like custom tradeshow booths and they are. But one of the things I want to point out is that Orbis, we have over a thousand off-the-shelf hanging structures. So we can produce hanging structures in over 15 shapes that can be six feet up to 20 feet in various heights. And if none of those standard shapes and sizes work for what you’re looking for, we also have a custom design team where people will even draw out on a napkin—”Hey, this is a kind of organic fabric structure we’re looking to produce” and we can build that as well. So all of these come with various different graphic options. We can do double-sided pillowcase graphics, single-sided, we can print bottoms, we can backlight these. So really, sky’s the limit in terms of our hanging structure capabilities. So this gets into some of the more custom structures. Like you can see, the Nickelodeon pineapple. Really cool fabric structure. It’s all aluminum and fabric, obviously, custom designed. We’ve got the Toyota logo over here and other various more standard shapes, but really to just give you an idea of the scale that some of these hanging structures can be produced at. 

So the other things that we’re seeing a lot in terms of trade show custom application: people are really starting to incorporate the backlit frames that you see over here. And so a lot of aluminum extrusion people want to light up their graphics. And so we’re seeing people incorporate these into various different types of display. A lot of people are incorporating wood as well. So this Twitter booth is pretty cool. It’s got a lot of wood features, backlit graphics, kind of contour-shaped items as well. It’s a nice combination of the different textures and technologies that we can put together. These are some of the product lines that feed into some of those booths that you were looking at.

We’ve got a vector frame product line where we could do standard 2ftx2ft vector frame up to a custom 20-foot back wall. We have various different types of counter options. If you wanted to do something that is a buttress heavy-duty wood with internal storage, or we have more off the shelf portable counters, kind of like the one that Eric’s got against the wall.

We also have these hybrid kits. This is a really great option for people that are looking for a custom booth that maybe don’t have a design resource or the time frame for a custom booth. So this has been really popular. We sell pre-design 10×10, 10×20, and 20×20 kits and we can turn these around pretty fast. Everything is is pre-engineered. We have graphic templates, set-up instructions, so if you need a tradeshow booth and a really short time frame, and don’t have time to go through that long process, you can basically do something like a hybrid pro kit and end up with a pretty sophisticated looking display. You can add a lot of the different counter accents or kiosks and really customize that as well.

And last is outdoor events. So as we’ve been talking about, this is something that’s been really big, especially with COVID in the last few years. We have a pretty comprehensive outdoor product line. You can see in this event, we have barricade covers, we have the outdoor tents, table throws, and it’s a pretty comprehensive range. We can do pop-up bar counters in a few different sizes. We have a wide range of flags that are either single or double-sided, various different shapes. We offer fully printed tent canopies ranging from 5 feet up to 20 feet and various different this outdoor banner stands, whether that’s a spring back banner, kind of your A-frame with a scrim banner that needs to act like a barricade, or just kind of direct traffic at some of these events.

So a lot of great options to facilitate an outdoor event. And that is all I have. If anybody has any questions or can come back up, we can cover anything needed. Alright.

Anton Smoot: Alright. Hello and welcome.

Kaitlyn Conner: Hold on. Can we first admire this beautiful frog. Isn’t it the most beautiful picture you’ve ever seen?

Anton Smoot: Okay, it’s a green frog.

Kaitlyn Conner: Okay, sorry, keep going. 

Anton Smoot: My name is Anton. And welcome. Some of you I know and some of you I’ve met the first time just recently. Why promo and apparel? I think Jon hit on a lot of points already. Some uppers, they start from very low. You know, 20 years ago, you went to a trade show. You got a cheap item, not cheap, but we don’t like to use the word tchotchke. It’s a promotional product. So I think that has changed over time. I think people realize when you give somebody something, it’s going to end up in a drawer. So how many of you have a drawer full of keychains? Little animals, plush animals, stress animals, all those things that your customer doesn’t really appreciate. They’re going to put you aside.

Now, we’ve gotten to the point where the product has to be sustainable, recyclable, and have multi-use. Covid has taught us that people all of a sudden figured out, Oh, there is water, there is a forest. We can go outside and do things. So it’s taught us that most importantly. Some of the slides we’re going to go over. Displays—a great way. We’ve all been to trade shows, and you go to trade and there’s 400 vendors. I went to Vegas, Jon was there, and there’s like, how many? 4,000 vendors? Something ridiculous. 

Jon Beyer: 2,000 suppliers.

Anton Smoot. So you go, we walk this thing and someone displays, I walk by. But if I see something that catches my eye like that, I’ll stop by, and sometimes a picture tells a thousand words. You don’t want a lot of writing on it because people, number one, don’t want to read. And you want them to come to you to tell the story of what you are selling. If they have to go to a sign and read everything to know what you do? They’re going to be gone in 30 seconds.

So displays are a great way, and they’re easy to put up. And Jackie, from Allianz, knows, I did a little demo. She was my guinea pig. She called me over there to the display, and she put it together in 3 minutes. I think. Right? Three? 

Jackie (guest): Around 3 minutes.

Anton Smoot: So the display, it snaps together. It’s all a labeled, and it’s a great way to attract the customer to your booth because everyone, we go to shows, we have 900-some thousand items that we have access to, and a lot of suppliers have the same product. What makes them stand out is, for us, is the durability, the warranty, can they ship it on time. So it’s a great way. Keep it simple. Same with table cloth. You just want your logo on there. You want it to be bright, you want to see it. And I have a little…somebody can win some cash. I have a question for everybody in this room here.

Same there. You want them to come by and see this, ski country. Okay, I’m interested. Tell me your story. That’s what you want. You don’t need a lot of things with a lot of, you know, stuff on it. Such thing as overkill. We make you look good. You know, there’s a lot of brains out there from Nike to Under Armour, Patagonia. In this day and age, we have access to probably 50,000 vendors that sell the same product. There’s a factory in China and India. They make a shirt, same 4.8-ounce polyester that Under Armour sells, but has a Nike logo on it. It has Vantage on it. It has UltraClub on it. Same thing. The price range going from $10 to $80. Literally, it is the same product. And you know, Under Armour has done a great job. They make zero product this country. They’re a marketing company. So every time you waer an Under Armour shirt, what are you doing for that company? Free advertising for them. That’s what they do. 

Engaging activities. We go to trade shows, we’re in Vegas. I’ll be honest with you. There were some I look for because they had games. It broke up the monotony of walking a million square feet of space to look into stuff. They had different games going on. We spent 10 minutes there. It helps. The keys to get them to your booth. And like I said, to go to trade shows. They can walk all day long—you want to get them to yours. Because I’m sure when you go to a trade show if it’s in your same industry, they can go to 20 people with the same thing that you sell basically, or offer. 

Giveaways. Again, great things, sustainable, recyclable. We partnered up with vendors. We met some in the Vegas that collect all the plastics in Costa Rica. They have a plant where they employ people, and they make other products out of it. Full circle. Not only do they make a recyclable item, but they also collect the items off the beaches and the oceans, have a factory, employ people, give them a living, pay a good wage, and then sell those products. Yes. Are they little more expensive? Could be. But this is where the industry is going. Sustainable. And it’s some more bags. And again, like Jon said, you want to have a product that’s going to be around five, ten years. I have certain items I’ve had for ten years, I use all the time. I have a certain Tumblr. It’s great. It’s always advertising. It tells a story. People see it, then they ask questions. 

I’m a big soccer fan. My soccer jersey has Allianz on it, and people are like, “who are they?” And I explain the story for Allianz as a partner. They’re the advertiser for Bayern Munich Soccer Team. Stadium lights up in red and has all the sign on it. But people ask me all the time, people don’t know. Yeah, soccer’s a real sport. It’s not just football. 

But that’s what we’re here for. So the promotional team, which is my division, we basically find the right product for the right application to target the customer that you’re trying to go after. So again, we have a promo place. I’m sure some of you been on it, but it literally 890,000 items on there. If you email us and tell us where you go, what you’re trying to do, my team will send you the right product. We’ll send you different options that are best. We’ll put you in the right direction, get you what you need. 

So feel free if you have my email. If not, I have cards for some of you, if you need them. But that’s what my team does. And Jon is right, you can have an item that’s a dollar, but people are not going to hold onto it. They’re not going to remember where they got it. We’re going to get you the right product at a great price to target the customer you’re trying to go after. Thank you.

Kaitlyn Conner: Beautiful. Okay, great. Hi, everyone. I’m Kaitlyn. I’m going to wrap it up. Okay. So going back to this, so we’ve heard everyone talk about branding, marketing, all of those fun things, how do they encompass? So with marketing and promotional support. Going into an event, why, how do you choose an event to go to it? So these are key questions that we like to focus on. You want to go for a purpose. You don’t want to say, I work in the real estate market, but I’m going to go to a boat show. That makes no sense. That would be fun. But maybe you’re in the market for a boat, but you want to have a purpose, so you’re actually coming out with something on that.

So questions to find out: What is your company’s goal? What is considered a win? Is it collecting five names? Is it getting a follow-up email out to someone who visited your booth? Is it someone having a meeting the next week and having that sales opportunity with that? What is your win? What is the overall brand messaging to your audience?

So this is encompasses everything that everyone has talked on today. You want everything to have the same message. You don’t want one color of something that is completely opposite of your company. So maybe you like the color purple, and your company’s color is black. They don’t coincide. So people are going to get very confused with that brand association if you’re using purple whenever your company’s color is black.

What collateral or giveaways do you need? I’m sure you don’t like going up to empty tables. You always want those tables full. You always want to be refilling. You want to make sure that people have something in your hand with your logo on them. Is there an offer? Are you offering a grand prize? Is it relevant to the audience? So like a lot of people have mentioned the multitool, taking that to, say, a construction convention or taking that to something in the home improvement industry, that way you’re giving items, and I know you said tchotchkes is not the word, but Pensylvania Dutch over here. So. Tchotchkes!

So, taking those to a convention, so people are getting relevant things. If you work in the automotive industry, giving out a tire gauge, to me that’s the coolest thing. I personally want one of those. And then what is your overall budget? So you can have champagne dreams on a beer budget, but you want to make sure that you’re following along exactly with what you’re offering. You don’t want to overspend and then go, where the heck did that 20 grand go? So just make sure you’re following in line with what the overall goal is and then consider an events partnership. So golf tournaments, golf tournaments are huge. Everyone loves golf tournaments. They’re huge in this area. So working with someone, so I know we participate in a lot, Bobby. Helping with providing promotional material for those event sponsorships related to those events. 

Another tactic I want to talk about is the pre-event. So gearing people up that you are going to this event creating the what’s the word, the hype. Thank you. The hype around it. So you’re letting people know that you’re going. It’s no cost to do these things. Social media posts, website announcements, personal emails and follow-ups, email, signature line, something that you’ll see here with my name, which is great. We have been putting this in our signature of whenever we send emails to external clients of, hey, come and see us just to create that hype and have people know, oh, we’re having an event at the facility.Maybe you missed your email because we send out those emails like, hey, we’re having this event on this day RSVP here, but just having it in different areas. That way people can have that opportunity to RSVP if they’re interested. 

So going back to this, while you’re at the pre-event so, so social media advertising, you post where your customers are. So if your target audience is on Facebook, you want to make sure you’re posting on Facebook. If they’re on TikTok, you want to make sure you’re posting on TikTok. If they’re on LinkedIn, you’re going to post on LinkedIn. If you’re B2B? LinkedIn. if you’re B2C? Facebook. And Facebook and Instagram go hand in hand. So promotional emails, like I said, make sure you have a current opt-in list. That’s federal regulation. You have to have an opt-in list that people who want to receive your marketing materials. I’m not a lawyer, but you could get sued. So does the event offer a list of attendees? I know I’m newly engaged. So I went to the bridal expo in Baltimore City and when I signed up, I, after the event, got an email from every single vendor, whether I visited their booth or not. So those are things that you can look into if you’re able to get those beforehand. Maybe sending them an email going, hey, we’re going to be here, check us out, stop by our booth, and get X, Y, and Z.

Direct mail. I love direct mail. I think it’s a great thing. So make sure you’re targeting those people that you’re interested in. That’s giving them the event date and saying, hey, we’re promoting this, or hey, come to our event, we’re doing X, Y, and Z drawing. Just having those omni-channel experiences with your audience so they know exactly what you’re doing and can follow along with your brand.

So post event. A lot of people forget this stuff. So you want to make sure that you’re following up with the individuals that visited your booth. The personal emails and the phone calls, I know a lot of people hate phone calls, but phone calls these days go a long way. Personal emails that you can do, text messages. There’s text messaging services. Promotional emails via your email service providers, I already touched on. So send a different message kind of with that personal tone with people that you actually interacted with rather than that blanket message like, thank you for attending or give the person a message of, I love talking about your cats, I’m so glad you stopped by my booth. Things like that. That way it’s not just scripted. Update your website post-event. Maybe on your website you say, you wrote a blog, and you said, we had a great time at this event, loved attending, and then you posted also on Google Business page. So you’re just making sure that you’re sharing that omni-channel message that people know that you’re out in the community and that you have a digital presence. And then, like I said, blog posts share testimonials. So get people involved, say, hey, we’re going to upload this picture…, first-off, ask for content, but, …we’re going to upload this picture to your website or to our Facebook just to show that you’re here and show the hype. Is that okay? Yeah, no problem. And then they can tag their friends, the list goes on, and then create a follow-up. Like I said, you don’t want one blanket statement for everyone. 

Any questions?


Anton Smoot: And here’s the trivia question. Oh, yes. Oh, yes, sir. 

Guest: What is the difference between sustainable and recycled? 

Anton Smoot: So, sustainable is more like bamboo, where it constantly grows. It will never really be exhausted. It grows fast. Recyclable is a product that’s already made out of something, and you’re putting it back into a product.

Guest:  So plastic? 

Anton Smoot: Plastic bottle, polyester shirts. So we have a vendor take socks and make koozie coolers out of socks. So exactly. You take an existing product, sort of go through the whole process, with the raw material to the finished product and then put back into the production stream instead of just throwing it in the landfill. 

Guest: Sustainable has more value? 

Anton Smoot: Yes. Well, correct. Because you’re not really, that product then you don’t have to like…plastic. I mean.

Guest: You don’t throw away a sustainable product.

Anton Smoot: Exactly. Because it absorbs back into like bamboo. Plastic, you throw it away. It’s never going to go away. Basically. It also creates a lot of work in the ocean. You go into the oceans, you see all these big things of plastic and other stuff out there. So we’re trying to get away from products that are already gone to the production cycle and then get thrown away or have to be recycled again because it’s costly, very costly.

It’s probably more costly to take an existing product already that’s made from raw materials to put it back into something else than using a product that’s sustainable.

Guest: Are sustainable products more expensive? 

Anton Smoot: To some. Yes, correct. And that’s a mindset. You know, the rest of world has really advanced more to Americans when it comes to. So I’m from Germany, and in the seventies, we were already recycling everything. So we recycled, everything had to go in a separate bins—paper, brown glass, white glass, whatever. This stuff came for everything. And even you can take it to a store, put it in a machine and they give you money back. So they started that 50 years ago. So it’s very green. So yes, there’s a cost associated with that, but I think it needs to be done in the end.

You can’t just keep throwing all that stuff away. Yes. Yeah. And sometimes it isn’t. If we find a sustainable product like bamboo, really, we find you the right product, no, it’s not going to cost more than something made out of plastic. Not at all

Guest: Is there bamboo drinkware? Yes, there is. Yeah. Yeah. And Jon’s one has a bamboo lid on it, but they also make cups out of it. They do?

Jon Beyer: They’re made out of a lot of what you just talking about. Also, this is sustainable, but that looks more like we’re going to able to use it all the time. Or water. Thiis you can refillup, but you’re going to wind up throwing it away in a landfill. When you’re talking about the sustainability capability I can use it multiple times, so it’s like water bottles. You know they tell you not to buy water bottles anymore. I don’t buy water bottles anymore. I travel with this on the road. 

Guest: That’s metal?

Jon Beyer: That’s aluminum, aluminum. 

Guest: So that’s considered sustainable?

Jon Beyer: I consider this sustainable  

Guest: So again, you can get the degrees of certain things. For example, what I used to sell apparel and organic T-shirts. Okay, I read the instructions. It was made with 6% organic cotton. Yeah. Now they are they lying? No. 6% better than nothing. But at the same time, I thought it was going to be 100% organic cotton. So Anton has a point, some of the things like bags that were made of cotton or other things, to away from the micro-plastics in the water, other made out of you know I’ll say, not bamboo, but you really should be re-using it and getting away from the plastic bag, and that’s the goal, a lot of this is cost-effective, but it’s small steps still.

Anton Smoot: And the other thing is this. We have a lot of vendors that will now give back, if you do so much business with them, a certain percentage to a charity. Charity could be a national, worldwide, or local of your choice. So if you purchase this one item, they might give back 2%, 5%, or if you prefer to have somebody local like Chesapeake Bay, that’s also possible.

Yes. But Jon is right. You know, cotton, polyester came back. Cotton is the number one selling product in the world. And it’s you can recycle it much better than a polyester product. So, yes. Anyone else?

Eric Campbell: I’d like to add something. If anybody would like to see any of these products that are illuminated here or products that are outside that we have on display, we’re more than happy to demo for you and also to actually get some of your supplies. I’m really happy to go over it with you after we break it down.

Anton Smoot And here’s the trivia question. It kind of refers to what people know in the world. You know, there’s iconic logos. You see Pepsi, you know what it is. Coca Cola. You know what it is. So there’s 195 countries in this world, and I believe 146 use this logo. It’s a logo that, if you see it, you know exactly what it means for what it stands for. So I have $20 cash, put your phones away, and bragging rights. 

Keith, don’t answer the question. He probably knows. What is that, when you travel all over the world when see it, automatically, you know what it stands for and you know what to do?

Guest: Is it a marketing term?

Guest: Nike?

Anton Smoot: No 

Guest: Restroom 

Guest: Is it a hazard sign?

Anton Smoot: No 

Guest: Recycling? 

Anton Smoot: No 

Guest: Stop sign?

Anton Smoot That’s very good! It is the stop sign, and you get the bragging rights.

[End of transcript.]