Archive for April, 2008

Tradeshow 101: Marketing

Posted by at 25 April, 2008, 9:17 pm

It’s true that you could attend a tradeshow without spending any effort on marketing but if you want to make the most of the show, I highly recommend letting the world know that you are planning on being there.perhaps not the world but at the very least a nice cross section of attendees.

Before the show

A buyer sometimes needs to see you several times before taking interest in your product. The truth is that often times they might not even fully understand your product at first. I send out postcards prior to the show and had one buyer come up to my booth saying that he saw the card and threw it in the garbage.As he was walking away, it occurred to him that it wasn’t just another RC toy on the postcard. He pulled it from the garbage, read more about the Color Bug and ended up at my booth placing an order. Therefore I HIGHLY recommend sending out a postcard prior to the show with your product information, picture of the product, company website/contact info and don’t forget the booth number!! While this does add an expense, I had several people stop by my booth because of the postcard I sent to them. Remember that your booth is one of hundreds, possibility thousands so anything you can do to increase your odds of sales, the better. That 19 cent postcard may easily turn into an account worth hundreds. I had more than one person comment on receiving my postcards and each of them that did were there to place an order.

How do I know who to send them to?? Most shows do offer the ability to buy mailing lists with the names of the buyers who meet your criteria. This is an expense but sometimes you can narrow down and just get the names of the buyers to the larger stores since these are the people most difficult to obtain.

There are a few creative ways of getting lists of names of potential small specialty stores without paying for a mailing list.Of course you can’t guarantee that all of these stores will be in attendance at the show but shows coincide with the buying patterns for the industry so even if a store is not in attendance, they are gearing up to buy.

  1. Yellow pages online. You can search for different store types and compile a list this way. It’s a long process but you can limit it to major cities. Also keep in mind that you are going to get a better turn out of the stores that are located in the region where the show is occurring. It’s expensive for the buyers to attend these shows as well if you factor in travel, food and lodging so you will always have a higher turnout from the local customers.
  2. Look up any of the organizations that are associated with your industry. For instance, ASTRA is the Association for Specialty Toy Retailers. If you go to their site, you will find a list of all of their members. ASTRA holds a huge event at the Toy Fair so many of the members come to network with their peers as well as go to the Toy Fair.
  3. Go to another company that is more established than you are and see where they are selling. I did this and it was a painful process to build a spreadsheet but it gave me sources that I would not have otherwise considered.

Just remember, when you are building a list of customers to target, it might be a long process but put together an organized spreadsheet that you will then be able to work off of. You don’t want to recreate the wheel every year.

In addition to the buyers, there is also the media to consider. Ask your contact at the tradeshow if there is a media area and if you are eligible to put your media kit in that area. Often times you need to belong to the organization putting on the show in order to get the media access.In addition, you might also be able to get a listing of the media who will be attending so you can send emails and postcards out to them in advance.

Notify your local newspaper and news stations that your company is planning on attending the show. Often times the media is going to run a story on the tradeshow anyway and they love to have a local company that they can spotlight. Major shows like Toy Fair are covered on every station during the time of the show so take advantage of the timing. Also keep in mind that you might live in Charlotte but grew up in Dallas so contact media in both cities with a different spin on the release Local Company launches product at Toy Fair vs Dallas Native launches product at Toy Fair. In addition, make sure you contact your college, high school, neighbor publications etc.Each of these types of publications enjoys the human interest side of your story.

The tradeshows usually have daily news that they publish.? Contact the media representative for the show to submit the press release and a photo.

During the show

I will be talking about all the things you should bring with you to the show in another post but the one thing I can’t stress enough is making sure you have an effective way of capturing your leads. Make sure you take business cards from everyone! Don’t be afraid to ask if they don’t readily offer them to you most of them will not. In addition, have a 3-ring binder that you can put names of the buyers who say they don’t have any more business cards. This is also helpful to have a sheet where you can staple a card and make notes regarding the conversation you had with that person.

Another way, a little more expensive but the buyers LOVE, is the electronic scanner that allows you to scan their badge. At the end of the show you get access to an excel spreadsheet that gives you all the information.

Keep in mind that people move quickly in and out of the booths so you need to be organized to get as much information as quickly as you can. It’s Murphy’s Law that your booth is either empty or crowded but rarely do you get to just have a steady flow.

After the show

Follow up on all leads that you obtained at the show.Send emails, catalogs in the mail, etc. The buyers have seen so much during a short period of time that they need reminders. That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of consistency in your company branding. Keep you postcards, media kits, booth graphics, business cards; sell sheets all a very consistent look. This way, the buyer will start to recognize you as a company.

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Nelson Mandela

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Keepin it real

Posted by at 23 April, 2008, 9:41 am

Happy Hump day!? The dentist went REALLY well.? My little one was such a trooper and didn’t even really know there was anything unpleasant going on.? The giggly gas worked WONDERFULLY!? The cavity was so shallow they didn’t need to give her a shot; they just drilled a little while she got to watch a video and breathe that strawberry smelling nitrous oxide.? The dentist had to stop a time or two because she was dancing in the chair.? I am so relieved!? Okay… onto business!?

Apparently my initial understanding about what happened with my big order wasn’t entirely accurate.? (The outcome is still the same, but it’s more involved). I did not understand the entire buying system for that company and I took what one person said as gospel when there were other issues I did not know about.? It wasn’t really her fault, she explained things to me as if she were talking with someone that knew their system and after speaking with her again I realize that she assumed I knew what she was talking about, and I assumed I knew what she was talking about when I apparently, did not.? (Okay, are you confused yet?) Basically way back when, her basic words to me were something like this “This is what I will propose to the committee and normally the order comes back for XXX many cases so you will need to XXX cases ready for pick up by May X) Then we both went on talking as if it would happen. I did know not to believe it until I saw the
PO, but all conversations after that were so positive and we talked as if it were already a done deal. Things happen, people change their minds, some people don’t always agree, and everyone has a boss to answer to. Had I known this order would not come through, I would not have placed the next big
PO to my OEM, BUT it could have just as easily went through and then I MIGHT be stuck without inventory.? It’s all such a guessing game.? Does anyone really KNOW what they are doing?? I’m learning valuable lessons every single day.? If you are at all risk adverse DO NOT start your own company!? ?

Since my last blog I have really ramped up my sales efforts and made about 10 cold calls a day.? (Can you tell, I really feel the pressure to sell some Grill Charms!)? It’s paid off because now I’m in a total of 21 stores in 8 states.? I’m getting there one set of Grill Charms at a time!? My web guy has also put some cool new stuff up on my website.? If you are a business owner and you are not blogging or using video, you probably need to take a look at using those mediums.? I’m no expert, but from everything I’m reading in the business magazines, social networking is a must these days.? I now have a video demonstration as well as a photo gallery on my home page ?and the blogging… well, you know, been there, done that.? The video is just me in my kitchen doing what I do.? It’s not professional by any means.? I’ve got music in the background and kids playing upstairs and my husband doing the best he can with the camera, but it’s REAL and it’s ME.? Someday when the need arises maybe I’ll have something fancy, but I’m not there yet.? I want people to know when they buy Grill Charms; they are supporting a real person with a dream and not a corporate machine.? Maybe I’ll be that corporate machine someday, but for now, it’s just me, my family and our love of grilling that got me here and that’s what I wanted to show.? So long for now… Keepin it real!?

Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charmsâ„¢?

Category : The Journey of Grill Charms!

Teaching Your Children on Earth Day

Posted by at 22 April, 2008, 10:16 am

I believe many of us have the mentality of “Earth Day is Every Day.”? As we live our lives as moms and business women we make daily conscious decisions to recycle, to reuse, to reduce waste and so on in our homes and our home offices.

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?Today, as we Nationally recognize Earth Day, I want to share with you some easy things to do daily to bring the meaning and essence of Earth Day into your daily routine:

  • Remember this from school???Reduce??Reuse??Recycle?
  • Take time to turn your backyard or your balcony into a?place that is appealing to wildlife.? Add?a birdfeeder, throw in some cool native plants, and?buy a fountain for water (our family delights in the many birds drinking our?fountain’s water!)
  • Pack lunches in reusable containers to help reduce the amount of trash you produce – save the brown bags for only field trip days.
  • Walk your children to school, or scooter to pick them up one day (watch their eyes get really big as?mom arrives in style on a scooter!) and even try to carpool with your child’s friends.? Reducing the use of your family car will set a great example for your children.
  • My kids laugh at me often as I refill our plastic water bottles daily.? They chuckle now but will appreciate the effort later as their landfills are devoid of those darn plastic bottles!• Cut down on how much paper you use by?using both sides of each sheet and cutting up old paper to use as scratch paper.
  • Make certain all of the family is turning off lights in rooms that are empty, that their video?games and computers are off and that there is a respect of conserving energy both?day & night.
  • Invest in one of those stylish,?reusable shopping bag, and take it?to the store every time you shop.?? This sets a clear example that you refuse to let another plastic bag enter your home!?

Happy Educating!? and Happy Earth Day!

Beth Butler

Founder of The Boca Beth Program

Category : Teacher Mom

In the busy of it all

Posted by at 22 April, 2008, 7:16 am

This last week has been incredibly (blessedly) busy, busy, busy. We’ve had all kinds of things going on, but they are GOOD things, so I feel more relaxed than I’ve felt in a long time. Oh, how I hope this lasts!

We had a FABULOUS show at Baby Celebration LA. Here’s the nice thing about being a year+ into the business -we have finally invested in enough display items and signs that each and every show isn’t a bank – breaker anymore. We’ve been so busy that we didn’t get everything together for the show until the day before – no joke.

We did SO much better this year than we did last year. And it wasn’t so much the traffic as it was our confidence, our display, and our ability to apply what we’ve learned from all the shows we’ve done over the past year. It felt really good to have a really successful event that was relatively low-stress. I also want to point out to everyone that might not have the greatest first show that there is no telling how much brand-building you did; how much exposure you got. We heard NUMEROUS times – “oh, I’m so glad you’re here again” or “I was looking for you” and my favorites: “those are THE blankets” and “hey, there’s Baby Fabulous”.

And we’ve been rolling like mad ever since. Which is fabulous! Since there isn’t down-time (I haven’t even had a chance to catch up with everyone on the boards),we’re getting a lot done. I always manage my time better when I have none of it to spare.

As for today, I have offsite appointments, kids to get to and from school, product to ship, orders to drop to the contractor’s, lunches to make, and definitely, definitely, sales calls. So hi ho hi ho, it’s off to work I go…

Category : Blogging Mom

Tradeshow 101: Your Booth

Posted by at 21 April, 2008, 8:51 am

Ok, so you’ve decided to do the show. NOW what?!?! There are two important things to do prior to the show.

1) Map out your booth, the design, the function, your needs, essentially how you will get the most of out of the booth

2) Make it known that you are going to be at the show.


This is a huge expense but the good thing is that you usually only need to make the investment the first year. My opinion is to keep it simple and clean. Don’t overcrowd your booth. You want to carry a consistent look and feel so create a booth that is a reflection of your company logo or packaging. You will need a few basic elements to pull this off;


I was lucky to have use of a pop-up display. But you can easily have a large banner made with your company logo to hang along the back of the booth.


I used a table with sides to demo the Color Bug and then had a Shipper full of product. That was it. I printed off graphics to cover the edges of the table and to place at the top of the shipper to reinforce the brand. Shippers are a great way to display the product on a piece of furniture that is light weight to ship.


I prefer to use a tall bistro table. You don’t need anything large and it’s nice to be able to stand and use the table. You should NEVER sit while working at the show so using tall barstools allows you to rest a little during slow periods but you are still at eye level. I have rented these items but could have also gone to Target, purchased them and thrown them out cheaper than what I paid. Unfortunately, doing a show in NYC makes it difficult to be able to do that. This year, I will most likely purchase all of my furnishings and just ship them back and forth.


Most shows (even the craft shows) do not include carpeting. You are required to cover the floor in your booth. I have rented my carpet but am looking into another option. This site gives you an idea of the options: but I’m not promoting them based on the pricing this is something to look into. Again, unless you have some type of 10 X 10 remnant, I would bite the bullet and rent for the first year.


I feel that lighting makes a huge difference in gain attention as you walk down the aisle. There are numerous tradeshow lighting units but you can also find many creative options around your house or from the local hardware store. It doesn’t have to be fancy just so it highlights your backdrop and/or products. Keep in mind, electricity is another extra cost in the show. Your booth comes with NOTHING except a drape in the back and on the sides to designate your area.


Those are the basic elements you need to think about to set up your booth. The next things we need to discuss are the things you need WITHIN the booth for a successful show. And then we will get to the marketing piece.

“Bigness comes from doing many small things well. Individually, they are not very dramatic transactions. Together though, they add up.” Edward S. Finkelstein

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Tradeshows

Tradeshow 101: Deciding to attend the show

Posted by at 20 April, 2008, 9:42 pm

There have been quite a few questions regarding tradeshows on the board so I thought I would give a little overview of my experiences, my thoughts and some of the little things that I thought made my experience successful.

I think that attending a tradeshow is extremely important from a marketing/sales perspective. It gives you an opportunity to expose your company to a large number of retailers, press and potential customers in a very short period of time. The trick is getting the most bang for your buck so it’s best to narrow down the top tradeshow in your industry. For me, it is the New York Toy Fair held every February.While these shows are generally more expensive, you will gain more by the numbers of buyers who will be there as opposed to some of the smaller shows.

Here’s a list of the 2008 major shows:

Some other great venues are your local craft or holiday shows. These are direct to the public and offer you a great opportunity to see what the consumer is actually saying about your product.

You have to realize that as a first time exhibitor, you most likely are not going to have great booth placement. Each year, you will gain higher priority and the sooner you submit your contract, the better your odds are of getting a decent spot.

So what makes a great booth location

  • There is a benefit of having a corner booth because you are essentially getting traffic from 2 sides.The odds are that you will not be getting a corner booth anytime soon.
  • Try to get in the heart of the floor and to the front. The further you are to the back or outside, the less traffic.
  • Look at the traffic patterns where escalators are, entrances, bathrooms, etc.

Make sure to review all the materials when submit your application. Very often, the shows promote new exhibitors. You want to make sure that you take advantage of every possible free marketing opportunity available.

Next post will include marketing for the tradeshow.

“Life is like riding a bike. It is impossible to maintain your balance while standing still. Linda Brakeall

Gwen Austin, RC Art Toys, Inventor of the Color Bug

Category : Toy Mom

Taking a Bad Situation to Show Your Customers They are Valued

Posted by at 18 April, 2008, 6:55 am

How a company handles a bad situation is the key to maintaining customers, which I experienced first hand this past weekend. Due to a death in my immediate family, I had to fly to San Antonio from TX. I searched high and low for a reasonable rate, which was a challenge when buying a ticket at the last minute. I finally found a ticket on American Airlines that had times that fit my schedule needs. That was a load off my mind – at least temporarily.

Right after my purchase, the airline started pulling their MD 80’s out of service leaving a ripple affect across the country and horror stories being told on the news of upset customers, crammed airports, etc. A sinking feeling began to set in, but I was not leaving for a few days so I felt things had to work themselves out.

Long story short, they were still cancelling flights up to the day I left. However, what I experienced when I got to the Columbus, OH airport, Dallas and San Antonio was an airline that displayed calm and a great deal of class. The airline stepped up and were willing to place people on other airlines in the event they had hesitation to fly on an MD 80.

After the funeral, I got to the San Antonio airport early for my flight and was approached by a gate agent to see if I wanted to get on an earlier flight so I wouldn’t have to rush to my connecting flight in Dallas.

I did not experience any employee pointing fingers at the FAA or blaming others. They took an unfortunate situation, dealt with it, and had made attempts to satisfy as many customers as they could under the circumstances. They took efforts to reduce the black eye that the airline industry was already dealing with up to this situation.

Hats off to you American Airlines for taking customer service to the next level despite a bad situation. Taking an unfortunate event can sometimes be a good thing for a company from a customer service perspective. It helps set you apart from your competitors by showing your customers your commitment to your customers.

Category : Customer Service

Low low low

Posted by at 17 April, 2008, 1:14 pm

Okay, I really really need to turn things around.? You know how when things go bad, they keep going bad, and when they are good, you seem to be ON FIRE.? Well… I’m in the trenches right now.? Yesterday put me in a little bit of a tail spin, but I pulled out of it.? Today I’m back in.? I took the girls to the dentist and my 5 year old apparently has deep grooves in her molars and has a cavity!!!? Now for those of you that don’t know my 5 year old, she is a bit of a freaker-outer and is super anxious and sensitive by nature.? Now that she is used to going into the dentist, she loves it.? Well…. We have to go back Tuesday for a filling!!!? When we go to the doctor and she knows there is a finger prick, she seriously almost hyperventilates.? What is this going to do to her?? They are going to give her nitrous and a Novocain shot.? I hate those shots!!! ?They HURT!? ??

So I come home worried about THAT and get into the office to do some work and I see an email from my BIG store that said the nice big fat purchase order was coming. Well, it appears that my buyer that loved my product got transferred to another position and the new guy wants 6 cases.? Yep….6.? Don’t get me wrong, I am very very thankful for those 6 cases but I ordered 15,000 units bases on the assumption that this PO would just about clear out my currently inventory.? AGGHHHHH!? So now I’m sitting here second guessing every decision I made.? I’m going to try to work things out in my head to get myself in a better place.? How was I to know that there would be a company restructuring?? I couldn’t NOT build up my inventory because the next big account would not stand for a 75 day lead time on a seasonal item.? Based on the information I had at the time, I think I still made a good decision, but this just goes to show that even the best decisions at the time can turn out to be wrong.? I took a calculated risk and well… you have to be prepared for the consequences.? The good news it, it’s not like Grill Charms are perishable!? Okay, I’m going to turn things around starting NOW!? Good news… I was in the local paper this week called “West Of”.? It was a great article with a good picture of the product.? Yes… turning things around….?

Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charmsâ„¢?

Category : The Journey of Grill Charms!

CBS 4 News – Working Parents & Sick Kids

Posted by at 17 April, 2008, 12:02 pm

Our segment on the benefits of working at home aired on CBS 4 News.? We are thrilled.? That’s my daughter, Amanda and Amber, and I have to admit, having a camera crew in your house — Rocks!? We had a blast.? Of course, to celebrate we went out to lunch that day and … shopping! It’s moments like these that make it all so worthwhile.

Plus, I think the topic is so important.? How many parents have to take their kids to work when they are sick, just because they can’t stay home.? That’s definitely one of the main advantages we work at home moms have.? My daughter will often tell me that’s one of the best things.?? It looks like even the political candidates will get involved with this new law.

I’m so thrilled too that they mentioned virtual assistant.? Once again, we got in got virtual assistants in the news.? Yeah!!?Thanks!? Diana Ennen – Virtual Word Publishing,


Category : Virtual Assistant

I am sooooo frustrated!!!

Posted by at 16 April, 2008, 5:13 pm

Today is Wedsday which is my longest day to work.? The girls have a little art class after school so I don’t have to get them until 2:00.? I was all ready to sit down and do some major sales calls and marketing since
Taiwan told me my onboard date for my 15,000 units will be 4/26,( I’m feeling the pressure) but today was going to be a banner sales day.? So I sit down and open my email to just see about orders and see if there is anything pressing only to find that someone has hacked into my email and is using my domain to send out thousands and thousands of spam emails all over the world!!!? I’m soooo frustrated, sad, defeated, and down right PI$$ED OFF!!!? Who does this kind of cr@p??!!!? I’m typing right now as I’m on hold for my email support person so I can figure out what happened and change ever password I have.? This will be hours worth of work and loss of productivity because I can’t very well do any sales while I’m on hold for …… we are going on 6 minutes now.? Why do people do this?? What possible thrill is it to mess with people like this?? I’m so upset, I can bearly type.? Maybe that’s the thrill.? Okay spammer… you won!? You’ve got me rattled right now; I hope you’re satisfied with yourself!? AHHHHGGGGGG!!!!!? 9 minutes on hold and still I have not talked with a real person….?

Okay, so I have been SPOOFED!!? Spoofing is when a person or a company hijacks your domain and sends out mass emails using your name.? Apparently it’s a very common problem.? My web people (go daddy) said they see it all the time, but they have systems in place to prevent the emails from going anywhere.? I totally don’t understand the technology behind it but basically my tech guy said once the spammer sees that his spoofing is unsuccessful he’ll give up and move on to the next domain.? Usually they stop trying within about a week.? I’m much calmer now… sorry for the outburst earlier.? It’s just so frustrating that as mompreneurs we work so hard and struggle every step of the way to raise a family, build a company and keep our sanity that when people do things like this out of sheer meanness, it just breaks your heart.? ?

Leslie Haywood, Founder and President of Charmed Life Products, Inventor of Grill Charmsâ„¢?

Category : The Journey of Grill Charms!