we're so excited to be a part of poppytalk's holiday handmade market this year! check it out! there are so many talented indie designers with very cool gift ideas! i'm hoping to do some of my holiday shopping here for my loved ones (and for myself too! :) )
i first heard of wry baby from one of our retailers who loves their stuff. and now after checking out their site myself, i'm a big fan now too! their stuff is hilarious. check out the super snapsuits -- a onesie with a cape. how cute and appropriate for halloween !
i love grobags -- not only do they safely provide a 'blanket' for your baby, but they are pretty darn cute! the china doll and panda designs are my favorite. and even more, they come in three 'togs' or thickness levels to suit different nursery climates. they're a uk based company so finding them in the states can be a bit of a challenge. check out amazon.com or their us distributor (keen) for retailers.
pre-show promotion it's important-- it's tough to do well at the show and rely solely on buyers walking past your booth and noticing you. there are just too many booths and aisles in the show to get consistent traffic to your little piece of square footage. besides, even if buyers did all walk through every single aisle (the vast majority don't) -- there are so many factors that could dissuade them from ever stepping into your booth: i.e. they just happen to be talking on a cell phone as they are walking by your booth, they spot someone they recognize just as they walk past your space, they look at the booth opposite of you for a brief moment as they pass (and it takes only seconds to walk past), the list of reasons go on and on.
so to get people to remember us, we did a few things: 1. researched stores that we thought would be interested in our product there are lists out there that you can buy, but they aren't targeted towards your demographic. we knew our stuff would not do very well in more conservative markets, so we sought out stores that carried products with a little bite, humor and contemporary art.
2. sent out some sort of mailer to the stores that you researched in (1), of course. make sure you do this a month ahead (or more) of the stationery show, and include your booth number prominently! we showed off our humor and graphic sense in our mailers (postcards are nice because they are light and the buyers will not hesitate to bring it along to the show -- because they were so light), and would serve as a reminder to them to come and visit during the show.
3. submit to blogs it's free publicity, and it works... find blogs that target your demographic, and send some samples or images showing off your stuff. the traffic to your site works wonders. don't be discouraged if you don't hear back from some bloggers, or don't get a post -- they are busy people and get tons of submissions a day! just keep pluggin away, but don't be annoying ;)
4. built word of mouth this is sort of vague, but anyway you can, this is your best form of publicity-- because it's genuine. do invitations for your friends' or coworkers' weddings, for their parties, showers, etc. let them spread the word naturally to their friends, and you'll start seeing the rewards. go to local craft fairs and donate your stationery to charitable causes (so you can feel good about the plug it gives you as well) to also build up some good word of mouth.
next up for you out of towners-- the dreaded travel prep...
yep, this deserves a whole post dedicated to it. the booth is the physical manifestation of your business -- it represents what you're all about, blah blah blah. true, the booth is very very important -- but in my humble opinion, it is secondary to what really matters....your product. the number one thing to understand about the booth in our opinion is that you want to attract people who are within viewing distance in to take a look at your products.
in our minds, there are several factors to performing successfully in this task:
location, location location: no, we're not talking homes here, we're talking prime locations within the Javits. take a look at the exits, entrances, things around you. do you want to be by the women's bathroom (where there's almost always a line, but is a weird weird space to be in our opinion), or by the back where people take their breaks / and where the "new product display" resided this past year (we did not approve of this new move)?
there's a bit of strategy to consider here. we've seen many companies just take what they are given without knowing the layout, and get stuck in the boonies with very little foot traffic, or are thrown in somehow among some weird products. take a look at the companies around you-- it's hard when there are big names right next to you, as people sometimes bypass your booth to see what all the commotion is about. people who generate a lot of traffic directly across from you sometimes steal attention as well, as people who walk through your aisle look in the wrong direction when passing your booth -- rendering you...invisible. what works best are similar demographic companies with widely differing senses of style. these companies, when placed near one another, tend to help each other out in terms of traffic.
one thing people also don't know is that there is a big difference in atmosphere from the front to the back, from the middle to the sides. first of all, aisles 1100 or lower are under the lower ceiling area, so this gives a company a cozier/busier/more intimate feel. now why wouldn't you want this? first of all, the booths are generally smaller -- i think 6x10s and 8x10s. second, there are tons and tons of companies packed in such a small space, so you can get lost pretty easily. some of our friends love that area, and it makes especially good sense for exhibitors who come to the show by themselves, as they can make friends easily here and have neighbors watch the booth on short breaks. this results in the third reason it may not be so hot -- since a lot of the people who exhibit in this area like it, they tend to keep their spots, so the primary locations here are all but taken.
corner booths get a lot more exposure, and usually more traffic at the cost of a more expensive booth fee, as well as the loss of a wall for any kind of display. we used our walls to display our line, so corner booths were not an option. next year, we're contemplating a switch to the corner. it just feels better, and is more inviting.
the smaller booths are also located in the lower numbers, with bigger booths in the higher numbers, unless you purchase multiple booths. needless to say, bigger = costlier. it all depends on how big your company and its range of products is, and how much you can afford.
hard walls, drapes, or use their drapes but hide them?
i'm not sure why the javits even bothers including those nasty drapes with your booth purchase. with the money we pay to get a space, all of the dividers could have been made with hard particle board or some other cheap material, and everyone would have been ecstatic to get a "hard wall." at least it would be more functional that way-- you can't hang anything off those drapes -- and they are ugly... maybe it's because they want to be able to charge us over $1000 for foam core walls to be installed? seriously? for temporary walls? you can't even save it afterwards. while we think it's a rip-off, a lot of people still get them because otherwise, you're stuck with those drapes.
another option is to make your own walls-- if you live within driving distance, or you are simply loaded with cash, and you or someone you know or can hire has a penchant for woodworking, you could make your own walls and keep em! this is a great option (and you can get really creative here), but then you have the problem of where to store them afterwards.
yet another option, purchase and make your own drapes (this is what we did). the main reason we decided to go this route was because of the cost of the foam core walls, and also the distance we had to travel to get to this show. we needed something portable, something that could collapse so we could store and ship easily. if you get the right material, you can sew in some anchors and use zip ties to stretch your fabric into a nice, solid surface that mimics hard walls. just bring along some downy wrinkle release (to get rid of the wrinkles from shipping), and you're golden. make sure, however, that the material you get is fire retardant, or is treated with a fire retardant, because the javits has regulations to uphold.
you can't, however, just purchase drapes and throw them on. you need to be able to do simple measuring, cutting and sewing to make nice edges and reinforced holes (if you want to stretch or just be able to hang the fabric). the javits center provides hooks (all you can carry) that you can use to hang them up.
you could also hide these walls with furniture and storage/display systems, but in the end, where are you going to put your logo, and your booth number? things to consider. you gotta deal with those drapes somehow.
electricity, lights, plug or column in your booth
these things all need to be purchased. the center gives you an outlet, but no lights. you can buy a spotlight or a set of lights you can hang on your wall posts, but otherwise, you're on your own. you can only use up to 400W in lights, so basically four 100W light bulbs max. we bought some clamp lights from home depot, with four 100 W bulbs (remember to bring extra). these worked well enough for us, and was cost effective/easy to transport.
make sure you don't get a column in your booth (this severely detracts from your booth setup/plans) -- unless you plan on incorporating this column into your design somehow (a display system?). some people get caught with this thing -- see if you can request a different location. also, there is always this big block someone gets stuck with in their booth (for some reason it's always us) that has everyone's main power cord plugged into it. we suspect people around us get there really early the first day, so they can pass this little "gem" onto some other adjacent booth. it's not a huge deal, but it can get bulky and unsightly. hopefully, you have enough space in between booths to stash it.
flooring, byof (bring your own floors)
they give you nothing here, and if you order through them, it's pretty expensive (not to mention the color choices are pretty eye-jarring). you can get a carpet roll from home depot (some are pretty cheap, but of course thin), or order from a company like flor and get them in tiles. other options include those cushiony foam tiles which interlock, and you can even get those in a wood grain design -- so it looks like you have hardwood floors. these can all get pretty pricey, but people in general appreciate the feeling of cushioned floors, especially having walked around in a huge convention center all day. again, up to how much you wanna spend. we just went with the carpet roll from home depot, and provided chairs for our visitors.
first up: research, research, research. (should i even go?)
before we even considered throwing down the exorbitant amounts of money it takes to exhibit in a trade show across the country, we made sure we'd done the necessary legwork.
using the web wisely: it is an infinite resource of information -- we looked up other people's experiences about traveling to the show, example booth setups, what is included in a standard exhibitor package, what people send to potential buyers before the show, etc. we spent countless hours online, bookmarking and taking notes on an open word and excel spreadsheet.
making sure our product was unique, and would stand up to the competition: there are so many exhibitors that do the old "one-and-out." they spend all this money to go to the show, expecting to write mad orders and talk to tons of interested buyers -- and end up sitting all lonely in their booth, watching people walk by and cursing the show and their luck. then we don't see them again the next year. it's all in the preparation...make sure that your product is not only presented in the best light, but also that it will hold its own in relation to what's out there. do some searches, read lots of blogs, and find out what people in your chosen demographic like. make sure that no one is doing the exact same thing you're doing (and possibly doing it for longer and *gasp!* -- better).
decide what makes you special (you should be able to verbalize it if someone asks you)-- then, go for it. keep your target market in mind when designing your products, and don't be afraid to show them around to get feedback. we made sure to consult anyone we felt within our demographic, and made changes to our designs based on what they said, or just listened to them and agreed to take certain risks. a general rule: don't compromise on quality to be cheaper -- there is always someone out there who can do things cheaper.
starting early: we started preparing for the show a full year and a half before. at least this was for our first time. subsequent times took less effort because we already knew the drill.
number of products: this is part of the research process -- if you have a ton of ideas/designs, think about ways to present them so that buyers don't get overwhelmed. if you don't have so much, consider creating more or find ways to organize and display in your booth to make it look like more, or really showcase what you do have.
it all depends on the exhibitor, but we had about 100 cards at launch. people thought we'd been there awhile because we had so many. i blame bumble girl, who cracked the whip on me to create so many; my hands still haven't recovered from the stress ;) -- anyways, most people start out with a lot less, and each year add a little that makes up their "new line." i'd wished we had less because as you would guess, some designs got less orders than others, and you're stuck with a lot of inventory issues-- not to mention a few buyers would walk around the booth aimlessly and hopelessly overwhelmed by the options (they can't buy them all, after all! there's this thing they have called a budget). in recent years, we've been consolidating and have put our new designs through a fairly rigorous 'user testing' process to wean out the weaker ideas. we've also started discontinuing some of the older stuff, to make way for the new. less is more, as they say. quality over quantity, you get the idea.
organize: use excel, or whatever scheduling program you'd like. but we felt it was important to print out a calendar sheet and post it onto our fridge so we would know what tasks would need to be completed by the end of the week. this way, things didn't escape our attention, and we didn't end up trying to do 50,000 things a week before show time.
walking the show: we were never able to actually do this, since we were all the way in california, but we did try to walk other glm shows, such as the california gift show and the san francisco show. though much smaller scale, it gave us an idea of what to expect. still, if you have the means, try to walk the nss -- it's a much grander scale, and you can see first hand the level of creativity and the vibe that the show has. walk into booths and talk to the owners directly about their experiences/advice. but make sure they are not busy with buyers first -- just good show etiquette :) also make sure they know you are "considering exhibiting in the future" and would just like to ask them a few questions. if you aren't upfront about this, they may think you're a competing/potential idea/style stealer, because yes-- it happens.
consider a web presence: for us, this was a given. i'm a graphic/web designer and bumble girl is a developer/it business analyst, so we were able to throw this up without much cost to us. in any case, owning a site isn't that expensive -- there are really cheap hosting rates available now. you could probably hire on someone to help you do development or translate your designs onto the web -- i can't speak to much about that since i have no experience hiring freelance workers. in any case, the return on this little investment can be huge. you could have a side income (or primary, for that matter) from an online shop, and not to mention start getting some traffic through blogs or other sites. at the very least, create a blog for your company (it's free) -- and start posting. it's free and cheap marketing/advertising, if you do it right.
they have information on pricing, examples of what you get for your money,what you need to order (i.e. electricity--what??) booth samples, etc. etc. this will let you know what you will need to do to make the booth space yours -- and mind you, there is a lot to do!
stay tuned for part 2-- were we discuss......the booth!
one of our announcements got featured in this great site called "cool mom picks." a very useful site with cool finds from paper goods to diapers to baby clothes and food. thanks for the mention, guys! we're also offering a 15% discount to cool mom picks readers, off any online orders through 8/15. click through here for the code.
we used to own a blockbuster monthly plan, and i had never felt the urge to go onto blockbuster.com and surf/rate and pick out movies. i would see a movie preview somewhere, or suddenly remember a movie that i wanted to see, and i'd go on and do a search to add it into our queue. well, we cancelled that plan awhile ago because we weren't using it that much, and we were keeping movies longer than we should have. it was a bit of a waste for the 20 bucks a month that we were paying.
well, we recently decided to hop back onto a monthly plan (since we felt the itch to watch, and the rentals were adding up), but this time, we're trying out netflix. low and behold, i'm addicted. i'm sitting there rating all the movies i've ever seen, clicking deeper into movie descriptions to read each synopsis and watch a preview of the movie instantaneously. I also like to read the reviews by other netflix users, and the professional reviews by the likes of ebert and roeper.
i was convinced that this was a new and exciting development in the internet, and that no one else did this. i told bumble girl, "this is great! how come blockbuster didn't do this?" she was like, "they did." then she proceeded on an hour long rant about how blah blah blah, i never notice details, and blah blah blah, i never listen blah blah blah (i don't really remember at this point, i kind of zoned off here and was watching a Hulk preview).
anyways, being a snobby designer, i think the real reason i didn't notice blockbuster's features was due to its uninteresting and visually unstimulating user interface and design. that's gotta be it, right? netflix has been doing this longer, and it shows. for some reason i felt compelled to rate movies because first of all it was fun, and second of all: i truly believed that their system could then accurately suggest other movies i would like. i just didn't believe that with blockbuster, and certainly did not enjoy surfing through their site. it felt like such a chore.
sure, with blockbuster it was cool to be able to return movies to any store and get another movie instantly, or be able to print out additional free coupons each month in case you didn't want to wait for your other movies to come in the mail. but really, we only took advantage of this like once or twice in the year that we had it.
netflix's plans are also cheaper. also, there is the option at netflix to watch movies and tv shows (that they have -- a limited selection) instantly on your computer. this is really cool when you're bored of surfing, or eat lunch at your desk, or whatever.
conclusion: netflix wins. score one for design! judging from my past decision of virgin america over jet blue, i'd say i sense a theme here. but maybe red is just cooler than blue.
just wanna say-- love love love ipods and itunes. don't know what i'd do without them. working in silence is the pits. hard to match the inspired design you can come up with when you're tapping your feet to some nice tunes and feeling good.
also must say -- hate hate hate the constant 'instant' updates to new technology that you recently purchased. i bought a 10gb original ipod a long while back and a week later, it was obsolete. people were laughing at my model whenever i pulled it out. i felt like a second class citizen. anyways, besides my bruised ego, it just seems right to wait like 6 months or so to make the newest and greatest update to your product. at least give your recent purchasers the feeling that theyhave the latest and greatest, at least for a month!
sure, it seems like apple knows what it's doing cause they just make bank no matter what they do -- but this humble user feels like he just got played.
well, recently that 10gb quit on me-- that dang battery is dead, and i'm not paying the cost of a new ipod to get a new battery for my inferior, clunky model. why aren't these easier to change out? who knows. and while people are out walking around with these crazy ipod touches and phones and doodads, i am just gonna go right back and get the lowest model. yes, i am miffed at the company, but i will take my new ipod and i will like it. at least for a couple of weeks.
so we've been packaging a lot of cards lately with our new biodegradable clear bags, and i've gotta say -- what a pain! handling these things is like defusing a bomb. the slightest error, and you'll get a permanent crinkle on the bag-- rendering it virtually unusable at that point. i guess corn is not the most supple of materials. suffice to say this has slowed us down quite a bit, but we've managed to speed things up with a little practice.
it's amazing how your motor skills can adapt and refine themselves to near pinpoint accuracy and lightning speed. i mean, we are like jungle cats or cheetahs or whatever now.
ok, so we're sluggish like molasses with bear paws for hands and we've ruined like 50 bags. what!??
stupid environmental bags. the things we do to save the world. i suppose it's worth it.
we got an email awhile ago asking us to submit a design for a competition by a new company called "minted" -- after checking out their site (minted.com), we found a very cool idea in the making. designers who submit entries into each competition are eligible to receive cash prizes, and a percentage of the sales of the design if it places in the top 10 (or so) after voting by the minted community.
they also have a collection of very respectable companies lined up for people to choose from for your wedding invitation needs -- letterpress or otherwise, you can customize online with a nice on-the-spot preview. very cool.
in any case, we thought the idea of the competition was so fun, we decided to throw in an entry! "photo-cards" aren't really our thing (at the moment), but it was definitely fun trying to make it work with our style of design.
so we've flown both, and i gotta say virgin america seriously upped the ante on in-flight entertainment with their "red" system. you can watch tv, listen to albums, watch videos, play games, and chat with other passengers in other seats through the interface (although this is a bit strange). supposedly in the future they will include the functionality to "read" -- books perhaps? this wasn't working the last time we flew them, but they said it would be coming soon. "red" also has the ability to allow you to order food/drinks from your seat -- the flight attendants would bring them to your seats.
jet blue we thought was going to be great the first time we flew them a few years ago. they seemed to pioneer the whole "watch satellite tv on a plane" thing. though this was a novelty back then, and was pretty cool at first, we quickly grew to find out that the tv often would black out at the most inopportune times, due to "normal aircraft movement." this didn't happen half as often on the virgin america flights. maybe their dishes were in better places ;)
with virgin's "red" now, jet blue's basic satellite tv seems just...well...basic.
jet blue does get some bonus points for their excellent snacks (mmm blue chips and munchies). but i swear, their customer service is butt poor. we found that the baggage service for jet blue in jfk always made us wait to get our luggage. after the first time we flew with them, we waited over an hour and a half for our luggage -- this was at 1am in the morning as well. a jet blue representative came afterwards and gave us "fake" vouchers for our pains-- i say fake because they never honored them! virgin america misplaced one of our bags, but the representative gave us hourly updates by phone, and had a driver promptly drive the bag to our home once it was found.
maybe that's just the jfk airport, but it happened all 3 times we flew with jet blue. that baggage claim area by the way, is a very very depressing place to wait. it got so bad that we gave jet blue a new name. jet poo!
virgin also has a very cool instructional safety video-- very stylish and funny, a brilliant way to get people to pay attention to the same old important details!
also, being on a virgin plane feels a little like you're clubbin' -- not sure if that's a plus, but it's something? it definitely caters to the younger crowd. if you're considered 'old folk,' maybe jet blue would suit you better. not that jet blue is 'old,' but c'mon, they use the safest corporate color...blue. virgin goes with the flashy purples/pinks. make your own conclusions.
for our conclusion, although we've never had a flight more than 2 hours with virgin america, i'd have to give the edge to them. it was really quite a landslide. no contest.
anyways, keep in mind that however much we may bitch and moan about this and that, they are both better than all those other crappy airlines out there. but if you had a choice...
joe's shanghai- possibly the best soup dumplings in new york! a few blocks walk from times square...
saigon 48- little fusion place located just down the street from times square, surprisingly pretty good (and cheap!), considering it's close to a high traffic tourist area -- try the noodles (singapore?) -- i wouldn't go here if you want 'authentic' stuff, though. stick to the basics, and read the reviews on the outside of the place to get an idea of what to order.
finally, here's a sneak peak at our new "greener" line that we debuted at the stationery show (inside reads: "i know you want me.")-- head over to bumbleink.com to see some more previews. the industry is definitely headed in this direction, and rightfully so. i mean, there's always going to be paper goods -- nothing can substitute the feeling and tactile nature of receiving a hand written card, but we can all benefit from being as smart as we can with what we use, and how we can reuse, maximize and preserve our resources.
we're just glad we were able to find a 100% post-consumer recycled paper that met our standards. it was definitely a long and arduous search -- there seems to be an ugly stick involved whenever recycled paper is manufactured. there seems to be only 2 options -- ugly plain white or off-white recycled, or heavily fibered paper. this stuff looks like it's been swimming in the ocean for a few days and dried off. it's just not what we would consider "high-end."after all, we're big-time paper snobs! the look and feel had to be top notch, and it had to retain the colors we've placed in our designs. those plain white generic stocks just weren't cutting it. after our extensive search however, we're definitely relieved and happy with our choice!
this year, recycled paper was a major theme of the show, which is a very encouraging sign for the future of this business. it seemed as if everyone was into greener, more sustainable paper and printing methods. pretty soon, i think it will be more of the standard, and less of a "promotable" quality. just saying you're 'recycled' or 'green friendly' will no longer be such a huge deal. buyers will begin to expect it, and if you're not on board -- i think you'll find yourself left behind in a hurry.
i really think that the show shot itself in the foot by placing the new product display booth in the back of the javits center this year. this large "preview" of the show used to be front and center at the entrance to the show, and buyers could quickly check out what companies had to offer at a glance, and quickly write down which booths they wanted to check out. i think it also gives each company a chance to display what they think is best in their new collection -- a sort of test that can only be validated by a visit from the buyers/parties interested. it's an invaluable lesson in how well a company knows its audience. and even if you miss the mark, you still learn something!
we personally saw lots of traffic from this display the past two years, and were very disappointed to see its position taken this year by a big name company. so what was once a great showcase turned into something "second fiddle," and very hard to find. i guess that's business...
on another note, we got to walk around a lot and were impressed with all the beautiful work out there. i'm still a sucker for the humorous lines, but i'm still wowed by the letterpressed designs that people come up with. i did some letterpress work in school, and that stuff is pretty tedious. the old school way is, at least. i suppose it's not that bad if you just make a plate every time you print, but if you have to use the hand leading/kerning/typesetting techniques the original art requires, then i just gotta say wow...just wow.
anywho, at least we got to do our annual comparison on new york hot dogs. i swear, i think we (ok, maybe just me) gorge ourselves on these every year -- gray's papaya is still one of my favorites, although the street vendor dogs (aka "sewer dogs") are always pretty good. papaya dog is alright, but just not up to snuff. i think we had 4 hot dogs in the first 36 hours we spent there. yummmmy.
part 3 of the recap will be coming soon. i really don't know how many parts there will be in the end, but there will be a third. oh yes.
we just got back from the 2008 national stationery show in new york, and i've got to say, we're pretty tired. it's always fun to go, even if we have to get up at 4am everyday (effectively, since we're on west coast time --oh come on, we can whine a little). anyways, we love the vibe of the show, and are excited to see our friends, stores and meet new people. not to mention, there is just a wealth of talent out there, and it's just great to see this being exhibited all around us!
some of the people we've talked to at the show have said that it was slower in terms of traffic and orders this year. we noticed this to some extent on the first day, but the second and third days definitely made up for it with some exciting new orders, reorders and potentials.
overall, we're glad we went. it's always a rush to be there, though we would rather have it in vegas, since it is infinitely easier to have a convention there (for ALL parties involved). i mean, think about it -- hotels, transportation, entertainment, flights, space, cost, food, etc. etc. -- true, new york is the hub of design and i love the vibe of the city, but c'mon -- how expensive is it for someone to set up a nice booth here? how much does it cost for a hotel in new york compared to vegas? how hard is it to travel 6 blocks on a bus through times square after the show ends (around rush hour)? just ask around and you'd see how many people would prefer a convention-friendly city to this logistical nightmare. vegas was made for big shows like this. i bet you'd see much more elaborate exhibits and many more people (creatives and buyers alike) attend than you currently would.
if you're planning to attend the National Stationery Show, be sure to stop by the bumble ink booth (#2447) to say "hi"! we'll be featuring our latest line of "greener" cards printed on 100% post consumer waste paper.