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November 18, 2008

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Hi, I recently found your blog and have read almost everyone of your posts! I'm always looking for "REAL" women entrepreneurs who are not afraid to tell it and share it like it is!!

I started a line of bridal party gifts two years ago and have stayed afloat by direct selling (mostly cold calls) and dropshipping for our customers. We added a line of monogrammed gifts (to complement our bridesmaid gifts) which we will introduce at Market in Atlanta. Yeah, I know, great time to start or add to a business and spend $4,000 to exhibit... I am very, very, very concerned about our ROI with the economy being like it is but thought the only way to introduce our line would be to exhibit at a trade show.

I know you're an expert at exhibiting at trade shows, would you mind sharing some tips and advice on how to make a trade show sucessful. I'm trying to maximize every one of those 4,000 hard-earned dollars (besides, my husband has kindly told me at $4,000 per show, I have very, very few chances...) My budget, as most starting businesses, is very limited. I am our designer, production manager, quality control, shipping department, marketer, bookkeeper, etc. One of my weaknesses is PR; I've never done it and have no clue how to go about getting press coverage for our products. Can you share some advice on this subject as well...

By the way, are you doing any trade shows this year? Atlanta?

Thank you so much!

I think all your tips are great for trying to stay afloat in these economic times. I feel fortunate to be a part of networking groups (free) on and offline that help keep referrals and sales coming, regardless of the time of year. Free advertising is the only way to go when the economy is such a big question mark!

Hi All-

Agreed. Don't advertise. If you have an online business, the best ad money you can spend right now is for Google AdWords or Yahoo Marketing. It drives new customers to your site every day. Print ads have never gotten me anything. Also, as you said, verify some of these "newsletter" inclusions. Many just want you to place an ad in their newsletter that supposedly goes out to 5000 people. How do you know all 5000 are good email addresses? Truth is, you don't. Ask for proof of readership and how many unique visitors they get to their blog or website each day.
As for trade shows. I don't do them and think they are tough as a new guy on the block. If you're looking for new accounts, call or email your prospects a day or two before the show and ask them to make a point to stop and see you. Otherwise, you may as well not even attend. Buyers have limited time to write orders so you either need to have the best darn looking booth space and product known to man or you need to have made some prior contact to remind them to see your line while at the show. Trade shows are such a huge expense and from my experience, have not been worth the dollars I put out.
Lastly, batten down the hatches...it's going to be a bumpy ride for the next year or two. We all have to make cut backs and change with the times. It's just part of being a business owner. I do see though that as bad as I may think I have it, somebody out there has it worse, so be charitable at a time like this. If your hand is closed, then you can't receive. Don't be embarassed either if you have to sell off inventory at a discount or take on other work or a part time job until things pick up again. You wouldn't be a good business owner if you didn't do those things.

Awesome read. I feel that we, as mom entrepreneurs, are already getting this and the rest of corporate America is just learning it. Thanks for the info and for doing your part in helping us. How can I help you today?

One thing I didn't see you mention in the advertising section of your post was online advertising. Using the internet is much more cost effective for small business owners and small budgets and the ROI is easily calculated. Offline print, radio or tv ads are difficult, if not impossible, to track and, therefore, impossible to know the value of.
I recommend to all of my clients this season not to back off their internet advertising. We're setting up more email and video marketing campaigns than ever. Being able to specifically target their customer base is making a difference in their profits this season.

Yes- Great advice! It's always good to be reminded and encouraged. I think this is an amazing time to GET CREATIVE. It's times like these when we are forced to think differently... and hopefully come out on top because of it!

I have been reading your blog all night (and now this morning). What a wealth of information and it is so good to hear it straight from a successful mom in business. Here's to another successful year in business for us all!

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