Suggestions for Exhibiting Your Business at Trade Show Events


Trade Show Exhibits: Useful Suggestions You Can Apply When Advertising Your Business

Question: Aside from your recommendation that we use dye sublimation printed fabric banners for our graphics and trade show booth, do you have any other suggestions for our company’s first ever trade show exhibition?

Answer: Do I ever! Gorgeous graphics are great, but they will not make a successful trade show. I know that’s probably not the news you wanted to hear, but it’s true. There are some pre-show items you should address before attending any trade show or exhibition.

I know you’re dying to hear what those things might be, so let me say to start with something I’ve said often before, and that is that “the message is the medium.”

Trade show Graphics

What exactly to I mean by that? And hopefully you’ve already done what I’m about to suggest, and that is to make sure that you already have a message, or USP (aka your “unique selling proposition”), that you have found to resonate with your market. If you already know what this is and how important it is, but have not implemented it, then my advice is to take care of this part of your marketing before attending a trade show, as you’ll be spending a lot of money with little chance of success at any convention or trade show.

If you don’t know how to implement that process of determining your USP, hang on, I’ll explain it in the next few paragraphs. First, though, I need to catch other readers up to speed so they at least understand what a USP is, and why it is of utmost importance.

Your Unique Selling Proposition is a statement or tagline that succinctly states why your company is different and better than any other company in your category. This is different from branding in that you are not a known commodity other than with your current clients, which, if you were satisfied with the quantity of those, you wouldn’t be considering going to a trade show or convention anyway, so obviously you need to get the word out about who you are and why you’re the best of show, so to speak.

Hypothetically, let’s say that your company has a new and improved technology for voice over internet protocol (VOIP) telephony. However, it is difficult to explain to prospective clients in one sentence (such as a tagline), and since it does not cost any less (the easiest way to convince anyone to buy anything is to offer it at a cost savings over your competitor, but unfortunately, you don’t have that option and can only offer it at similar pricing even though it’s a much better service and product).

Your prospective clients are generally pretty happy with their VOIP services, and would probably consider switching if you were offering your service at half the cost of your competition, but as stated previously, your technology is better, but your pricing is even. So, how can you, in one sentence or tagline, get your client curious about your service?

As Dan Kennedy and other marketing gurus have stated, you need to find out what your clients’ greatest pain is with their service. For many years it was that there were a lot of dropped calls and line static, so your USP might be something along the lines of “For clear calls that don’t get dropped, switch to ClearVOIP,” or similar.

But how do you know this will hit your potential where it hurts? Testing. OK…how is that done? Let’s say you’re already advertising in some national magazines, but you have no idea how your ads are working. You need to change things up a bit. Keep running the ads…they may be doing some good, but you need to know how they are doing, so you change the tag lines in your ads and run two ads in each magazine with a discount code or similar, and when someone goes to your website, and they want to get a 50% discount for their first month of service, or free set-up, valued at $199 with that ad’s discount code, now you know what ads your clients are responding to.

Let’s say you run one ad with the discount code of “ABC” and the other with the code of “XYZ.” You put the ad in a business journal, and find that the ABC code gets twice as many hits or phone calls than does code XYZ. In the direct advertising business, the winning ad is called the “control.” You keep the ABC ad, and discard the XYZ ad and replace it with the new ad which is coded “123.” ABC wins again, retaining it’s “control” status and gaining business for your company. However, the next ad with code 1A2 gets twice as many responses as ABC, and it becomes the new “control.”

After a few rounds of ads, you have determined which taglines and offers are the most responded to, and now you are ready to go to a trade show or convention. You’ve found your message, and with some nice graphic design that incorporates your winning message from the ad coded 1A2, you can go to the show and expect the same type of response to your message at a show as you did in your print ads. Your attendance at any trade show should be successful because you’ve tested your message, and you know that you get positive response. You’d have never known this had you gone to a convention with a trade show booth, even with gorgeous graphics, but with an untested advertising method. Good luck!

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How Long do Dye Sublimated Fabric Trade Show Displays Last


How Durable are Fabric Trade Show Graphics Printed Through Dye Sublimation

Question: We are purchasing a fabric dye sub trade show display, and would like to know how long it will last for our company?

Answer: There are a lot of factors one should consider in how long a trade show booth will last, but the biggest one is what I’ll address first, and that is the proper care and feeding of a trade show booth.

The materials that most booths are constructed from this decade (and even last decade for the most part), are good quality materials such as aluminum or fiberglass for the frame, and vinyl or cloth fabric or other good quality materials for the graphics that will last for a decade – if they are treated with care.

Dye Sublimated Trade Show Graphics

The most common issue I’ve seen personally, and have heard from other trade show display purveyors, is that the booths are treated roughly, and break down faster than necessary. If you’re renting a booth, you won’t need to worry about it, but if you’re purchasing your booth and display graphics, then it is likely that your booth attendants, both temporary and sales force employees, will be setting the booth up and taking it down and re-packing it.

The repacking is often where the most damage occurs, because usually there is a specific way to pack your display frame and graphics. I will say that fabric graphics are more impervious to damage than vinyl or pvc or other semi rigid plastics, which is why I always recommend this type of graphic cover for trade show displays, but there is also no reason, with a modicum of care, to damage other graphics.

In taking care of any other type of graphics such as non-rigid plastics or vinyl graphics, the rule of thumb is to never fold up the graphics because it will cause permanent wrinkles or lines in the material. This means that you may need to ship your graphics in tubes, thus negating any cost savings you may have achieved in purchasing the cheaper plastic or vinyl materials, especially if you are going to use your trade show display booth at multiple shows.

This is why I personally recommend dye sublimation printed polyester fabrics for trade show displays. You can fold the material into a relatively compact bundle and ship it for a lot less. You’ll recoup your additional costs for this material at the first show, and if you’re using it at multiple shows, you’ll be money ahead to use fabric display graphics over all others.

One more plug for the fabric graphics. They are washable, foldable, and hold their color indefinitely. The dye sub printing process, during which the dye becomes permanently embedded in the cells of the polyester fabric using a combination of heat and pressure that converts the printed dye into a gaseous state, creates a photographic look to your graphics that is unattainable with any other print method, and makes it so the colors won’t fade over the next decade if you’re not leaving the banner in full sun out of doors 24/7! And even then, it’ll do better than any other printed sign or display.

As far as the frame itself, again, most of them are made of aluminum or fiberglass poles, and if not forced to bend in ways they were never meant to bend or twisted or otherwise abused, most of the pop up frames should last several years. Read all directions very carefully that pertain to unpacking and installing the frame, and pay close attention to the order in which you do it, then when you uninstall and repack the frame, simply reverse the order and handle the frame gently and you should be able to use your frame for many years.

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Methods for Installing & Setting Up Dye Sublimation Fabric Displays


The Methods Used for Installing Dye Sublimated Fabric Graphics onto Display Frames

Question:  What are the methods that are used to attach dye sublimation printed fabric banners or mural graphics to a trade show display frame?

Answer:  There are several ways that printed fabric banners are attached to trade show display frames; I’ll list them below.

One method is the pullover method where the dye sub fabric graphic is pulled over top of the frame like a sock. It is sewn together on the top, and sometimes will have another rectangle of fabric added on the top if it is going over a frame with a rectangular foot print. This method is often used with “serpentine” displays and also on trade show booth tables/kiosks.

Serpentine Trade show Tables Designs

Serpentine Welcome Tables

Socks for tables table cover cloth

Table Sock

The advantage to this style of display is that the fabric graphic is pulled over the frame, so installation is very simple and quick. No matching up of clips, tabs, or velcro strips to the frame. The disadvantage is that it is somewhat more costly because of the additional fabric, although it can have the print on both sides which is a good feature with some trade show displays that can be viewed from both sides, i.e., a larger booth area.

Some trade show booth display manufacturers have proprietary clips or attachment methods like Nimlok, though I personally am not a fan of proprietary methods as they are both more expensive and lock you into a certain style of booth that is costly to switch away from. Large corporations may not care about this cost, but many of our clients do, and in my opinion, it’s not worth the extra money you pay for a system that is not superior in any way.

serpentine frame nimlok

Serpentine Nimlok

Another method for attaching fabric graphics is velcro, which is popular because it is relatively easy to use, and can be transferred to new displays with a little re-work sometimes, although typically, with most companies, a new frame will also merit new graphics. Nobody or no company wants stale graphics, so usually this feature would not be utilized. However, it is a feature that could be useful.

Below are a typical frame, a close up of the tabs where adhesive hook velcro can be attached, and how a booth could look upon a dye sublimation printed fabric display graphic being attached with velcro, although it is likely with this scenario that more than velcro tabs are being used. It is more probable that velcro strips would be sewn to the entire length of at least the top and bottom of the graphic due to the serpentine construct of the display.

serpentine design display form

Serpentine Frame

Installing Trade Show Graphics to Pop Up Display

Attaching Graphics to PopUp Display

Serpentine Trade Show Booth

Serpentine Trade Show Display

Question:  In a related question, we’ve been asked how long it takes to set up a pop up trade show display, and how difficult is it to do so?

Answer: How long does it take to build a house? This is a relatively open ended question as there are a lot of variations with trade show backdrop displays, but I think that, on the average, you should figure about thirty to sixty minutes, give or take an hour. A “sock” style display, as discussed above, probably would take five minutes, but the first photo above, if attached by velcro tabs, might take closer to an hour to set up. The Nimlok system could take even longer, unless you’ve become proficient at setting it up.

The difficulty factor, again, will be somewhat related to the size and complexity of the display, and the difficulty factor will be the lowest with a slip cover, next with velcro tabs or strips, and then with proprietary attachment systems. At least those that I’m familiar with.

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Keeping Wall Decals Stuck to the wall and Washing Clothes with Stickers


How to Keep Wall Decals From Tearing Off and Washing Clothing with Decal Stickers On

Question: I purchased a large wall decal for my door, and it keeps peeling off. It seems like it’s sticky enough when I press it on, but when I come back a couple hours later, it’s starting to fall back of the door. How can I make this sticker stay on the door?!

Answer: The last question I answered had a similar complaint, and I told her that without knowing the type of plastic or the type of adhesive that was used on the sticker she bought, I could only provide some general information, which will hold true for your question as well.

Large Format Decals For walls wide format graphic print

The problem you are having, unfortunately, is not uncommon and should have been answered before you made your purchase. I always ask “what are you going to be using this sticker for?” This avoids a lot of unhappy clients who would have ordered a sticker that won’t work for their desired application.

Most adhesives used on decals are known collectively as “acrylic” adhesives, and are generally used successfully on many various surfaces, including painted surfaces, metal, glass, and even wood. However, there are a few select materials that will reject standard acrylic adhesives. Polypropylene and Polyethylene, at least in some cases such as containers or barrels made from these plastics, often need a more aggressive adhesive in order to stay put once placed on these items.

Certain types of paint will also reject standard acrylic adhesives, as well as some oil-based stains. This may be what happened with your door. If it has a certain type of finish you’re not sure of, you’d need to test out a small, similar sticker ahead of time on your targeted door. That way, if, after 3 days, it was sticking well to the door, you would know that the decal you were preparing to order would work for this application.

Testing ahead of time is always a good idea, unless you’re pretty sure a sticker will stick using a basic acrylic adhesive. Places where this would be more consistent? Glass, glossy painted surfaces (excepting possibly certain latex paints or wood stains), and smooth, clean metal. Still, if there’s a shadow of a doubt, it’s always better to test your sticker’s glue ahead of time.

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Question:  How do you wash clothing that have decals stuck to them?

Answer:  You remove the decals, unless they are patches that are specifically glued using special adhesives that are used specifically for clothing such as military or scout uniforms.

If your child received a paper or vinyl sticker at some event or sale, and stuck it to their shirt or jacket or such, and you wash it in place, the best case scenario will be the the sticker will come off in the wash, and the worst case scenario is that the glue will stay stuck to the clothing, in which case it is difficult to remove. Lacquer thinner will remove the glue, but may also remove the color from the clothing as well, so be careful there. It is more likely that an orange peel glue remover, available at most hardware stores, would be able to remove just the adhesive, but as we always advise, try it on an area of the shirt that won’t show just in case the glue remover wants to remove more than just glue.


Removing Residual Glue from Stickers – Keeping Decals Sticky


How to Remove Residual Glue On Car From Stickers and how to Keep Decals Stick on Cellphones

Question: I purchased a “new” car from a local auto dealer who had put a reflective vinyl dealer decal on the rear of the vehicle. I don’t like stickers on my car, so I carefully peeled it off, but it left a ton of glue on the paint. What can I use to get the glue off…it is really a tough glue, and I obviously don’t want to damage the paint on my new car.

automobile dealership decals

Answer: This is one of the most common complaints we receive when it comes to adhesive stickers, and one I’ve written about in the past, but it deserves another visit because it happens frequently and can be an annoyance. The good news is that it is not difficult to fix, and your paint will be in good shape when you’re done.

Even temporary adhesive stickers that have been on a vehicle or window over time will leave a perimeter glue residue on paint or glass, and because the glue also attracts dirt when it’s exposed, what you’re seeing is the glue plus the dirt it’s attracted to itself over the period of time it’s been affixed to the surface it was stuck to.

As I said to start with, it’s a very simple solution, and one that is solvable by visiting your local hardware store. At the hardware store, simply ask for “orange peel” glue remover. This glue remover is harmless to paint and clear coating on a vehicle, although, as with any solvent, we’d urge you to try it on an area that is out of view, like under the hood or trunk, just to be on the safe side. I don’t want you coming back to me saying, “the paint on my luxury automobile was ruined due to bad advice from you!

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Question: I ordered a Marilyn Monroe decal sticker for my phone and it came in the mail today. It looks great, but after a couple hours it started to peel away from my phone. Is there any way to get it to stick?

phone decals mobile sticker cellphone graphicsAnswer: The short answer is “I don’t know.” The reason I can’t definitively tell you whether you can get it to stick to the phone is three-fold. First, I don’t know what type of plastic your phone or phone cover is made from. Certain types of plastics require special adhesives to enable a sticker to stick to that type of plastic. Polypropylene is a good example of a plastic that can be difficult to marry a decal to, due, I suppose, to the chemical make up of that particular plastic.

The second issue is the adhesive, which I alluded to in the previous paragraph. Most adhesives are acrylic-based, and stick well to most things, but not too well to some others, such as polypropylene. There are, of course, aggressive adhesives available, but you’re probably never going to find them used with off-the-shelf stickers like what you purchased.

Thirdly, you may be able to purchase a spray adhesive that will stick your decal to your phone, but I’m not terribly optimistic here, but it could be worth a try, depending on how much you really want your Marilyn Monroe sticker to be on your phone. Be prepared to pay $10 to $15 for a can of spray, though, at your local art supply. Personally, I’d probably ditch the idea, but that’s up to you and your personal budget.


Background/Foreground Contrast of Window Stickers, Plus Decals for Brushed Metals


Contrast of Background-Foreground Graphic Colors of Car Sticker for Windows, and Will Decals Stick to Brushed Metal?

Question: I’m designing a simple two color sticker or decal for car windows, and wanted to know which you would recommend – A) light copy on a dark background, or B) dark copy on a light background?

Answer: This is a great question, and one I can demonstrate visually which one works best. To start with, though, I’ll tell you what we’ve advised our clients for over twenty years on this very subject.

Drive down a busy street in the town or city where you live and glance at various signs that line the streets. What signs grab your eye? 90% of the clients we had do this exercise said that light letters and a dark background definitely caught their eye more quickly than dark letters on a light background. The other 10% were undecided.

So, the short answer to your question is that your first option (A) is the better option for grabbing attention. So, is there a time when you want to buck the trend? Possibly. If you want multi-colored graphics or copy, it may not work to reverse the field, so to speak. In this case, you would want to stick with a light to white background or the copy would be lost. For instance, if you want to promote your band, the “Rainbow Girls,” and your logo mark is those letters in the color of a rainbow, that would not work well on a dark or black background.

Conversely, you may notice that the Nine Inch Nails use a stark white on black motif for their band, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can see their logo from a long way off and know what it is because of the stark contrast.

Different Color lettering on black background


Experiments have been conducted as to the best color combinations for visibility, and the number one combination is bright yellow on red (think of a very large and famous hamburger franchise) and the second is bright yellow on black. Third is white on red, the white on black. So, to be seen (if your message or logo mark is simple), those would be the colors to look at first. Of course, white or yellow on a darker blue or green will also play well, so don’t pigeon-hole yourself too much if you have colors you use frequently with your business or organization logos.

Question: Is it a recommended use to stick a decal to brushed metal, or will it not stay stuck?

Answer: While this is a non-standard usage or application for a decal or sticker, I would recommend that you test a decal or two with some different adhesives. If you’re wanting this to be a permanent application, like on a machine or a panel, there are some very aggressive adhesives that you can use in these instances.

Decals for metals metal stickers

The bigger issue here is, is the metal new and clean? And how rough is the brush. In my experience, most brushing of various metals will not affect the adhesion of most permanent adhesive vinyl decals. If you want to place a temporary adhesive type vinyl sticker on a product that you intend to be removed on purchase, I would simply request samples from your favorite decal supplier and test whether there was enough stickiness to remain on your product until after it’s purchased. A word of caution, though. Static cling stickers will NOT stick to a brushed finished metal unless it has been clear-coated to a very smooth finish.

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Getting Rid Of Air Bubbles Under Vinyl Window Stickers & Decals


How to Remove Trapped Air Bubbles Underneath a Car Windshield Sticker or Decal

Question: I stuck a decal to the inside of the window of my business, and it has lots of little bubbles underneath the sticker. What can I do to get rid of the bubbles?

Answer: Well, there are a couple of questions I have. Is it an face adhesive decal or a face-adhering static cling sticker? There will be different answers for each of these items.

Static window cling sticker

If it is a static cling sticker, you can remove it, wet it with lightly soapy water, re-stick it to the glass, and the water will evaporate out over the next day or two. We find that with static cling decals, often the decal will relax into the glass in two or three days and most of the bubbles will automatically disappear.

You can also dip a vinyl adhesive sticker into lightly soapy water or spray the surface of the glass with the same and then lay the sticker on the glass and allow the liquid to evaporate, but it sounds like it may be too late for this sticker at this point. What we would do would be to use an exacto knife with a 60 degree blade to pop the bubbles individually. This is tedious, but it’s the only way I know of to remedy the issue without completely getting rid of the offending sticker and replacing it with an identical one.

This brings up a topic which I have addressed in the past, but it’s been awhile, and that is that of decals and stickers that you hand out to clients or member stores or restaurants, and the concerns many of those establishment owners have about adhesive decals.

The standard vinyl sticker uses an acrylic adhesive which is permanent, or at least semi-permanent, which simply means it’s difficult to remove. This can be a good thing, as you don’t want someone peeling it off your car window or store window, at least not until you want to remove it. One feature of acrylic adhesives is that over time, they sort of solidify, or get hard. That basically means that the stickers with this type adhesive become difficult to remove.

With acrylic adhesives, it takes about two to three days for acrylic adhesives to fully “purchase,” or bind to whatever object you have adhered it to, but then continues to purchase even more over time.

So, the solution to this, where you want a more temporary solution or don’t want to remove your car or store window to remove the decal (mind you, that is just a bit tongue in cheek), there are a couple of options, although the typical maximum application for either is one to two years, although one might get three years.

The first solution would be a removable acrylic adhesive sticker, which can be applied to vinyl or polypropylene sticker stock by the manufacturer, and the removability range is from six months to three years. At this time, screen printing vinyl decal materials are less flexible on that time range than some of the newer digital media, but the sticker business changes with the times and demands, so I think that will change.

The drawback to removable adhesive is that over time, like with permanent acrylic adhesives, it will harden and become permanent. So, if you want a sticker to be temporary, it would be important for your vendor to know how long these decals would be expected to be adhered to the glass. For a semi-temporary solution, these types of stickers are recommended.

The other option, mentioned earlier, is static cling decal material, and is a vinyl with added plasticizers (softeners) that enable it to “cling” to glass or other super-smooth surfaces (such as acrylic or non-porous glossy painted surfaces) without the use of adhesives. While these can be moved, we don’t recommend moving it after the first couple of weeks as the plasticizers migrate out of the material over time, but a static cling, left alone, could last up to two years, sometimes longer. For a temporary solution, this is our recommendation, as there is not glue residue left around the edges, and they are quite simple and easy to remove.

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How To Make A Trade Show Graphic Display That Stands Out


One Important Thing You Must Do to Have a Successful Trade Show Booth Display

Question: When I’m having a designer create designs for our trade show display and supporting graphics, what are some options that you could suggest to help us stand out at a trade show?

Answer: Aside from obvious answers such as using a fresh, bold approach to your colors and booth design, there are less obvious answers that will not only make your booth stand out design and color-wise, but create a successful exhibition every time.

Trade show booth banners

There is a powerful truth the saying “the medium is the message” when it comes to your choice of graphics. In other words, interwoven into your booth graphics needs to be your “unique selling proposition,” or USP. This must be determined before you ever start to design your trade show display and booth graphics. What are we talking about here?

First, if you’ve already done the research I’m about to suggest, my apologies. This is not for you, question asker, but for anyone else reading this post.

So, what do I mean by a “unique selling proposition,” or your USP? This is the phrase that pays, that tagline beneath your logo or headlining your ad campaigns that appeals to your customers emotions, and depending on your product or service, it could be many different things. The US Army currently has a slogan “Army of One.” What exactly are they appealing to? Probably self-sufficiency or pride in one’s mental toughness. We like to think we’re pretty tough, so the army is appealing to that emotion.

Do you have a USP? If not, you might be wondering how to come up with one. That’s not terribly difficult. You can get your company members around a table, or your marketing department if you’re a larger company, or your wife or husband if it’s a start-up, to come up with a phrase that might appeal to your specific audience. For instance, let’s say your company is a landscaping firm. That’s a pretty humble service, but if you’re good at what you do and are able to appeal to wealthier clients, it can pay pretty well.

So, what emotions could you appeal to with your potential clients, and how would you go about advertising to them? For the sake of this article, we’re going to assume you have enough financial success and experience to allow you to have a marketing budget set aside, and that you’re going to target a wealthier ZIP code in your area to do a blanket mailer. What can you do or say that will make you stand out, because everyone in the area targets this ZIP code because it is wealthier?

You have now had a brain-storming session with your crew, and you’ve come up with 2 or 3 good suggestions. So you come up with a mail piece that you think is clever. You read somewhere that if you make a bulky package, people are more likely to open it, so you find a plastic ladybug that you can buy a bunch of for cheap, and you tape it on top of your advertising piece, with a headline above it that might say “What’s bugging you about your current landscape care company?” Then you offer a 25% discount on your initial care job on their property if they call with a code, let’s say in this case the code could be LADYBUG.

Two weeks from now, you send a different piece out with a different bulky mail piece with a different message such as “My property deserves better care NOW!” (Appealing to the pride of the owner who wants his neighbors to see he has the money to pay someone good money to care for his landscaping). The code on this one could be MAGNET if perhaps you sent a refrigerator magnet in your bulky mailer this time.

Now you carefully calculate the results, and find that code MAGNET had 37% more respondents than code LADYBUG, and that the closing ratio was even higher. The magnet mailer becomes your “control,” and now you send the magnet code out again in a month, followed two weeks later by another bulky mailer, but this time the new mailer wins, hands down. You have a new control. Rinse and repeat.

At some point, you will have a “control” that wins every time (although that doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying, although maybe less frequently now). The phrase that pays becomes what you are known by, because you know that it tickles potential clients emotions more than anything else you’ve tried, so now you’re ready to take that phrase and contact a competent trade show booth graphic design firm with your phrase, and have them design the booth around your message. This works every time, and is how many good companies grow and succeed with whatever media they advertise with. Good luck!

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What to Include in Your Plan When Buying a Trade Show Display


Are You Really Ready To Purchase Trade Show Booth and Printed Graphics?

Question: I know it’s important to choose a good quality trade show display, but is there anything else I should plan on as we plan to purchase the trade show booth?

Answer: Of course, you’ll need literature stands, display racks or cabinets if you’re a retailer or product distributor or manufacturer, depending on the type of show you’re attending. Tables with table runners are also popular with some exhibitors depending on their product or service. On the aisles it’s a good idea to have roll-up banners (a.ka. pull-up or retractable banners) or similar banner stands with an enticing reason for the show goers to step into your booth.

retractable tension Pull Up Banner Stands L banners

Aside from that, how’s your marketing and sales thrust working for you. If you don’t have a good working advertisement or two that are working in other venues, it is likely your also unprepared for a trade show or convention. What do I mean by this?

Has your marketing department tested your primary message to learn if it hits your potential client’s “lizard brain.” His or her instinctual reaction that makes him or her say, “I gotta have that service” or “product?” Does it appeal to your buyer’s emotional buying triggers? If not, I’d personally advise you wait a year and hone in your marketing and advertising method using some good old-fashioned direct marketing techniques. Because if your message goes into the black hole of consciousness, you’re throwing your money after your message.

So, what do I mean when I say you need to speak to your customer’s “lizard brain.” I mean that you need to attract emotions such as the desire to be accepted and loved, a desire for good  food (if you sell chocolate, for instance), pleasure (maybe you sell fine wines), the appeal of status or pride (upscale cars, jewelry, clothing, etc.), or any number of emotions that inhabit every human being on the planet, from rich to poor. The rich have more to spend, of course, so that’s why they’re targeted more frequently than the poor – but the middle class is still a very large percentage of the population, although it has shrunk about 25% since the 1950’s; and they still have some money to spend, although not like it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Hypothetically, let’s say you are a chocolatier. You purchase the finest chocolate available from Europe, and create stunning chocolate creations that are not only beautiful, they are also incredibly delicious. You’ve had some OK success at mall kiosks, but you want to appeal to a national audience, not just the local market. Your target audience is those whose incomes are over $100K annually, so you locate a couple of upscale magazine publications that appeal to those who make a good income and have a fair amount of disposable income.

You purchase two half page ads near the front of each magazine, and run two distinctly different ads that appeal one to a desire for superior food, while the other appeals to the buyer’s pride in his or her ability to be able to afford your luxurious chocolates. You find, in both magazines, that pride out pulls superior food, 2 to 1. The pride ad is the winner. You do this buy offering a special offer such as a “BOGO” offer (buy one get one free) with a special code. This helps you to track which ad is the winner.

On your second set of ads, you pit pride against pleasure, and pride wins again. Pride, by the way, since it is winning the ad competition, is called your “control” ad. Beating the control is the goal, but after six months, the motivation of pride is clearly the winner. Now you can rest on that, or, if you are tenacious, you can start testing different status messages in your ads. Let’s say one of the staff creates an ad that appeals to status and it comes out of nowhere to beat the ad that’s been winning, by over 40%. You’re not sure that this may not have been an anomaly, so you run the brace again the following month. The ad out pulls the old ad by over 50% this time. You’ve got a new control. So you now continue to run new ads against the new control until such time as a new ad out pulls the control ad.

So, what does this have to do with a trade show display? A good quality display is desirable and shows your class and taste, but if your message has never been tested in real time, it is likely you’ll waste your time and money going to a culinary trade show when you should have gone to a yacht show where the attendees have more money to spend. If you’ve tested your status messages for a while, and you know what appeals to your well-to-do clientele, you can simply replicate your message on your graphics at the show, and it is almost a lock that the show will be a success.


What Is DTG Printing? Is It Right For Your Company?


What You Need to Learn About Direct-To-Garment Printing

Question: What is DTG Printing?

Answer: DTG is an acronym for Direct to Garment printing. Other terms for this include, but are not limited to, digital direct to garment printing, inkjet to garment printing, and digital apparel printing.

DTG inkjet printer direct to fabric printer t shirt printing

The DTG printing process  involves printing directly to textiles or clothing with a modified inkjet printer that is specifically designed to print garments. It requires a specialized platen and inks that are formulated specifically for cloth textile printing. These inks are printed directly to the fabric, unlike dye sublimation textile printing or heat transfer printing which uses a paper carrier which transfers the dye image using a combination of heat and pressure.

The basic technology used to build a DTG inkjet printer is the same technology used to build an inkjet printer similar to those used in homes and offices worldwide, except they cost a lot more, sometimes a lot more, depending on the type of output the printer will produce. Faster, bigger, and better machines can cost upwards of $300K.

DTG Printing “officially” became a commercial enterprise in approx. 2004 when the first DTG inkjet printers were introduced at a large trade show for printers put on by the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). Since the original units were introduced in 2004, many other printer manufacturing companies have jumped into the fray, and the speed and resolution have increased significantly over the past 10 years.

One of the reasons for DTG printing, though, is that cotton and other natural-fiber cloth fabrics cannot be dye sublimation printed, due to the porosity of the fibers. Poly fabrics like polyester and nylon can by “printed” with dyes during the heat transfer from the transfer paper to the fabric because they are closed fibers that open up and encase the dye then close again as they cool. Natural fibers are not able to accomplish this, so inks were invented that would fill the gap, so to speak, using inkjet printing technology.

Natural fabrics have been printed for decades using inks that were compatible with cotton, but with the advent of dye sublimation printing, it became the challenge to create the inkjet printers that could print cotton and other natural fibers with similar results, although, in my opinion, the colors don’t pop as well on the natural fibers, possibly because they are natural fibers.

As with most inkjet printing, most printers are driven by computers that have RIP software. RIP stands for raster image processor. These processing programs dictate the quantity of ink used as well as sending information on the shirt color (dark clothing requires a white base coat under the image to be printed). Some RIP software (more costly versions usually) are able to “drive” multiple inkjet printers.

roses skull black t shirt design direct to fabric printing

The main reason direct-to-garment printing was developed was to create a way to print small quantities of shirts without the cost of having to set up multiple screens to print just a few shirts or a few dozen shirts. You could actually print a single shirt with this technology. That would likely be an expensive T-shirt, but some people have the budgets to afford a single shirt made to order, so the DTG printers were invented. However, compared to printing one t-shirt using traditional screen printing methods, DTG printing is very cost effective. However,  with everything that is computerized, the equipment and inks are costly, although the results are typically cleaner and more concise compared with screen-printing.

For printing on fabric and other graphic materials, refer to


Are Heavier Banners More Durable? Plus, How to Make A Banner


Is Heavier Weight Vinyl More Durable? And, What Is The Best Way To Create A Banner?

Question: What is the difference between 13 oz. and 15 oz. vinyl banner material?

custom colored pvc banner displays

Answer: Vinyl banner material weight is calculated by the weight of the material per square foot. Sometimes the threads will be heavier in the heavier material or be distributed more densely as well to create a smoother material. Either weight may have a blockout layer of fabric now that will make the banner opaque, either to block light coming through the back side of the banner or to make it printable on both sides so that there will be no shadowing of the graphic on the back side due to light coming through it.

As far as durability, the 15 oz. material is thought to generally be able to withstand wind marginally better than a 13 oz. banner material, but in my experience, the finishing and installation will have more to do with the durability out of doors than the weight will. Reinforced hems with grommets will be more durable in the wind than non-reinforced hems, and reinforced pole pockets may be better yet. If wind slippage is needed, vinyl mesh banners may be a better option, although there is only about 15% to 20% less wind pressure on a mesh banner vs. a non-mesh vinyl banner.

Lastly, I am personally antithetically opposed to wind pockets in banners as the force of the wind is reduced 3% to 5% at the most, and it makes the banner look like it’s been shot full of holes, not a classic look in my view. Again, the finishing with reinforced hems in pole pockets is a better option, or vinyl mesh, as it retains the integrity of your design.

You can read more about graphics and printing of polyvinyl banners at

Question: We’re having a big family reunion next month, and I’d like a banner for the event. What is the best way to make a banner?

Cloth banners designed with superheroes

Answer: That depends a lot on your budget. If you have no budget or a $10 budget, get a sheet of butcher paper from the butcher or a local craft store and some poster paint or heavy felt markers and paint away.

However, if you have couple hundred bucks to work with, then you have some better options. Personally, I don’t have to worry about banners because we can do them really cheap, but for you, unless you want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a digital printer or a dye sublimation printer, it’s not as inexpensive to purchase a banner. However, like I say, for a couple hundred clams you can purchase a nice digitally printed vinyl banner or even a dye sublimation printed cloth fabric banner.

The great thing about purchasing a single banner now is that they can be printed relatively inexpensively using dye sublimation printing or digital direct-to-substrate printing of vinyl fabric. And you can print photos or whatever you want on them for less money now than you could in the ‘90’s for monochromatic vinyl on vinyl banners.

So, let’s say you’re having your family reunion in honor of your grandparents, and you want to get the perfect banner for the occasion. You could find pictures of them at various stages of their lives, their wedding, with their children, on vacation in Fiji, and at work, and amalgamate them all (at high resolution, that’s important for a good banner not to look pixelated – that’s when the resolution of a picture or graphic is too low and you see lots of little squares of color that just don’t quite look right) onto a design, say, four feet by eight feet, and then upload it to your printer’s site or via a free FTP website like and have it printed or dyed. Good luck!


Dye Sublimation Printing of Fabric Banners – Grommets Vs. Pole Pockets


How to Get Those Gorgeous Color Prints in Dye Sub Banner Printing, and How Grommets Differ from Pole Pockets

Questions: How do you get such gorgeous colors on your fabric banners?

Answer: Our polyester fabric banners are printed using the heat transfer or dye sublimation printing method. This method uses heat and pressure to create nearly photographic reproduction of your images on fabrics from knits to satins to sheer fabrics.

dye sublimated polyester cloth banner

The way the dye sublimation printing process works with fabric is this. First, the dye, which is slightly different than ink in that it is CMYO (cyan-magenta-yellow-overprint) rather than CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) which is the traditional color palette for digital and screen printing, is printed directly to a transfer paper.

Once the paper is printed, it is married to a piece of polyester fabric. Why polyester? Polyester is a synthetic oil-based fabric, so its cellular structure is closed, unlike cotton or silk, which cannot be dye sublimation printed, at least not at this writing. When heated, the cells open. This is important when the fabric and paper are sent through the heated rollers at around 400ºF.

As the paper and fabric go through the heated rollers, the cells of the poly fabric open to accept the dye, which is converted to a gaseous state due to the heated rollers. This is where the term dye sublimation comes from. The dye is sublimated into the cellular structure of the polyester and actually becomes part of the fabric, which is why the colors are so durable and also why we get those gorgeous colors, like a photograph. This color is called continuous tone printing, because it doesn’t rely on dots of color like digital printing does.

There’s  more about dye sublimation printing on polyester fabrics. Read in here:

Question: What is the difference between grommets and pole pockets?

Answer: There are several ways to hang banners, and those are two of the most common ways, with velcro being a 3rd way, although you have to have hook velcro on a wall or object to attach the loop velcro to.

Creating Grommets

Essentially, grommets are either metal or plastic rings that come in two parts, called the grommet and the washer. First, your material needs to be less thick by at least 1/16” than the depth of the grommet. A hole is punched in the material, say a vinyl banner, and the grommet is inserted thru the bottom, then set into the bottom setting die. The washer is placed over the throat of the grommet, then, if this is the simplest method, a hammer is used on the top setting punch tool and the grommet is set. Other methods are the manual grommet setter and the pneumatic grommeting machines which can be fed manually, or in larger plants may be fed with materials automatically.

A pole pocket is simpler to describe, and is favored by some for hanging banners, particularly indoors. Grommets are more common out of doors where banners are hung between light poles or trees or pinned to the side of buildings with concrete anchor pins or the like. Indoors, banners tend to be smaller which favors pole pockets to a degree. When a banner is printed, it is hemmed with a fabric loop on the top and sometimes the bottom, and less frequently the sides (unless it is a retail display or a trade show display or backdrop). A pole can be inserted through this pocket, and some type of hanging apparatus connected to each end and hung from the ceiling.

Although you didn’t ask, I will also talk about velcro. Velcro comes with a loop component and a hook component. It comes either with adhesive backing or not, depending if it’s being sewn to something like a banner. The adhesive side will be attached to frames or the like, and a banner with velcro sewn to it will be attached quickly and simply.


Trade Show Display Advice For Newbies


Designing an Advertising Booth Display For those Who Have Not Yet Participated in Trade Shows

Question: We have never been to a trade show before. What advice do you have for trade show booths and graphics, etc.?

Trade show banners

Answer: There is a lot we can say to those who’ve never attended a trade show or purchased trade show graphics including roll up banner stands, x-banners, booth backdrops, literature displays, or table runners, but the foundation you lay before attending a trade show is the most important thing you need to focus on.

As with any marketing and advertising, the message is the medium. What does this mean? This means that to successfully attract your target audience, you need to get inside their heads, find out what makes them laugh, cry, proud, greedy, hungry, thirsty, or any other range of emotions or desires that human beings exhibit.

As the late Gary Halbert once asked a group he was speaking to, “What is the key to selling hamburgers?” The audience answered this or that, but finally Gary revealed his earth-shaking answer. “A hungry crowd!” What you have to do is learn what makes your prospective customer hungry for what you have. This is the goal of marketing.

So how is that done? There is one sure fire way that you can learn what makes your clients “hungry.” That is to ask them. Then take your findings and write ads that appeal to that hunger. How do you know if the ads will work? You don’t. So you have to test them, over and over again in different venues if possible.

You may have a product that appeals to senior citizens or to youth, so you will likely already know that you’re not going to sell a lot of smart phone apps, for instance, to the geriatric crowd, nor will the younger crowd be terribly interested in things that make it easier to move around the house for the aging. So, first, know your market, know what magazines they read, what television shows they watch, where they eat and what types of foods they like, what kinds of cars are favored by seniors versus those favored by the younger set versus cars favored by middle aged professional types.

So, let’s say, for example, that you want to target your product, a protective cover for a popular smart phone that is very cool and comes in 72 different colors from pink to plum. Obviously, most seniors will care less about your “cool” phone covers. A few middle aged people might like the cases, but by and large you’re going to be targeting the children of affluent parents and young, hip professional types.

Your research will tell you what magazines are read by what age group, and for this marketing campaign, you’re probably not going to focus at all on newspapers, because most young urbans get their news online if they pay attention at all. You figure out which TV shows pull the strongest viewership of young, upwardly mobile professionals and high school students.

For your initial test, you might want to run an ad in a magazine that has a pretty decent readership of young professionals, and one that appeals to high school and college students. You strategically place a couple of quarter page ads in both magazines with different messages and images, and attach a 25% off coupon if they purchase the covers online on your website. With the ad, you also have a code which they must use to get the discount, and with that code, you can learn which ads pulled the best. If one ad out-pulls another by a significant margin, the winner becomes your “control.” You generate a new ad and repeat the process. The winner again is the control. Rinse and repeat.

Trade Show Booth Graphic Design

Now, the beauty of the 21st century is that you don’t have to wait long for your results any more. Using various online advertising venues, such as the sidebar ads on Google or Bing, you can learn within a few days which headlines are working best to get buyers to your landing pages, then what copy on the landing pages are converting looky-loos to buyers.

So, once you’ve done this for a few months or longer if needed, you now have the foundation for your trade show booth and advertising. The winning headline(s) will be used the same at a trade show as they would online or on TV or in a magazine or on a billboard.

Once you know the size of the booth you’re renting, you can take that information to a company that specializes in trade show displays and booths and the various support graphics you’ll need, and you can create a booth that will not only attract potential clients, it will firmly establish you as a player in your market. Good luck!


How Dating A Woman Is Similar To Marketing a Trade Show Booth


Insights on How You Should Advertise Your Business with Trade Show Display Graphics

Question: Our marketing director read that we shouldn’t show all our product features in our advertising, or advertise all the services we offer. Do you have any insight on this?

Answer: Well, this is a bit off topic, but let me try to bring it into perspective with the type of advertising that is in our line of expertise by going even further off topic to illustrate the point that your director read about not showing all and telling all.

Dating between a man and a woman

When I was dating many moons ago, my ADHD brain was never comfortable with silence. So, on a first date, I would talk, talk, and talk some more. I was never very political either, so I stated my mind, and shared personal hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and by the end of the date, there was no mystery about who I was or what I believed, or at least it would have appeared that way to most of the young ladies I went out with. I had no problem getting a date. I was a good-looking guy, according to the girls who I knew, and had a great smile and was very friendly and affable, but by the time I met my beautiful wife of 21+ years, I was nearly 30 years of age and was ready to settle down with life.

The problem was, as I look back now, there was no mystery, no wanting to know more about Barry. He’d told all. Now of course, this was not true, but it was the perception of the young ladies I’d dated that it was. Had I learned everything I could about them, spent my time asking questions about them and what they liked and the family they grew up in and just focused on them for the evening, at the end of the evening, they would realize that while it had been a very enjoyable evening, but that they didn’t know as much about me as they would like to.

Now, I agree that some of this is hypothetical armchair quarterbacking nearly a quarter century later, but I’m not even sure I would do any better today, because I still have an ADHD brain that when it hears a word, wants to chatter about that word. And if I do say so myself, I am a VERY interesting person!

So, how does this relate to marketing and advertising, you’re wondering. That’s the beauty of the ADHD mind. It’s also the pain of it. We ask questions and think outside of the box, so that there is nothing sacred that cannot be questioned or cross- or reverse-engineered in or out of any industry or service. But I digress.

When you launch an ad campaign, like my dating “campaign,” is it good to vomit everything you sell and do onto an ad? You’ve seen them before. Copy, copy, copy, and more copy. This may work for a long form sales letter (although I never have patience to read them – I skim through the top and bottom paragraphs and find out how much it costs if it looks interesting.

business marketing and business advertising

So, unlike my dating “strategy,” leaving a little mystery in your advertising can be a good thing. You want to pique your readers interest and curiosity, so a good headline with some sort of hook is a good start. “3 Things That Are Ruining Your Sales Approach,” or “How To Double Your Workforce Output In 30 Days” would be examples of headlines with good hooks. They make the reader want to keep going to see what you have to say.

Next, your ad copy. You may want to put down your most important services or products and a small blurb about them that will get the reader to take action. You may want to give an incentive to take action, like a coupon or a discount on a service, or if you are selling a subscription service or the like, giving the first month free, etc.

Now, to bring this fully on topic, let’s say you’re going to a trade show and you want to know how to display your product or services. Don’t lay out your entire hand at the show. Make people want to know more. Use proven headlines on your booth. Have brochures that will give a few salient points, but make it your goal to get people on the phone with your best sales people, or in person, if that is how your company’s model. But retain some mystery to start with. You’ll do better with your “dates” than I did.

More about custom trade displays and graphics here:


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