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Dec 1 / Patrick Diogenia

5 Last-Minute Marketing To-Do’s for the Holidays

With Thanksgiving behind us and Cyber Monday fading fast, it may seem like the ship has sailed for those of you who have yet to create a holiday marketing strategy. But if you’re willing to set aside a few hours of time, there’s still a lot you can do to boost December sales, even as we drift slowly toward the new year.

Here’s a list of our top suggestions:
  1. Set Up a Bounceback Offer: This is a promotion normally applied to gift cards wherein a customer who purchases a gift card (or set of gift cards) totaling a minimum amount receives a voucher or gift card good toward purchases made at a later time (usually January). This not only encourages gift card sales during the peak season for them – it also fills your store (or website or restaurant) at the slowest time of year.
  2. Wish Your Clients a Happy Holiday: This is incredibly important for professional services firms and b to b outfits. It’s not just good business – people do business with people they like – it’s also just good manners to thank clients for their patronage. Most businesses send generic “Happy Holidays” cards so as not to offend anyone, but we encourage you to acknowledge Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as holidays of their own: don’t light a Christmas tree in your shop without having a menorah someplace nearby. People like being recognized.
  3. Set Up Last-Minute Promotions: Much is made of the Black Friday rush, but as long as there’s Christmas, there will be people who shop at the last minute. If you’re a retailer, determine the latest cutoffs for Christmas delivery and publish them. Consider extended hours just before Christmas. Offer a value add, such as gift wrapping, as a complimentary service. Last-minute shoppers appreciate convenience!
  4. Set Your Year-End Schedule: Restaurants and retail stores should make customers aware of their holiday hours well in advance. Consider whether you’ll stay open late just before Christmas – or on select other days – and when you’re going to close early or not open at all. Professionals, b to b and nonprofits should also inform their stakeholders of their holiday schedule. Remember to update websites, social media, voicemail systems and ask employees to set out of office messages for their email. Stores and offices should both inform the public when they will return to regular hours.
  5. Provide Memorable Service: This isn’t the time of year for “standard” and “adequate.” The holiday season is filled with larger-than-life light displays, shopping lists and parties. Your service must be the same. Serve hot apple cider to customers when they enter your store, or as diners wait for take-out orders. Hold purchases at the cash wrap so customers have free hands with which to shop. Post holiday tips on social media and include them in email newsletters. How can you improve your customers’ lives or make them easier? The reward for answering this question is customer monogamy (as Gary Loveman of Caesars says) in an age of rampant polygamy.
One more word about the holidays: make sure your employees are happy, too. They serve your customers, and ensuring their well-being will begin a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.
Mar 13 / Patrick Diogenia

Birthday Offers: Give Them Something or Just Say Hi?

Aria Birthday Email

Aria Casino in Las Vegas is one of the few non-restaurant brands that sends a special offer on one’s birthday instead of a mere acknowledgment.

Today is my birthday, and throughout the month I’ve received a bunch of “Happy Birthday” emails from various brands: Capital One; Houlihan’s; Acura; Hard Rock Casino and others. While the restaurants generally beckon you in with the promise of a free dessert or appetizer (or in some cases, such as Landry’s, with $25 off the check), companies in other sectors generally greet one’s birthday with a giant goose egg. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Hard Rock sent me an email that basically reads, “Happy Birthday from your friends at Hard Rock Casino!” Thank you, but simply “remembering” my birthday isn’t going to endear me to your brand.

Aria in Las Vegas, a holding of the giant MGM Resorts International, got it right. They sent an email (pictured above) with a special room rate valid for travel I book within the next 30 days. Not only is this appreciative of my previous business with them – it’s also very clever. We are far more likely to be in the mood to treat ourselves to something special on our birthdays than on any ordinary day.

Kathleen D. Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, explained it like this to the New York Times: “People have a limited supply of energy to put toward controlling their urges.”

Take note of this human foible, dear readers, and encourage your customers to splurge about on their special day.

Jan 28 / Patrick Diogenia

Always Proof Your Work

Netflix screen capture

This is a screen capture of the front page of the Netflix website. Notice the orange utility cord protruding from behind the false wall bottom right.

This is a screen capture of the home page of Netflix, the $3.2 billion purveyor of movies through the mail and online streaming. This is also a great example as to why you should always proof your ads twice and rely on marketing partners you trust to do the same.

I give Netflix credit for presenting their real product (shared experiences) so succinctly through this lovely image. If only one of the designers had Photoshopped that cord….

Jan 16 / Patrick Diogenia

Backstreet Boys: 20 Years of “Eye Sex”

The Backstreet Boys performing in Atlantic City

The Backstreet Boys performing in Atlantic City

After 20 years, how have the Backstreet Boys managed to maintain their fame and much of their fan base? I attended a BSB performance in December, 2012 to find out. While many groups have memorable hits, the Boys trade in an even more intimate commodity that elevates “I Want it That Way” from song into sexual fantasy for their legions of female fans.

For a short time in the late 1990’s, the Backstreet Boys were the most popular and best-selling musicians in the world. I have statistical evidence to back this up (such as their unprecedented sell-out of 765,000 tour tickets in one day), but I also have my own vivid memory. I was a junior in high school when the Millennium album was released. Even the straight boys were singing along as BSB’s consummate hit, “I Want it That Way,” became as ubiquitous to adolescents as pop quizzes and pimples.

Alas, fame is fleeting, especially when your core constituent graduates from dry humping to the full monty of adult life about once every four years. As my friends grew goatees and changed their wardrobes, their chosen music took on a similar aura of disguise. Artists like Linkin Park, Puddle of Mudd, Lifehouse and New Found Glory presented an amalgam of early 90’s alternative and the predominant Scandinavian song-crafting of our high school years, allowing us to grow up musically without having to completely grow out of our formative tastes.

The Backstreet Boys continued to release albums, but the zeitgeist retrained its ever-shifting focus. Max Martin, the Cheiron God responsible for “I Want it That Way” and countless other hits, took to writing for Celine Dion and Kelly Clarkson. In 2010, the Boys embarked on a highly successful nostalgia tour with paterfamilias New Kids on the Block – but they ceded the rarefied turf of multi-million dollar stages with platforms and waterfalls to the likes of the Jonas Brothers, and later Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.

All of this begs the question of what happens when a group that was once the world’s predominant musical force remains popular enough to sell out shows, but not stadiums. Where do you go when, like a fondly remembered ex, you are liked but no longer loved?



There is a network of high-quality venues in the US that cares not for Bieber, Swift and the lads from One Direction: casino showrooms. Gambling halls in Atlantic City and Las Vegas once featured such kid-friendly havens as bowling alleys and amusement parks, but the family market turned out to be a financial flop. Ask gaming executives today and they’ll tell you a casino is no place for children. Their entertainment bookers usually walk the talk, eschewing teen acts till their audiences grow up.

This explains the Boys’ most recent business venture, a string of concert dates at gaming properties such as Sands Hotel & Casino in Bethlehem, PA and the House of Blues at Showboat Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.

On December 30th, I was in the audience for the Boys’ Atlantic City appearance, fiddling with my cell phone as I awaited their entry to the stage. After several minutes of waiting the lights dimmed and the sold-out music hall drew to attention, as if a coach had blown a whistle. Such an act would have been impossible to discern, however, through the Beatles-level screaming that permeated the place as the Boys appeared on a crude black platform situated at the rear of the proscenium.

The four-piece band blared the intro to “Incomplete,” and flat-footed female fans arose en masse, thrusting adoring signs into the air. This is the group’s twentieth anniversary and the fans, if not the Boys—who look remarkably spry—show it. Many carried the countenance of motherhood on their shoulders but were wise enough to keep their kids away from the bacchanalia soon to ensue. A collective of young moms, libidinous single ladies and others mirrored every lyric back to the group, sucking in their presence like hungry Hoovers.

The fans’ excitement only intensified as the Boys broke out their upbeat fare, starting with “Larger than Life” and continuing down the hit parade to “We’ve Got it Going On” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” a song included on AOL Radio’s list of 100 worst songs ever. But the customer is always right, as they say, and these customers (young adult girls and the gay men who love them) wanted sweat, nostalgia and sex. Soon the boys were dancing at fever pitch, and Nick, ever the young pup among his older peers, was doing his best to make Elvis’ pelvic thrusts look like Disney fare.

As AJ, Brian, Howie and Nick (Kevin was absent from this tour date) glided into their solo material, including an excruciating song called “P.L.A.R.S.” performed by AJ (which, by the way, stands for “party like a rock star”), the crowd settled down, springing to action once again as the Boys launched into a smoothly harmonized medley of their early hits, including “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and “As Long As You Love Me.”

While other elements of their lives exhibit a studied evolution—marriages, children, business ventures—their stagecraft, patter and affectations seem straight out of 1999. Littrell, for instance, appeared in a pink shirt and matching big-tongued pink sneakers, a look tailor-made for 19 year-old Justin Bieber but hopelessly mawkish on a 37 year-old father.

Solo numbers typically began on the platform, with the Boy in question dancing conspicuously alone. It often seemed that the group was stuck in a fantasy of grandiosity; as if they believed the dance troupes, pyrotechnics and motorized platforms they enjoyed at their apex remained with them. In reality, the scenery consisted of plywood, gaffer’s tape and a generic sparkle curtain often employed at high school talent shows.

Brian’s solo was notable not for its content (a tribute to the children lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which was to be expected so soon after this tragedy), but instead for the warbly voice that emanated from this once golden-throated songster. As he croaked through his high notes, my companion assured me that he sounded similarly screechy at a performance about four months prior. This is sufficient evidence that Littrell’s vocal deficiencies were not caused by a cold, but instead are of a more permanent nature.

Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the concert, both for me and the ladies involved, was a segment titled “Club Backstreet.” Thirty women handpicked from the audience grooved and giggled with themselves and the Boys as the group ostensibly attempted to perform a song. The true purpose of this exercise, however, is fan interaction; some of the lewdest sort. Girls in skin-tight dresses and two-piece bathing suits rubbed various body parts against the Boys, with Nick and AJ commanding a disproportionate amount of attention – and ass.

These dedicated fans surely know that AJ and the rest of the Backstreet Boys, save Nick, are married. No matter: this was not a moment for their wives, who can have them for the rest of their lives (or, in the case of a Hollywood marriage, at least a few more years). This was a moment for the fans, who came to the Showboat casino in search of not just a show, but also to rise tide on the boats in each of the Backstreet Boys’ pants.

By this measure the Boys delivered, especially to a woman who calls herself AJ’s Poster Girl. According to her review of the concert on, “AJ came over, looked me in my eyes, licked his lips and lifted his shirt. My sister called it having eye sex.”

Brian’s once-stellar voice may be shot; the show, at a mere 75 minutes, may have been short; and the Boys may have been both corny and arrogant, failing to thank their crew or backing band. But to a 30 year-old woman who has one night per year to pretend she’s still 16, eye sex is all that counts, and that is one commodity the Boys delivered in abundance.

Jan 9 / Patrick Diogenia

How to Destroy Customer Loyalty

What would you do if you visited a local restaurant once or twice per week, most times with your entire family in tow, and the owner charged you $12 for a child’s order of buttered noodles?

This is a true dispatch from a family friend, a savvy grandma in her early 60’s (whom we’ll henceforth call – what else? – Savvy Grandma) who frequently dines at some of the best places in town. When she does, she orders appetizers, multiple entrees, drinks, desserts – the whole enchilada. Savvy Grandma often treats her large family, consisting of a husband, three children and five grandchildren, to lunches and dinners. When she’s not eating out with family, she goes to lunch with friends and neighbors. Simply put, this lady loves to entertain.

This is not a customer you want to sacrifice with feckless and miserly service. This is a relationship you want to grow, so that Savvy Grandma spreads the word to her vast social network (yes, this is a grandma with a Facebook account and a smart phone) that your place is a great place.

If you accidentally annoyed Savvy Grandma by overcharging her for a kids’ meal, and then thought about how much she really means to your business, you’d try to make it right, wouldn’t you?

Sadly, you wouldn’t get the chance. “I thought about complaining, but I’m not the type of person who does that,” Savvy Grandma later confessed. “So I paid the bill and left, and I will never return.”

(When I asked what you would do at the beginning of this post, you may have thought to yourself, “I’d ask for the owner/manager and set ’em straight.” While most of us think we’d handle a small breach in service this way, fact is we are far more likely to handle things the way Savvy Grandma did – the passive aggressive way – than by outwardly confronting the management.)

Let’s find out how much business the restaurant owner could have gained by keeping Savvy Grandma happy:


2 Dinners Per Week (Average Check $90) x 5 Years $46,800
One Off-Premise Catering Per Year @ $500 x 5 Years $2,500
Holiday Gift Cards (3 @ $50 ea) x 5 Years
Referral Business (1 check per month @ $50 average check) x 5 Years $3,000
Additional Business From Positive Review on Yelp Invaluable





TOTAL FORFEITED BUSINESS : $50,350 x 30% food cost = $35,245 profit


Now let’s find out how much business the restaurant owner lost by offending Savvy Grandma:


Directly Lost Business (from above) $50,350
Negative Review on Yelp, Citysearch etc. (500 Views per Month x 2 Years @ 10% average check $35) $42,000
Relating Story of Snub to 10 Friends (3 of Whom Would Have Otherwise Become Customers @ $50 Per Month for 5 Years) $9,000


TOTAL LOST BUSINESS: $101,350 x 30% food cost = $70,945 profit


There are several possible morals to this story, all of which revolve around not doing anything that would cause $100,000 to walk out the door and never return. Of course not every situation is clear-cut, where a big spender wants a plate of noodles for a 3 year old (total food cost: $1 at most). What to do when a VIP customer requests, either directly or obliquely, special treatment or “comps” the restaurant may feel uncomfortable providing? What if the requests are unreasonable at the customer’s level of annual spend?

These are actually two different questions. Some restaurants don’t feel comfortable providing any comps at all, despite the fact that they are more than tripling their money on a cost-of-goods-sold basis, a position most retailers can dream of but will never achieve. Such owners and managers have to understand that even the St. Regis and Ritz Carlton hotel chains provide “deals” and give breaks to their best guests; and that asking (or expecting) some active gratitude in return for loyalty is a fait accompli in modern business.

When it comes to the unreasonable guest, don’t try to match his or her wits – simply suggest an equitable alternative. Do it lightly and warmly, even if you secretly want to punch the customer. You wouldn’t hit Uncle Joe if he asked you to break out your best wine, would you?

The word “restaurant” derives from the French restaurer, meaning “to restore or refresh.” Savvy Grandma, like all of your customers, expects a little restoration from the craziness of modern life when she steps through your portals. Give it to her and reap the rewards. Get her granny panties in a knot and she’ll take her family, friends and Facebook account out of your sphere of influence for years, perhaps forever. With the way life expectancy is looking these days, that is not a risk I encourage you to take.


P.S. to Other Business Owners: This morality tale applies to you, too. Are you a law firm that bills retainer clients $0.25/page for copies? An upscale business hotel that charges for bottled water? A spa that wouldn’t give a free massage to a concierge who’s sent you boatloads of business? Remember that customers (and those who refer them) notice, even if they never tell you so, and act accordingly.

Nov 19 / Patrick Diogenia

Denny’s Update: Digging Themselves Deeper


Dear Denny’s,

You have certainly commanded a lot of news lately, thanks to one of your franchisees’ pledge to introduce a 5% Obamacare Surcharge to offset his costs of compliance.

While I give you credit for immediately countering this position with a statement of your own, your CEO’s follow-up press release only serves to inflame your proponents.

It’s full of defensive corporate-speak and self-serving mentions of the charity work Denny’s already performs on a regular basis. It’s all effrontery and no action. You’re not promising anything. You offer only platitudes.

It’s time for Denny’s to go on the offensive: make a big announcement of your own. Develop an incentive program for your hourly workers. Yes, I know they technically work for the franchisees and not for you. I don’t care. Do it anyway.

Head a task force to normalize relations between the restaurant industry and the White House regarding the healthcare law. The entire industry is up in arms over this thing; that’s not good for business and it’s not good for the President, either. Find a way to work together, or at the very least, make a public attempt. It will dampen the underlying assumption that restauranteurs are staunchly anti-labor 1000 times better than  a pro forma statement about how Denny’s is committed to its employees.

As I suggested in my previous blog, go on Undercover Boss. That show is like Intensive Care for sagging brands. Trust me – you need it.

Denny’s also needs a corporate personality to usurp John Metz as the face of the company. That can happen – if you are willing as a company to make some of the commitments outlined above. Reality TV is especially good at personalizing a brand, but don’t wait for your CEO or COO’s star turn. Do something now – right now.

The vast majority of press mentions regarding Denny’s remain negative, even after Metz walked back his surcharge pledge and your statement went out repudiating same. There are talks of boycotts. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not pretty, either.

Denny’s, I seriously urge you to take the sour lemons John Metz handed you and turn them into sweet, succulent lemonade. Out of adversity springs the greatest opportunity.

This could be great for you. Don’t screw it up.



Patrick Diogenia


Nov 16 / Patrick Diogenia

The Shame of the Surcharge

Denny's Sign

John Metz, a Denny’s franchisee based in Florida stated he will impose a 5% Obamacare surcharge on customers to offset costs of complying with Obamacare.


The Story: Yesterday, John C. Metz, franchisee of about 50 Denny’s restaurants, several Dairy Queen locations and owner of Hurricane Grill & Wings, announced that he plans to impose a 5% surcharge on all orders at his restaurants to offset the costs of complying with the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

While Mr. Metz isn’t the first restauranteur to cry foul over the law – Darden (owners of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other concepts), Papa John’s and others have implied that reductions in its employees’ work hours are forthcoming – this is the first known instance of a CEO assessing business costs directly on customers.

Hours after the Huffington Post broke this story, Politico picked it up. Fox News, ABC News and CNBC followed. Last night, MSNBC host Ed Schultz ran the story, including a photo of Metz and a screen grab of his implicating quote:


“If I leave the prices the same, but say on the menu that there is a 5 percent surcharge for Obamacare, customers have two choices. They can either pay it and tip 15 or 20 percent, or if they really feel so inclined, they can reduce the amount of tip they give to the server, who is the primary beneficiary of Obamacare. Although it may sound terrible that I’m doing this, it’s the only alternative. I’ve got to pass the cost on to the consumer.”


Even before the MSNBC piece ran, Metz’s company thought his comments enough of an issue to post a press release walking back his remarks, which you can find here. The release states, in part, that “the five percent surcharge mentioned in various online outlets is pure speculation,” which sounds a lot to me like Hurricane Grill & Wings is calling the honesty of the media into question.

It’s a case of semantics: I assume they really mean that Metz was speculating with his remarks to the media, but the phrase can easily be interpreted as implying that the stories filed about Metz got it all wrong.

This loose use of language is a really, really bad idea, especially considering Denny’s historically tense relationship with the media. In the early 1990’s the company faced a class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at several outlets, mostly in the southern United States. Amongst other transgressions, the suit, which Denny’s ultimately settled for $54.4 million, accused the chain of surcharging black customers, forcing them to wait longer or in some cases, refusing them service all together. Reports of racial discrimination at the chain continued even after the settlement went into effect.


Analysis & Advice: While it’s true that Denny’s corporate and the franchisees are separate entities, the public doesn’t recognize this distinction. One false move by the corporate office can besmirch every franchisee – and, in this case, one miscalculation by a franchisee can harm the entire network of restaurants.

If I were Denny’s or, to a lesser extent Dairy Queen, I’d take a serious look at my franchising agreements to determine what limitations I can impose on the rights of individual franchisees to speak with the media. While it may “sound terrible,” as the man himself put it, Mr. Metz is in serious need of a gag order.

The company’s current relationship with Metz forced them into an uncomfortably defensive position, exhibited by their recent statement that Metz doesn’t speak for all of Denny’s. This is something a company does when it’s boxed in, and it’s hardly going to help.

Metz is a valuable franchisee with long experience in the restaurant business, and Denny’s has to act decisively without sacrificing its relationship with him. At the same time, smallness will never cancel out bigness. Metz’s statement was big – especially after a Presidential election – that’s why the media transformed what was essentially a regional, trade-related story into a national one with political implications.

In contrast, Denny’s statement was tiny. It hardly made a ripple, aside from assuaging major stakeholders that the company hasn’t lost its marbles. It hardly reached customers at all.

Denny’s needs to do something to counter the anti-worker, anti-customer, anti-patriotic sentiment of Metz’s announcement. If I were flacking for them, I’d recommend one of their c-level executives develop a task force representing the restaurant industry to work with the White House on a fair implementation of the healthcare law. I’d also advise an incentive-based program to improve the lives of hourly workers and reduce attrition. I’d walk back Metz’s statement, with his cooperation. He needs to flatly promise absolutely no Obamacare surcharge will be imposed now or at any time in the future. Finally, I’d call Stephen Lambert at Undercover Boss and lobby hard for a spot in next season’s roster.

This surcharge issue is hardly Denny’s only image problem (the chain rated fourth from the bottom out of 26 family restaurants in Consumer Reports’ 2011 restaurant survey), and these actions would bring Denny’s to top of mind with consumers in a positive way.

That’s desperately needed when nearly every press mention of your brand is currently negative.

Nov 15 / Patrick Diogenia

Small Business Saturday: Gifts from Unlikely Places

Small Business Saturday Logo


Smack between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, American Express presents something called Small Business Saturday, which is intended to help companies with annual revenue of $10 million or less claim a piece of the opening salvo of holiday shopping.

If you own or manage a small business that accepts the American Express card, there is literally no reason not to take advantage of the many benefits the bank has lined up for you, including:

  • $25 in complimentary Facebook advertising (register for this by 11/19)
  • Customers will receive a $25 statement credit on their Amex card when they register at and spend $25 or more at a participating business (including yours!)
  • A guidemap located at with listings of participating businesses
  • Logos and banner ad assets available for immediate download


Special Note: As a special thanks for doing business with us, we will match the Amex statement credit with an additional $25 credit on orders you place with us on Small Business Saturday, 11/24/12 of $500 or more. This includes new orders for services and eligible products (most printing and promotional goods orders), but excludes existing invoices, previously approved orders and projects already in progress or recently completed. This offer cannot be combined with other offers, is limited to one order per client and the order must be prepaid on 11/24/12. We’ll be around on Saturday till 9 PM ET to process these orders, but you can place them anytime this week and still receive the credit.


These benefits are available to qualifying businesses – these include merchants who accept the American Express card through a traditional merchant account, a direct arrangement with Amex or through Square. If you accept the Card through Square, you won’t appear on the map (instead, your listing appears here:, but you remain eligible for the other benefits.

The fine print: there are some excluded business categories, like pornography, firearms and tobacco (others, too). Nonprofits are also ineligible, along with governmental entities. Merchants that began to accept American Express cards after October 15, 2012 won’t appear on the map; and merchants that began to accept American Express cards after October 31, 2012 do not qualify for the American Express $25 statement credit offer. Also, it may take up to 8 weeks for your customers to see the Amex credit on their card statement. The $25 credit only applies to personal Amex charge and credit cards; corporate and prepaid cards are excluded.

Visit and click on “Promote Your Small Business” to get started, then come back here after the 24th and leave a comment to let us know how you made out with this completely free promotion.

Jul 4 / Patrick Diogenia

Tips for Trade Shows

Boring Trade Show Display

This generic display is precisely why I advise you to steer clear of the default trade show decorator if at all possible. By standing out in a sea of sameness, you'll gain attention - and customers!


Whether you’re voyaging to the Liquor Show in Vegas or hawking software to a gaggle of Google consultants in Green Bay, follow these tips to ensure success at your trade show or convention.

Welcome to the land of the $13 martini. Trade shows, much like the casinos, resort hotels and convention centers in which they’re often held, are designed to separate people from money. If you think you can avoid this phenomenon by steering clear of the bar, consider the financial outlay required simply to walk in the door as an exhibitor: registration and display fees; cartage fees; trade show decorator fees; electrical and telecommunications tariffs; transportation; product samples; promotional items and so much more.

The role of you and your team is to recoup the funds you’ve committed in the form of sales, referrals, goodwill and press mentions. The first step to doing this is knowing how much you’ve already spent—along with how much you’re going to spend— between your first day in the host city and the last day of post-event communications.

The second step is to follow these simple tips:


  • Don’t Do What Everyone Else is Doing: Most (if not all) of your competitors probably ordered their carpeting, chairs and lights from the approved trade show decorator. Therefore, their displays will look the same—in other words, boring. As Dash laments in the 2004 film The Incredibles, if everyone were special, no one would be. Consider this your opportunity to differentiate by selecting your own tables, chairs and other accoutrements to create a unique look that reinforces your brand. For assistance, call on a consultant, ad agency or your corporate marketing department.
  • If They Can’t See it, They Can’t Buy It: Good lighting is essential to any effective trade show display. Clip lamps from Staples aren’t going to cut it; you need professional-grade fixtures that will stand up to constant use; as well as meet the electrical requirements of the show’s producers. For more intricate displays, I typically use stage lights on trusses controlled by a central DMX box. If your needs are less complex, a trip to your local home improvement store will likely do the trick. Remember to never place Halogen bulbs on a carpeted surface; and always leave complex rigging to the professionals.
  • Make Sure They Can Hear You: For shows that take place in cavernous halls with high ceilings (like the Javits center in New York, or the Mandalay Bay Center in Las Vegas), an investment in sound reinforcement may help your pitch carry to more attendees—thus increasing leads. Stay away from megaphones and jerry-rigging into laptops or boom boxes; these makeshift solutions reduce your persona to a huckster-like level. Instead, visit your local music store (such as Sam Ash or Guitar Center) or look online for a compact, yet professional solution such as a powered speaker (which combines the amp and speaker into one unit, thus saving you space). Due to the exorbitant cost involved, renting sound equipment only makes sense if you do just a couple of shows per year. Otherwise, buy something. Reliable brands include Pevey, Behringer (known for their bargain prices), Shure (the industry standard in microphones), Mackey and Samson.
  • Unions May Run the Show: In Union strongholds like New York and Philadelphia, venue rules may restrict you from loading/unloading merchandise, wiring electric at your display and a number of other tasks without the help of a Union technician. In other locales, especially the South, you’ll more likely be on your own; so remember to pack duct tape, Sharpies, fishing line, a hand truck and whatever else you may need to get going once you arrive.
  • Bring a Clipboard: These days, most of the larger shows offer badge scanning systems for rental; but these are notoriously unreliable, expensive and erratic. Be sure to pack an old-fashioned clipboard and pen to sign attendees onto your mailing list so they’ll be on your side, even when technology isn’t.
  • Stay at the Official Hotel: Though convention hotels are often costly (as illustrated with the real-life martini price above), the advantages of staying in the midst of everyone else far outweigh this one disadvantage. You are more likely to bump into potential clients while staying at the official hotel; and you can invite them to the restaurant or into a meeting room to pitch your heart out and close that deal. You can host a hospitality suite or buy a round of drinks at the hotel bar for that executive team you’ve been trying to get to know. Plus, when the events are located outside the hotel, convention organizers often provide transportation to the main venue, free of charge.
  • Get Involved: More often than not, show organizers have more ambition than they do available funds, extra hands and additional time. If you volunteer to fill a space by heading a committee, presenting a lecture or even supplying one of your products as a door prize, you are on your way to personal references from the producers, a plum table location for next year—and inclusion in the follow-up articles and press releases issued by the show staff.
  • Get a Gimmick: When my clients set off for trade shows, I often lend them a talking robot that used to bring me thousands of extra dollars in business when I worked the trade show circuit years ago. If you’re in technology, toys, novelties or the like, a roving robot attracting guests back to your display may work for you. In other instances, it makes more sense to run a giveaway, host a game at your display or provide entertainment, often in the form of a magician that performs effects customized to your sales pitch. For information on excellent trade show entertainers, you may contact me directly, or consult a talent agent in the host market of the show.


As with most marketing endeavors, the key to a successful trade show is planning and preparation. If time is at a premium; or you’ve been honest with yourself and know events are not your forte, do yourself a favor and hire a professional from a consultancy or ad agency that revels in checklists and other minutiae. Trade shows are a detail-oriented endeavor, and the businesswoman that remembers to pack a cooler of sandwiches for her sales staff will thrive over the absentee landlord parked at the hotel bar, craps tables or hospitality suite while her charges grimace and grumble.

If you think I’m kidding, keep in mind that I once paid $20 for a breakfast burrito at the New York Hilton—which is about the only time a $13 martini started sounding like a bargain.

Feb 3 / Patrick Diogenia

The Most-Watched Football Team

It’s not the Giants (sorry, New York). It’s not the Eagles (sorry, Philadelphia). No, the most highly-rated team in the NFL is the San Francisco 49ers, with 27% of of market households tuning in to their games.

The Giants are in fourth place, behind the Steelers and the Packers.

The Eagles didn’t even make the top 12.

The 49ers even receive a whopping 9 rating among teens. The immensely popular Patriots score an 8.4 in the same category.

Who knew San Francisco is a bigger football town than Boston?

Enjoy the Super Bowl this Sunday!