NFDA Convention


Where did I leave off? 

Oh yes, we were wandering Bourbon Street, trying to find some decent souvenirs to take home.  My companion for this trip, my friend Kim, was looking for a voodoo doll for her husband.  Not a voodoo doll that she would use on her husband, but one for him as a gift.

The next day was show day, so we got a good night’s sleep (after climbing into the ridiculously tall beds.  Seriously, there was a stepstool so you could reach the top of the mattress) and were ready to head over to the convention center the next day.

You should know that I’m writing this two months after the show ended, so my exact memories might be a little hazy.  Okay, a lot hazy.  But hopefully I can give you the general idea of what happened and the big benefits we gained and the things we learned.

Our first day on the floor was made eventful by way of an unexpected surprise:  during one of the morning workshops, when asked what advances individuals had made in their business, a funeral director stood up and told the audience that the single best purchase he’d made in recent years was buying cot covers from Final Embrace and that the company was at the show this year.

During the first two hours of the show, we fielded questions and orders from at least twenty funeral directors who had attended the workshop and were open to our sales pitch. 

So we send a big “thank you!” to the funeral director who spoke so highly of us and our product.

The rest of our day went well, boosted by the immediate interest generated by the workshop.  As the day winded down, I noted that we were already a third of the way toward our goal.  I usually set a goal before each show, based upon dollars spent to exhibit and previous year totals.  The three NFDA Expos prior looked like this:

2007 Las Vegas:  40 cover goal, 42 covers sold
2008 Orlando :  100 covers goal, 153 covers sold
2009 Boston:  100 covers goal, 103 covers sold

So I set another 100 cover goal.  My trip to New Orleans was not as expensive as Boston, so setting a similar goal was less about cost and more about expectations.  On day one, we sold more than 33 covers, so we were well on the way.

One of my biggest concerns about going to our 4th NFDA show in a row was that we would eventually run out of funeral directors who had never seen us and would have to rely on reorders and sales of new products to keep up with our goals for the show.

We finally began a full-on push to sell our dressing table skirts at this show, so it was good to see that many people were interested in what new items we had and were willing to order.

I am convinced that, had we not offered dressing table skirts this year, we would have been far off our goal and probably not sold more than 50 covers.

The second day was even more successful, so that we only need five orders on the last day to reach the goal.

15 items sold on the last day helped us break our goal and allowed us to finish with 110 items for the three day event.  Of those, more than 30 were dressing table skirts.  A number of those skirt systems went to funeral directors who had ordered from us before and who would not have visited our booth if we hadn’t let them know that we had something new to offer.

Here’s a final breakdown of our costs:

ITEM COST
Booth  $   2,500
Lodging  $     900
Food  $     300
Fuel  $     200
Misc.  $     100
 TOTAL:  $   4,000

Normally, I would budget $50 per cover/skirt system for this kind of marketing, meaning we needed to sell 80 covers/skirt systems to pay for the show.  Fortunately, selling 30 more items meant that our per item cost to exhibit was less than $37.

When I look back over this show, I think I will remember it as the show that re-emphasized our need to develop other products.  It will also be the show when people started to see that we are “here to stay,” and it’s the show where I finally started to feel like we know what we’re doing at conventions.

Course, next year I’ll probably change it all up.  Who knows.  Chicago 2011 is a long way off!

A recent article in “The Vancouver Sun” newspaper discusses the 2010 NFDA convention and even mentions our quilted cot covers.  (Here’s a link to the article)

Even better, the photo they use has our booth SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE!

I’ve circled our booth in the photo above.  Check out the eight people around our booth, learning about our covers.  This must have been during one of our super-busy times when there was barely any room for visitors in our little space.

I chatted with this reporter for a few minutes between customers and she was very kind and interested in the products.  I finally had to cut our conversation short because of so much interest in what we had to offer.  I’m glad to see she took our conversation to heart and added us to her piece.

The article is a nice “outsider’s” look at our industry.  I’m glad she stopped to talk to us.

I’ve been hard at work getting ready for the 2010 NFDA Expo in New Orleans.  That means getting our booth cleaned up, making sure product is boxed up, designing brochures and packing my suitcase.

It also means getting my little Flip video camera charged so I can shoot some “man on the street” videos for NFDA’s website.  Here’s what one looks like:

Yesterday, Andy Werner, my good friend at NFDA headquarters, sent out an email detailing a special NFDA package that exhibitors can take advantage of that will boost their online presence with NFDA and generate some great visibility for their company.

For just $650, a company can get a year’s worth of online exposure to NFDA members.  First, the company gets a featured listing on the NFDA Biz Exchange website.  Now, there are already 12 companies who have that kind of listing, so to make it even more attractive, we will also produce a “product demonstration” or “service interview” video, shot by me, to the listing.

Basically, if you decide to invest in this kind of exposure, Andy will add your company to the featured area of the NFDA website.  Then, I’ll set up a time to see you at the NFDA Expo (before or after show hours) and film a 1-2 minute interview with you or one of your representatives.  We’ll talk about what your company does.  You can even show off product and point out why your widget is better than others.  We’ll keep it positive, so no trash-talking your competitors, but the object is to give people who haven’t come to the expo or may be watching in six months an “expo-eye” view of your booth and product.  We’ll end by telling people how to find your product.

If you’re spending thousands of dollars to exhibit at this show, you know the importance of being seen at this kind of industry event and the great selling opportunities that the NFDA Expo offers.  My company, which sells quilted cot covers, writes almost 20% of our annual business at this show. 

The next best thing to being there is watching a video of it.  Imagine being able to “sell” your product to tens of thousands of NFDA site visitors who didn’t get to see you at the convention.

Want to know more?  Already have a featured listing on the NFDA site and want to add the video?

For more information, please contact Andrew Werner at 262-814-1550 or awerner@nfda.org.

It’s been a whirlwind around here lately, with planning for two conventions and a monster opening month for 2010.  Doing all of it leaves little time for talking about all that we’re doing!

We had our best January ever, with the combo of January-February shaping up to the be the best two month period in our history, outside of a national convention.

Helping out our February numbers has been our trip to the South Carolina Funeral Directors Association Expo, held in Columbia on Tuesday, February 2nd and Wednesday, February 3rd.

The EXPO, which featured a wide range of vendors, attracted a great crowd of funeral directors from South Carolina and a few from neighboring states.  I even saw Bill Wappner, current NFDA President and one of our customers from Ohio.

We entered the show with a goal to sell 20 cot covers.  Our goals, which help us measure success during and after the show, are based upon our expenses for the event and the expected turnout.  I normally budget $50 per cover sold toward the cost of attending.

While I initially planned on spending about $1000 to attend the EXPO, our final numbers look like this:

BOOTH:  $600
FUEL:  $75
MEALS:  $130
OTHER:  $50
——————-
TOTAL:  $855

By my $50 standard, we needed to sell 17 covers to pay for the show.

Any wonder, then, that we sold 17?

Now, I don’t count sales by our wholesale customers, even if they are generated at the show, but one of the companies that retails our product did sell two covers to a customer. 

So we fell short of our goal, but we were still able to pay for the show with sales.

Here’s a list of the conventions we’ve attended, which includes the costs for each and the goals we set because of those costs.  You’ll see that the two conventions where we missed out goals by a wide margin were two years of the Kentucky show.  Also, the last three convention are in the future, so the expenses are only educated guesses at this point.

CONVENTION DATE BOOTH HOTEL TRAVEL MEALS PROMO MISC. TOTAL GOAL ACTUAL
Kentucky FDA 6/25/2008 $570 $490 $420 $240 $90 $187 $1,997 40 32
NFDA 10/12/2008 $4,800 $280 $100 $300 $100 $100 $5,680 114 153
Georgia Expo 3/1/2009 $550 $248 $110 $165 $50 $50 $1,173 23 22
Ohio FDA 5/25/2009 $650 $360 $325 $200 $50 $100 $1,685 34 46
IFDF 6/12/2009 $0 $102 $40 $65 $25 $35 $267 5 11
Kentucky FDA 6/24/2009 $570 $500 $300 $360 $50 $150 $1,930 39 15
NFDA 10/22/2009 $2,500 $550 $800 $300 $150 $600 $4,900 98 113
SCFDA 2/2/2010 $600 $0 $75 $130 $0 $50 $855 17 17
Georgia Expo 3/1/2010 $500 $250 $70 $70 $0 $60 $950 19  
Ohio FDA 4/27/2010 $625 $360 $175 $125 $50 $60 $1,395 28  
IFDF 6/10/2010 $300 $0 $25 $50 $0 $50 $425 9  

Since our biggest non-booth expense for most of our conventions is lodging, finding a place to stay in our host cities is a nice benefit that saves serious money.

In South Carolina, I was fortunate enough to have family living in Columbia.  For the IFDF’s 2010 show, I’ll stay with my sister in Tampa.  I may be able to save money on the Ohio convention, if I can convince my good friend Albert to let me crash on his couch.

No matter how the next few conventions shake out, we expect to be able to continue getting close to our goals (or exceeding them) because of the great response we’re getting to our quilted cot covers

Of course, I’ll continue to closely monitor our progress and adjust accordingly.  Stay tuned!

I really, really, really meant to write about our Boston plans in advance.  So that you, my readers, could “follow along” as the convention took place.

Isn’t there something about “the best laid plans…” that can explain away the difficulties I faced trying to write before I left?

So here’s my attempt to recap the events of the convention and make up for my earlier inattention.

We left for Boston on a Saturday, two full days before the expo was scheduled to start.  If you remember my previous posts about convention setup, you’ll know that I like to get to a show in plenty of time for something to go wrong without it destroying the show.  That means having enough time to deal with snafus or issues that may arise.

 Before the show, I had to decide how we were going to ship our booth and display merchandise to the show.  If I put it on a pallet and shipped everything, I’d pay several hundred dollars for shipping, at least another hundred to have it forklifted from the marshaling yard to the convention floor.  Then I’d have to repack everything and pay to have it sent back through to get home.

So I called up a friend, BT Hathaway of the blog Funeral Words, and asked him if he knew any funeral directors in Boston who’d be willing to receive a few boxes on my behalf.  Within 5 minutes, he emailed me a name and number and I got in touch with an awesome guy, Mike Flynn.

Mike agreed to accept boxes and store them in the funeral home garage.  Then he asked if I needed anything else.  I hesitantly shared that I needed to find a stretcher to borrow for the show.  I figured it was worth a shot to ask.  And he offered his!  And said he’d drive everything to the show!

When we arrived in Boston, I called Mike and told him we’d meet him at the convention center.  After a short cab ride from the airport, we checked in with the NFDA staff – they always do a great job and make registration pretty easy – and headed to our empty booth.

Mike met us a few minutes later, unloaded his truck and we set to work.

In less than two hours, we had our floor down, built a fake dressing table out of our shipping boxes, set up our chrome display rack (a $90 closet organizer that I ordered and shipped to Mike’s funeral home) and organized our cot covers.

By four o’clock, two days before the show, we were ready for the convention.  And ready to see Boston!

VIDEO INTERLUDE:  The Floor of the Convention, as seen from the 2nd floor entrance:

We spent Sunday exploring Boston and seeing many of the historic sites.  We visited a graveyard with stones dating back to 1661 and saw the Old North Church, where the lantern from “one if by land, two if by sea” started Paul Revere on his midnight ride.

Monday the convention started, so we hightailed it that morning to the floor and got ready for a bunch of orders.  Which, coincidentally, is the reason I haven’t been posting here so much; we’ve been swamped getting all these cot covers out the door. 

First day was awesome, with lots of people buying stuff on the convention floor.  We sold cot covers every single day, with some orders coming before the show officially opened, even.

We sold 45 covers the first day.  Second day saw 57 more sales.  The third day was shorter and only resulted in 12 sales, but that was enough to push us to 114 covers sold, 14 more than my crazy goal for the show.

What else?  Lots of people asked us about dressing table skirts, which means we really, really, really have to get those in the pipeline.  And many of our customers were excited to use their cover for unembalmed and identification viewings.

When the show ended, we knew we still had another day to enjoy Boston (we didn’t leave until Thursday morning while the show ended Wednesday at 1:00 pm) but there’s so much pressure to get out of the convention center.   Here’s a look at how a show closes:

An hour after the show closed and the carpet is gone from the aisles, hearses are already driving off the floor and our booth is almost completely dismantled.

See ya in New Orleans next year!

I’ve only got two more minutes on my time here at the Internet cafe – Thanks to my computer powercord dying – so here’s the quick update.

We sold over 100 cot covers.  Our way-crazy goal for this show was 100 and we’re at 114, if we count the two I just got from a guy who couldn’t make it back to our booth before the show closed.

We also shot some good video that I’ll share here and we took some cool pictures of the show floor.

We fly home tomorrow early, so I can get started on getting cot covers ready.

More tomorrow.

We arrived in Boston yesterday (Saturday, October 24th) just after 1:00 pm.  We took a taxi directly to the convention center and found our booth.

We had until 4:00 pm to work on the expo floor, so we started right away.

We laid out all four pieces of our recycled flooring and, using carpet tape, secured it to the concrete floor.  The flooring is made from scraps of our most popular cot cover fabric.  I originally made two 5’x10′ sections for the Ohio FDA show in May.  They worked great (and saved us money on carpet rental) so I made an additional section to fit our 10’x15′ booth for the Kentucky FDA Expo in June.

Since our NFDA booth is 10’x20′ again this year, I made another piece of flooring so we’d have four 5’x10′ sections.  They travel well – we fold them along the sewing lines and they stack great – and are easy to put down quickly.

We’ve gotten pretty quick with the rest of our setup, so putting up the rack, organizing our product and dressing the cot and table took less than 30 minutes.

The only major difference for this show is that we didn’t bring our fake dressing table, so we used the boxes that we shipped our product in to create the table.  I also ordered 25 extra boxes so we can ship product right from the show after the expo ends.

We were finished by 4:00 pm and here’s the result:

KFDA Convention 007

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