Eight Strategies for Effective Licensing Sales Lead Follow Through

1 06 2016

Picture1For the licensing industry, the spring and summer trade show season is where many artists and creators hope to find their big breaks. It is an exciting time of year for property owners and businesses looking to make connections within the industry. Right now, many will attend and exhibit at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, the largest licensing trade show in the world. Here, the entire industry revolves around sales and strategic partnerships, which will be developed between the creators and brand managers with manufacturers, retailers, advertisers, the media and other producers and distributors from around the world. Billions of dollars are spent and made.

Everyone is trying to attract the attention of attendees and exhibitors, and vice versa. With such a tremendous visual barrage constantly battling for attention on the trade show floor and surrounding the entire event, it is can be very easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the original purpose for being there—getting great leads.

Keep in mind that the time, money and effort that has been put into either attending or exhibiting at the show will be completely wasted unless you are properly organized and follow through with the leads generated. Be aware – internet research suggests that between 50 and 80 percent of all sales leads are never followed up on. This is the most common and expensive mistake a businessperson can make.

I recommend following just a few simple and effective planning methods to prepare for the next industry trade show, which will keep communication flowing, maximize follow-through and follow-up and prevent this costly error.

1. Treat everyone with interest and respect. A lead is someone who is ready and willing to engage in a conversation. Either they are someone that you could do business with directly, or they might be able to introduce you to someone who can. Some contacts will become leads, some leads will become prospects, and some prospects will then become clients. You never know who you are talking to or what’s going to happen, so make sure you treat every lead as if they were your client.

2. Keep your ego out of the way! This is as true in business as it is in everyday life, and there has never been a better time to follow the theory of “less is more.” Letting someone else talk and share their news and information is always the best way to gather data and allow relationships to grow. Being prepared to listen and ask lots of questions is the best way to get them talking and interested in you.

3. Everyone is different. Always try to look at your prospect from their perspective. What is it he or she needs? As you are listening, try to read between the lines. Pay attention to his or her, tone, level of interest and body language. And try not to get overconfident or self-conscious. Remember: You have hundreds of potential leads to talk with. If they are interested, great; if they are not, politely move on.

4. Collect the who, what, when, where, and why. Whether at the show or after you return to your business, you need to gather as much specific information as you can to keep the conversation moving forward from lead to prospect to deal. The five Ws, as they are referred to in journalism, are a time-tested, focused and valuable method for collecting the facts. I strongly suggest you use this technique. It is easy to remember and it provides you with a practical and profitable way to organize your thoughts and business, as you progress with each encounter, meeting and follow through during and after the show.Picture2

5. Organize and prioritize your leads. Don’t wait until you get home to designate and separate your hot, warm and cold leads; it is too easy to forget the details. Writing on business cards works, but attaching them to larger cards or in a notebook gives you more room for writing. Taking thorough notes during the conversation and after each encounter assures that you won’t miss a beat when it comes to that all-important follow-through.

6. Always follow-up within 48-hours. While many trade show attendees and exhibitors do not follow-up at all, the remainder often follow-up in a less than timely fashion. In general, research shows that responding within 48 hours of a prospect contacting you, dramatically increases your closing rate. If you have so many leads that you cannot contact them all within two days, then you should at least reach out to as many as possible within the week. Remember: This is the culmination of all your efforts. You must do this or nothing will happen.

7. Personalize your follow-up communication. Always personalize your communication, as much as possible, but it’s most important with your ‘hot’ leads. This is where your customized presentation pays off the most. Make sure you send your prospects exactly what they requested and what you promised.
Turning a “no” into a referral. There is no doubt that you are going to receive your fair share of no’s at any trade event. Accept it. Don’t worry about it. Here’s how to use it to your advantage. Ask those who do like your art, brand, character or property, who else they would recommend you speak with. This means that even if you can’t do business with someone who admires your business, they might very well refer you to someone who can, if you ask.

8. Think of ways to keep in touch. Whether through emails, phone calls, a newsletter, or other systems, develop a plan to continue to communicate with your prospects on a regular basis, hopefully moving them from leads to clients.

Deals rarely close after one meeting, phone call or trade show encounter. It takes continuous effort and persistence to shift each communication to the next level. Property owners, businesses and artists must remember to keep following up until a deal is secured. Once that’s done, you must make sure to continue asking questions of your clients, and listening to the answers, to promote a long and healthy business relationship. Many people don’t want to “bother” their leads too much, but it’s important to remember that is why everyone is here. Continue to follow-up and be pleasantly persistent.

Note: This article was written for and originally published by ‘The Licensing Book,” Summer 2015. With constant inquiries about how to organize your sales and trade show efforts, I know this article will be appreciated again.

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Six Tips for Creating a Trade Show Ready Portfolio

11 05 2016

Portfolio development and trade show planning is one of the most asked about topics in my business. Understanding how to trade show test one’s portfolio is important for artists and designers to know if their portfolio has what it takes to cut through the clutter.

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

There are many types of portfolios—enough to mirror the creative minds we have in this amazing licensing industry. And while everyone’s work is unique, putting together a compelling portfolio presentation to grab attention while distracted prospects are running the gamut of brain aerobics required at trade shows, is certainly a challenge.

Here are some solid techniques to maximize the effectiveness of your portfolios while attending trade shows:
1) Portfolio Size
The size of your portfolio for a show will depend greatly on how long you have been in the art licensing business, and whether the artist is participating as an exhibitor or attendee. An artist who has been in the business for 10 years with a consistent art style—who might add 5 to 10 collections a year—will probably have 100 or more collections to choose from.
Manufacturers want to see a body of work, enough to keep them interested and know the artist is committed to the business. If artists are exhibiting at a major trade event, then think in terms of presenting 20 to 30 collections in a variety of themes and developing a system to access most of any viable work. If you are walking a show, keep it light and bring your newest items and a few solid collections which you want to exploit further.

2) Portfolio Organization
Artists must make sure to organize their portfolios for a trade event by theme, since that is how manufacturers buy collections. They seek out art to fit their product line needs for everyday (including seasonal-fall, winter, spring, and summer), holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, and Easter), occasions (Birthday, Graduation, and Baby Shower) and niche themes/lifestyles (cooking, flowers, spa, sports, country chic, lodge, beach). Organizing collections in other ways will just make it more difficult for the manufacturer and is likely to frustrate them and turn them off.

3) Portfolio Review
Licensees want to see what artists have that’s new. So while an art style may interest them, new art keeps them coming back to ‘see what you’ve got.’
Creating new art for key trade shows is vital, as is sharing new collections throughout the year. Think about how many collections you will create (approximately) for the year, and plan out the releases based on trade shows you will attend. Artists should launch new collections at trade shows and plan on having other new releases following major events to keep the conversations going with potential.

4) Portfolio Flow
Portfolios should ebb and flow. Artists should add new items and take out old items regularly—that’s the way to keep it fresh! Also, they should make sure to keep their newest art at the beginning of the themed sections in their portfolio.
Artists can absolutely continue to use images and collections that were shown last year, or even from years before. However, take out designs that no longer fit the artist’s style, or are no longer ‘in style’ or ‘on trend.’ Think realistically about how long the art will be relevant in the marketplace, and, therefore, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers. If artists are trend driven, it may be one to three years. If artists are very traditional in their themes and style, then eight to 10 years would not be an unusual length of time to keep some art in their portfolios.

5) Portfolios Technology
If an artist has a booth at an upcoming show, it’s best to have duplicate copies of your portfolio for multiple viewers. In addition, make sure there are hard copies and digital versions available. It is important to put the portfolio in a tablet, phone or computer which does not require the Internet to access the images. The last thing artists want is to be dependent on the Wi-Fi in a large convention hall, hotel or conference center with spotty reception. Keep images at an appropriately high resolution for how they will be shown: 300 dpi for print portfolios and look books, and 72 dpi for electronic images.
Use touch-screen computers or tablets to make it easy for anyone to glance through a portfolio at his or her own pace (without having to learn your technology). Keep it simple. I don’t recommend attending a meeting with so much high-tech equipment and business paraphernalia—artist’s phone, tablet, computer, briefcase, and hardcopy portfolio—that they are utterly incapacitated by trying to juggle them all. Think light; think efficient (less is more).

6) Website Portfolios
While physical trade show portfolios are important, just because artists are exhibiting in a booth or attending a show, doesn’t mean that someone an artist meets with won’t quickly check-out the artist’s website. In fact, isn’t that what every artist is hoping for?
For this and many other reasons, it is important that an artist’s website be up-to-date before he or she attend a trade show. The online portfolio should include enough of the art to show a breadth of themes and the depth of an artist’s capabilities. But I don’t recommend that artists show your entire portfolio. It’s not wise or necessary to have every collection out on your site. Of course, artists should take as many precautions as possible by using a watermark on the art and copyright on each piece and/or collection. Some artists do prefer a password-protected portfolio area, especially if they have extensive work to keep organized.

Reprise: My article was written for and originally published by ‘The Licensing Book,” Spring 2015. I am happy to share it again after so many requests for information about portfolio development.  And my sincere thanks to Joan Marie for allowing me to share some of her amazing art images.





GirlNation Shares How ‘Changing’ and ‘Persistence’ is Important to Brand Building

26 05 2015

Girl Nation logoLast year at the Licensing Expo I met with and interviewed Deb Dittmer and Vicki De Roeck of GirlNation as they embarked on their very first trade event.  I recommend anyone who is interested in attending a trade show or thinking about building a brand from the ground up – READ THIS INTERVIEW.

J’net Q: We first met last year before the Licensing Expo. What was your experience at the show?
GN A: We had an incredible experience at the show and came away with one licensing contract! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we launched GirlNation at the Licensing Expo! We were so thrilled to have been named one of the “Top Ten Ones to Watch” but it was our first show and we had no idea what to expect. It was great to get feedback from people at the show and also to walk the show and see the art that others were exhibiting. Being at the Licensing Expo definitely gave us an opportunity to meet people that we would never have had access to at this early stage of our business.RevisedBYOGlogo

J’net Q: So tell me again how you came up with your brand concept and which market you are targeting?
GN A: We started GirlNation shortly after our daughters left for college. We were both complaining about the wreckage they left behind in their rooms. Amid the chaos, we both uncovered extensive collections of inspiring words, quotes and images covering walls, notebooks and filling drawers. We realized that what seemed like clutter was really a huge part of who they had become. These independent and confident young women were truly influenced by these strong, empowering messages. We had the proverbial light bulb moment! As partners in our own graphics agency, we decided to take this valuable insight and turn it into a brand that would give all girls the gift of empowerment through positive messages and beautiful designs. We are appealing to girls during those difficult tween and early teen years.

CreedPoster_FullThe empowerment movement for women and girls has been gaining momentum for years. Prominent women and large corporations have been investing in this enterprise with their own campaigns. Dove was one of the first with their “Real Beauty” campaign. Cheryl Sandburg, Facebook COO, launched her Ban Bossy Campaign in 2013 and just recently, we all saw the “Throw Like a Girl” campaign launched during the Superbowl.

We have seen nothing in the commercial marketplace that allows girls to take ownership of their stake in this movement. A GirlNation brand of products would provide girls with a vehicle to express their solidarity to the movement and allow girls to unite in a global sisterhood. Although this demographic has a tendency to be fickle, we think there is longevity in the brand. We intend for this to be a brand that girls grow into and grow up with; we’ve given the empowerment movement for girls a name and an identity.

J’net Q: So I see you have made some changes in your original designs. What was the feedback that you received and how did that influence the changes you made?
GN A: Before the show we were so focused on creating art to fill a portfolio. We never really had the chance to take a step back and look at the body of work objectively to see if it was really going to resonate with our target market. Recently, we’ve been able to take a deep breath, take that step back and take a look at GirlNation with a fresh eye. We had to give the brand a little tough love. First, we realized our Girl “the face of GirlNation” needed to change. We loved her; she was beautiful but not right for the brand. She was too sophisticated and romantic and not consistent with our core message. So, we created a new girl…it still wasn’t right! We realized that there really wasn’t just one face of GirlNation, every girl is the face of GirlNation-every girl of every race, creed and color.WesiteHeaderImage

Secondly, you can see from our new website, that we’ve not only incorporated images of real girls, but have created a stronger looking identity. We have made some subtle changes to our logo, enhanced our graphics and patterns, added a GirlNation crest and revamped our creed to have more appeal to young girls. We found the original creed really resonated with women but for younger girls, the words were too mature and it was just too long. We took the same message and crafted a new creed that more reflects the attitude of tween girls.

Finally, we just took an objective look at all of our artwork and realized that some of the designs were too contrived (our acronym line) and that some of the graphics were too flat, needed more depth and needed more of an edge. We’ve kept the hand drawn doodle feel that we started with but are giving the designs more of an artsy, contemporary edge. We are so excited and energized by this new direction!

TeamJacketFierceOur changes have also been influenced by feedback we have received from buyers and agents. We participated in a workshop offered by Michelle Fifis of Pattern Observer, called “Sharing Your Work.” One of the great advantages of the workshop was the opportunity to have three buyers review and critique your work. We received critiques from a buyer for the tween private label brand at a major department store, an art licensing agent and a fabric manufacturer. They all said that they loved the message, the artwork was on trend and was appropriate for our target market. All good news and very encouraging to know we were on the right track. They had some great constructive criticism for changes to our website and we have used their feedback to make our website easier to navigate and to simplify how we were conveying our message. It was a great way to get honest feedback from knowledgeable people within the industry.

J’net Q: So how are you now planning to monetize your efforts and take your updated material to manufacturers and retailers?
GN A: We have kept in touch with many of our leads from last year’s show and continue to update them with new products and updates to our website. In addition, we have put together targeted lists of manufacturers and retailers that we think are appropriate for our brand. In addition to scouring the internet, we constantly look at tags and labels of products when we are shopping to find new manufacturers that we think would be a good fit. We reach out to them via Linked In and directly via email. We have found some success with this method of “cold calling” and have been pleasantly surprised at the level of response, it expands our contact list and allows us to stay in front of more manufacturers.

We are also taking advantage of every opportunity on the Art Licensing Show website which allows you to reach out to member manufacturers and invite them to review your portfolio. We hope to attend The Licensing Expo again in 2016! This past year we have been working with both our agency clients and working to refine GirlNation and we just knew we would not be prepared in time for the shows. Our mantra this year is persistence, persistence, persistence. You never know when the timing will be right for that perfect match of what manufacturers are looking for and what you have to offer so we feel like we have to just stay in front of them.

J’net Q: So what can we expect to see from GirlNation in the future?NotaPrincessTee
GN A: We will continue to add more pattern collections. We had a great response to our patterns from attendees at the Licensing Expo last year and from some fabric manufacturers since we’ve been back. We have added a new “Team Inspired” line of graphics and will continue to expand the collections to offer more variety to buyers. We are also working on a fun line of greeting cards that really reflects the new direction of the artwork.

J’net Q: Based on your experience over the past year, what advice would you give to other new artists who are thinking about licensing their art or developing a brand?
GN A: Do your research and really understand your target market. We were lucky to have had a strong concept so that the creation of the art was very intuitive. Eventually though, you have to take a leap of faith and get your artwork out there. This is what we did a year ago when we decided to go to Licensing Expo. We were fortunate to have met you in the very beginning and you guided us through the entire process of getting ready for our first show. You gave us concrete advice, objective feedback and were an incredible source of encouragement.Deb & VickiofGirlNation

Another bit of advice, that we have trouble following ourselves (!!), is to be patient! Rome was not built in a day! The licensing cycle is long and it’s important stay committed, keep analyzing, reinventing and adapting. In such a competitive industry, you can’t create your art or brand in a vacuum. You have to keep on top of your market and continue to evolve.

We are so grateful to have stayed in touch with you and to have had this opportunity talk with you on this first year milestone of this crazy journey of ours! Thank you for taking the time to follow-up with us.

J’net NOTE: A BIG ‘Thank you’ to Deb & Vicki for their willingness to be candid about their experiences and share them with us all! See you in Vegas 2016! Also…don’t miss the last FREE ASK J’net Q&A before Licensing Expo, scheduled for Wednesday, June 3rd, 10am PDT. Sign up now to get your questions answered! Register here.








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