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Forget Signs – Sell Yourself

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Steve Metheny has an unmistakable southern drawl and a penchant for storytelling. Recently, he called me to solicit an auction donation to benefit the Mid-South Sign Association’s (MSSA) scholarship program. Oh, and had I heard of the MSSA’s work? Did I know that the association offers guides to local legislation, a post-ISA expo overview and hands-on training?

No one, Steve told me, does more for local signshops than the MSSA. Most touching was his description of its scholarship beneficiaries: college-age children of MSSA members – who might otherwise be unable to afford tuition, books and fees.

At the Sign Expo this year, as I chatted with ISA President Lori Anderson about the association’s plans to ease sharing of data from the Signage Research Foundation and introduce kids to the industry (Google “Sign Manufacturing Day”), I asked if she knew Steve.

“Metheny?!” she exclaimed. “Of course!” It’s not surprising; Steve’s the kind of guy who should be training next-gen CEO’s. He not only garnered an auction donation from ST with his heartfelt appeal, but nudged me to consider a larger gift next year – and attend the MSSA conference this summer.

It was, frankly, a stronger sell than I received at some booths at ISA. While there’s no lack of knowledge and tech at the show, some companies simply do a better job pitching me than others – and it’s not always relative to size and budget.

Whether you’re an exhibitor or attendee at the show, you’re selling something. So be like Steve. Don’t sit back, fold your arms and wait for someone to talk to you. Step forward. Use each conversation to learn more about your customer. And share three essentials about yourself: what you do, who you serve and – most importantly – how you are different than your competitors.

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I often speak to a dozen companies in a single day who produce similar products. I promise you: They’re quite different. Executive personalities drive company culture and approaches to sharing information vary widely. Yet the companies that are easy to work with are all alike in the same ways: their demeanor is welcoming; they are familiar with their competitors and can explain what sets their products apart; and they are aware of industry trends and happenings.

Be like these winning brands. Know what your competitors offer (visit their websites and social media accounts), how much they charge and how they sell. Envision yourself as one company in an ecosystem of providers. Tell each customer, succinctly, how you’re different. Ask them to partner with you.

You can bid on Signs of the Times’ and others’ donations to the MSSA’s auction during the SignConnexion conference, July 26-30, in Memphis.

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