Trade Show Exhibitor Tips


If you are one of the many companies exhibiting at a trade show this fall or winter, read on. You may make or break your trade show success in the first few seconds of people walking by. Exhibiting at a trade show is many, many first impressions! Here are a few tips to help make great first impressions.

Consider your exhibit: It should be neat & well thought out. There needs to be height in your display; consider a sign or table-top banner. You must have company branding on your exhibit, material and promotional products.

Consider yourself: It is a given that you will be dressed according to your profession and a step up from the attendees. A branded shirt is ideal; a professional name tag at the minimum. Be careful of your body language; no crossed arms, eating or texting while attendees are filing past your exhibit.

Consider your approach:
Do not stand behind your exhibit. Most exhibit spaces have a couple chairs provided, but those are not for you to sit! You need to be out in front of your table, greeting and welcoming.  

Consider your presentation: Yes, you should have your 30-second “commercial” ready that explains what problem or need your products and services can fulfill. But you will get more mileage out of asking questions and learning about the people who come to your exhibit. Some people call that “qualifying” a prospective customer.

I think it works best if you are sincerely learning about them and their company – you will easily uncover what you may be able to do for them. You are laying the groundwork for that person to see you are sincere, helpful & trustworthy.

If you are a business owner who sends employees to exhibit & represent your company, make sure they have instructions and even check up on how they do. Remember the hundreds of first impressions are representing you and your company. Keep in mind that as you may be sizing up potential customers, they are sizing YOU up to determine if they want to do business with you.  

12 Mistakes Exhibitors Make In Their Trade Show Exhibit

For specific ideas to jazz up your trade show display plus promotional ideas to lure people to your exhibit, CONTACT Mary Anne Kennedy

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322

The Rise and Fall of the Awareness Bracelet


You’ve seen them for years,
probably worn one yourself; those colorful silicone wristbands.  While
Lance Armstrong was stripped of every Tour de France title, he hasn’t
diminished the awareness and hope that the many wristbands bring
throughout the world.  

The LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands and the accompanying foundation were not the only game in town. From
the pink breast cancer awareness wristbands to the purple wristbands to
support a search for a missing child to camouflage colored wristbands
to raise money for the families of fallen National guardsmen, the causes are alive and well and generously supported.

Some people are more vocal about turning their LIVESTRONG wristband
inside out, or blacking in the letters so they read LIE STRONG.  Most of
us with a colored wristband still believe in the cause or charity or
event that we did before. That’s one thing Lance Armstrong won’t be able to strip away, the emotions and support of our own favorite colored wristband.  

To see a detailed list of many Awareness Wristband & Ribbon colors AND their meanings, CLICK HERE.
Wear yours proudly or here’s a new strategy – donate to receive  or buy a
second one and give it away to another person!  You will encourage them
to commit their support to the cause you care deeply about.  

Looking to shake things up a bit?  Go for the new  1” wide wristbands, tie dye or even  glow-in-the-dark!

You can see a variety of wristband examples at our showroom & we will help you get the most out of your awareness program!

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322

An Unforgettable gift can make a difference – good or bad….4 tips on deciding your gift choices.


What happens when you don’t have the right thought and effort in choosing or presenting the gifts?
That can be worse than no gift at all.
Sometimes they might even be offensive. Here are some tips for successful gifts to be remembered (in a good way!):

  1. Consider the goals of your gift giving – yes, even gift giving has a purpose. Should it be something the client displays on a cabinet, or should it be something you want them to use every day? Should it be a more elegant gift with very subtle customization or is the purpose to drive a potential client to consider you for business more often? We could discuss fewer but stronger impressions vs. low impact but frequent impression.
  2. Next, Consider the demographic of the recipients. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll recall that I mention this quite often when helping you choose your marketing and event promotions. It applies to your gift choices, as well. Find out the culture of the office, the age groups of the recipient, gender, ethnic diversity. Don’t send a box of chocolates to someone who is dangerously obese or diabetic. Be especially careful with cultures outside the U.S. – some are offended by a clock or a gift that is certain color.

Also, know the laws and rules for various government agencies or entities that serve the government – they have restrictions on gifts that can be accepted. The most you may be able to do is a nice card & a hand-written note. In Iowa, state agency employees cannot accept gifts from a supplier or provider that is valued over $3.00.

  1. Give gifts that are in proportion to the client’s value. That means thinking about even three different levels of gifts or cards. Don’t by at the lower end of a gift idea. For example, don’t consider giving high-income clients a $20 golf shirt. That is likely not the caliber of shirt they would wear, so money would not be well spent on something they would just give away, or only wear once. Consider spending the $20 on a very nice vacuum seal tumbler or an exquisite pen personalized for each person.  You spend the same in either case, but one says high quality (personalized pen) and one says of low quality (low end polo shirt).
  2. Dress it up! Think about special packaging. Can you tie the gifts to a theme? That is very often easy to do if you have a special event planned for employees or clients. Think beyond the typical holiday, Thanksgiving, snow, etc. themes. How about football, music awards or a spoof on your industry? One company found out every employee’s favorite vacation spot, inserted a picture of each in a leather photo album, which was wrapped with their annual bonus check. Wow- what thought put behind that gift!

We, at Primary Source, are here to help you sort through gift choices and guide you; asking the questions necessary to give gifts to be remembered – with a great positive impact! Make an appointment for a visit to the showroom and a consultation.

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322

Give Them Something to Talk About


Are your clients talking about your business? Are they spreading the word about the fantastic job you did for them? Aka: Word of Mouth Marketing!  Here are some tips for increasing the chatter.

Savvy customers want honest opinions before they buy and will trust those who come recommended.  According to Word of Mouth Marketing Association, those opinions in order of influence are:  54% word of mouth; 47% information from a website; 42% email from a friend; and 31% on line review. So you see how important it is to get clients to tell their friends how fantastic you are.

Check out some expert insight at I like the five T’s described by Andy Sernovitz so will briefly get your juices flowing. I interjected a couple of my own tactics.

Talkers – identify the people who will talk about you; could be new customers, neighbors, bloggers.

Topics – give people a reason to talk; create a good, clear simple message that will spread. Provide over-the-top service and product!

Tools – help the message spread with easy to forward emails and a tell-a-friend button on website. Always give two promotional gifts – one for your client to keep and one to a friend or business associate.

Take part – be active in the conversation & very responsive to referrals; be active in your community not only to increase awareness but also to show you care and support. Think about providing a product that an event or non-profit needs – bottled water, backpacks, measuring devices,  co- branded with their logo and yours!

Tracking – have a system in place to track on line conversations; monitor communications so that you know what customers think (and say) about your brand.

For more ideas to boost your word-of-mouth marketing by using promotional products, contact:

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322

The Three R’s


You’re out of school, but there are still three R’s to focus on in your business:
Referrals, References and Recommendations
If you’re not already asking for REFERRALS from your top clients and those  who have benefited from your service, then ASK! You are then leaving it up to the client to remember you when they have the opportunity to share….so what will make you top of mind at that moment? That’s where a promotional gift comes in! That Desk Set of Post-its & Flags with your logo that you gave to market your company was there at just the right moment!  They even had your name & website on them for instant referral.  

Don’t forget to ask any new customers how they found your company.  You need to be sure to THANK those who refer you with a special gift. Hey, that will make then remember you (& refer you) even more!

As you’re networking, you will typically find out “who knows who” and that can be very valuable if you ask if you can use them as a reference. This should be someone who is familiar with your company and your quality of work so they won’t hesitate to say, “Yes, you can use my name to get an appointment with her!”  They should also be someone who will know you immediately if called to verify the reference – which is why they’d better be looking every day at the funny Stress Reliever Guy that you gave or using the Acrylic Tumbler with your logo for their iced coffee.

Just think of the impact when they respond, “Of course I know her, I’m looking at her company logo right now!”

Lastly, don’t forget recommendations within a company or even a department.  Don’t think that your one contact at a company is the only person who is a potential customer.  In the business-to-consumer world, the whole network of friends, relatives & neighbors are potential customers!  Here’s where you should get your name spread around…in a good way!  By leaving extra logo Seed Packets, Pens or Magnets for everyone in a department or for a customer’s friends, you will expand your reach greatly. When the question comes up…Does anyone know where I can get (fill in the blank)? You want to be the first person who is recommended.

For more ideas on staying top of mind with your potential customer by using promotional products, contact: 

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322

How much can I print on my pens? Remember…Less is “More” even with promotional product marketing.


You’ve been through the process of determining what promotional product or marketing incentive gift is suitable for your particular event, plan or campaign. Now let’s put some thought into what your imprint will be:

Logo, Website, Phone number, Locations, Tagline , Hours of business and, oh yeah, a list of your products! You may say, “All of those!”  But hold on!  Take a step back to realize…what is the intended result of the promotional product?

You likely want brand awareness, so your logo imprint and/or company name would be good. This is a great way for you to stay top of mind with potential customers.

What do you want their next step to be?  Call you, as in “on the phone’?!  Then include your phone number.  Or is it better if they go to your website to see your menu of services? Then include your website. Or is the priority to commemorate an annual event? Then the title and place of the event may be the next priority.

Your promotional products consultant at Primary Source will discuss with you the imprint possibilities & restraints on marketing products to consider. Sometimes we will even advise against a certain product, if it is not conducive to the logo or message you need to display.

Imprint areas vary greatly between a tumbler vs. a padfolio, for example. But that doesn’t mean you have to make either of them a billboard! Many times, Less is MORE!  Less can get the customer to take action: go to your website to learn more.  Less will also allow a customer to use their gift that doesn’t look so much like an advertising piece. Yes, the subtle advertising approach!

Keep this is mind for awards, as well.  We don’t need to engrave the entire story or thank-you sentiment on the award. Keep it short, sweet & stately. If you need to say more, do it with a printed certificate or at a presentation in front of an audience. Believe me, if you spent the time to choose and present an elegant award, the recipient will remember the circumstances and kind words.
For more ideas on choosing the right promotional products along with the best way to embellish them, contact: Mary Anne Kennedy at maryanne@Primary

Mary Anne Kennedy

Primary Source, Inc.   
Promotional Products with a Purpose!
10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA  50322


Reinforce Your Message


You know that your advertising needs to be “out there.”  It’s even better when it’s in the hands of potential customers. Remember…if they read your name every day, then they will think of you when they need your products and services.

How about sending more of a message…more than your company name…more than your logo?
Use the product to reinforce your message.

We had a non-profit client who was starting a new building campaign. They needed to get the word out and of course did mailings with contribution envelopes, put up posters and planned an event to build up the excitement (pun intended!). There was a lot of buzz at the event due to the Building Blocks promotional piece that went to each attendee. Yes, even building blocks can be customized with your logo, message, building campaign goal – you get the connection! The buzz continued long after the event as word spread, and more people wanted their own set of customized building blocks…in exchange for their contribution, of course.  

There are many ways to drive your message home- contact the experts at Primary Source to discuss your theme. You can even visit our showroom to see samples of successful promotion theme. We’ve even had clients build their theme around a particular promotional product. Sometimes you just need a little inspiration – for instance, seeing a fun new cup and flyer that change color in the sun inspired another customer to go with a “roll with the changes” theme for a corporate event. They also used cups that change color with cold liquid – a little “Wow” factor.


Ok, one more idea…a sales contest challenged offices across the country; top prize was a complete pizza/drinks/music party for the entire office.  The contest terms & goals were sent out along with
Pizza Cutters for each employee.  What a fun reminder of the contest & goal!

For success with your promotion or event, contact
Mary Anne Kennedy 

Primary Source – Promotional Products with a Purpose!
Showroom located at:  10441 Hickman Road, Des Moines, Iowa

Happy Anniversary! Make the most of it for your business, too!


I was recently surprised by the Primary Source employees and my family with a dinner party celebrating my 20th year with Primary Source! I didn’t even realize it was a special anniversary so was very surprised and appreciative. I posted a picture of the plaque they presented and the bouquet of flowers on Facebook…and my goodness, the comments and well wishes were rolling in! (Thank you to each of you!)

I‘ve always encouraged our clients to make the most of a special company anniversary, but this reinforced the advice. Go ahead, brag about yourself… your company milestone, an association recognition, a special employee award, or even a location change. These are all great “excuses” to tout your business.

It will get you noticed in a great way. You can always combine a special offer or free gift with your specific occasion to create a call to action. For example: “Help us celebrate our move and expansion – book an appointment and receive your free car care kit!”

Don’t forget to notify every association or group with which you’re associated – tell them your news. They will help spread the word, as well. Give your direct mail campaign more pizazz by using your special occasion news or big announcement on the print and with a promotional enclosure. No one will resist opening it and reading all about it!

Contact Primary Source for many more effective ideas to promote your special occasions and reasons to brag! Don’t let an anniversary or award slip by without using it to your marketing advantage.



Mary Anne Kennedy
Primary Source Promotions
p. 515.727.8774

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A little more about us: 
Primary Source provides businesses, schools, non-profits and organizations with promotional products, decorated apparel, personalized awards plus executive and incentive gifts. We help clients choose the products that will fit their budget and recipients, AND give them RESULTS:

  • Increase tradeshow traffic
  • Enhance marketing plan
  • Boost sales
  • Reward employees
  • Recognize supporters
  • Increase attendance at events
  • Promote your brand
  • Market you services
  • Recruit members
  • Support your community or cause

At Primary Source, we want your promotional product choice to bring you the results intended – we are Promotional Products with a Purpose!

What do employees really want?


A national study by Robert Half International found that “limited praise & recognition” was ranked as the primary reason why employees leave their jobs today – ahead of compensation issues.

In a research study of 1500 employees by Wichita State University, recognition from managers was reported to be the most powerful motivator of the 65 potential incentives evaluated!

Some employers may get that they need to reward & recognize employees, but may attempt to do it with cash.  Cash has some drawbacks, even a demotivating effect.  Compensation is a “right”, recognition is an “award.”  when cash is always the reward, employees tend to treat the rewards as part of their normal compensation.  When this happens, they become dependent on the reward income, and the pride that comes with recognition for certain accomplishments is lost.

If money becomes the only motivator, then you will be in a rut of that being the only way that performance and productivity are improved.

Organizations that do employee recognition well tend to have a strategy that is integrated, multi-faceted & multi-tiered.  that means have a program to reward employees with gifts they can use, recognize them with awards they can display.  Plus do it publicly – for the entire company to see.  You can even put rewards and recognition in local publications.  What a motivator that is for the other employees!

Think of the wide variety of achievements employees make in your company; you will find all kinds of reasons to recognize & reward:
– Innovations to Products or Processes        – Improvements            – Community Involvement    
– Performance Excellence                          – Length of Service        – Safety
– Sales Goals                                            – New Clients /Referrals  – Peer to Peer Recognition
– Client Feedback Excellence                      – Program Results          – Cost Savings Suggestions

Primary Source will help you choose gifts & recognition that continue to motivate. 

You can browse through ideas at or come to our showroom to see actual examples.  either way, here are some of the results that your Recognition &Awards Program can bring:
       Reinforce company goals
       Strengthen an employee’s image of your company
       Foster employee loyalty & instil a climate of trust
       Create a friendly but competitive environment
       Encourage personal achievement 
       Reduce turnover by up to 50%
       Generate 56% higher customer loyalty
       Create a 38% increase in productivity
       Cause a 27% increase in profitability

Those last four stats should get YOU motivated to start a recognition program!
Mary Anne Kennedy
Primary Source, Inc.
Showroom / Office: 
10441 Hickman Road,
Des Moines, IA  50322   


What can a dog do for your business?


Over half the people in the U.S own a pet (or more than one pet!) and pet owners pamper their pets more than ever.  They love it when others pay attention & oogle over their little Murphy or big Champ.  They also love it when a marketing promotion is a gift for their pet!.  It’s the same warm, fuzzy feeling as when you compliment their children or present them with a gift.  So if you need to get your products or services known to the wide demographic of pet owners – appeal to the pets!

This is not a tip solely for the pet supply store or local vet.  A construction company had great referrals from a pet bandana promotion.  They gave them out at an event taking place at a dog park.  Of course, the company truck with their logo was parked for everyone to see.  But the take-away was a doggie bandana with a catchy slogan & the construction company information – the calls came in!

At a festival where pet attendance was approved, an insurance business gave out reflective pet tags that had a spot for the pet owner’s name & phone number.  The tag was creatively attached to a postcard with company information/website plus helpful tips on keeping everyone if the family – including the furry ones – safe!  You can bet that was one of the few handouts that was actually read when the festival  was over.

It’s evident how successful events for pets are  – did you see the Halloween Costume Contest for dogs?  Now, just go and get the owners to think about you after the event.  A promotion for their pet is sure to be used & appreciated!

For pet-related promotions customized to market YOUR business, contact:
PRIMARY SOURCE, Promotional Products with a Purpose!
Mary Anne Kennedy  515-727-8774

Get Your “Silent Salesman” Out of the Box