"We Help Customers Maximize Efficiencies,' says Houlihan
The shipping component of a trade show schedule is often more complex to manage than many people imagine – especially when there are multiple events happening simultaneously. Rex Houlihan knows all about shipping. He’s President of NorthStar Express, located in Falls Church, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C. EventsInAmerica.com (EIA) spoke with Houlihan about his business and how he helps his customers.
Tell us about your company and what you do.
NorthStar is a shipping company that specializes in trade shows and events. About 90% of our business is with exhibitors and show organizers who are hosting or participating in events in the US or Canada. The other 10% of our business is international.
Who are some of the types of customers you serve?
Our customers include: Associations and corporations that host meetings, corporate exhibitors that participate in tradeshows, government contractors exhibiting on behalf of their agencies, and marketing agencies that are managing shipping for their clients. In addition, we work with a lot with US-based exhibitors who are going to shows in Canada.
What makes NorthStar unique?
We make it very, very easy to coordinate and ship trade show displays and materials. In some cases, our customers are less-experienced event or marketing coordinators. They are often new to their jobs and told to schedule the next quarter’s trade show plan – which may involve multiple events happening at the same time with multiple exhibits on the road. So, often times, we help them understand how the shipping industry works, how to get their exhibits from one show to the next, how to save money doing so, and how to maximize the efficiencies that exist but most don’t know about. Our marketing team has also created many “How To” guides for event shippers.
Can you quantify your results?
Yes, but it depends on how many events a client is exhibiting at. We did a study with one client that participated in 120 events. In one year we saved them $22,000 on shipping costs alone.
Was that $22,000 in real dollars saved or in time saved?
The $22,000 saved was in real dollars. That figure was generated directly from the customer. We did this through more effective scheduling, by filling out show paperwork correctly thereby avoiding re-routed freight that costs money, and by negotiating better deals through our shipping network.
It sounds as if people don’t understand the complexities of shipping, true?
Yes. New folks coming into the events industry don’t have enough training and, as a result, don’t understand the shipping component. And that causes a lot of frustration and turnover. We hear this comment from marketing coordinators all the time: “I was given a computer, told what to do and that’s it.” And that’s where NorthStar can help. We can fill in the blanks and guide our customers through the entire process. We can even help them develop a show guide as a leave behind for the next employee.
What 1 or 2 tips can you offer an event planner, event organizer or exhibitor to ensure they have a successful event?
From the exhibitor’s perspective, I would say schedule your plan – all aspects of your plan – well in advance. Doing things at the last minute just creates emotional stress and added expense. From the show organizer’s perspective, look at the experience you’re creating for the exhibitor, not just the attendee. How can you create an experience so that the exhibitor wants to come back year after year? When you do this, you retain a customer – which is a lot more profitable than having to sell a new prospect.
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