Georgia Expo expands with pipe and drape
Georgia Expo, now in Suwanee, Ga., has been in business for 27 years, providing pipe and drape to a variety of wholesale and retail customers. Over the last few years, however, business has been booming with the company tripling in size. Last year, Georgia Expo had 45 employees. Today, it has 90.
The company moved its headquarters about a year ago and most everything is made at the 90,000-sq.-ft. facility in Suwanee. Located in a business park, the building has a conference room, an interactive showroom where customers can see actual pipe-and-drape setups and check out products in use. In addition, there is an expansive warehouse, which includes shipping, sewing and metal fabrication departments.
“We are a manufacturing company and our main bread and butter is what is called pipe and drape, which consists of uprights, bases and drape panels,” says Amanda Lisby, Georgia Expo’s vice president for sales and marketing.
“Pipe and drape is basically the most economical way to define and decorate space. Within pipe and drape, there are options. The standard you see includes 8-ft. uprights and 3-ft. side rails to create a booth or we can go up to 26 ft. tall and hang velour panels for audio/visual and production work,” she says.
Georgia Expo also offers different setups for pipe and drape, including a slip-fit system designed to put up and take down quickly while taking less space for storage. A screw-in system is designed for booths that will be set up for an extended time. Then there are easels, table skirting, crowd controlling stanchions, storage carts and more.
“We are a U.S. manufacturer and 95 percent of our products are made in this building. This allows us to offer top quality products at competitive prices,” Lisby says.
A significant part of the company’s business comes from the rental industry. “We give rental stores viable quantity pricing because they are reselling and renting the equipment. Rental accounts for about half our wholesale revenue,
so it is a significant part of our business,” Lisby says.
She says customer service is what sets the company apart from its competition. “We have a dedicated sales pod specific to rental stores. That way, you have a group of people who know your account and understand who you are and what you need to grow your business. If someone is on vacation or out to lunch, we have someone who can pick up wherever you left off,” Lisby says.
“A party or event is going to start if your shipment is there or not, so what also sets us apart is our quick turnaround time. If we get an order by 11 a.m., it’s very likely it will ship the same day. Our sewing department has the capacity to sew 3,000 curtains a day. Our pipe and bases are made for stock. We are good at getting that order out the door. We also shop shipping companies to get the best rate and shipping times. We are very conscious about the customer’s budget,” she says.
The company also has designed a “starter kit” for equipment rental stores interested in expanding into pipe and drape, which includes suggested equipment and education on how to treat and store pipe and drape so that it lasts longer.
The company does continue to diversify, try new things and introduce at least one or two new products a year. Last year’s new product, for example, was performance velour that is inherently flame-resistant. The company also introduced new telescoping pipes as well as an economy line for its more price conscious customers.
“On the innovation side, we’ve evolved our processes,” Lisby says. “We have new foam packaging, so that when we ship pipe, there’s less of a chance of damage. We want our customers to receive our products in the most pristine condition and this new packaging allows us to achieve this.”
Everyone at the facility also seems to be smiling and enjoying their jobs. Lisby says this attitude comes from the corporate culture instilled by Philip DiTrolio, the company’s president and owner.
“We work extremely hard, but the philosophy is that work is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you can’t get it done in 40 hours in the week, you can’t get it done. There is a good work and life balance. We try to run Georgia Expo as a small family company and we give people in different departments control and creative freedom,” she says.
“For example, his philosophy with marketing is to just try it, so we do different things. Some things work and some don’t, but we keep trying. This year, we’re doing a Fiat 500 sweepstakes to reward our customers for working with us. An opportunity to win a car builds excitement and is a great branding effort on our part,” she says. “We want our customers to know we strive not only to manufacture a quality product with exceptional customer service, but that it is important to us to build lasting relationships with our customers as well.”
Georgia Expo turns to social media
Georgia Expo has been expanding its marketing efforts to include several new social media campaigns by scheduling media on a weekly basis for its accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as well as filming videos for its YouTube channel.
Instead of expecting an instant return on investment, the company says it is using social media to provide an opportunity to interact with its clients. On Facebook and Pinterest, for example, the company’s pages are a sounding board for product photos where clients can share their latest and greatest ideas. On YouTube, Georgia Expo has the ability to educate clients on virtually any topic, including product setup, break down and demonstrations, product spotlights and team interactions.
“This past winter, leading up to The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas, Georgia Expo created a one-of-a-kind social media campaign specifically for its American Rental Association (ARA) clients. After devising a show theme — ‘Survive 2013’ — Georgia Expo was able to reach its clients with pre-show material through multiple avenues,” says Neelam Sachania, Georgia Expo’s marketing manager.
Combined with print material, weekly Facebook updates reminded ARA members to look for the pre-show specials. “The most dynamic piece of the company’s social media campaign occurred live at The Rental Show during ‘Power Hour’ sales. The marketing team in Georgia scheduled tweets to go out during these Power Hours to remind clients to get to Booth No. 2355. They were able to connect with people in real time and capture sales and client information throughout the show,” Sachania says.
To launch the campaign, Georgia Expo began by creating a schedule, formulated a plan for sharing information and strategically mapped out how, when and where to best reach clients. Using the free social media management program Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) Georgia Expo integrated posts from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Hootsuite allows users to schedule content into the infinite future, freeing staff members to be out and about when seemingly ‘live’ updates are posted on their various accounts,” Sachania says.
The company says what it has learned from its experiences is to:
- Keep it simple as you begin to formulate a social media plan.
- Choose a consistent time for one weekly update.
- Pick a type of topic — such as a staff spotlight, client showcase, Tuesday Tip, A day in the life or something else — and stick to it.
“Consistency can allow you to build material and will build expectation for your followers, viewers, friends and clients. The bottom line of social media marketing is that every company has a story to share. Whether or not you feel newsworthy, you have staff members to introduce to the world, successes to share, goals to hope towards and daily happenings that are worth mentioning. Start with a basic schedule, always be strategic and go share your story,” Sachania says.