Leveraging the Symbiotic Value of Trade Shows

Leveraging the Symbiotic Value of Trade Shows

IVY Marketing Group hosts a booth every year at state and occasionally national trade shows in the senior housing industry. Next up for us is just around the corner at the LeadingAge Illinois Annual Meeting and Expo in Schaumburg April 2-4. We’re at booth #512 – come visit us!

Why should I attend a trade show, you ask? And maybe you’re also wondering why we, or anyone, exhibits at them. Let’s explore both of those questions.

Why Attend a Trade Show?

Every year, more and more professionals attend an industry trade show, for various good reasons. Let’s explore some of the most compelling, based on statistics supporting the value of trade shows and expos.

  1. Discovering new products and services. Learning about new products and services is the number one reason people go to a trade show. In fact, a full 92% of attendees report they go for this purpose. Finding out what’s new in one’s field is key for companies and individuals who want to stay on top of the latest trends and ahead of the competition. Experiencing upfront, in person what innovations are or will soon become available is inspiring for professionals looking for new ideas and better ways to serve their customer base. Most trade shows and expos are chock full of booths at which visitors can see and demo products and learn from major players in the industry. They often get some good swag, too!
  2. Networking. Trade shows present a unique opportunity for professionals in similar arenas to gain in-person access to one another, make memorable and fruitful connections, have constructive conversations, exchange ideas and contact information and, sometimes, even form business partnerships on the spot. It’s easy to ignore a message from a faceless person you’ve never met, but much harder to do with someone you’ve encountered personally at an event with like-minded career people. Trade shows also offer prime face time and relationship building with existing vendors and clients.
  3. Learning something. Many trade shows and expos feature topic-specific educational sessions with keynote speakers and thought leaders in their field. A trade show is a wonderful way to learn a new skill, gain up-to-the-minute information on industry developments, satisfy a continuing education or training requirement, and get expert tips on company growth and success.
  4. One-Stop-Shop. At a trade show, everything and everyone is in one place, dedicated to one purpose: professional growth. In a single consolidated area, trade show visitors can discover new products, get fresh ideas, meet prospective business partners, clients, vendors, learn industry skills and trends, and compare companies offering similar products and services. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity!
  5. Return on Investment. There is some perception among trade show attendees (and exhibitors) that the cost and time involved are prohibitive. Fifty-six percent of attendees travel more than 400 miles to an expo, and many of them feel that the financial investment is too great as well. However, consider this: the average cost of an in-person meeting with a prospect or supplier at a trade show is $142, while the price of a courting that person on their turf is $259. The all-in-one-place possibilities a trade show presents are priceless in terms of both time and money. You might even say you can’t afford not to attend at least one per year. And consider this, too: 74 percent of attendees said they were more likely to buy products or services they’d seen at an expo.

    Why Exhibit at a Trade Show?

    Many of the reasons one would attend a trade show also apply to those who exhibit as well. A trade show is a symbiotic event, whereby both visitors and hosts gain from the experience in mutually beneficial ways.Ninety-nine percent of exhibitors agree that trade shows deliver unique benefits that cannot be attained through other marketing channels. Another compelling statistic is that nearly half of attendees go to only one trade show per year, meaning that exhibitors have the opportunity meet potential prospects that aren’t at any other expo.According to president and founder Debra Sheridan, IVY’s top reasons for exhibiting at trade shows are:

      • To showcase our capabilities as marketing specialists with 30 years of experience
      • To meet and network with new people and prospective clients
      • To greet friends and clients in the senior housing industry


    “We participate in trade shows throughout the country in both our vertical and horizontal markets. The horizontal market allows us exposure to prospective clients, new ideas and networking opportunities with our peers. The vertical market is where we learn what’s new and available to drive leads for our clients,” said Debra.

    Also important to Debra is demonstrating to IVY’s clients and business partners that we are committed to their industry. “They feel confident working with an agency that has experience in, and respect for, their industry as well as the longevity to support them and their trade organization year after year.”

    It is equally important to Debra to support her team by inviting them to join her in attending and exhibiting at trade shows. “The more we all learn and grow as a team, the better we can serve our clients and prospects.”

    The IVY team will be at booth #512 at the LeadingAge of Illinois Annual Meeting and Expo April 2-4 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. Come see us! Let’s plant the seeds of growth together.







Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part II

Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part II

Last week, we examined the who, why, what and where of event marketing. Here, we will look at how to promote your event and measure its results.

How to Promote?
Here’s where your senior marketing experts can be your heroes. In addition to creating awesome collateral and content around your event (your event is content!) and utilizing all available online, print and (if applicable) broadcast channels to promote your event, your marketing professionals can help you monitor registration, ticketing, tracking, and timelines.

Print materials such as direct mail, newspapers and magazines as well as radio and TV, if your budget supports it, and phone calls work particularly well with seniors. However, online avenues such as websites, hashtags, SEO, email campaigns and blogs should also be employed, and social media platforms (particularly Facebook) provide golden opportunities to highlight your event before, during and after.

*Smart Tip: Don’t publicize the time of your event online, requiring guests who have not received an invitation to call you for further details. This creates a “buzz” about your active community and attracts people you wouldn’t know to intentionally invite. Set up extra seating to accommodate this audience and be sure to seize the opportunity to gather their contact information and offer them a tour of your community on the day of your event.

Measuring Results
ROI is perhaps more important to event marketing than any other form of marketing, given the time and effort that goes into planning, execution and post-event analysis. Here are some metrics by which you can measure success before, during and after your event:

  • Total registrations let you know in advance who your event is attracting and how many will be attending (you’ll need to determine if there is a close date for registrations or if any walk-ins will be welcome; see “Smart Tip” above). As a general rule, paid events guarantee fewer no-shows, while free events may render your final numbers a little trickier. But don’t despair; registration yields a lot of advance insight. Slicing information provides even more, such as which months/weeks saw the highest registration/ticket activity, which types of tickets (if applicable) were the most popular, etc. Various event marketing technologies are particularly helpful in assessing event success.
  • Total check-ins offer valuable insights as well, particularly if there is a high discrepancy between check-ins and registrations. Any such disparity would be worth investigating by following up with absent registrants.
  • Social media engagement allows attendees to share comments and photos with their friends and family (remember, the majority of seniors are on Facebook) about your event, even as it’s happening. Social media fosters enthusiasm before, during and after your event and sharing with others. If your keynote speakers, entertainers, etc. have social media pages, be sure to encourage attendees to comment on them, too. This will also encourage your speakers, musicians, etc. and their followers to engage with your community as well.
  • Survey your attendees – Provide a convenient way for attendees to offer feedback on their satisfaction with your event, preferably before they leave your doors, although additional follow-up phone calls, direct mail or emails are also wise tactics. Soliciting open-ended comments is insightful, as is a Net Promoter Score, measuring how likely guests are to recommend your event or community to someone else:

  • Cost to revenue ratio – Even if your event is free, costs to you will certainly be incurred. Measuring what your event costs against what it garnered in terms of your goals is crucial to assessing whether this kind of event is worth repeating or, if not, what can be done differently.
  • Customer acquisition – The gold standard of ROI, acquiring customers is the end goal in any sales-oriented industry. Senior housing is unique, however, in that you’re providing a lifestyle; indeed, quality of life. Positively reaching prospects through your event is paramount. First and foremost, unless a guest refuses to provide it, make sure to get all visitors’ contact information, including an active email address, at the very least (this can be achieved at registration as well) and any other information they’re willing to share. Be sure to be honest and straightforward as to why you’re gathering information about your guests, as vague, cagey answers are a turn-off and counterproductive. A short survey asking such things as why they attended your event and how likely they are to move to a senior community and when, for example, will instruct you in how to target these prospects in the future. And, DO reach out to them again in the future! Don’t waste the opportunity to capture someone’s attention – on your turf – only to let them go because of lackluster follow-through.
  • Whom NOT to invite – All senior communities have people come to their events who will never become residents. If you have had personal discussions with such guests and are certain they will never be residents, remove them from your invitation list. They already know enough about your community to recommend it to others.

Seniors are the perfect demographic for event marketing, and senior living communities are the ideal venue to get a taste (literally!) of life at your community. Let our team of experts help you make the most of your events – before, during and after.







Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part I

Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part I

The viral advantages of online marketing are undisputed, but, until recently, most seniors were not regular Internet or social media users. Today, 67% of people 65+ use the Internet, and 62% are on Facebook, and those numbers are rising all the time. In fact, 82% of Baby Boomers belong to at least one social media site and spend two hours more per week online than those aged 16-34.

Despite seniors’ increasing adoption of the Internet into their daily lives, events are still the most effective way to generate relationships with customers and leads across all populations, particularly among people 65 and above. Eighty percent of marketers believe that event marketing is the single most effective marketing channel, and seniors have more time and opportunity than other demographics to attend events.

Let’s examine how to take full advantage of event marketing for the senior housing arena.

Why an Event?
Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish by hosting an event. Are you aiming to raise awareness of your senior community within the greater community (appropriate for a guest list of 50+ people); are you hoping to reach a smaller group of marketing qualified or sales accepted leads? Whatever your purpose, your event should conform to your overarching objective in every way—whether it is to raise awareness, gather contact information, clinch interested leads, raise funds, strengthen bonds with community partners, or simply entertain.

Live and In Person
Regardless of the reason for your event, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication, live and in the flesh. No amount of technological advancement or social media connections can change that. Live events provide invaluable opportunities to showcase your mission in action, property(ies)/services and foster lasting relationships with your prospects and stakeholders. Older adults who haven’t been glued to their electronic devices all their lives are likely to appreciate that more than most.

What Kind of Event?
The reason you’re having an event must govern the kind of event to host, with every detail falling in line with your primary goal. That said, because older adults generally have more breathing room in their lives, events that encourage lingering and facilitate learning and/or provide quality entertainment are especially effective. Seniors are seasoned, savvy and wise, but they are also continuously seeking new experiences.

Events should not only showcase your community inside and out (fair weather is best for outside events and tours); they should also feature speakers or presentations on topics of special interest to older adults and their families or cultural enlightenment. Even if they’re not yet ready for a move, your guests will remember the senior community that provided them with a memorable day or evening, and they’ll be much more likely to contact you when they are ready. Keep in mind, too, that older adults are accustomed to and motivated by incentives such as discounts for “early bird” registration, raffles and giveaways. Unless your overhead is considerable or you’re trying to raise charitable funds, offer free events instead of those that impose a cost to attend.

Your community is the ideal location to host an event, because it invites guests directly into the space you want them to call home. There, you can let them experience not only your residences, but your fabulous dining and amenities, too. Larger venues are appropriate if you’re partnering with other sponsors in a conference or trade show setting that is focused on your industry rather than your senior living community(ies) per se, or if you’re celebrating a grand occasion or milestone with a sizable guest list and require more space.

How Many and Whom to Invite?
First, invite no more than your community can very comfortably accommodate. There should be plenty of dining space and food/beverages (including seconds), mingling areas, manned check-in stations, commodious seating/staging arranged appropriately for your focus activity, adequate lighting, handicap accessibility, apartments to tour, restroom accommodations, amenities/common areas to showcase or try out, and friendly staff to handle all of these offerings and answer any questions. As for whom to invite, check your goals again. Most senior event guest lists include resident prospects first and foremost, their adult children, friends, caregivers, grandchildren (if appropriate), your marketing and sales teams, community partners, donors, and any key players in the life of your community.

Watch for “Mature Audiences Only: Event Marketing for Senior Housing Part II” next week (or next month, in the case of our newsletter), when we will examine how to promote your event and assess results.

Since Mad Men


Since Mad Men

A personal account of advertising agency life by Debra Sheridan,
President of IVY Marketing Group on its 20th Anniversary

For those of you who watch Mad Men on AMC, you are probably stunned by the antics of the early 1960’s advertising agency creatives and partners.  Well, when I entered the large advertising agency scene in the early 1970’s, things weren’t much better.  I had to lie about being able to type over 90 words per minute so that I could get into the creative department rather than the secretarial pool.  Oh, and yes, I was asked to be my boss’ “friend” with the assurance that doing so would bring me great career advancements, on more than one occasion.  After a particularly trying large agency experience, I found that better-behaved creative and business people could be found in smaller agencies (perhaps there were just fewer place to hide, people to blame). But as anyone who works in this business knows, once it gets into your blood — you’re hooked.

As a writer and account executive, there was a great deal of freedom to work from home.  A perfect solution for my husband and three children.  As always, all things come to an end and the agency where I was working, decided to close in early 1990.  To keep my flexibility and serve my five clients as promised, I started IVY Integrated Marketing, our original name until one of our receptionists changed it to IVY Marketing because she thought it was entirely too difficult to say.  We made that official in 1997 with IVY Marketing Group.  IVY is named for my parents, Ruth and Paul Ivy.   Since the name ends with them, I wanted to give them a legacy that would be a tribute to their intelligence, integrity and creativity.

Business in 1990 was very different then, than it is now.  For starters, I only needed a computer for word processing and a laser printer.  The big question was “should I buy an Apple or an IBM computer?”  Apple offered the Apple II or the Mac but there was also the PC, a far more affordable option.  A printer, calculator, our brand new logo foil stamped and embossed on business cards, stationery and envelopes resided on newly-purchased used furniture.  A postage meter was not in the budget; neither was a fax machine which was now popular in the business world but priced in the thousands of dollars range.  The only vestige from the first days is an HP laser printer which remains faithful by my side, kicking out every page I ask of it.  We’ve been through scads of printers and computers since our opening day.  I will take it as a sign that I should retire if my little printer ever gives up.

I was fortunate to pioneer the cellular phone for AT&T.  It was installed in my car requiring several hours of technical know-how but had a feature that allowed it to be disconnected so it was portable.  While I don’t remember its weight, it was about the size of two reams of paper when in its case.

On August 17, 1990, IVY Integrated Marketing was incorporated.  With me was my wonderful graphic designer and now dear friend, Noreen Mancini.  She comfortably worked at her drafting table, with a razor blade usually resting between her teeth, hot wax gun in hand and Letraset, sheets of dry transferrable lettering, at the ready.  I had my PC computer, my little printer and collection of supplies.  Getting Noreen off the drafting board and onto a computer was very challenging.  I bought her the nicest Mac we could afford and sent her to class.  It took years before I heard her whisper that she loved the computer.

We grew the company to serve many clients and 18 employees in 3 short years.  Our business expanded to include senior housing, residential developments, retail and office asset management companies along with state and local governments.  We were surrounded by electronic gadgets like scanners, copiers, printers, cameras along with our computers and printers.

Agency life got sweeter when we started using email and the internet.  After years of rifling through books and periodicals at the library, I could find information at my desk via my state-of-the-art one-gigabyte computer.  We loaded up on fancy software, even an expensive accounting system so we could bill not just by the hour but by the copy, the fax or the postage amount.  We could even cut down the time to complete projects and better communicate with clients with e-mail — wow!

But, I was about to get my own professional jolt in 2005, when the world of marketing, advertising and public relations was reinventing itself.  With a foundation in public relations, our concern grew when paper and magazine pages dwindled and public service announcements were only at 2 a.m.  That meant IVY Marketing Group needed to change with the technology.  Today, we have sharpened our skills to include anything online — social media, blogs, public relations and advertising.

It’s still a mad, mad world, but we love it.  And, so today, 20 years later, we are excited about the amazing people we’ve worked with and for… the plethora of communications opportunities available to our clients… and what we will learn and implement tomorrow.

It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!


IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.


As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.


All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.


It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.


Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!


Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!


Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.


I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.


My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!


I could not be more thrilled to work alongside the IVY team.

For over 25 years, I have been employed in top executive positions across the Chicago area and have consistently built profitable businesses, generated sales, and developed and launched new product lines.

Strategically positioning companies and commodities for growth is a strong suit I’m eager to bring to ResponderHub™, IVY’s new crisis communications solution. I’m also excited to help expand IVY’s reach in the senior marketing industry.

I believe people are more open than ever to thinking outside the box and looking at new ways to reach their customer base, while at the same time reducing their cost of sale. The senior industry is exploding, and IVY is perfectly positioned to respond to the need for innovative, quality content marketing services and effective crisis communications.


I love being able to use my skills to help improve other people’s lives, and with a growing elderly population, it’s important to create meaningful and user-friendly digital solutions to aid the senior living industry.I have a wide range of technology and design skills with a deep interest in Human-Computer Interaction– helping IVY provide outstanding web design and print design services. IVY has a long-proven track record of excellence, and I’m proud to be able to help carry on that tradition.