Archive for the ‘December 2011’ Category

How to Advertise Effectively

Regarding retail walk-in companies, we often hear it said – “Location, Location, Location!”  No doubt, for that type business, the physical location is extremely important and can make or break a company regardless of anything else they’ve got going on.  For non walk-in companies, of course, location isn’t terribly important. But something else is – “Advertising, Advertising, Advertising!”


The importance of advertising can’t be stressed enough. But if such marketing is going to be effective, you have to know how and where to advertise. The results of the recent Rod Builders Survey (4300+ builders responded) tells us that barely 20% of custom rod builders participate on custom rod building forums or websites.  It should come as no surprise therefore, that the 4 largest component supply dealers, who combine for almost 75% of the total sales in the industry, all have one very important thing in common – they still publish printed catalogs.


Early on, I began collecting data on the builders who attend the International Custom Rod Building Exposition. Very quickly I learned that over 90% of those who attend learned of the event through either print advertising or direct mail postcards. Since that time, I’ve put the bulk of the Expo advertising resources into just those things – print and mail advertising. I do very little insofar as internet advertising because I’ve learned that you can’t reach the bulk of the builders via the internet – only 2 out of 10, at the very best, in fact.

30,000 Expo postcards are sent by direct mail each year. Response is about 5% - which is well above most marketing expectations.

With all the evidence we have that print and direct mail are still king in terms of reaching the custom rod building craft, you have to wonder why so many companies or entities trying to market a product, service or event to the custom rod building craft, refuse to spend the money on the type of advertising that works. And then they wonder why their endeavors don’t seem to go over very well.


Sure, you can get a lot of internet advertising for free, but that’s because it’s the least effective form of marketing you can do – at least where the custom rod builder is concerned.  Want to get the word out about your product, sevice or event? Then advertise – in print and with direct mail. Those get results!


Tom Kirkman



Sparing No Expense

The forerunner to the International Custom Rod Building Exposition was first held in 2004 as the National Rod Building Show.  I partnered with Barry Serviente and his Fly Fishing Shows network and utilized a portion of the hall he had leased at the enormous Charlotte Convention Center.  At the same time our shows were taking place, several other events were being held in other halls within the same facility. Although this beautiful facility easily handled all the events, the set up and break down periods were met with crowded dock conditions and limited moving equipment. The experience was not terribly user friendly from the exhibitor’s point of view. Of course, such is the nature of so many trade and consumer shows.


In 2007, when I moved the event to the Showplace in High Point, I was given the opportunity to lease only as much of the facility as I needed. But this meant that others could lease portions of the facility on the same weekend, leaving us in a similar situation to what we had in Charlotte, with my exhibitors having to share the same dock space and moving equipment as the other events taking place that same weekend. Not to mention, our attendees would have to share the parking lot and concession area with the attendees of the other events. It was at that moment that I made the decision to dispense with profit and focus on having the most user friendly event possible for the exhibitors and attendees – I leased the whole damn place!

Granted, we only really needed about 65,000 to 70,000 square feet to hold our 70 to 80 booths and related seminar rooms and ticket/consession areas, but I wanted my exhibitors and attendees to have the best possible experience, being able to focus on the event and not worry about crowded dock or parking areas, long ticket or concession lines or anything else that happens when you put several events into the same facility on the same weekend. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s a bargain as well. No pipe and drape – we have hard wall systems and full carpeting, wall to wall. Exhibitors don’t have to deal with a separate decorator or shipping firm – it’s all taken care of within a single facility. Attendees park for free and never have to wait in long lines or maneuver through crowded aisles. Everything about the Expo is absolute top-shelf. 

Do I regret spending several times over what I have to spend in order to host this event? Not at all. Although I could certainly do it cheaper and put the savings in my pocket, my goal remains to host one of the finest craft oriented events in one of the finest convention facilities in the world (and… booth spaces and admission fee are less than they were in 2004 in Charlotte!).  No one can say that the custom rod building craft’s premier event isn’t the equal or better of any woodworking, knife-making, or associated craft event held anywhere in the world today and I’ve spared no expense to make it happen. There is truly nothing else like the Expo!


Tom Kirkman



New Issue

RodMaker Volume 14 #6 is in the mail now. Most of you will receive it sometime just after Christmas. Articles include, The Prism Wrap, Stamped Leather Grips, Grip Coring, Guide to Building Centre Pin Rods, RF LIte Seat Legacy, Guide Evolution, Burnt Cork Facts, Rod Building News, History, Q&A, Reader Letters, Reader Photo Gallery, and more.


Tom Kirkman



Expo Seminar List

Following is the tentative seminar presentation list for the upcoming 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition. Expect it to change slightly over the new few weeks with a few more additions and perhaps a change or two.

Tom Kirkman



Saturday February 25, 2012

Room A

9 AM – Basic Rod Building with Jim Upton & Dennis Papike

11 AM – Foam Core Composite Grips 101 (basic) with Capt. Mike Pedersen

12 PM (noon) – Advanced Foam/Carbon Grips with Capt. Mike Pedersen

1 PM – Introductory Wood Turning with Morris Schlesinger

3 PM – Building Presentation Grade Rod Cases with Mark Crouse


Room B

10 AM – Abalone Shell Inlays with Kevin Knox

11 AM  – Rod Sensitivity with Jason Brunner

12 PM (noon) – Building Great Lakes Trolling Rods with David Mayer

1 PM – Building Rods for Charter Boats with Ken Preston

2 PM – Rod Blank Design with Jason Brunner

3 PM – 3D Beaded Wraps with Lana Preston



Sunday February 26, 2012

Room A

9 AM – Basic Thread Weaving with Jim Upton

10AM – Advanced Thread Weaving with Jim Upton

12 PM (noon) -  EVA Grip Construction with Billy Vivona


Room B

10 AM – Custom Rod Inscriptions with David Mayer

11 AM – Modern Rod Repair with Ralph O’Quinn

1 PM – Rod Building and the Internet with Ken Preston

2 PM – Long Distance Surf Rods with Ryan White


2012 Expo Floor Plan

Below is the tentative floor plan for the 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition. Expect a few changes and/or additions over the next few weeks as more exhibitor contracts arrive. For now, this is where we’re at.


More information on the event can be found on the official event website at


Tom Kirkman


*Note – Mud Hole also has booth D9, for a total of 6 booths. I’ll correct this error on the final floor plan publication.




2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition

The Wild and Wooly Expo

My attorney once told me, “When there’s trouble, check the low man on the totem pole – he’s the one most likely to cause a ruckus.”


In 9 years of hugely successful International Custom Rod Building Exposition events, we’ve had literally tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars of product, displays, currency, etc., move in and out of the event facility.  And yet in all that time, I’ve only had 3 reports regarding any sort of unseemly “incidents.” Considering the amount of material and numbers of people we’ve dealt with, that puny number may constitute  a record for all I know, but due to some gross exaggerations being spread I feel compelled to state the facts regarding those 3 “incidents.”


1. In 2010, a guest or a housekeeper, failed to lock and close a room door at an area hotel (I have nothing to do with any of the hotels). The room was thoroughly examined by the guest and hotel personnel and nothing was disturbed nor found to be missing. In other words, nothing happened. But eighteen months later, the guest filed a claim against her homeowner’s insurance policy stating that the room had been ransacked and jewellery taken. She became upset when the hotel manager refused to corroborate her new story, which contradicted her own statements at the time of the incident. The insurance company was not fooled.


2. After packing up from a successful event in 2010, an exhibitor left a parcel (long tube) for UPS pick up on the following Monday. The parcel failed to reach the company later that week. It went missing as shipments sometimes do. Rumors that it was “stolen” are  based on nothing more than conjecture, not fact. I covered this matter over a year ago.


3. In 2011, one of the exhibitors placed some of their product decals on another exhibitor’s crate. They thought it was funny. He didn’t. I spoke to both parties. The first called the second, apologized and assured him they’d not repeat the stunt in the future. End of story.


So, that’s the naked truth about the wild and wooly International Custom Rod Building Exposition. Actually, I feel kind of bad that after 9 years, tens of thousands of custom builders, dozens upon dozens of exhibitors, millions of dollars in product and currency changing hands, and everything else that has to take place to stage such a full scale event, these 3  supposedly sordid incidents are the only tales I can regale you with – and they’re hardly ribald in the least.


On the other hand, the Expo itself is indeed exciting and I’ll hopefully see you in February when the world’s largest and best custom rod building event again takes center stage.


Tom Kirkman


PS It dawned on me that this is an excellent opportunity to put up the most recent exhibitor list for the upcoming 2012 Expo. Enjoy!




American Tackle


Angler’s Envy


Angler Innovations


Angler’s Resource (Fuji)


Angler’s Roost




Bingham Enterprises


Decal Connection




Get Bit Outdoors


Hatteras Jack’s


Hydra Fishing, LLC


Jim Upton Weaving


Ken and Lana Preston Rods


Lamiglas, Inc.


Mar Ktruz LDA Cork


Mickels Custom Rods


Mud Hole Custom Tackle


NERBS – Northeast Rod Builders


North Fork Composites


Pacific Bay, Inc.


Phenix Rods and Blanks


Renzetti, Inc.


Riley Rods




RodMaker Magazine


Schlesinger Wood Turning


Seeker Rod Company


Skin Shop USA


St. Croix Rods


Sticks ‘N Bones




Talon Graphite


Tiage USA


Tour Star Products


Trondak U-40


Woodworkers Shop


More TBA by December 15th, 2011




New Issue

The Volume 14 #6 issue of RodMaker mailed today. Most subscribers will receive it just after Christmas.

Tom Kirkman


Looking Good

Depending on who you ask, the U.S. economy is either getting worse or leveling off. But almost nobody believes it’s on any sort of serious upswing. I tend to agree.


For this reason I’m actually feeling pretty darn good about the upcoming International Custom Rod Building Exposition. You see, booth sales have been exceptionally strong – there is at least some chance that this could be the very largest Expo ever! As I write this, I’m down to just a couple booths left available. Considering that I enlarged the floorplan last year, that puts the upcoming 2012 event in a pretty good light. Of course, a good half dozen companies that have committed still haven’t yet returned their contracts, so time will tell, but I have no reason to doubt these firms will follow through.


With all the uncertainty in the air, you never want to promise anything you’re not sure you can deliver. I won’t promise the Expo will be our largest ever, but I will say that things are looking very good towards that end!


Tom Kirkman