Thursday, October 22, 2020

It's Almost Halloween - Here are Some Last Minute, Fun Ideas that You Can Share With Your Customers

Promoting balloons and balloon decor may seem to be the obvious choice of content for your social media page. But when it comes to engaging with your followers, it is important to share a variety of different posts to keep your audience interested and entertained by the things that you are sharing with them.

With only a few days to Halloween, this would be the perfect time to post a daily Halloween idea/suggestion, or a fun Halloween related quote or jokes.

Here are some ideas plus a little text that you can use along with your posts! 

"Children love to cook! This is the perfect opportunity to create some fabulous Halloween cakes and cookies - cooking with kids can be fun and enjoyable for both the children and adults. Your children will get the joy of creating fun bakes and the pleasure of eating them too, all while you create lasting memories that your children may treasure forever."

"We know how much children love to play games, so why not organise some fun Halloween themed activities!"

"Get your children crafting and having fun - create crafting stations where they can let their imaginations run wild"

" Don't forget to decorate your homes, both inside and out and create lots of excitement for all the children (and adults) in your neighbourhood"

"Halloween is definitely not cancelled this year, but it 
will be a little bit different - let's make it memorable for all the right reasons!"

Wishing you all a safe & happy Halloween! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Why Competition Can be Beneficial for Business

It can be pretty hard, especially during these challenging times, to really see any benefit to having competition. Many businesses default to disliking their competitors, mostly because their existence takes business away from them. However, it is important that they also appreciate that by having competition, it can be beneficial to their own business...

So what if we didn't have any competition? "Great!" I hear you say, now you have a clear and straightforward path to unchallenged success. However, businesses who don’t have competition should be wary. Rather than being a strength, a lack of competition can become a negative. Lack of competition can breed complacency and inefficiency.

Competition raises consumer awareness
- I remember when I first set up my business almost 30 years ago. Balloons were relatively new and I was the only balloon company in my town. Within a very short time two more businesses set up - one extremely close to me, and I was devastated! However, the reality was quite the opposite of what I expected! In no time I was busier than ever - why? Because there were now three of us promoting and decorating events with balloons. Therefore when the competition rises, it pushes an idea so much that the idea catches on even quicker and a product becomes more popular. We actually became friends and would often work together.

Today is no different to how competition can boost a business, but it isn't just local competition you have to contend with. Social media has opened many more trading opportunities - for example, there is UK balloon company who constantly advertises their nation-wide balloon delivery service on Facebook and Instagram. Their advertising budget must be significant, but the fact is if it was not bringing them business, they would have likely stopped pretty quickly! However, let's look at the positive; their advertising campaigns are also helping other balloon businesses. If consumers are constantly seeing fabulous balloon delivery ideas on their social media feeds, this definitely has to be a positive. It will bring the idea of balloons and balloon deliveries directly to them and will hopefully inspire them to order balloons for their next celebration or special occasion AND from their local balloon professional! 

What can you do? Having a good social media presence is vital for all businesses. First, decide who your target market is - your social media target audience consists of the people who are most likely to be interested in your products. It is important to build relationships with your local audience - people who live within a close proximity to your business. This can be done through various local Facebook Groups and by using relevant and targeted hashtags. Most local Facebook groups permit local businesses to advertise on a certain day each month, so check each group and make sure that you schedule in your adverts! Local communities are becoming far more pro-active in these recent times supporting their local businesses, so this is a great opportunity to grow and nurture loyalty! 

Have you heard of Nextdoor?  Their statement explains:"Nextdoor connects neighbours to each other — and to everything nearby: Local businesses, services, news updates, recommendations and stuff for sale from the people down the block. Building connections in the real world is a universal human need." Nextdoor is very popular in my neighbourhood and is widely used - see what other marketing opportunities there are to ensure that you are not missing out! 

And don't forget, it's always a good idea to see who your competitors are targeting, and ensure that you are not missing out on other great opportunities!

Competition pushes your business to strive to be the absolute best'Balloons' are a little like fashion: it is a trend-led industry. Some of the most recent trends include organics, balloon mosaics, and marquee designs! Who would have ever thought that we would be habitually double-stuffing balloons, or selling air-filled rather than helium-filled decor? Businesses who have the ability to react to these trends will keep ahead of their competitors and in turn will be offering customers the best service and the greatest customer satisfaction. I remember when organic decor first came on to the scene - "it looks messy", "this concept won't last" and "you won't see me doing this" were a few of the comments I remember hearing 😉 Even if we have been in the industry for a significant time we should all ensure that we keep our skills and techniques up-to-date, otherwise we can so easily get left behind! 

What can you do? Never stop learning! It is very easy to stay within your comfort zone and continue to offer the same style of designs that you have been habitually selling. Allocate yourself (and your team) 'play & development' time, which is an opportunity to learn new techniques and design ideas. Qualatex has so many great resources that can help you to learn and develop your skills.

Face-to-face courses and training events are very limited at this time due to the pandemic and all the resulting restrictions, however this does not mean that there are no opportunities to learn.

Earlier this year, at the start of the pandemic, Qualatex, in conjunction with Q Corner, ran a 100% FREE Virtual Balloon Convention. Five Days of continuous classes from some of the industry's top instructors, plus many instructors who have never taught outside of their countries - there is an incredible 76 classes to watch! 

To get you started - here is one of the convention classes taught by the fabulous Federico Onida. This is an excellent class to learn some fabulous new ideas and techniques! 

To find all the other classes click on the link HERE

More recently Qualatex has been offering a series of Webinars called 'What's Hot Right Now'. These were streamed live with the opportunity for a Q&A session with the instructor after each class. These classes are now available to purchase at a very low cost to find out more click on the link HERE

Competition keeps you motivated - To stand out from competition, you always need to be highly motivated. You will become proactive, alert, creative and above all focused. Stop being complacent and always think of better ways to satisfy your customers. 

We can worry so much about competition that we let our businesses be ruled by what others do. Set your own goals and focus on creating obtainable achievements month by month and year after year. When you do so, you become your own greatest competition, and it's up to you if you succeed or fail. 

I think it would be wrong if I did not address the difficulties that businesses experience during economic downturns. When an economy plummets, many small businesses pop up from people who decide to become self-employed instead of unemployed. Economic downturns cause a rise in self-employment and the opportunity for people to try to make money. This can lead to cheap prices and potentially poor work, services and goods. We often see pop-up balloon vendors using cheap imported products that don't comply with local laws or regulations. There is no magical solution in how to handle this situation, however, if I could give you a little advice, deal with this situation in the same way as you would any other competitor. Ensure that your marketing reflects quality products and excellent customer service, focus on your business and ensure that you remain motived and are the best that you can be.

Keep positive and motivated! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Monday, October 12, 2020

Part 2 Fabulous Balloon Walls - created with QuickLinks™️

Welcome to Part 2 of Fabulous Balloon Walls! In this post we are going to look at balloon walls that are made using QuickLink™️ balloons.

If you missed Part 1 of Fabulous Balloon Walls - created with Latex Round Balloons, click HERE for a direct link.

QuickLink Walls

I have found that using QuickLinks is probably one of the easiest and quickest ways to make a balloon wall.

Firstly, I want to talk about the balloons themselves:

  • QuickLinks are available in both 12” and 6” size.
  • The balloon shape makes tying very easy – tip to tip or tail to tail!
  • And of course all the colours coordinate with the entire Qualatex® range, from latex balloons to Microfoil’s to Bubble Balloons.

When QuickLinks were first launched, It took some time for me to get used to working with them. You need to think logically when assembling a QuickLink design to ensure that you construct it in the simplest way possible. QuickLink designs are typically constructed using chains with connectors that lock the chains together to form a structure.

When making a balloon wall using QuickLinks, there are two methods that are generally used:

  •  QuickLink Vertical/Horizontal Grids
  •  QuickLink X-Pattern Grids
Before we talk about these two methods, I would like to say a quick word about Balloon Design Tools. Balloon Design Tools is a fabulous program that allows balloon professionals to digitally design Arches, Columns, Organic decor and Balloon Walls. It also features other balloon related calculation tools. In this post, I will be featuring walls that I have created for clients and for classes that I designed using this tool. Not only has it saved me many hours in the designing process, it also gives me the perfect computer-based graphic that I can share with my clients for their approval... without the need to inflate any balloons!
If you are considering making a balloon wall, then I strongly recommend testing out this software. It is available on a 7-Day Free Trial. If you wish to sign up after the trial, you have an option of a monthly or annual subscription. 

The Design Tool was created by Chris Adamo, CBA, from Sydney, Australia. He has over 20 years of balloon industry experience and is as passionate about this wonderful profession as anyone could be. In recent years Chris has been asked to teach all around the world and is driven to helping the balloon industry through quality and practical educational videos and tools. The ‘ Design Tool’  has transformed the way we design, plan and create balloon decor. It is a huge honour and privilege to be able to share this with the wider community.

In a future blog post, we will look at the fabulous functions available on the Balloon Tool and how it can really help you. I guarantee that you will be impressed! 

QuickLink Vertical/Horizontal Grids

This is one of my favourite techniques and I have used it many times when creating balloon walls at corporate events. The last wall that I made before we headed into lock-down was for an event in London where the theme for the party was Great Gatsby! 

Black, Chrome Gold and Chrome Silver QuickLink Balloon Wall designed and created by Sue Bowler, CBA
Black, Chrome Gold and Chrome Silver QuickLink Balloon Wall
designed and created by Sue Bowler, CBA.
Black, Chrome Gold and Chrome Silver QuickLink Balloon Wall
designed and created by Sue Bowler.

Here is the same design that I created on the Balloon Tool. I used this to propose the design to my client and as you can see, it was approved!

Step 1: Use the QuickLink balloons to create the balloon wall frame. 

In this example, I have used 12" Onyx Black QuickLinks inflated to 9" to make the chains, and 7" Chrome Silver inflated to 5" to make the duplets that lock the wall together.

QuickLink Grid

Step 2: Fill the gaps within the grid frame with 11" (Duplets) balloons - the size of the balloons used should be in keeping with the inflated size of the QuickLink balloons. 

In this example, I have used 11" Chrome Gold and 11" Chrome Silver balloons for the fillers (duplets), these balloons were inflated to 8".

QuickLink Grid filled with Chrome Gold & Silver  11" Balloons

Step 3: Optional - you can add different types of balloons into the frame to create an alternative look; you can even create a semi-organic look by using different size balloons.

I added a whole new look to this balloon wall by adding different latex balloons, including prints and confetti-filled. I also added in some Microfoil balloons which I think you would agree really adds value to the design!

QuickLink Grid filled with a selection of latex and Microfoil balloons

I also want to share with you this fabulous wall. The original design was by Luc Bertrand, CBA, of WaW Balloons in Vichte, Belgium. Luc created this wall as part of the décor for the 100 year celebration of Pioneer Balloon Company on the Qualatex stand at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair in Germany. Luc's design uses the AeröPole System® to create the circular frame and then Luc used 6" QuickLink balloons to create the central grid system and filled with multi-coloured 5" latex balloons. 

100 Year Celebration Balloon Wall by Luc Bertrand
100 Years Celebration Balloon Wall by Luc Bertrand

I re-created Luc's design for the Pioneer Balloon Company's 100th Birthday Celebration Party in Wichita in 2017. The party theme was Black & White, and it was a great opportunity to use a fantastic selection of black & white printed balloons.This wall made the perfect photo backdrop!

Who are all these lovely people?

QuickLink X Pattern Grids

This is another great technique using QuickLinks to create fabulous wall designs. 

Here are two grids that I have designed on the Balloon Tool to show you examples of how the frame looks with and without the balloon fillers.

Here are some examples of wall designs using the X-Pattern Grid

QuickLInk 'Love' Balloon Wall by Sue Bowler
'Love' X-Grid Wall designed and created by Sue Bowler

It's a Boy! QuickLink Balloon Wall by Sue Bowler
'Welcome Baby' X-Grid Wall Designed and created by Sue Bowler

Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel
Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel are all about design especially when they create their fabulous balloon walls! 

Back to School Balloon Wall by Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel
'Back to School' X-Grid Wall Designed by Avital and Nir  

Probably one of my favourite X-Grid Wall designs is also by the incredible duo, Avital & Nir. The fabulous colours and the different sizing of the fillers makes this design fun, exciting and oh so vibrant! 

Multi-Coloured Balloon Wal by Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel

And finally, two more fantastic balloon wall designs by Nir & Avital using this very versatile X-Grid wall technique. Their attention to detail really brings their designs to life!

Back to School Balloon Wall by Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel
Balloon Wall by Nir & Avital Shechter

Fabulous Coloured Balloon Wall by Nir and Avital Shechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel
Balloon Wall by Nir & Avital Shechter

If you have never tried making a balloon wall before, then I recommend that you start with QuickLinks! If you want to practice you can use 6" QuickLinks which means that your design will be much smaller than if you use 12". You can still make a great backdrop design using 6" QuickLink balloons, so make sure that whatever you make you use it for a photo opportunity! 

A huge thank you to Nir & Avital Shechter, Alberto Falcone and Luc Bertrand for sharing their beautiful balloon wall designs with the Very Best Balloon Blog! 

In my next blog post, we will look at balloon walls made with Microfoil™️ Balloons! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Part 1 Fabulous Balloon Walls - Created with Latex Round Balloons

There are many different ways to create walls with balloons. We can use latex rounds, QuickLinks, non-rounds and foil balloons such as Qualatex Starpoints, and others too! So, we need to determine which type of wall we want to create, or more importantly, which wall best suits our or our customers needs?

Elegant Balloon Wall and Sculptured Column by Sue Bowler

So why are we proposing a balloon wall to our clients - a client would generally never ask you for a balloon wall unless they have seen something specific on Instagram or Pinterest! It is your job to sell what a wall can do for them - sell the emotion and not the product! To give you an idea of what I mean by selling the emotion here are a few examples.

  • Suction power doesn’t sell vacuum cleaners; seeing the dirt it gathers does.
  • Ingredients don’t sell expensive face creams; the confidence they give you does.
  • And carbon footprint stats don’t sell electric cars; pride in eco-friendliness does.

Here are a few reasons why you might suggest a balloon wall to a client:

  • To create their corporate logo
  • To create a theme background
  • To create a theme entrance
  • To create a photo or stage back-drop
  • To enhance a trade show or exhibition stand

I love designing and making balloon walls, and will always propose them to a client whenever possible. I have a client that now always insists that they have a balloon wall photo backdrop at all of their events! 

There are a number of different techniques that we can use to make balloon walls using latex round balloons:

  • Duplet Square Pack
  • Alternate Size Square Garland Pack
  • Traditional 4-Balloon Garland Pack
  • Organic

Duplet Square Pack
This is one of my favourite techniques. I really like that balloon walls made with this technique have a flat, smooth surface (not bumpy like balloons), straight sides, and really good definition on straight and diagonal lines. This type of wall can be made with a double-sided pattern or with a plain back; however keep in mind it is not as robust as other wall techniques.

Here are a few examples of décor using the Duplet Square-Pack Technique.
Elegant Tropical Balloon Wall and Organic Garland design by Sue Bowler, CBA

Its Birthday Balloon Wall and Decor by Sue Bowler
Baby 1st Birthday Balloon Wall Backdrop
Design by Sue Bowler

Zoe Adam-Jones of Jazzer's Trading designed and made this fabulous backdrop  Duplet Square Pack Balloon Wall at the 2019 Qualatex Event in Brazil.
Zoe Adam-Jones, CBA of Jaz Trading, designed and made this
fabulous backdrop using the Duplet Square Pack Balloon technique
at the 2019 Qualatex Event in Brazil.

Watch as Chris Adamo, CBA, demonstrates the duplet square pack wall method for his mountain scene design. For more information and tips check out the great article in Balloon Images Issue 2

Alternate Size Square Pack Garland
When making balloon walls using this technique, you can guarantee that it will be robust and will always looks good! It is probably the most widely used method of precision wall. It is made by alternating clusters of four balloons in two different sizes packed on to 50lb Dacron line. This produces a square shape garland.

Alternate Clusters of four balloons in two different sizes

The garlands when built are laid side by side and interlocked, then joined together 

The difference in size between the two sets is relative to the size of balloon used.

2" - 4½" = use a ½" differential
4½" - 7½" = use a 1" differential
7½" - 11" = use a 2" differential

5cm - 11.5cm = use a 1.5cm differential
11.5cm - 19cm = 2.5cm differential
19cm - 28cm = 5cm differential

Practice to see which sizes work best for you. The garlands once built are placed side -by-side and interlocked, then connected together.

This method produces quite a smooth design with a flat surface, it allows for good diagonal lines and triangles. However, not all balloon wall types work with different patterns!

Here are some examples of balloon walls using the Alternate Size Square Garland method:

Alternate Size Balloon Wall by Sue Bowler
Chrome Silver & Gold with Black - Alternate Size Square Pack Balloon Wall
Design by Sue Bowler

Check out Chris Adamo's demonstration where he shows the alternate square pack method to create an ice cream truck photo op.

Ice-Cream Truck by Chris Adamo
Ice-Cream Truck Photo Op by Chris Adamo, CBA,
of The Balloon Crew, Sydney, Australia

Ice-Cream Truck Decor by Chris Adamo
Ice-Cream Truck by Chris Adamo

Consistent sizing of balloons is paramount with balloon walls! Some methods are not very forgiving of badly sized balloons or inconsistent  'dupleting'  of balloons. To form the duplets, we must make sure that the balloons are tied as tightly together as possible, leaving no slack latex between the knot and the inflated part of the balloon.

Everyone will pack clusters on to line at a particular tension. It is usual to have only one person pack the garlands while others inflate and tie. This is not possible on large jobs, so you will need to practice consistent sizing and packing with your crew. 

Organic Balloon Walls
It would appear that there are many different techniques used to create Organic Style Balloon Walls. I suppose this is not surprising, as there are equally many different techniques to create Organic Garlands. I personally have used two different methods, and I will share one of the techniques that I used. We will look at other methods in Part 2.

I was contacted by a brand development agency who asked me to create a balloon and flower wall for a press event in London. 

When building a wall like this, it is important to consider how stable it needs to be. The balloon themselves are not heavy, but when you load it with lots of faux flowers, the weight increases considerably. So my first consideration was how was I going to support my balloon wall?

Thinking about what would work best, I came up with the idea of using a wire grid frame. My next task was to find a grid frame that would be suitable. After a little research, I found the perfect solution!

One of the client's criteria was that the balloons needed to be pastel tones to suit the faux flowers that they were supplying for the wall. 

Organic Balloon & Flower Wall by Sue Bowler
Organic Balloon & Flower Wall by Sue Bowler

I loved making this wall and learned a great deal whilst building it. I was really happy with the end result, as was the client. This wall took around eight hours to build, including the construction time to build the panels. 

A huge thank you to Chris Adamo and Zoe Adam-Jones for sharing their knowledge and inspiration! 

In Part 2 of this Balloon Wall blog post, we will look at a fabulous collection of Balloon Walls made from QuickLinks™️.

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler