Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Tradeshow staff training

5 Must-Do’s for Successful Tradeshow Marketing

I sat down with a long-time colleague to be interviewed this week and to prepare I put a list together of the 5 must-do’s for successful tradeshow marketing. We didn’t go over the whole list because the conversation took its own path. But I thought – hey, it’s a good list! Here it is:

  1. Have an exhibit that draws people in.
    1. We could go into this in detail, but your graphics and messaging should clearly tell people at a glance:
      1. Who you are
      1. What you do
      1. What problem you solve for them
  2. Have a goal. Share that goal with your staff.
    1. Brand awareness
    1. Sales
    1. Generate leads
    1. Add distributors
    1. Reach new markets
    1. Launch new products or services
    1. Find new hires
    1. Meet current customers, partners and distributors
  3. Have a well-trained staff
    1. Your staff should know how to greet people
    1. Your staff should know the products or services
    1. Know how to gather the proper information for a good lead…which leads to…
  4. Know what a lead is…
    1. A lead is NOT a card in a fishbowl
    1. A lead is someone who qualifies
      1. They’re looking to buy what you’re selling
      1. They have a budget
      1. They know when they’re going to buy
      1. They have the power to make a decision
    1. Once a lead is qualified, the follow up is critical
  5. Follow-up:
    1. Gather the right information
      1. Name and contact
      1. When is the follow up
      1. Where is the follow up
      1. Who is doing the follow up
      1. What is the follow up: sending a brochure, sample, in-person meeting?

We did get to a few of these, and they were good talking points throughout the conversation. One she produces the interview and gives me a link, I’ll make sure to include it in a blog post soon!


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House (Free Report)

6 Earworms for Your Next Tradeshow

What is an earworm? Basically, it’s song or melody that gets stuck in your head and you have a hard time unsticking it. It goes around and around and won’t go away.

It happens to me all the time. I must have fifty songs bounce around my head on any given day. Some stick for a few moments, others for up to an hour.

Why not come up with a short list of good songs to get stuck in your head that make sense for your next tradeshow appearance?

Let’s start with Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

It’s catchy and gets to the point of any attendee’s message to an exhibitor: yeah, I’ve seen your stuff before, but what have you done for me lately? Plus it’s a classic mid-80s dance video, so there’s that.

Prince – Kiss

Another video from 1986. Popular year, perhaps? Maybe not an actual kiss, but certainly a metaphorical one. You want that connection that leads to becoming either a client or a supplier. And to do that, there’s a certain amount of closeness that must be done.

So why not a metaphorical kiss?

Rolling Stones – Get off My Cloud

Exhibiting at a tradeshow means sharing the stage with hundreds or even thousands of other exhibitors. But in YOUR booth, you’re the master. No other brands allowed. So yeah, get off my cloud, two’s a crowd!

Beatles – Come Together

Now that we’re in the Sixties for a few moments, how about we ask The Beatles for a song? Come Together is certainly a great earworm, and oh-so-appropriate for a large gathering.

Billie Eilish – Bad Guy

Let’s jump up to the present for Billie Eilish and her mega-hit Bad Guy. Not only is it catchy as hell, but at every tradeshow there always seems to be a bad guy. Sometimes it’s the neighbor exhibitor that’s playing loud music in their booth or crowding out your visitors. Or some floor manager that is making it difficult to get your crates delivered to your booth in a timely maner. The good thing is, there are not that many bad guys at tradeshows. Most people are there to have a good time and be a good guy or gal.

Queen: We Will Rock You

Exactly what you’re looking to do at your next tradeshow: rock your visitors.

Got a song stuck in your head?

Essential Tools & Tips for Your First Tradeshow Event

This is a guest article by Halle Summers of Fastenation.

If you are planning on attending or setting up a booth at a tradeshow for the first time, you probably already know how valuable these events are for growing a business. They offer numerous opportunities for increasing awareness of your brand, making sales, and networking with prospective customers and clients. While business is increasingly being conducted online, trade shows provide an opportunity for business owners and consumers to meet face to face, forge relationships, and learn about new products.

If you have ever attended a tradeshow, it should come as no surprise that exhibiting at one requires a lot of work and careful planning. It’s often necessary to start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have everything you need by the time the event makes its way into town. There is a massive amount of competition at these events, and, if you just show up and hope for the best, your booth will likely get lost and be overlooked by most attendees. If you are gearing up to be an exhibitor for the first time, here are a few essential tools and tips to ensure the success of your first trade show event.

Make Assembling an Eye-Catching Display Your Top Priority

The human attention span tends to be pretty short. When people are surrounded by all sorts of exciting things to see and do, it can be even shorter. This means that you only have a few seconds to capture the attention of event attendees and draw them into your booth. If your display isn’t eye-catching, a lot of people will likely pass by your booth without even stopping.

The good news is that assembling an eye-catching tradeshow display doesn’t have to be difficult. Use attention-grabbing images instead of words. Make use of bright (but appealing) colors. Have products on display. Make your booth feel welcoming. There are all sorts of things that you can do to put together an amazing display. When you’re packing up to head to the event, make sure you have the right tools and supplies for setting up your display. Things like gaffers tape and VELCRO® brand hook and loop tape are lifesavers when it comes to hanging banners, putting up signs, and assembling the various parts of trade show booths. Table skirting clips are great for trade shows, too, as are cable hangers. Trust us; few things are worse than showing up at a tradeshow with an awesome display but lacking the tools and supplies needed to set it up!

Prepare Your “A” Team

The people you have working at your booth can have a huge impact on how well the trade show goes for your business. There are a few different options when it comes to staffing. You can bring your own employees, or you can work with an event staffing agency. The downside to working with an agency, though, is that you will need to put a lot of effort into training your team and ensuring that they know all of the ins and outs of your business. When you have your own employees working the booth, they already have a lot of knowledge about your products and services.

Make sure that the team you assemble is made of people who are friendly, motivated, professional, and outgoing. You don’t want someone who is going to sulk behind the table and make zero effort to engage with attendees! Choose team members who work well together and complement each other’s knowledge and skills. Ensure that everyone is prepared to handle questions. Trade show attendees tend to have a lot of questions about businesses and their products and services. Every single person who is working the booth and acting as a representative of your company needs to be an expert on your product and business, and they need to be able to handle inquiries with confidence and ease.

If your business sells a product, your team needs to be prepared to give product demos, too. Tradeshow attendees want to be able to experience products for themselves before committing to buy, so doing product demos and allowing potential customers to try out your merchandise is a great way to build relationships and make sales. If your company provides a service, you should figure out a way to demonstrate that, too. Show event attendees what you do. Don’t just tell them about it.

Give Stuff Away When you set up a booth at a tradeshow, making money is probably one of your ultimate goals. That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t give away some freebies. For event attendees, free swag is one of the best parts about going to a trade show. People love free stuff, and they expect to get a lot of it at tradeshows. Promotional items, such as branded notebooks, pens, hats, tote bags, or water bottles, are always big hits. Any type of freebie works, though. You can draw a pretty big crowd by simply handing out some tasty fresh-baked cookies. Get creative and be generous. Doing so gets people talking about your booth and entices attendees to stop by.

Conclusion

Setting up a booth at a tradeshow offers numerous benefits for business owners. If you want to make the most of the event, though, you need to be prepared. Start planning several months in advance to ensure that you have time to order banners, tools, and other supplies, assemble your event team, and provide adequate training. The more you put into planning for your first trade show, the more you will likely get out of it.

When the big day arrives, stick to your game plan, and have fun! Exhibiting at a tradeshow requires a lot of hard work, but there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyable, too.


Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.

11 Ways to Attract Attention at a Tradeshow

Wear colorful branded clothing. Whether it’s a staff of two or three, or twenty, having colorful branded clothing will immediately let visitors know who’s working the booth and who’s a guest. Bright colors attract, so put your logo on the front and an enticing message on the back. And to change things up from day to day, create a different colored set with a different message for each day of the show, and make sure your crew coordinates. Bright colors, especially if they’re tied into your brand work well: yellow, red, orange, blue, fluorescent.

Setup a giant prop and invite people to take a photo. Could be anything: a mascot, a giant purse, a full-size model of one of your products (if it’s small, for instance); something that stops people in their tracks. I’ve seen mascot, angels, musicians, giant hanging props, exhibits made from bicycle frames and more. They all had one thing in common: they begged to have their picture taken.

Once that photo has been taken, invite the visitor to spread the word on social media and include the show hashtag to make sure the post gets seen. Offer prizes to people that photo and share online.

Give something away and offer an incentive to wear it. One way is to print up a few hundred t-shirts or hats with your logo along with a fun message and tell people that if they put it on right there, they can also take home another gift. And tell them if you catch them wearing it at an after-hours show (be specific as to which one), you’ll be giving away $50 bills to random shirt wearers. This type of promotion gets others involved and spreads the word about your booth and products throughout the show.

Have a unique exhibit that begs to be seen. Sounds straightforward, but to break out of the cookie-cutter mold, it takes a designer that’s willing to create something unique and wild and a company that’s willing to spend to make it a reality.

Give visitors something to DO. Interactivity goes a long way. At the NAB Show, there were several exhibitors that gave visitors a chance to learn new software by joining them for a free class. Not only are you drawing interested people in, you’re keeping them involved for up to an hour and showing them exactly how the product works.

Contests. Give people a chance to win something by guessing the number of beans in a jar, answering a quiz, spinning a wheel or something else increases the chance you’ll get visitors to stop at your booth. Make sure to engage them in a brief conversation to uncover their needs regarding your product.

Famous mugs. Lots of companies hire famous (or at least semi-well known) people to be a part of the show. Authors, speakers, sports stars, actors, and so on can all draw a crowd. Authors in particular, if they’re in your industry, can be a good draw if they have a new book out. I’ve seen dozens of people in line to pick up a free copy of a new book and get it signed by the author (and snap a selfie!), and I’ve waited in line to get a prop soft baseball signed by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Comment wall. I see these more and more. Ask a bold question or make a bold statement and invite people to chime in with their thoughts on a wall. Invite people to snap a photo of what they wrote and share it on social media (make sure the wall is branded and has the show hashtag on it).

Bring media production to your booth. Know someone that is a podcaster in the industry? Invite them to record a few episodes of their show in your booth, and make sure to provide some good guests for them, whether it’s people from your company, or others. The simple act of recording a show in your booth will make a lot of people stop. That’s a good time for your staff to engage those visitors politely to find out if they’re prospects.

If someone in your company has written a book, offer free copies of the book along with free printed photos with visitors and the author. This has worked great for years for Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill, one of our long-time clients at TradeshowGuy Exhibits. Every time they exhibit at the bigger expos, Bob spends time signing books and posing for photos while a photographer takes photos and has them printed up in a few moments for the visitor.

There are literally countless ways to draw crowds to your booth. It all boils down to creativity and execution. What can you do to improve the traffic at your next show?

How to Annoy Your Prospects

There’s more than one way to annoy your prospects when it comes to trying to sell something to them. Whether it’s on the phone, in person, at a tradeshow or via email, it seems most of the pitches that hit me are designed to annoy.

That’s probably not really the case, but it seems that way.

Spam

Let’s take the example of spam. Okay, it’s a really easy example. But at least some of them appear to be trying. “Appear” to be. Just got an email from a software company inviting me to download an “employee performance management software pricing guide.” The email looked nice. Good graphic design which tells me that some thought went into the messaging. The message was clear. But it just wasn’t for me.

There are at least a couple of things wrong with this. First, it was emailed to an email address that I basically retired three years ago, so I know it’s from someone who didn’t care if the email was valid before sending something out. Secondly, they have no idea what kind of company we are – how many employees, what we do, how we do it. We are a project management company that works with subcontractors, not direct employees. They’re shooting in the dark, and it’s pointless and a waste of time, theirs and mine.

Cold Calls

Another easy way to annoy people is to call them at random and start pitching something without knowing what the company does. I’ve lost count of the number of calls I’ve gotten from call centers and the first thing out of their mouth is a pitch. No question about whether I even use the product or what my company does. They just ramble on, because that’s the script they were given and the instructions to deliver it quickly.

Tradeshows

At tradeshows, I’ve walked by booths and had my badge scanned without anyone even looking to find out if their product or service is of interest to me. Now I’m on their email list where I get pitches that have no relevance to me. I’ve had booth staffers stop me in the aisle and give me a minute or two or three of song and dance complete with in-depth details on the product they are hawking. But…I would never even buy the product. I’m not in their target market.

Do you sense a trend? One of the things I’ve learned in sales and marketing is that if you’re not marketing to an audience of people that are interested in your products or services, you’re wasting time, money and energy.

The Answer is Simple

It seems simple. Yet so many businesses today don’t care and don’t even bother to appear to care.

On occasion I’ll get a cold call from someone who’s actually done a little research. Maybe they looked at our company website, or they’re calling from a targeted list they purchased, which at least puts them in the right ballpark to have a conversation.

And yes, on a rare occasion or two, I’ve actually purchased something from someone who cold-called me. They knew what we did as a business, they understood how their product could help me, they patiently answered questions and gave me a chance to ponder the offer for a few days before deciding to move forward.

Yes, selling can be done properly, to people that are ready and willing to buy your products. But it won’t work when the pitch gets lost among people who will never be a customer.

Where is your sales pitch going?

Showing Up is Only Half the Battle

If you do a Google search for “showing up,” you get all sorts of links and suggestions as to what it means. Showing up for a performance, showing up for important events in your life for your friends and family, showing up at work by giving it your attention and energy.

Showing up is important. As Seth Godin put it, though, we’ve moved way beyond simply showing up, sitting in your seat and taking notes. Your job is to surprise and delight and change the agenda. Escalate, reset expectations and make your teammates delighted.

Show up to delight your visitors

Sure, showing up is important. On a personal and business level to me, showing up means controlling my behaviors and emotions. Knowing that when I set out to do a day’s work, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do (calls, projects, communications with clients, writing, etc.), and doing my best to do it, every day. For example, I made a commitment in January of 2017 that I would show up every Monday to do a video blog/podcast for at least a year. Once the year was up, I would assess it from a number of angles. Was is working? Was it fun? Was it good? Did it get any attention? Did my guests get anything worthwhile out of it? Did the listeners give good feedback, even if there were very few? Based on my assessment of those questions (not all were completely positive, but enough were) I committed to another year. Then another.

So here we are.

Showing up at a tradeshow is more than just being there. If you are to take Seth Godin’s perspective, you want to have more than just a nice exhibit. You want to show up with more than just average enthusiasm and average pitches to your visitors. You should set high expectations for your company and your team.

How can you do that? By starting months before the show and having ongoing conversations about how to get visitors to interact. How to get them to respond. How to tell your company or product’s story. How to make it exciting to just visit your booth, exciting enough so that your visitors feel compelled to tell others to come.

There are no wrong answers, and plenty of right answers.

What will you do beyond just showing up?

What’s Holding You Back from a New Tradeshow Exhibit?

Last time when you set up your tradeshow exhibit and lived in it for a few days, did it feel cramped? Were you wishing you had another table to sit down at with potential clients? Trying to cram too many products on too few shelves?

Maybe it’s time for a new exhibit. So what’s holding you back?

It might be finances. Certainly that’s one of the biggest things that holds any company back. But beyond money, are you moving out of your comfort zone? It happens frequently. Many clients we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have been using banner stands and pop-ups, which transport easily and take just a few moments to set up. Nothing wrong with that, but these companies have grown enough that they can afford a larger exhibit, one that not only looks good to give their brand a brand new look, but because it’s more complicated it needs to ship in a wooden crate using semi-trucks, it will likely need to be set up by an I&D (installation/dismantle) management crew.

What will your visitors think when you show off a new exhibit?

And yes, that moves many companies beyond their comfort zone. Having been down that road with a lot of companies, we often help navigate that path.

But if it’s money, there are ways to convince the purse holders that it’s time to invest in a new booth.

First, consider what would happen if you did nothing for the next 2-3 years. Your exhibit would be a few years older. Many of your competitors might already have upgraded to a new exhibit which will look a lot sharper than yours. How will your visitors then perceive your company compared to those competitors? Remember that perception counts a lot, and almost nowhere does it count as much as it does at tradeshows. Visitors there see you at your finest. And if your finest comes up short from what you want and what your visitors think you should be, that could be a problem.

Then again, maybe a new exhibit isn’t the answer. You might be better off investing in booth staff training. Or pre-show marketing. By doing this, you can still crank up the ROI on your tradeshow marketing investment and put off the exhibit investment for a couple more years.

But if you are seriously considering a new exhibit, think about who it will impact and how. Where will you store it? How much will it cost to ship or setup and dismantle?

Understand how much time you’ll need to design and fabricate the exhibit by talking to experience exhibit builders. Your new exhibit will last you several years, maybe 5 to 7 or more depending on the type of exhibit and how you use it.

Once you’ve decided that it’s a good move to pitch the powers-that-be, be prepared. Contact a few exhibit houses to understand their processes and timelines required, along with budget ranges for the size and type of exhibit you’re considering.

Make a written description of the exhibit requirements. When pitching the boss, offer a reasonable price range for the project, how long it’ll take to amortize the cost (3, 5, 7+ years), do your best to explain how the next exhibit will increase your lead generation (three clients in the past three years have told us that the increased size of the exhibit and the newness of it tripled their leads at the first show!).

Show the “soft” return on the exhibit, such as the impact the new look will have on your current customers who see the positive direction your company is taking. Or on the employees, who see the same thing. There are a lot of things that might be holding you back from investing in a new exhibit. But with careful planning and working with the right partners, you can create an environment and a situation where the new exhibit can become a reality.

Asking the Right Questions

On the tradeshow floor, everything is important, but one of the most important is asking the right questions of your visitors.

I’ve been at three tradeshows in the past 5 weeks: two large expos (Expo West and NAB Show) and a smaller regional foodservice show.

In every show, I’m curious to see what questions are thrown out by booth staffers.

Frankly, I’m not impressed.

Yes, some good queries are pitched. But most initial questions or statements aren’t of much use to the exhibiting company.

“How are you today?”

“Would you like a free pen?”

“Still raining outside?”

(Looking at my badge) “What’s a TradeshowGuy?” (at least it got my attention)

“Have you been to this show before?”

None of those have much zing. Or pertinence to the situation.

How do you come up with good questions?

Let’s harken back to previous posts on this blog. To pose a good question, first understand what it is you’re trying to find out.

You’re there to sell a product or service, or to connect with distributors who will sell your products or services. Which means you want to know if the visitor even uses the product. Thanks to an interview we did with Richard Erschik, we know that the first question is often:

Do you currently use our product or a similar product?

After that, you’re trying to determine if the visitor is interested in purchasing that product in the near future:

Are you considering making a purchase soon? When?

Next, you’d like to know if the person you’re speaking to has decision-making power:

Who makes the decision? You? Or is there someone else that is involved?

Asking the right questions at the tradeshow.

And of course, you want to know if they have the capability to spend the money you charge for your service:

Do you have the money you’d need to invest in this product or service?

Many shows really aren’t trying to make sales on the spot. For example, the bigger expos are more about branding, launching new products and making connections with current clients, partners or distributors. In this case, what’s important is to get visitors to either sample your products (such as food), know about the new products, or in the case of other products such as electronic gear, cameras, software and more like we saw at NAB Show, to make sure that visitors were able to learn as much as they needed.

The company is paying good money – usually a lot of money – to exhibit at the show, which means that every visitor is critical. Ask good questions. Stay off the phone. Don’t eat in the booth. And don’t ask about the weather!

What to Watch for Walking the Tradeshow Floor

Naturally, your eyes will be on several different things when you are walking the tradeshow floor. And your agenda will be different as an attendee vs. an exhibitor. But if you keep your eyes open, you can spot a lot of cool and interesting things on the tradeshow floor.

The first day of a tradeshow, when the doors open for the first time, the first things you’ll see as you walk through the floors is how bright and clean everything is. Hundreds of people, maybe thousands, have been working for days to put on their best for you and all of the other attendees.

walking the tradeshow floor
What do you see when walking the tradeshow floor?

When you walk by a booth, look for the brand and image. Is it well-represented? Are people smiling and greeting you, but not pushing themselves on you? Are they asking good, engaging questions that make you stop and respond? Are they trying to catch your eye?

Is their booth made from sustainable materials? Can you tell? Is that part of their message – that they are a company dedicated to being as ecofriendly as possible?

Also look to see if they have new products. If they have samples, are they easy to reach? If they have demos, do they look easy to engage with? If they have a professional presenter, is it obvious that’s the case and is there a schedule for the day’s presentations easily available?

Is the booth crisp and clean and sharp? Or do you see ragged edges? Is the carpet spotless and brand-new looking? All of these things suggest something to you and help determine what your impressions of the company will be.

If the company is giving away promotional items, is it obvious? If they have some sample-like things on display but are not for giveaway, is that spelled out? Are they looking to collect business cards in a fishbowl? Why?

What is their lead capture strategy? Are they talking with people, or just engaging enough to scan a badge, thinking that is going to be enough?

Later in the day, or on the second or third day, look for places where the booth might be fraying, where garbage might be piling up, where personal belongings are spilling out of a storage area.

Look for stories. People engage with stories and the companies that best tell their stories will be the most memorable. What stories are the exhibits and their products and people telling?

Look for teamwork. Is the booth staff operating as a team, or do they just seem to be….there? Are they dressed in identifiable same-color tees, for example, or are they just in typical work clothes? Can you tell who’s a staffer and who’s not?

If you can walk the floor and make mental notes on day one, digest what you see, try again on the last day of the show when people are almost in their “bug-out” mode. Things will be mighty different!

There’s Always Another Tradeshow

When it comes to tradeshow exhibiting, is it wrong thing to think, “Well, there’s always next time!”?

Maybe your most recent tradeshow didn’t go as well as it could have. You didn’t meet all the people you had hoped to and didn’t bring home as many leads as you were thinking you should have. Your staff’s interactions with visitors weren’t as good as they could have been.

In other words, you’re thinking that it may have been a waste of time.

If you think that, spend some time to identify WHY it might have been a waste of time.

Was it the wrong show? Maybe your expectations of the show itself were unrealistic. The show organizers might not have been as clear as you’d have liked on the state of the show. They could have assumed more people would show up, but the audience just wasn’t there.

Was it the wrong audience? Each show has a specific audience. If the audience isn’t a good fit for your products or services, it could be that you didn’t assess the show well enough.

Do you have a great exhibit that invites people in?

Was your booth staff lacking in training? A well-trained booth staff can lift you above mediocre or average expectations. After all, they’re the front line in your interactions with the attendees. If the staff hasn’t been properly trained on that interaction, your results will reflect that.

Were your products or services either “blah” or not properly represented in your market? Your competition may have similar products and services, but if you staff was not fully engaged and the presentation of your products was indistinct, or fuzzy, or unclear, you won’t catch attendees’ eyes. Was your exhibit not up to the task? An old or poorly designed exhibit might save you money to ship and set up, and put off another capital investment, but if it doesn’t look good, or have the functional elements that you need to properly execute your tradeshow, it’ll cost you money in the long run, not save you money.

On the other hand, if you’re saying “Well, there’s always another tradeshow” and you’re at least modestly pleased with the results, take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. Maybe your booth staff was good but could be better. That’s a pretty easy fix.

Or maybe your exhibit is decent, and only needs a few minor upgrades to make it really good. Another easy fix.

Other things to look at: pre-show marketing, post-show follow-up, cutting costs for shipping or logistics, and so on. Individually, they may not have a big impact, but executing each element better than last time can have a cumulative impact that’s hard to ignore.

At the end of the show, when everybody has had a chance to review from their perspective what worked and what didn’t, and why, do a debrief. But don’t wait too long – do it the first or second day you’re back in the office. That will give a little time for reflection from all participants, but not so much time that they’ll forget important feedback.

Based on what comes out of that debrief, make decisions that will better prepare you for the next show. Because there’s always another tradeshow.


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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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