How to make the most out of trade shows –

October 2018 | By | Reply More
Courtesy SEMA show 2017

Trade shows are pretty much a way of life in nearly every industry, from consumer electronics to garbage collection. They are intended to be and, in fact, are, a terrific opportunity for manufacturers to reach many customers in a single place in a short period of time. Likewise, it is a great place for people in the industry to visit with manufacturers and suppliers, learn about the latest technologies available to them, and make deals on the spot.

The automotive aftermarket has a checkered history of powerful and effective trade shows, going back to the days when the "ASIA" and SEMA" shows were separate, when such shows were conducted for two consecutive years on the west coast with supplemental shows like the "Big E" (Eastern) automotive show held in Atlantic City and the Southern show held in the southeast, with a combined show every third year in geographically-central Chicago.

To kick off the AAPEX 2017 Keynote Session, Bill Long, President & COO of AASA, and Bill Hanvey, President & CEO of the Auto Care Association, gave remarks about the state of the automotive aftermarket. Image courtesy AAPEX 2017

But all of that was back in the day when transport and travel were cheap and marketing budgets were not stretched as far as they are today.

So now we have the convenience of both the SEMA and AAPEX shows running concurrently in Las Vegas each year. This makes for greater economies for exhibitors who only have to ship their trade show booth, supporting parts and equipment, and personnel to one location once a year.

Similarly, it affords the opportunity for visitors to meet with representatives of virtually all the key suppliers in their industry, learning about the latest advancements in product development, as well as negotiating with sales people and higher-level executives. And this includes the hard parts and equipment as may be seen in the AAPEX location as well as the accessories and go-fast goodies on display in the SEMA area.

But what if budgets, workloads, or other obligations keep you from attending? Can you still benefit from these shows?


Courtesey SEMA Show 2018

There are a variety of things you can do leading up to a trade show. You can follow the shows' blogs, which provide up-to-date info on exhibitors, products, and more. You can follow print and on-line trade journals for their pre-show reporting. And in the weeks leading up to the show you can ask your sales representatives if they will be offering any show special deals that you can pre-purchase. You might even ask if new models to be exhibited may cause previous models to be superseded and therefore, last year's models may be available at reduced prices.

You can also avail yourself of all of the social media resources dealing with the upcoming show -- using all of the usual social media outlets (if you're not familiar with them, ask your teen-age son or daughter. They'll be glad to show you how...).

Of particular importance is that you ask someone you trust who will be attending to bring back copies of any show directories that will be distributed at the show. These publications are a treasure trove of product and contact information for the vast majority of suppliers whose products may be of interest to you, typically including company names, addresses and phone numbers, as well as names and contact information for specific individuals who can answer questions you may have. This publication is a resource that will serve you well for years to come.

The Let’s Tech stage provides short, 20 minute “TED Talk”-style presentations about the latest in technology in the automotive aftermarket. Image courtesy AAPEX 2017

During the Show

During show week you can continue to monitor the various on-line resources mentioned above, as well as other tools that are now available thanks to today's e-communication products and applications. They include things like mobile apps, offered by the shows' sponsoring bodies, e-newsletters, e-booth profiles and, of course, each show's website. Collectively these tools can provide you with up-to-the-minute news about companies and products of interest to you, as well as entertaining and informative presentations from various celebrities and notables who will be at the shows.

After the Show

In the weeks immediately following trade shows you can contact the sales representatives of companies and products you're interested in. You can ask about products or services you may have learned about in the course of your homework, or you can ask if there are/were any show specials that are still available to you. Sales people are by their very nature, hungry people, and will be inclined to extend limited-time deals in the aftermath of a show. Savvy sales executives direct their sales people to track sales made at trade shows in order to cost-justify the expense, and sales people are usually accommodating in adding post-show sales into their reports.

And consider this:  These shows include extensive displays of tools and equipment from the various manufacturers, most of which are hands-on demonstrated in order to display their ease of use and quality of service. After the show such equipment is often characterized as "demos" in the manufacturer's inventory. 

As such, if you are interested in purchasing a particular piece of equipment, you might want to stay in contact with your sales representative to see if such equipment is available for purchase at a discount. You can be pretty confident of the condition of such equipment, since it has, most likely, only been operated by the top experts who are best qualified to demonstrate the features and benefits of the equipment to show attendees.

One of AAPEX 2017’s Keynote Speakers, John Kinsella, illuminates the audience about how to navigate omnichannel successfully. Image courtesy AAPEX 2017

What Not to Do

If at all possible, do not try to contact sales reps or tech service reps in the last days leading up to show week, or during show week. Their workload at these times is horrendous, and you will likely not receive their full attention, or even a call-back during these times. Also, you can expect delays in return calls from tech service departments, as their ranks are typically stretched very thin, with some of their associates on duty at the show, and the rest overwhelmed with calls and emails.

Also, try to anticipate any service, repair, or replacement parts orders so that they can be placed well before or after the shows, when delays are most likely. Of course if you have an emergency or piece of equipment down for lack of parts, by all means, be persistent and take the steps necessary to keep your own business up and running.

So if you are able to attend these shows, by all means do so. They will prove to be a wealth of information and demonstrations that will surely enhance your business. In the meantime, if you can't attend, put together a plan that will prove to be the next best thing to being there...

Category: derFix, derFix Business, General, Press

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