A Golden Ticket

SEMA News—February 2011

Enthusiasts Enter the 2010 SEMA Show, and Tell All

By Carr Winn

  SEMA News-February 2011-
The SEMA Opinion Leader Program provided a “golden ticket,” allowing enthusiasts to enter the 2010 SEMA Show on the final day and share their impressions about the specialty-equipment industry’s newest trends and hottest products.  
   
A special group of enthusiasts entered the Las Vegas Convention Center on the final day of the 2010 SEMA Show. Despite the trade-only attendance rule, this select group was granted a “golden ticket” through the SEMA Opinion Leader Program. Participants received access to the SEMA Show on one condition: Their experiences had to be shared via feedback surveys and, when possible, across a variety of Internet-based social networks. This was the second year of the project, and the feedback and enthusiasm were inspiring.

“Being completely enveloped by what I have such a passion for was a great feeling,” said Steve Roberts of Scottsdale, Arizona. “Nothing but car stuff as far as I could see, and everything imaginable was represented in one place. I was a kid in a candy store.”

Paying their own room and board and challenged with covering the Show in just a single day, the participants took their mission seriously. Using Twitter tweets, Facebook updates, YouTube videos, Flickr uploads and plain old pen and paper, these special Showgoers created massive SEMA Show buzz at the consumer level. The exposure was incredibly impactful, especially because the social media platforms allowed users to share information from “trusted” sources. The messages that opinion leaders delivered using social networks, therefore, represented powerful endorsements as they spread the word about their initial impressions from the Show.

 

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“The information that we gathered from the program will give SEMA-member companies a better understanding of their end users, which will help them make better-informed business decisions,” said Tom Myroniak, SEMA vice president of marketing and member services. “It will also raise the visibility of their products and, we hope, help them sell more.”

When asked about the best part of attending the SEMA Show, Roberts answered like any passionate enthusiast: “All of it.” To be specific, he explained that offering feedback and contributing to the industry beyond simply making a purchase from a local retailer was extremely rewarding. As an example, he spotted an attractive finned aluminum valve cover for a Cadillac 472 engine, and his imagination took over.

“Just knowing that [valve cover] is now available, I’m stoked,” Roberts said. Though not directly involved in a build featuring that type of engine, he shared his thoughts about the new product in his feedback survey. Knowing his audience, Roberts used the opportunity to explain why his fellow enthusiasts would view the new product as motivation to start building. “Anybody can build a small-block Chevy,” he said, “but building a nice-looking, high-horse Caddy engine is pretty damn cool!”

Finding similar inspiration in new products was almost a universal experience, as this year’s opinion leaders enjoyed special access privileges to the New Products Showcase. Prior to the SEMA Show opening on Friday, the enthusiasts were tasked with scanning the display cases and reporting on products that, such as Roberts’ favorite new valve cover, caught their eye and deserved a space in their highlight reel. With more than 2,000 products registered for the Showcase, it was a Herculean task, but participants rose to the challenge and continually updated their fans and followers with real-time coverage of their experience.

 

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In addition to the products, the experience of meeting specialty-equipment executives and celebrities face to face was equally rewarding. Eric King, an engineer and business owner, was just one of many participants who enjoyed the opportunity.

“Hearing people in person has far more of an impact to me that just meeting them online, on the phone or through a blog,” said King. He was able to share his opinions about the hottest trends in lighting, user-friendly data acquisition and suspension for those unable to score credentials for the Show. His obvious interest in all things high-tech clearly served as a guide during his trip through the Convention Center. When asked what would catch on with the people in his inner circle, King said: “From a hobbyist point of view, EFI systems for the older V8s, LED lighting, hybrid and electric vehicles.”

Jonathan Jong, a fellow Opinion Leader participant, was also drawn to the vast collection of new high-end technology for
do-it-yourself mechanics. The use of personal computing equipment in new applications was something he wanted to share with his friends.

“I was intrigued by the new OBD-II kits that wirelessly transmit all your CPU’s information to your iPad/iPhone/laptop,” said Jong. Seeing an automotive legend was also a story he couldn’t wait to share. In answer to what was the best part of the experience, he was elated: “To top things off, I was able to meet the living legend of the car world, Chip Foose!”

The firsthand feedback provided by the participants is unlike any other, giving exhibitors both an instant reaction from actual enthusiasts in real time via social networks, followed by a comprehensive report available in the first quarter of 2011. Myroniak described the ideal candidate, and the benefit to hosting this type of program.

“We’re looking for active enthusiasts to help us learn what truly resonates and what doesn’t,” said Myroniak. “Their input will be incredibly valuable and undoubtedly aid in shaping future plans.”

Myroniak was extremely complimentary of this year’s Opinion Leader Program participants, noting that their efforts provided exhibitors with critical feedback about their preferences, attitudes and outlook toward the industry and its products. The program now enters a second phase as the data received is analyzed and compiled into a comprehensive report. The report aims to merge the massive amount of content delivered via social networks and feedback surveys and identify the patterns and points of interest that exhibitors can use throughout 2011 and in their plans for this year’s SEMA Show.

Visit www.sema.org for the latest announcements about the upcoming Opinion Leader report. Available initially to 2010 SEMA Show exhibitors, the report ultimately will be sold to non-exhibitors via SEMA’s website. For more information about SEMA’s Opinion Leader Program, send an e-mail to Market Research Special Projects Manager Megan McKernan. And finally, for information about the 2011 SEMA Show, point your browser to www.SEMAShow.com.