Behind Your Business 100%: How to Attract Buyers to Your Booth

  Tom Myroniak, SEMA vice president of marketing and member services, stresses how critical it is for exhibitors to form a game plan prior to coming to the SEMA Show at the recent SEMA Show Exhibitor Summit at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In just five months, specialty-equipment exhibitors will descend upon Las Vegas for the annual SEMA Show, providing qualified buyers a can’t-miss opportunity to check out new products, connect with industry suppliers and peers, stay up-to-date on industry trends and attend educational seminars. These are merely four of the most common reasons for attending the Show, according to Tom Myroniak, SEMA vice president of marketing and member services, who led an exhibitor training seminar about how to bring buyers to your booth at the first-ever SEMA Show Exhibitor Summit at the Las Vegas Convention Center, May 25–27. He said it was critical for exhibitors to understand the goals of buyers prior to the Show so they can capture their attention.

Click here to watch the exhibitor training seminar video in its entirety.

With approximately 150,000 active attendees—one-quarter of which are international—this year’s Show campaign is entitled, “Behind Your Business 100%.”

How SEMA Reaches the Industry

SEMA sends relevant advertising messages and direct-mail pieces to many market niches with different needs and interests. More than 170,000 industry professionals subscribe to the monthly SEMA News magazine. The SEMA Show Daily magazine is printed four times annually and reaches 40,000 buyers. The SEMA eNews, which is sent to 160,000 industry subscribers every Thursday, offers a section for exhibitors to promote Show specials, including celebrity appearances and autograph sessions.

SEMA also has formed partnerships with several media outlets, which allow the association to run print advertising in more than 100 publications. Voicemail broadcasts, direct mail, SEMA’s website and social media collectively provide the association with a comprehensive, multichannel approach to reaching industry professionals.

According to Myroniak, SEMA takes great efforts to build educational programs for attendees because they add value and attract more people to the Show. Dealer Day, to be held November 3, launched two years ago and is a one-day educational program that targets new-vehicle dealers and teaches them how to sell accessories through their dealerships. An educational conference called the SEMA Online Marketing Conference, which started last year and will be held November 1, teaches small businesses how to use online channels to promote and sell their products. The I-CAR collision-repair training course and a powersports dealer workshop both are new for this year and will be held November 1–2. Another new program for this year is the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, to be held November 4–5.

In addition to attending any of the 60-plus available educational workshops, connecting with industry peers is crucial. There are council receptions, an industry banquet and a speed networking breakfast, among other networking opportunities. SEMA also has negotiated with Cox Video to provide 24/7-access to in-room videos of every hotel in Las Vegas, providing exhibitors an opportunity to get in front of buyers who might not have considered them prior to the Show.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Tradeshow Marketing

It may seem like a no-brainer, but to make the most of your SEMA Show experience, devise a game plan before arriving in Las Vegas and follow through. If you want to know how not to have a successful Show, then adhere to the following seven deadly sins:

1) Coming to the Show without a clear and comprehensive plan. Instead, have your goals and roles defined prior to your arrival. If necessary, train your staff about what to do before they arrive and remind them when they get there.

2) Not promoting your involvement before arrival. Eighty-seven percent of SEMA buyers already have a game plan mapped out before they arrive. If you’re not on the radar before the Show, you must then hope to somehow attract buyers come Show time while competing against 2,000 other companies trying to do the same thing.

3) Missing important Show deadlines. This ends up costing you more money in the end and lessens your ROI.

4) Not asking your account representative or SEMA staff for help.

5) Not taking advantage of available programs. The new-product showcase and feature vehicle placement are great opportunities to extend your footprint on the Show floor and get the attention of buyers.

6) Not promoting your exhibit onsite.

7) Not following up with customer leads after the Show.

New Programs and Features

Many new programs this year will make it easier for exhibitors to reach buyers. SEMA’s online matching tool is an opportunity for attendees to connect to buyers electronically. SEMA takes exhibitor registration data and matches it with buyers that have similar interests, allowing them to connect with buyers prior to the Show.

“Double book appointments because most people either don’t show up or they show up late,” Myroniak suggested. “Worst-case scenario is you’ll have people standing around in your booth, which is actually a good thing, because when people see a crowd they wonder what is going on.”

Another new feature for this year is an exhibitor invite program, which allows exhibitors to send invites to the Show on their behalf without providing SEMA with their contact list. This is a good program because oftentimes exhibitors will have contacts that SEMA does not have. An invite from an exhibitor sent by a trusted source is a good opportunity to let others know of their involvement with the Show.

Available programs through SEMA include: feature vehicle placement, a new-product showcase, Show directories and pocket guides, an international buyer’s guide, technical seminars and networking events. With feature vehicle placement, media, installers and vehicle builders want to see what specialty products look like when installed on a vehicle, which may help gain interest for that product.

SEMA distributes 50,000 copies of its Show Directory and Pocket Guide to attendees, which includes exhibitor listings and a Show floor map. The international buyer's guide is available to buyers outside the U.S. who are looking for United States companies and products they can bring to market.

SEMA also promotes the availability of OE project vehicles. “We’ve been trying to convince the OEs that our industry helps them to sell more vehicles and, over the past five years, we have made a lot of progress in those regards,” Myroniak said. “The OEs now recognize the SEMA Show as a must-stop for their marketing campaigns and several have introduced new vehicles at the SEMA Show. They also provide project vehicles for industry professionals to install their products so when they bring them to the Show, they can display the accessorized vehicles. We work with the OEs to help connect our members to the vehicle platforms they’re trying to promote at the Show.”

The new-product showcase is the biggest missed opportunity at the Show, according to Myroniak. It’s not feasible for buyers to walk the entire Show floor looking for new products, so most use the new-product showcase as a way to make the most efficient use of their time so they can easily find the products in which they are interested. SEMA provides product photos and information to all attendees. The first product submitted by exhibitors to SEMA’s new-product showcase is free, after which it costs $75 per product. The deadline to submit new products is October 8.

Click here to watch the exhibitor training seminar video in its entirety.