First-Time Exhibitor Case Study

By Marilyn Haigh

How Luma III Found Opportunity and Success at the SEMA Show
 Luma III
The Luma III team headed by Kirk Lucas (second from left) took home two awards after entering the Aurora in the New Product Showcase.

Every year, hundreds of first-time exhibitors venture to the SEMA Show and, for those who work the Show properly, the payoff can be huge. Luma III founder Kirk Lucas and his team put it all on the line to attend last year’s Show and walked away with two Best New Products Showcase awards, a stronger brand identity and new deals in the works.

Luma III, a company based in Wichita, Kansas, manufactures the Aurora, a unique LED spray-gun attachment that provides superior lighting without the $20,000 price tag of an auto shop spray-paint booth. Luma III sells to the aerospace, industrial and boating markets, but with Lucas’ background in the garage, he knew that he wanted to target the auto industry and found that the SEMA Show was the most effective way to do so.

After a successful 2014 Show, Luma III learned how to capitalize on what SEMA has to offer. SEMA News asked Lucas what he did right in 2014 and what advice he may have for first-timers at the 2015 Show. Lucas recommended that new exhibitors enter the New Products Showcase, consider doing a contest or giveaway to draw attention to their product, and focus on finding the right customers.

SEMA News: Your company won two runner-up awards in the New Products Showcase. How has that benefited your product and
its marketing?

Kirk Lucas: We were able to co-brand with SEMA and put it on our website, and we had a handful of articles written about the product itself in magazines such as Fender Bender and Autobody News. It’s all great publicity, and I think that one of the toughest things for a startup company is getting in front of people who have no idea who they are. SEMA has gone above and beyond in helping us at doing that. I would definitely more than recommend that anybody who can qualify for the New Products Showcase try to get a product in.

SN: How did you make sure that you attracted the right kind of customer at the SEMA Show?

KL: It was very tough for us. One of the techniques we used is that we stood at the front of our booth and held a spray gun in our hands with the light on it. Every once in a while, we would turn the light on and off and shine it at people’s feet. Somebody who painted would see the spray gun, which would catch their attention, and then they would see the new light on it that provided some mystery, and that would draw them over to the booth.

SN: Why is it important to have a well-planned booth and an efficient team working the space?

KL: There are so many different people who go out to the Show, and if you’re in a niche market, your potential market is maybe only 10% of the people who attend the SEMA Show. You want to make sure that those people are the only ones who show up to your booth. You don’t necessarily want to sell to everybody; you don’t want to be wasting your time talking to someone who has nothing to do with your industry.

SN: Is there anything you would change about your booth? What improvements are you making this year?

KL: We’re trying to focus our campaign this year more around the distribution companies and maybe even international distribution companies. Our booth is being built more for them than for the average painter, like it was last year. We’re getting a bigger booth, we’re creating more room, and we’ll have a section that shows how our product works. We also have to be able to communicate that information to a distribution company that doesn’t have as much of an idea of the paint industry as an actual painter would. They might sell paint products, but that doesn’t mean that they paint.

SN: How did you follow up with potential buyers?

Luma III
Luma III manufactures the Aurora, an LED light spray-gun attachment that helps painters produce a better product with strong lighting and a color-matching feature.

KL: One of the really nice things about the SEMA Show was the CompuSystems technology that you could scan the badges on. We had a big list of both distributors and customers that we were able to scan and put small notes next to. We will be purchasing the TrafficMax option this year. I would definitely recommend it to anyone going to SEMA for the first time. If you want to bring that right person into your booth, you want to know who they are before they show up to the Show and how you’re going to grab their attention.

SN: How are you using social media to raise awareness of your brand?

KL: This year, two of my business partners are putting together a really neat campaign for the SEMA Show. It’s a contest. We’ll actually be giving away products at SEMA if you send in a picture with your best paint job with our light on your spray gun.

We’re learning a lot about how powerful social media can be. It’s a huge step in the right direction for any startup company trying to bring up its brand awareness. Last year was a little faint just because we didn’t realize the power of what SEMA could do. Now that we’re really co-branding with the SEMA name, [social media] has more of an impact than what we originally thought.

SN: Which events should first-time exhibitors attend at the SEMA Show?

KL: We’re going to be attending the International Happy Hour this year that we’re really going to dive into. We’ve got a handful of distribution companies we’ve already talked to and have meetings lined up at that event. If I were a first-time exhibitor, I would definitely look into attending this mixer on Wednesday evening because you’re reaching further than where you can get by yourself. When you get a face-to-face meeting with someone overseas, that’s more than a lot of business owners can get in the first couple years
of business.

SN: What was the biggest challenge you faced at the 2014 SEMA Show, and how did you overcome it?

KL: We had to figure out how to get our booth to the SEMA Show. Shipping was very expensive, and funds were very tight. When it came down to it, we had the booth completely finished the last months before the Show, and we realized that even then we may not be able to make it out. So we came together and we made some sacrifices. I sold my car, and we made some very big last-minute sales that allowed us to rent a U-Haul trailer and a truck and trailer the thing out there and set it up ourselves.

SN: It sounds like you made a lot of sacrifices to come to the Show. Did it all pay off?

KL: Yes, it did. More than you know.

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