First-Time Exhibitor Puts Best Foot Forward

SEMA News—September 2012

EVENTS
By Chad Simon

First-Time Exhibitor Puts Best Foot Forward

Early Preparation Is the Key to a Successful Show

We purchased a 20x60-ft. booth in the Show’s Global Tire Expo and invested in a nice booth design.

Perfect Equipment purchased a 20x60-ft. booth in the Global Tire Expo at last year’s SEMA Show and plans to invest again in 2012.

The SEMA Show draws hundreds of new exhibitors every year. Six hundred companies were first-time exhibitors at last year’s Show, and this year’s Show is expected to surpass that number. In fact, there is an entire section of the floor dedicated solely to new and featured exhibitors.

For many buyers, the presence of fresh, new exhibitors plays a large role in why they attend the SEMA Show, and the Ideas Alive: Featuring the New Products Showcase is a great place to check out some of their latest products. Perfect Equipment, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based manufacturer of wheel-balance weights, was one of the numerous companies new to the Show last year.

“When the Tire Industry Association decided to partner with SEMA and develop the Global Tire Expo, it made a lot of sense for us to begin attending the SEMA Show,” said Gregory Parker, the company’s marketing manager. “We are happy to be exhibitors, and we feel the SEMA Show is where our company will be every year from here forward.”

SEMA News: How would you describe your experience as a first-time exhibitor?

Gregory Parker: Our experience as a first-time exhibitor at the SEMA Show was a good one. We purchased a 20x60-ft. booth in the Show’s Global Tire Expo and invested in a nice booth design. We were successfully able to launch our new corporate identity and further push our OEM zinc wheel weight line. Of course, no show is fault free, especially when you’re dealing with a Show of this scale and magnitude. But overall, we had a great Show, and we were able to see a lot of customers and some potential new customers. We hope to have an even better Show in 2012.

SN: How did you prepare for the SEMA Show beforehand?

GP: You have to start planning early. We typically start six to eight months in advance. There are so many things to take into consideration, including your booth location, what your booth is going to look like and your goals for the Show. We try to identify at least three major goals for the event, whether it’s a new-product release or establishing a new market or new brand, and then develop a theme around those goals. Once you have a theme, it should be easy to determine how you design your booth, which products you display and who on your staff should attend. A cohesive theme also allows you to develop pre-Show advertising so you can reach out to your customers and potential ones with your goals in mind. Developing precise goals and a conclusive theme is key to a good Show.

SN: Did you participate in the educational sessions and networking events?

Gregory Parker, marketing manager, Perfect Equipment.

Gregory Parker, marketing manager, Perfect Equipment.

GP: I have participated in sessions and there is definitely a lot of value. I would encourage everyone to sit in on some of them. However, it’s important to remember that the SEMA Show is much like Disney World in that you simply can’t see it all in one trip. It’s just too big. Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor, it is important to figure out what matters to you most and make sure you hit those locations. Create a schedule to ensure you get to see what’s important; whether it’s a seminar, customer booths or even industry peers. Pre-planning is important.

SN: Were there any surprises? If so, how did you handle them?

GP: We had a few minor booth-related issues. But in reality, your customers are there to see you; they’re not really there to see your booth. The more concerned you are about your products, your message and what you can deliver to your customers the other 361 days of the year, the better off you will be. Small issues are going to happen, but the Show staff was more than willing to work with us and they were overly helpful when small issues arose.
I truly believe that everyone, including the exhibitors, Show staff and even union laborers, all have the goal of a successful Show at heart.

SN: What is the most important aspect for exhibitors to focus on?

GP: Use the SEMA Show as a platform to put your best foot forward. Investing in something like the SEMA Show is a unique way to gain exposure so that customers know you’re dedicated to your brand and how it is perceived in the market. Use the Show to demonstrate that you have the capital and know-how to push your company forward into the future. Show your competition that you are serious about taking the lead in your market. Using booth design as an example, I believe a customer can sometimes take a look at a booth and in 10 seconds learn all they need to know about that company. Without even speaking a word, they can tell if the brand is stable, if they are fully committed to the market and if they can pay attention to detail. Make sure you are giving the correct impression.

SN: Was the SEMA Show a worthwhile experience for your company?

GP: Overall, the 2011 SEMA Show was a worthwhile experience for us, and it did meet our expectations. We had a decent location and a great booth design, which impressed our customers and our competition. I would say that it’s definitely worth the investment to be at the SEMA Show, and we hope to be exhibitors for a long time coming.

SN: How will you take the lessons you learned last year and apply them to this year’s SEMA Show?

GP: Although we were new to the SEMA Show, we have been participating in trade shows for more than 70 years. Our company was founded in 1939, so exhibiting is nothing new to us. But, each new Show brings a new set of tactics and decisions. We will take what we learned last year to turn 2012 into an even better experience. The key is to have patience and fully understand that once the booth is built, the lights go on and the Show floor opens, it’s all about how you talk to and interact with your customers. They truly hold the key to whether or not your Show is a success or failure.

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