By Mike Imlay
Attract Buyers Before the SEMA Show
Four Expert Tips for Building Online Buzz for Your Booth Starting Today
The latest registration statistics for this year’s SEMA Show indicate a more than 5% increase in the number of buyers planning to hit the Show floor on Tuesday–Friday, November 4–7. With more buyers than ever coming to the Show, an exhibitor’s obvious goal is to entice as many of them into the company booth as possible. You’ll likely do this with new-product introductions, updates to signature product lines, booth demonstrations, project-vehicle reveals and even, perhaps, celebrity appearances. However, all of those tactics do little good if you don’t build buzz about them ahead of time.
In today’s world, one of the best ways to do so is through your website and related online properties. To find out how you can leverage your web presence starting today, SEMA News turned to Tom Marx, president and CEO of The Marx Group, a recognized marketing communications leader in the automotive and heavy-duty aftermarkets. He offered four expert tips that every business can easily follow, even as the clock ticks down to the Show.
1. Invest in Google AdWords
“One of the first things to think about is purchasing Google AdWords,” Marx suggested, referring to Google’s service where advertisers “bid” on keyword advertising related to their products as well as the maximum cost per click that they’re willing to pay each time their ad is selected. “With Google AdWords, you extend your reach into algorithms, which gives you greater contact and the ability to rise higher up on their search engines, so that’s one way to start to develop some opportunities.”
We know what you’re probably thinking: How does an advertising program typically targeted at consumers help pull buyer traffic to your company website, let alone to your booth at the SEMA Show? But there’s a solid strategy behind Marx’s tactical advice.
“People often look at Google AdWords simply as something to drive customer sales to them, but what they don’t realize is that the business-to-business (B2B) sector is looking at the same sites that your customers and users are looking at,” he said. “By bringing a higher level of traffic, the result is more eyes on your site and, ultimately, more people going to your booth at the SEMA Show.
“For example, we had a client last year who was selling performance cylinder heads. He had come up with the name Lightning for them, and he ended up buying and using keywords around ‘performance cylinder heads,’ ‘racing cylinder heads’ and ‘high-performance cylinder heads.’ It increased his traffic probably about three-fold over previous numbers, which we checked through Google Analytics. He also tied a promotion to his efforts, including a naming contest for the product. The result was all these things combined to bring significant traffic to his booth when he got to the Show.”
2. Create a Social Media Promo
The above anecdote brings us to a second important pointer from Marx. Social media is literally all about buzz, so it’s crucial to leverage it to build anticipation about your booth long before the Show. Perhaps there’s no better way to accomplish this than an online promotion.
“One of the things we’ve done quite frequently with clients is promotions,” said Marx. “This might be something Facebook-driven that in turn drives people to your website to answer a survey and get in the hopper to possibly win some sort of promotional item. Doing a Show-related Facebook promotion, for example, using a web campaign generator such as Short Stack to manage the logistics, brings a lot of traffic to your website because a lot of people will come there to register for their opportunity to win something.”
Whatever the specific promotion, said Marx, the end goal is really about the significant traffic boost your company website will get, which will not only raise its ranking in search engines but also gain more eyes for your products, services and upcoming presence at the Show.
“The strategy here has to be based upon what will drive an audience,” emphasized Marx. “For example, one of our clients last year had a photo gallery. People would shoot a photograph of their car with the company’s product, go online and load it to a photo gallery. The company would then choose a person a month to win a gas card and, eventually, one person to win a $9,000 prize. That drove a lot of traffic back to the company site by using Facebook to actually promote the promotion. Back at the site, they had to upload their photograph and register to win, etc. It created a lot of buzz, and that buzz translated to a lot more traffic at the Show. Then, at the Show itself, the company gave away the $9,000 check to the person who actually won the grand prize, and that in turn got publicity because it caught the interest of the media. It further gave the company an opportunity to generate its own press releases as well.”
3. Put Out a Wire Release
Speaking of press releases, they offer perhaps the simplest and most efficient means of generating advance word of your Show plans. But don’t rely on your website and social media accounts alone to disseminate them.
“Consider doing a wire release to the automotive aftermarket using PR Newswire,” Marks suggested. “That also places you higher up on search engines and starts to bring awareness to your website. I don’t think people realize the full value of press releases or how much a PR Newswire release gets picked up by the media and how much that really can impact your website traffic. In fact, PR Newswire is probably the easiest and best service to use for somebody who may be a neophyte to this. We at The Marx Group also use MarketWired and several different outlets.”
It’s usually not just one thing but activities together that bring more traffic to a website and, ultimately, a booth.”
—Tom Marx, The Marx Group
Of course, there is a cost for such services, but Marx believes that the money spent is extremely worthwhile, especially because wire releases are picked up by all of the major search engines. Even a simple, one-page release can suffice to highlight any new or innovative products you intend to showcase, demonstrations or promotions you’re undertaking, special guests or celebrities you’ll have on hand or project vehicles you’ll be displaying at your booth. Whatever the announcement, give buyers a reason to come see you. You’ll also want to make sure that your press release ends with the usual boilerplate referring people to your website for more information.
Note as well that the SEMA Show also offers an Online Media Center (available at www.SEMAShow.com/press) to circulate press releases in advance of the event. Not only will media outlets have access to your news, but SEMA’s own editorial staff will also often make use of releases uploaded there for various association publications, including SEMA News, SEMA Show Daily and SEMA eNews. There is no charge to submit a release, and it will appear online for all journalists to access.
“The key is that you’ll also want to load all of your public relations releases onto your website so that people can also go there to find them,” added Marx. “In fact, a newsroom on your website that contains all of your latest information is important. Frankly, you should set up a regular press release schedule, like once a month, because that brings a lot of traffic to your site, builds awareness and improves your search-engine results as well.”
4. Integrate Your Marketing
The Marx Group
Finally, Marx emphasized that everything a company does to build buzz and attract buyers to a SEMA Show exhibit must be interrelated. “It’s usually not just one thing but activities together that bring more traffic to a website and, ultimately, a booth,” he said. “Make sure that everything you’re sending out to your clients, customers and prospects before the Show is all going to force them to go back to your website for information as well as the possibility of coming to the Show and having a Show special to the exhibit itself. Drive people to your website by giving them information that will make them want to go to the site to find out what’s going on at the SEMA Show, which then brings them into your exhibit.”
Moreover, invest in the sort of floor and follow-up efforts that can make this year’s Show the beginning of a marketing strategy that sparks and builds buzz for your booth next year.
“After the event, put up a photo gallery of people who came to your exhibit,” Marx said. “Get testimonials from people at the booth about your product or service—how well it sells, how good it does, how it improves performance, how people like the appearance of it. Gather some success stories from the B2B people at the event and possibly think about doing a survey at the event where people can use an iPad or a tablet. Post the results of that survey on a special homepage off your website that drives traffic to your site. People like to see pictures of themselves as well as obtain further information.”
Finally, don’t be afraid to tap into the consumer-trade synergy inherent in the specialty-equipment aftermarket. Although the SEMA Show is a trade-only event, keep your consumer base apprised of what you’re doing there and find ways for them to participate in the excitement through your website and social media.
“When you look at what goes on at the SEMA Show, there are a lot of small-business people who are enthusiasts as well,” Marx concluded. “I think you’ll find that if you bring the trade in, you’ll bring the consumers with them. We live in a funny industry. Oftentimes, the B2B side is reading the same media that the business-to-consumer side is reading. If they see a promotion that is geared toward a consumer, it impacts their enthusiasm for wanting to be more aggressive in selling your product, because they know that you’re doing the job of promoting yourself.”