First-Time Exhibitors Reveal Plans for Success at the SEMA Show
JcrOffroad’s SnowHawk Mountain Rescue 2016 SEMA Show build was powered by a Titan Engines 4.7 stroker short block and featured products from other manufacturers, including a BDS Suspension 4.5 long-arm lift, Fox 2.0 shocks, JCR panel armor, and a Warn Zeon 8s winch, among many others.
Often considered the mecca for the automotive specialty-equipment industry, the annual SEMA Show, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, attracts more than 160,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries. In 2016, the Show featured 2,325 exhibitors, including 383 first-timers—many of whom attended the Exhibitor Summit in June to help them prepare for the big stage.
We contacted one first-time exhibitor from the 2016 SEMA Show and two who will exhibit this year for the first time to find out about their goals and strategies for attracting buyers to their booths. They included Daryl Hutson, vice president of JcrOffroad, a manufacturer of Jeep bumpers, sliders and armor; Steve Green, national sales manager for Race-Driven Inc., a manufacturer and retailer of powersports products; and Deanna McMahon, media and public relations manager at Buggy Whip, a manufacturer of safety antennas for off-road, mining and construction vehicles.
SEMA News: Describe your overall experience at last year’s SEMA Show.
Daryl Hutson: We exhibited for the first time at the 2016 SEMA Show in a 20x20 booth in the back of the Upper South Hall. Even though we were in the back, we thought we had a gem of a spot. We had walked the floor before to see what the Show was like, so we knew how overwhelming it could be, but we didn’t know what to expect from a business or setup perspective.
Last year, we went to the Exhibitor Summit, where we learned that there was no point in being at the Show if you weren’t going to stand out, so our goal after that was to figure out how to make ourselves noticeable. Buyers see so much in so little time that we knew we had to get noticed, so we set up a themed booth, and from that perspective, it helped.
We were also there to do business, so we brought our sales team out, and they talked to a lot of people. We realized that even though we were there all week, we had a limited amount of time to talk to clients. It isn’t possible to talk to 2,000 people; 500 is more realistic, and we had to figure out quickly if those relationships were going to amount to anything or if they were just kicking the tires. We wanted to quantify potential customers as they came to talk to us about our product, because we didn’t want to waste anybody’s time. Even though we were well prepared, there are still things that you could never prepare for at the Show.
Race-Driven Inc. has exhibited at the AM Expo for the past few years. The company believes that going to the SEMA Show is the next natural progression because of the crossover from the powersports market.
SN:Why did you decide to exhibit at this year’s SEMA Show?
Steve Green: We will exhibit for the first time this year because we believe being at the Show is the next step in getting our brand more recognition. We’ve exhibited at the AM Expo for the last few years, which is strictly for powersports product manufacturers, and we feel that there’s a lot of crossover. Our products fit right in with everything being done in those markets with the extreme-riding buildups. We’re mostly known for our high-performance, severe-duty brake pads and high-performance rotors, and going to the SEMA Show is the next natural progression. Most of the guys doing extreme riding on the ATV/UTV side have trucks or Jeeps, which mirrors what they’re trying to do in the powersports realm.
Deanna McMahon: This will be our first year exhibiting at the SEMA Show. When we signed up to exhibit, we also signed up as a SEMA member, which I’m learning is full of great resources. It’s surprising to me that some people who exhibit are not members.
Our LED Buggy Whip, which was released last October, fits the specialty-equipment market, so we are going to take it to the SEMA Show and enter it into the New Products Showcase. We will also utilize the Showcase to feature our original product. We plan to promote our product, expand our reach, and connect with buyers. Buggy Whip has been in business for 50 years, which is another spin we’re going to use to market for the SEMA Show.
SN: How do you plan to draw people to your booth?
DH: We are going to set up meetings with our current dealers and distributors. Last year, we didn’t do any B2B marketing to cold clients beforehand. Our goal was to reach people who we wouldn’t be able to reach at any other venue. We had a booth vehicle last year, and we’ll have another one this year.
SG: To promote ourselves, with this being our first year, we want to have a presence, so we’re going to look around and decide what we need to spend and how to spend it. For next year, we’ll come out with an even stronger presence. We want to observe and plan for next year instead of throwing everything at it this year. We’re also going to run ads in the October–November issues of UTV Action, Dirt Wheels and ATV Illustrated to promote our presence at the SEMA Show. In our eyes, SEMA is the show of shows, so we definitely want to be a part of that.
In exhibiting at its first SEMA Show, Buggy Whip hopes to reach a diversified range of buyers and gain further reach within the industry. The company also plans to enter its LED Buggy Whip, released last October, into the New Products Showcase.
DM: We are going to have two vehicles, including a CanAm Maverick X3 build that we’re doing right now, which will probably be in our booth, and we also have two other feature vehicle spaces throughout the Show. We will use our budget for sponsorships and print ads. We are going to be doing internal promotion through our website, email campaigns and social media to get people to our booth. We also plan to utilize the Show’s resources, including SEMA News and SEMA Show Daily. I’m also thinking of some pole wraps or floor ads strategically placed throughout the Show to help direct people to our booth. Booth location isn’t your end-all, be-all. Providing as much exposure as possible everywhere is definitely my priority.
SN: What are your goals and expectations?
DH: Shows like this for us are never going to be a big blaze. They’re small fires that you have to continue to stoke. So we have to keep talking to new people and keep stoking these relationships, and hopefully they will grow into something bigger over the years.
SG: Our expectations are to evaluate. We’ve had people ask us before if we were going to the SEMA Show, and that’s what spurred our decision to exhibit this year. If we have customers going to the SEMA Show for other things, then it’s good for us to be there, too, even if it’s not necessarily on the dealer side. There is also some end-user consumer business there.
DM: We hope to have time to interact with potential new clients. Having more in-depth conversations is what’s going to secure buyers. There are a few existing companies we know of that will be exhibiting, and it will be great to connect with them, but most of our time will be spent on trying to acquire new buyers. Ultimately, we hope we reach a diversified range of buyers and gain further reach within the industry. We are primarily off-road, but our products are displayed on non-off-road SEMA builds. We want to educate about how our products are different and build relationships. Selling a product is one thing, but continuing that relationship and making sure the longevity is there is important for our company.
SN: What did you learn based on last year’s experience?
DH: We learned how to properly transport vehicles and materials. We tried to save some money by bringing materials with us, but it was more hassle than it was worth, so we will freight everything this year. We also learned that lighting is important. We didn’t have any booth lighting in our plan last year, but luckily, we were able to get some.
SN: What advice would you offer to first-time exhibitors, and what are some resources they can utilize?
Buggy Whip’s SEMA Show plan is to promote the company’s products, expand their reach and connect with buyers. Pictured here are Joe Brown (right), production manager, and Russell Porter (left), president/CEO.
DH: Attend the Exhibitor Summit. Budget for more than you expect. Stop for a couple of seconds in the middle of the Show to take it all in, because it’s always rush, rush, rush. For a lot of new people, it’s a big milestone in their businesses to go to the SEMA Show.
DM: We went to the Exhibitor Summit this year, where we gained so much knowledge to bring back to the shop to help us formulate a game plan. SEMA gave us a roadmap and instructed us to follow
The first thing we’re going to do is ensure that our online directory is updated. We’re also going to draft press releases and push them to keep the media interested and engaged. We also learned about the New Products Showcase and how valuable it can be. The Media Center is also right there, which is a win-win having those two next to each other, because the media can go straight over to the New Products Showcase. I plan to put a stack of press releases in the Media Center, and I’m also going to draft a media package with some eye-catching and important information about our product.
For more information on the SEMA Show, visit www.SEMAShow.com.