Last Year’s First-Time Exhibitors Outline Their Goals for 2018
Last year, Liqui Moly featured a 2002 Subaru WRX replica of the world rally championship car in its 20x30 booth in the Performance Pavilion.
Every year, the SEMA Show accommodates specialty-equipment manufacturers who decide to exhibit on the international stage for the first time. This year is no different. Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the SEMA Show attracts more than 170,000 industry leaders from more than 140 countries. In 2017, the Show featured 2,400 exhibitors, including 354 first-timers.
SEMA News contacted two first-time exhibitors from the 2017 SEMA Show to find out what they learned based on their experiences and how they planned to pull off a successful Show this year. They included Reid Scott, general manager for Racelogic—a designer and manufacturer of electronic systems to measure, record, display, analyze and simulate data from moving vehicles—and Mike Crosby, marketing manager for Liqui Moly—a manufacturer of lubricants, motor oils, additives, vehicle care products, chemical repair tools, service products, glues and sealants.
SEMA News: Can you describe your overall experience at the 2017 SEMA Show?
Mike Crosby: Last year, we featured a ’02 Subaru WRX replica of the world rally championship car in our 20x30-ft. booth in the Performance Pavilion. I’ve gone to the SEMA Show for the past 20-some years, so when I came over to Liqui Moly a few years ago, I kept pushing for the company to exhibit at the Show. They’ve exhibited at AAPEX for the last 25 years, and I was finally able to get them to listen. For us, going to the SEMA Show is more about promotion and marketing than actual sales; for instance, we sell only through WDs, so our focus was to hook retailers up with our WDs.
Reid Scott: We exhibited last year in a 10x10-ft. booth in a corner of the Performance Pavilion. This year, we’re going to have a 10x20 on the center aisle that passes through the Performance Pavilion, where the traffic flow is heavier. The reason we went to the Show was because our motorsports dealers and end-user customers attended, so we were able to capture both groups. It was good exposure for us, because we were doing a joint program with the Dodge division of FCA for the Dodge Demon, which was released last year. We had a display in our booth showing our data logger specifically fitted for the Dodge Demon, and a lot of people came by to ask about it. It was good for us to be associated with Dodge, and it raised awareness of our company and who we are.
SN: Why did you decide to exhibit at this year’s Show?
MC: We are a German company that is in 140 countries worldwide and does half a billion dollars a year. We’re more than just European oils and additives; we have some new products coming out that fit the SEMA mold, including a truck-series line of products. We gave away some product samples and ran out by the second day. The biggest stumbling block for us is that we know we have to exhibit at the SEMA Show, and we should have done this 20 years ago, but you have to start somewhere.
RS: We have a new product that we’re launching this fall, which we would like to enter into the New Products Showcase. We also have a product called the Performance Box that’s been out for many years, and we’re launching a redesigned version of that product, which will debut at the SEMA Show.
SN: How do you plan to attract people to your booth?
MC: We do a great deal of social-media promotion. We let customers know we’re exhibiting for the first time and that we’ll be giving away product samples. We also promote on our own website. Last year, we got some press based on our press release about exhibiting for the first time at the SEMA Show.
My expectations last year were a little lower going in because of our location. I didn’t think we’d get the foot traffic that we did. We were all pleasantly surprised, but I tried to downplay it a little bit. We’re just starting at the Show, and we’ve got to work our way up, so we’re exhibiting again this year in the same size booth in the Performance Pavilion.
RS: We tell our dealers that we’re going to the SEMA Show and find out if they’re also going to attend. If so, we make plans to meet with them. For some of our dealers, it’s the only time of the year that we see them, so it’s a great opportunity to see people that we talk to week to week but never actually get a chance to meet face to face. Our main focus is to raise our brand awareness within the industry; we’re not trying to sell X amount of dollars of product.
At the 2017 SEMA Show, Racelogic participated in a joint program with the Dodge division of FCA featuring its Vbox data logger, which was specifically fitted for the Dodge Demon.
SN: Is there anything you’d like to pass on based on last year’s experience?
MC: We’re not going to give away product samples this year, because a lot of attendees fly in and can’t take them on the plane with them. We plan to have everything more available in our booth as far as literature and manpower. We underestimated the need for manpower because we had so much foot traffic. We’re also doing a training seminar this year.
Because we do both shows (AAPEX and SEMA), it’s difficult to make both a huge success between manpower and budget. We went a little smaller at AAPEX last year, and I think we’ll continue in that direction. Once the powers that be at our company saw that many of our customers walk both shows, and some only go to SEMA, that was kind of an eye opener for them. We had lots of meeting requests at SEMA, which was difficult for us, because we only had a meeting room in our AAPEX booth. This year, we have to be more aware and plan better.
SN: What advice would you offer to first-time exhibitors?
MC: My initial advice to anyone considering exhibiting at the SEMA Show is to just do it. You only get out of it what you put into it. If you think you’re just going to show up and people are going to flock to your booth, that’s unfortunately not the case. You need to advertise and use the various channels SEMA puts at your disposal to get the word out that you’re there and where you’re located, and contact people to make appointments for meetings at the event. We were booked solid last year, and this year we’ll increase manpower so we can do even more. Network and take advantage of the various events in and around the Show.
RS: I’ve attended the SEMA Show for many years, and I think it was helpful just to attend without a booth to get the lay of the land and find out what to expect. When I went into the Performance Pavilion, I had a pretty good handle on who was going through that area. For those people who are on the fence and don’t know if they want to exhibit, they should at least go to the Show and walk the floor to get a feel for it, because it helps a lot to know the Show before you go out there and set up.