Automotive Week Pre-Shows Coverage

Sep 6, 2011

In just about eight weeks the annual SEMA and the AAPEX aftermarket shows make their return to Las Vegas. And while 2011 certainly has been yet another roller coaster ride that saw sales climb, drop and take quick turns right and left, it just makes sense to meet face to face with suppliers to see what they have to offer and what they have to say, find out how the business climate really is and what it looks to be like going into 2012.

Once again, the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s show takes over the North, South and Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center from Nov. 1-4. More than 50,000 attendees are expected.

Add that to the approximately 50,000 people working the exhibitor booths, media personnel and other show-connected folks and about 100,000 showgoers will populate the specialty market’s expo during the four-day event.

Over at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, AAPEX – the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo – already lists 2,200 exhibitors for its event, which runs concurrently with SEMA’s show. AAPEX is open Nov. 1-3. More than 51,000 professionals attended the AAPEX and SEMA shows in 2010.

“In fact, a full 60% more auto parts retailers have already registered for the show than at this time last year; 52% more independent repair garage owners, and an impressive 75% more auto parts warehouse distributors have registered already,” says Kathleen Schmatz, CEO and president of Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.

Preliminary expo numbers also report a 54% increase in registered buyers

Look for your Restyling magazine and website team in the South Hall, Upper Level, Booth No. 32168. We’re strategically located in the Trucks, SUVs & Offroad neighborhood between Toyota and the SEMA New Products and Awards areas. And whether you see us in our booth, out on the exhibition floor in any of the halls or at pre-show or post-show events, don’t hesitate to stop us and tell us about how business is going, or offer any ideas for articles you’d like us to write, or swap information about the industry.

It’s about products

Besides renewing acquaintances and looking to get a thumb on the industry’s economic pulse, aftermarket professionals’ No. 1 priority is finding the products they want that will fill the niche of their customer base. With SEMA’s expected 1,950 exhibitors, hundreds of thousands of products will be on display. Moreover, the specialty equipment association notes that as of the end of July, at least 233 first-time exhibitors were set to show off their wares at the show.

“The influx of new exhibitors presents a fresh opportunity for buyers to get a first-hand look at the latest product and service offerings and to connect with companies with whom they may have never conducted business,” the association posted.

Both AAPEX and SEMA provide new products display areas for exhibitors to highlight aftermarket items.
The New Products showcase at the SEMA Show always attracts a steady crowd moving among its aisles and taking in some of the items in showcases or on table displays. Last year, show management offered buyers a scanning fob that electronically collected information on items buyers chose; later, the information could be picked up as a printout or have the information sent via e-mail. Look for the New Products area at the back of the Upper Level of the South Hall.

The automakers, of course, show off all manner of their brands and models. Ford, GM, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and others will put on their best vehicle presentations with better-than-new-car-showroom vehicles dressed up for the show.

Last year, one of the noticeable products on display was matte film, done as full or partial wraps and even as PPF. Will that trend be evident at this year’s show? Or will a new film starlet make its appearance?

Graphics continue to be one of those identifiable ways to personalize vehicles. Rally stripes always seem to be a part of the picture, be they on American muscle cars like the Mustang, Challenger and Camaro, or on the Minis and Fiats.

Excitement, plus

If you’ve been tracking the articles in Restyling, you’ll know that body kits for cars and trucks have been making inroads in material composites and application technologies, as well as style. And the variety of interior trim and seating offerings just seems to keep growing; more vehicle models with more available design options continue to give consumers a growing array of choices.

Lights. With LED getting more play, more usage, it just won’t be the high-end cars that will sport these new and exciting looks.

And trucks. What can we say? Restyling always has covered the light-truck market – one of the reasons you’ll find us in the same Las Vegas Convention Center hall as many of the truck accessories -¨companies.

 



 Exhibitors: Make your show plan a roadmap to ROI

With a pair of automotive aftermarket expos running concurrently in Las Vegas in just two months, exhibitors must plan how to make the best of their investment.

By Dick Dixon

As we move into automotive aftermarket show season in November exhibitors will prepare to meet a variety of potential new and repeat customers. Within a span of a few days, with prudent and action-step planning, additional sales opportunities will avail that can boost your company profile and garner valued customers.

Preparation is key to walking away from both the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) with pride and job well done. SEMA hosts the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center Nov. 1-4; AAIA hosts the AAPEX Show at the Sands Expo Center, also in Las Vegas, Nov. 1-3. Attendees of one can attend the other.

Let’s explore various aspects of connecting the dots to a more profitable show season. As we expand our challenge to overcoming the economy you’ll need as many valuable tools as you can selectively fit into your business toolbox.

To make sure that you get a strong return on your investment, you’ll need to put in the hours before and after the event itself so you can secure a healthy number of attendees who have experienced an open discussion about your product or service. Your No. 1 mission is to strengthen your relationship in the process of developing them to the level of customer.

Think about your objectives and measure them

As with any marketing activity, it’s essential that you’re able to measure how effective any event has been, and this is, of course, tied in to what you’re hoping to achieve. For example, you may want to develop a new business relationship, showcase new products, and so on. The metrics you use to gauge success will vary depending on your goals, but some common ones include:

  • Number of visitors to the event
  • Number of inquiries at the event
  • Number of new contacts resulting from the event
  • Number of new sales leads resulting from the event
  • Changes in awareness of our company following the event

The prelude to the event is the detail extended with your internal show operations management as a system of steps. This is the homework before the final exam part of your job. Your success is dependent on details such as letting people know you’ll be in attendance. Depending on at which show you’ll exhibit, step one is to review the show exhibitor floor plans at www.SEMAshow.com or www.aapexshow.com.

Create a dedicated website button

Utilize your website to post useful information as a direct conduit to future and sustained sales. We live in an information hungry society and the Web is a tremendous tool in your favor.

Within recent years our industry has gone from suppliers only having a website to using their website. You’ve expended capital to develop this information tool -” I recommend you use it. As an essential medium of information delivery, it also saves time and money, and no need to stuff endless envelopes with forms or fliers, when all the details can go on your website.

Consider the word ‘Qualify’

Before you take on the challenge of incorporating names into leads – into firm and suitable prospects – consider the word, “qualify.” Your show lead-generation program may have given you large numbers of leads, but not all of them will convert to sales. Some may be poor prospects, while others may simply be gathering information rather than planning to do business with you. Good prospects have the following characteristics:

  • The financial resources to purchase your product
  • The authority to make a purchase decision
  • A genuine need for your product or service
  • The desire to learn more about your product
  • Plans to make a purchase in the near future

The shows are a host for lead generation and a nest for current and future development if worked properly.

Plan the show conversion process

Lead conversion can be a long-term continuous process, the duration of which depends on the complexity of the product and of the decision-making process. Consider the following process:

  • Identifying key decision-makers
  • Sending information to key decision-makers
  • Arranging meetings with decision-makers at the show
  • Providing sample products for evaluation by the customer
  • Bidding for a contract against competition
  • Final negotiations
  • Purchase
  • After-sales service and support

Both shows can stimulate your ROI if you decide how you’ll handle each stage of the process, key sales team involvement, and how you will manage communications with the prospect.

Common mistakes

A common question one asks is, “How do I know a ‘right’ from a ‘wrong’ prospect?” Many a conversation can lead to, “Why did I invest time, effort and capital in developing what I know was a long-shot, at best.” Sales teams have a natural tendency to deal with friendly prospects and avoid the difficult ones. From a business perspective they may be dealing with the wrong people. The qualifying process noted earlier should be used to identify the most important prospects in order to improve sales force targeting.

Thus, the show scenario is key to understanding the complexities of the deal as well as the real management within the deal. After all, key company personnel are sizing up their next marketing strategy and likely considering your demographic as part of the deal. Remember, you are a vital part of their ROI as you build your own company’s ROI.

The dance proceeds, and a substantial amount of time is invested without any time for evaluating future ROI. This is where you ideally profile the prospect by asking leading questions depending on the product or service provided. Also the kindling of the relationship is critical and your time is short. This is especially true where there are vast numbers of prospects who likely would qualify to your lead generation list.

Another miscue is poor management. Lead conversion can be a long, complicated process so it is essential to monitor progress and manage the program carefully. Lead conversion can be likened to using energy. It is an effort, but without proper personal time and communication management you are destined to reduce your income stream due to improper management and thus wasted energy.

Remember that efficiency is key to any lead generation conversation. I’m sure you’re in agreement that the SEMA and AAPEX shows can generate leads, but understanding your market and the demographic is essential to realizing success.

Be on target and reap the ROI benefit by preplanning. See you there.