2018 SEMA Show Countdown

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SEMA News—September 2018


2018 SEMA Show Countdown

Five Must-Do Tips for Every SEMA Show Exhibitor

By Mike Imlay

  0918 sn lead must do stuffFor exhibitors, this is the home stretch for 2018 SEMA Show planning. Whether your goal is increasing your company’s profile or generating leads, there are several must-do steps you can take right now for success.


With opening day of the 2018 SEMA Show set for Tuesday, October 30, now is the time for exhibitors to make their crucial last push toward attracting buyers to their booths. According to SEMA Trade Show Director Tom Gattuso, more than 60,000 buyers are expected to attend this year’s Show, and a large percentage of them are already determining which exhibitors they want to see.

“Whether your goal is increasing your company’s profile and branding or generating leads, understand that the typical buyer comes to the SEMA Show to see new products and get new ideas,” Gattuso said. “So as you fashion your own goals, you want to make sure that whatever you’re doing correlates with the goal of the buyer. Above all, think of how you’ll spend your time at the Show. If you look at each day as a series of five-minute conversations with buyers, that means 93 conversations a day for a total of 372 conversations by end of week—and that’s with no breaks. Obviously, one goal is to maximize those conversations, making every minute count. You don’t want to end up just standing in your booth each day, hoping to snag random buyers. Rather, you want to strategize and start implementing your plan to connect with them beginning now.”

Fortunately, SEMA offers a number of tools to help exhibitors succeed, along with proven advice for maximizing your potential at the Show. Here are five exhibitor must-do tips:

1. Refer Early and Often to the Exhibitor Services Manual

First, as you finalize and review your Show plan, make sure that you’re well versed in all of the SEMA Show’s nuts and bolts. Staying on top of booth logistics, hitting deadlines on time, controlling costs, and knowing “where to go for what” are all basic to creating a booth atmosphere conducive to doing business with buyers. To help guide first-time and veteran exhibitors alike through all the Show-planning particulars, SEMA makes a comprehensive (and free) Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM) available online at www.SEMAShow.com/esm

“We can’t emphasize the value of this resource enough,” Gattuso said. “The ESM is the first place to go to find everything you could possibly need to know about exhibiting. It’s the gateway document for services and related resources and the easiest way to save money with our timeline of price incentives. Plus our Show staff updates the manual constantly to make sure every question you might have is answered there. You can often simply Google your question for a link to the appropriate ESM section.”

2. Build Buzz With Pre-Show Marketing

1018 Dudes Talking Photo 2If you envision the Show as a series of five-minute conversations with buyers, that averages to about 93 conversations per day and 372 by end of week. Make every minute count by familiarizing yourself with your booth’s layout and honing your product pitches before the Show.  



“More than two thirds of buyers say that they come to the Show already armed with a plan of the companies they want to see, so you’ve got to reach out early,” Gattuso advised. “Make sure your information is up to date in the online floorplan, and begin your pre-Show marketing. You should email your buyers and announce that you’ll be at the Show. Maybe put a sticker on your invoices or anything else you can think of to let them know.

“Another really effective strategy is the SEMA Show Online Media Center. Each year, more than 3,000 journalists attend the SEMA Show in search of product and trend stories, and connecting with them can connect you with buyers. Use the Online Media Center to announce where you’ll be at the Show, what products you’ll be releasing or promoting, any booth vehicles, demonstrations or promotions you have planned, and anything else you expect to accomplish. We’ve seen some of the most successful exhibitors put out six to a dozen different media alerts and then reinforce those messages through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media.”                                                                                                                     

Upload your latest news, media tipoffs and product releases now and throughout the Show at www.SEMAShow.com/press.

3. Enter the New Products Showcase

“The New Products Showcase is like a show within the Show and the best place to grab the attention of buyers throughout Show week,” Gattuso noted. “Statistically, we’re finding that it’s our number-one SEMA Show feature, with more than half of our buyers reporting that they visit exhibitors after first discovering them in the Showcase. Yet it’s surprising how many exhibitors still fail to take full advantage of this opportunity to display product.”

The first product entry to the Showcase is free, with additional entries costing $75 each when submitted before October 5 and $150 thereafter. There’s no cap to the total number of products a company can highlight. Moreover, if your company doesn’t have a new product, don’t fret—you can still enter featured products as well.

“Featured products might be your bestsellers or products that are especially attractive for buyers,” Gattuso explained. “Tracking our buyers each year, we’ve found that such featured products are just as popular as new items, so there’s really no excuse not to enter something for buyers to see.”

Moreover, participation in the Showcase yields dividends long after the Show, since every product is photographed and featured in later SEMA publications and made available to media year-round via the SEMA Show website. The high-quality images are also available for use in your own company media and advertising. For additional entry information and display guidelines, go to www.SEMAShow.com/new-product-rules.

4. Hone Your Show Plan and Pitches

  Incorrect but Okay PhotoMany buyers build their daily itineraries around what they see in the SEMA Show New Products Showcase. Make sure you grab their attention by entering at least one new or featured product into the Showcase. The first entry is free, so there’s no reason to pass it up.

While tackling the above pre-Show basics, now is also a good time to review your plan for the Show floor—especially the booth itself. Gattuso recommends establishing a main goal and building out your plan from there.

 “Look at everything through the prism of the buyer,” he said. “Recall that a buyer’s goal is to find new things. With that in mind, if your goal is to increase awareness of your business, the way to attain that goal is to feature your latest products. Presenting your new technology will likely bring more success than handing out lanyards and freebies. The same applies if your goal is to get sales leads.

 “The key word is discoverability. You want to make your booth easy for attendees walking the Show to understand at a glance. A full 80% of buyers are attracted to a product display. So even if you produce a hundred different products, you want to highlight just one or a few of the new ones or bestsellers. That will draw people into conversations where you can expand on everything else you’re doing.”

In fact, it’s a good idea to prototype your booth beforehand at your place of business. At a minimum, map everything out with masking tape on the floor. Make sure everyone and everything in your booth has a specific reason to be there. Know your customers and prioritize leads. Then develop one-, three- and five-minute versions of your basic sales pitch, each quickly outlining what your company does, what your vision is for your place in the industry, and how you benefit the buyer. Practice, practice and practice them in your mock setting until they become rote.

 “You want to make sure your pitch is as good Tuesday morning as it is Friday afternoon,” Gattuso said. “You can’t afford to still be rehearsing it with potential customers on the actual SEMA Show floor.”

Key Exhibitor Resources at a Glance
  • Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM)

  • New Products Showcase
    Guidelines: www.SEMAShow.com/new-product-rules
    Product entries: www.SEMAShow.com/newproducts
    Questions: 909-396-0289, or e-mail newproducts@SEMA.org

  • SEMA Show Online Media Center

  • During the Show
    Exhibitors’ Show Floor Managers are issued onsite. SEMA Show Management is available in the Show Office for any onsite questions and concerns and can be reached at 702-943-3505 (Show hours only). This number is found on the back of every exhibitor badge. Your account representative as well as an intellectual property attorney can also be reached onsite through the Show Office.


5. Stay Locked In

We don’t mean literally locked in, of course. But do plan to go the distance, staying at the Show through Friday, since more and more buyers are doing exactly that each year.

 “Just as important, you want to stay locked in to our support network, which remains in place before, during and after the Show,” Gattuso emphasized. “It involves people such as your SEMA account representative, our sales operations and registration experts, an onsite intellectual property rights attorney, your floor manager, and our Show department staff both onsite and at our headquarters in Diamond Bar, California, prior to and after the Show.

 “A lot of exhibitors seem to think that they’ll be thrown into the Show and have to figure it all out themselves, but the truth is that you are not alone. We are here to help you be successful.”


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