By Steve Campbell
Planning Your 2014 SEMA SHOW Success
Advice for First-Time (and Even Long-Time) Exhibitors
More than 130,000 automotive industry professionals will attend the 2014 SEMA Show, November 4–7, at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), and more than 60,000 of them will be buyers searching the aisles for products to carry in their retail outlets and installation centers. Historically, 87% of those buyers plan to purchase products from the Show’s exhibitors. With some forethought, a bit of research and a successful strategy, even first-time exhibitors can take full advantage of those sales opportunities at what has become the largest annual gathering of small businesses in the United States.
That “bit of research” starts with the Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM), which is available online. The ESM contains virtually every detail an exhibiting company needs in order to set a Show budget, acquire booth space, set up and coordinate displays and then attract, capture and follow up sales leads. The manual offers information on programs and provides advice on everything from pre-Show promotion and organizing a press conference to sponsorship and advertising avenues that will attract maximum attention.
The first stop in the ESM should be the “About the Show” tab, which is at the top of the navigation menu. It is designed to anticipate and answer the most commonly asked questions pertaining to a successful exhibit. Top priorities for initial planning include the budget checklist, the deadline checklist and the contact information page.
The budget and deadline checklists can help exhibitors decide which items they need for their exhibits and provide information about cost-saving target dates. The contact page provides a listing of SEMA Show personnel who can help with every facet of planning and logistics, including freight or material handling, labor and electrical needs, press and media services, exhibitor product training sessions, booth and feature-vehicle placement, advertising, sponsorships and much more.
New Products Showcase
For first-time exhibitors, the New Products Showcase is probably the most beneficial but also the most commonly overlooked promotional tool of the SEMA Show, which is all about new products. The thousands of buyers who come from around the globe discover innovations that will sell in their home markets, which range from Dallas and Denver to Denmark and Dubai. It’s the premier search area for many buyers—the place they visit first to see what innovations are on display—and it’s a great place to introduce buyers to companies and products they may not already be familiar with.
The New Products Showcase will be located in the Upper South Hall of the LVCC. In recent years, the displays have been expanded to include both “new” and “featured” products.
A new product is one that is manufactured or exclusively distributed by a company exhibiting at the 2014 SEMA Show, was introduced to the marketplace after last year’s Show and is available for shipment within 90 days after the close of this year’s Show. New products entered by SEMA- or TIA-member companies are eligible to be judged for new-product awards, provided they are delivered on-site within the eligible times.
SEMA also offers exhibitors the opportunity to enter and display any product as a featured product adjacent to the New Products Showcase. Featured products may have been previously introduced and do not need to meet the definition of “new” noted above, but they are not eligible for awards judging.
The SEMA Show organizers say that exhibitors should combine their New Product Showcase efforts with the displays in their booths as well as in pre- and post-Show marketing. New or featured products should be displayed in a booth location that is readily seen and accessible by buyers. The entire exhibit should be centered on the new or featured products, and the pre- and post-Show marketing should also promote those products.
Whether new or featured, each product is professionally photographed and is displayed with a description and contact information. The photos are used for numerous promotions, such as inclusion in SEMA News magazine, and they may be accessed by hundreds of media outlets worldwide via the Internet.
The first product entered by each exhibitor in the New Products Showcase is free when submitted online. All additional entries are $75 per product category if entered by Friday, October 11. After that, the fee is $150 per product category. Entries submitted on-site will be accepted based on space availability. A complete description of the New Products Showcase program is available.
Included With Each Booth
A booth at the SEMA Show isn’t just a patch of floor space. Each booth comes with drape backdrops and side dividers (except for island exhibits) as well as a company identification sign, 24-hour hall access and aisle carpets.
Every exhibitor also receives one SEMA Industry Awards Banquet ticket for each 100 sq. ft. of exhibit space up to a maximum of 10 tickets per exhibitor (while tickets last). And each company whose booth is confirmed by August 29 receives a listing in the official 2014 SEMA Show Pocket Guide as well as in the 2014 SEMA Show Directory. (After August 29, companies are listed in the Show Directory Addendum.) Each company and product listing remains posted throughout the year in the online SEMA Show photo repository. In addition, every exhibitor receives access to the dozens of business and marketing seminars that are conducted by expert presenters during Educations Days of Show week.
Public Relations Opportunities
Media from around the world attend the SEMA Show searching for content, so exhibitors should take advantage of the opportunity to generate coverage of their products. Even before the Show, a large percentage of the writers, editors and producers who attend visit the SEMA Show Online Media Center to track down press releases and product information that they can use to inform and entertain their audiences, and it’s easy to include your exhibiting company’s releases on the site. In addition to being featured in the online media center, your release may be featured in SEMA’s publications—including the SEMA Show Daily, SEMA News and SEMA eNews—as well as in global publications.
Pre-Show SEMA publications will use such releases based on the order in which they are received, and unpublished items will be placed on a waiting list and then included when and if additional space becomes available. SEMA also alerts other media when new releases have been added to the website.
During the SEMA Show, exhibitors may place copies of their press releases or press kits in the on-site Media Center in the LVCC. The Media Center is located in room N110 across from Central Hall and is a gathering point and a workplace for media representatives. The Center will first open on Saturday and Sunday, November 1–2, from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., and will remain open during Show hours for the rest of the week. SEMA recommends that PR materials be delivered to the Center before Monday, November 3, and suggests that exhibitors initially stock 75 to 100 copies of materials and then check their inventories periodically during Show week.
Other PR opportunities that exhibitors may want to consider include:
Press conferences, which are ideal for exhibitors that will have live announcements that may be of interest to a large number of media.
One-on-one meetings with journalists during the week.
Celebrity appearances that may bring not only media but also buyers to a specific booth or location. (To have your celebrities’ appearances included on a list that will appear on the SEMA Show website and in SEMA’s pre-show publications, complete the Celebrity Appearance Notification form in the online ESM).
Product training sessions in which exhibitors may demonstrate the technical applications of their products in a private environment.
After-hours parties, which will receive promotion on the “SEMA After Dark” section of the SEMA Show Facebook page.
At its discretion, SEMA will also include newsworthy events in the official SEMA Show Media Calendar. For details about these and other SEMA Show exhibitor PR opportunities, e-mail Della Domingo at email@example.com or call 909-978-6723.
Generate and Follow Up Buyer Leads
It’s important for exhibitors to record the contact information of buyers who come into their booths for follow-up after the SEMA Show. Some exhibitors rely on writing the information down or collecting business cards, but there is a better way. The ESM contains instructions for renting countertop lead-retrieval devices that can be used to scan each buyer’s badge and electronically capture their business and contact data. There is now even a smartphone app that uses the phone’s camera function to read the barcode on the buyer’s SEMA Show badge. A description in the ESM shows how to download the app.
The app and other devices available from CompuSystems, SEMA’s official registration provider, are part of a suite of products designed to help exhibitors maximize the return on their investments through converting booth visits by qualified buyers into sales. The process begins even before the Show with the TrafficMax attendee promotional service, which can be used to send a customized marketing message to a target audience. Once buyers are on-site, the lead-retrieval products help capture and qualify leads on the Show floor. And when the Show ends, exhibitors who have used the devices also have access to the myLeads follow-up service.
To learn more, use the ESM.
Displaying a Vehicle
The SEMA Show is a huge trade event, but it is also one of the world’s most exclusive car shows. It is open only to industry professionals, and it is populated with some of the coolest and most innovative vehicles on the face of the planet. The cars and trucks are major drawing cards, but exhibitors should take care that the vehicles they either house in a booth or endorse as a feature vehicle are treated as an extension of their exhibit space. There are strict rules regarding the branding of non-exhibiting manufacturers on these vehicles (see the Vehicles/Car Display Opportunities tab in the online ESM, where you’ll also find a feature-vehicle application form as well as a booth-vehicle application form.)
Whether displayed as booth vehicles or feature vehicles, cars and trucks should be treated as an adjunct of the exhibit space. A car that wouldn’t be representative of the exhibitor’s company in the booth likely shouldn’t be showcased as a feature vehicle either. Just putting a sticker of the exhibiting company’s logo in a window is not representative of the company’s brand. But a vehicle that is outfitted with appropriate product can help showcase the company and attract interested buyers.
SEMA Publications and Sponsorship Opportunities
Displaying at the SEMA Show requires a significant investment. Getting the biggest bang for the buck requires thought and planning. Depending upon the size of the splash a company wishes to make, the Show offers everything from basic exhibitor packages to attention-grabbing sponsorship and advertising programs, starting with the association’s own publications. The monthly SEMA News always provides a viable opportunity to reach not only exhibitors at the SEMA Show through expanded distribution, but also regular readers of the publication who begin to see event news well before the November Show dates.
In addition, the association produces the SEMA Show Daily print magazine with a daily circulation of 10,000 copies during the Show. It includes coverage of the SEMA Show, news about special promotions, media announcements, product displays and other useful information. All four issues of the SEMA Show Daily are open for timely press release submissions and offer an opportunity to advertise an exhibitor’s presence. The SEMA Show Daily is the only Show publication authorized for distribution on Show grounds, and is not to be confused with other publications sometimes offered with similar-sounding names.
The SEMA Show itself is also a prime marketing venue through a series of sponsorship packages. From floor ads and kiosk panels to fully realized major sponsorships that include logo displays, multiple top-tier feature car positioning, multi-page color ads in Show publications, banners in Show exhibit areas, a dozen individual P.A. announcements during the event and much more, the sponsorship packages are layered to provide progressively greater exposure. And there is even a first-time exhibitor’s package that provides an affordable yet effective way to enhance a company’s prominence at the Show.
For complete information about the available packages and programs, contact the SEMA Show sales team at 909-396-0289
Webinar for First-Timers
Exhibiting at the SEMA Show takes preparation, and there are a number of details that may not occur to a first-timer until just a few weeks before the doors open. The first priority should be to examine the ESM from start to finish, but the Show organizers have also put together a webinar—an online seminar that requires only a computer and an Internet connection for participation—designed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. They include what to do when you arrive at your hotel, how and where to arrange transportation, where to park while at the Show, moving in and moving out, taking care of yourself, eating well and much more.
The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, August 20, 2014, from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. PDT. For information about participating and to register, visit www.sema.org/events/webinars.