Top Marketing Tips for Exhibitors

Top Marketing Tips for Exhibitors

The Best Free Ways to Promote Your Booth

There are many opportunities built into the exhibitor experience that can help draw the right buyers and media to booths at no additional cost.

While the SEMA Show builds the optimal environment for matching buyers with sellers, exhibitors may have a variety of different goals for the week, such as making new contacts, or connecting with current customers. With the 2017 SEMA Show now less than eight weeks away, it’s time to be serious about putting together a game plan for attracting the right buyers to your booth.

“We don’t want anyone making the substantial investment of exhibiting without having a plan for before, during and after the Show,” said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of communications and events. “While we work very hard to organize the Show so it’s easy for buyers to find you, the reality is that there are well over 2,500 companies competing for attention. Getting that attention doesn’t happen by accident.”

Whether it’s your first or 51st Show, and regardless of who you are targeting, there are a number of opportunities built into the exhibitor experience—at no additional cost—that can help you connect with your target buyers. Here are Show Management’s top tips.

new products showcase
Participating in the New Products Showcase is the best way for exhibitors to let buyers know about their new or featured offerings, and the first entry is free.

Enter the New Products Showcase

This piece of advice bears repeating: every exhibitor should enter at least one product into the New Products Showcase. The Showcase is consistently the top destination for buyers and media. Located in the Skybridge between the South and Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, it houses more than 3,000 entries organized by Show section.

An exhibitor’s first entry is always free, and additional products are $75 each before October 6, $150 after. And the products don’t really have to be new either—there’s also a category for featured products, which might be a brand’s signature items or best sellers. Maybe you had a product that garnered a lot of media attention or buyer scans at last year’s Show; bring it back and enter it in the featured category.

According to MacGillivray, participating in the New Products Showcase is a proven way to drive traffic to your booth. “We’ve seen that buyers will go to the New Products Showcase, they’ll spend an hour or two or three and make a list of the products that they want to follow up on, then they’ll go directly to the booth and strike up conversation,” he said. “That’s the best-case scenario and we’ve seen it repeat itself over and over and over again. It really is part of the fabric of the SEMA Show.”

The New Products Showcase is a gift that keeps on giving, exposure-wise: every entry is professionally photographed and the images are made available to the media at They also appear in SEMA News throughout the year, along with product data and company contact information. Want to know who’s looking at your products? Buyer scan data is available after the Show so you can see who scanned your product and follow up accordingly.

Tuesday’s New Products Breakfast is where the New Products awards are presented, as selected by a judging panel that evaluates quality and craftsmanship, technical achievement and marketability. Two runners-up in each of the 16 categories are also recognized.

“Winning an award is a wonderful thing, but we know that not everybody can win,” acknowledged MacGillivray. “We try to make sure that there are benefits beyond that for everyone in the room. Because it’s one of the first official functions at the Show, it’s a last-minute pep rally of sorts to get everybody on the same page and pumped up for the week ahead of them. It’s also a great networking opportunity. Here’s a place where there are stakeholders from the media, significant distribution channels and retail buyers in the same room, and they are excited about the week ahead of them. It’s this great connection point for exhibitors to leverage during Show week.”

Offering parts for SEMA Show builds through SEMA eNews expands exhibitors’ reach and allows attendees to see the products in their intended applications.

Tap Into SEMA Show Media Coverage

With nearly 3,000 media credentials issued each year to business and consumer outlets from all over the world, knowing how to gain media attention is key to a successful Show week.

“The exposure that these media create for the products and technology and the companies at the SEMA Show is really terrific. And of course, that media spotlight is something that translates into the phone ringing, or the cash register ringing. It ultimately means sales,” said MacGillivray.

Ahead of the Show, exhibitors can attract media attention by making their plans and featured products known. The best place to start is the Online Media Center—found at It’s a simple process to upload press releases, photos and contact information to begin familiarizing media with your brand. SEMA publications also pull from the Online Media Center for pre-Show coverage and SEMA Show Daily content.

“Having a solid, easy-to-read press release with relevant content is key to creating a lasting impression, driving traffic to your booth and generating media coverage,” said Della Domingo, SEMA’s public relations director. “Whether you’re announcing new products, a booth demonstration, vehicle unveil or celebrity appearance, we want to help exhibitors connect with their target audiences.”

Advice for those not yet fluent in how to develop an effective press release is available at A few of the basic guidelines are to format the press release in a Word document and to minimize marketing-speak, sticking to the facts about what the product is, how it works and what applications it fits. Always include your booth number and contact information, along with a high-resolution (300 dpi) photograph.

On-site in Las Vegas, exhibitors are invited to distribute hard copies of press releases and press kits in the Media Center, which is located in the Upper South Hall, room 220, near the New Products Showcase. This is where journalists spend much of their time writing and filing stories during the Show. Many exhibitors start by dropping off 75–100 copies at the beginning of the week and adding more later, if necessary.

Leverage SEMA Show Daily to Drive Traffic to Your Booth

Because Show attendees plan their agendas long before heading to Vegas, pre-Show publications also start pushing out information and resources well before the Show opens.

“Our official SEMA Show publications are designed to create value for all the exhibitors at the SEMA Show,” explained MacGillivray. “We know that attendees plan their Show in advance, so they need information and resources ahead of time. All of our Show publications are really about helping people get organized—helping buyers come up with a plan before they even arrive in Las Vegas.”

While the pre-Show push has already begun, there’s still a chance for exhibitors to submit press releases for the SEMA Show Daily’s third and fourth issues, which are distributed on Wednesday and Thursday of the Show. This is a great way to let buyers know what will be taking place in your booth, such as celebrity appearances, feature vehicles or product launches.

The deadline for these issues of the SEMA Show Daily is October 5. Press releases for consideration can be uploaded to the Online Media Center, or emailed directly to Be sure to include your booth number and a high-resolution photo for print.

Offer Products for SEMA Show Builds

Another way qualified exhibitors can grow product exposure and Show-floor presence is by offering products to builders through the Products for Project-Vehicle Builders list. The list is a sort of match-making resource, connecting manufacturers with builders who are looking to create or complete a project vehicle. Published every Thursday in SEMA eNews, the item features product offers and contact information so that interested builders can contact the exhibiting manufacturers directly. Project vehicles are required to be supported by a current 2017 SEMA Show exhibitor, and all product-placement decisions, negotiations and agreements are the responsibility of the exhibiting manufacturer and the builder.

Offering your product to builders can increase brand exposure, since the parts used on feature and booth vehicles are often listed in press releases and informational signage, ultimately garnering additional media coverage and buyer recognition. Submissions appear on a first-come, first-served basis, and while participation in the list doesn’t guarantee product placement, it is a great way to begin recruiting partners for builds. To include your products in the list of offerings for builders, fill out the form at Submissions are due by Friday, October 6.

SEMA Cruise
The SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited allow exhibitors to connect with a consumer audience and benefit from media exposure after the Show floor closes.

Find Out How We’ve Made Friday Even Better

By now you’ve probably heard that Friday is better than ever at the SEMA Show.

“We’ve noticed that on Fridays trade shows tend to slow down and decline. Our goal is to make Friday a big opportunity for people and to make it as valuable as any other day of the SEMA Show,” said MacGillivray.

First and foremost, Friday is still a great day for doing business, with 58% of buyers still in attendance and both buyers and media reporting a high level of satisfaction with Friday business. High-quality SEMA Show Education programming also continues throughout the day. As a trade-only operation, SEMA Show management works diligently to protect the integrity of the business that goes on at the Show by qualifying everyone in attendance. However, consumer interest in the products and companies at the Show continues to grow, and can ultimately prove beneficial for manufacturers.

Friday evening brings a few unique opportunities for engagement with consumers, through the SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited, events MacGillivray said were designed to leverage consumer interest and offer enthusiasts a taste of what takes place during the week. The SEMA Cruise is an exit parade of sorts, when hundreds of vehicles leave the Convention Center at Show close and make their way to the official after-party in the Gold Lot—SEMA Ignited—where everyone is welcome.

Participating in the Cruise and Ignited gives exhibitors a last chance for potential media coverage. In 2016, the events resulted in more than 1 billion social media impressions, and many exhibitors benefitted from media coverage of their brands. All feature and booth vehicles are eligible to participate. Make plans to stay all the way through SEMA Ignited to connect with consumers and make the most of every last promotional opportunity for your brand.

Know Your SEMA Account Rep

Every exhibitor has a dedicated account representative assigned to their company, who specializes in their industry category. These individuals serve as exhibitors’ personal concierges for navigating every phase of the Show experience, and their mission is to help each exhibitor leave with good business in the books. If you have a question about these marketing opportunities, or anything else related to your account, give your assigned rep a call and they’ll be able to help you find the answer. Not sure who your rep is? Call SEMA’s customer service team at 909-396-0289 to find out.

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