Well I just returned from Las Vegas and the 2009 SEMA show and it took a couple of days to get back into the swing of things here at T-Netics. I was pretty much working for a month straight to plan, physically get ready and then working the event itself. For those of you that are automotive enthusiasts and have never experienced the show let me tell you that it is imperative that you get it on your life’s to do list. For those of us that have to plan, setup, work the show and then tear down the excitement level is a little bit different. The highs and joys of SEMA after 12 years are not the same as that incredible first trip. ”Seeing” the show is not that important now but what remains incredibly exciting is doing good work and getting business done on the show floor.
First I want to start off by saying that being on the show floor and getting our booth ready to open the show allows me to hear and participate in all kinds of conversations. I like to equate these verbal encounters to playing the game “pitching pennies”. You know where you are flipping coins against a wall to see who can get closer or better yet stand the coin up against the wall vertically. For three days everyone is guessing and “flipping quarters” out there as to how disastrous the show will be this year. For the past three years now all anyone wants to do is talk doom and gloom leading up to the shows opening and I am frankly getting kind of sick of it. The first thing out of everyone’s mouth is that there are less exhibitors this year or that there are a bunch of open spaces, and so-and-so dropped out and you know who didn’t come… GOOD! The automotive industry needed a good thorough shakeup to sort out the winners and all the others because when Tuesday morning came and the show began Turbonetics was off to a fantastic and very successful SEMA show.
As the SEMA Street Performance Councils Chair Elect (find out more about the SPC here) I firmly believe in the good that the SEMA organization has to offer its member companies but it’s like going to church; until you get involved in a deeper more personal level and jump into the programs behind the sermons you will never get the full value of the church body just by showing up on Sundays. All too often people become disenchanted and feeling as if they are not getting something meaningful because they are just going through the motions. There is a tremendous push going on inside SEMA to really deliver valuable returns on the membership dues and for buyers and exhibitors alike, to have a successful show. The education and business programs that have been initiated in the past 18 months have been a long time coming and I am proud to say that the groups that Turbonetics and I are involved with are leading the way forward. But I digress so back to my original point, while I am not happy that the economy has struck a particularly mighty blow to many automotive companies and SEMA and CONVEXX won’t necessarily appreciate my opinion, I know that the org’s coffers don’t, but I am glad that there are less exhibitors and here’s why;
- Prior to the 2008 show the rate of growth was phenomenal. Truly staggering in my opinion. The parking lots were filled with tents and cars and the registration area for crying out loud was what seemed a city block away. There were chotski vendors and cheap overseas knock-offs, some of which splashed castings of my own parts and some potentially questionable booths that could be argued did not belong at the show.
- Inflated Attendance:
- While I still think that the shows attendance gets a boost in some areas, the sheer number of people at the show was growing and growing year after year. Combined with the number of booths out there it made it increasingly difficult for people to get to my booth and then to conduct good meaningful, full value conversations once they arrived because I had a line of people waiting to talk to me about sponsoring their 1972 Gremlin… “it’s gonna be an insane project maaaan”
- Quality vs. Quantity:
- The same serious buyers are going to be at the show year in and year out because SEMA remains a wonderful place to do business. It is also the single greatest place to debut new products each year because the volume of purchasing decision makers present and press coverage is second to none. With less booths for them to be distracted by or in some cases not there at all the greater the opportunity I have to meet new people, open new opportunities and most importantly close new sales.
- Return on Investment:
- With the general climate of shrinking marketing dollars and being forced to do more with less, a concentrated SEMA means that I get more out of the show. Our dollars are hard earned and I expect to get maximum value from them. With the SEMA show the current size or even 10-15% still smaller, it makes spending the massive dollars involved with exhibiting at the show an easier decision to make.
Here’s the thing about being an exhibitor at shows like SEMA and PRI and any other large trade gathering for that matter. You get what you put into it! Anyone that thinks they can just show up and they will automatically make rain is sorely mistaken. It is a combined effort for our engineering, quality, production, sales and marketing team to drive success to our business. You make your own traffic at shows sometimes, whether through revolutionary new products, sales promotions or fantastic PR and communications. If you are reading this and you are a buyer or shop owner, did you fly in on Monday to take advantage of the Internet Marketing classes? Did you attend any one of the myriad business seminars during the week? How about listen to the panels of speakers giving their advice and real world experiences that were making them successful in the current economic climate? As an exhibitor did you do everything in your power to make it a successful show? I know I didn’t and we had still had a great show, that’s why I am so excited to do an even better job next year. See you in Vegas in 2010 for what I hope is an even better and stronger auto industry and SEMA show.
Keep It In Boost,