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Marketing and advertising insights for automotive suppliers

Rethinking Trade Shows for Automotive OEM Suppliers

Rethinking Trade Shows for Automotive OEM Suppliers

Are they worth it? Not worth it? What to do? What to do?

Picture this: A meeting. About trade shows. Half the room is all fired up. They love trade shows. The other wonders, “Why do we waste our time?”

Both halves are right.

Like the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, the atmosphere at a trade show is hyper-competitive. Most, if not all of your competitors are there. So are your vendors, your vendor wannabes, and anyone else even tangentially related to the automotive OEM supplier industry.

Many companies pull out all the stops at trade shows. Their booths are like a huge three-dimensional brochure. Some create a whole new booth theme every year. Others use unorthodox means to grab attention. And it’s all supported with ads in every pertinent trade publication with a “special show issue.”

Trying to shout louder than everyone else in an already boisterous, cacophonous (I always wanted to use that word and now I have) environment is a fool’s errand.

Don’t get in a shouting match.

A better strategy? Think of your trade show booth as an oasis. A calming respite from the madding crowd. Most other booths are busy. So make the graphics in your booth refreshingly simple. Don’t let your entire brand story be read from across the aisle. Show just enough to intrigue and entice. Let your people fill in the blanks in one-to-one encounters with visitors.

Trade shows: Another brick in your brand’s foundation.

Trade show booth graphics should focus on your brand. This will allow you to build on whatever other brand marketing you’re doing. And it’s cost effective because you can use it no matter what show you’re participating in, what audience you’re talking to, what products you want to feature. Use your brand as the backdrop and associate it with whatever product you’re featuring front and center.

Trade shows work. They’re great opportunities to be seen by a highly concentrated group of prospects. And like the U.S. Open, they’re an opportunity to make sure you’re at the top of your game and that you can compete, and maybe even beat, the best. More than likely, you’ll also get the chance to solidify your relationships with existing customers who are there. But, remember, the rest of the marketing for the other 360 days of the year shouldn’t suffer because you spent so much on these five.

Choose wisely.

In the vast universe of trade shows, there are a few shows where people actually buy, or at least set a purchase in motion. But they’re rare. In the automotive industry, specification and buying processes are complex. Several different areas of a company get involved – engineering, finance, sales, marketing. A trade show floor isn’t the place where those different areas develop consensus. That means you need to maintain an integrated messaging strategy across many channels. Trade shows are just one of those channels.

Never lose focus on your brand.

Keep your trade shows focused on the brand. Win the battle on the trade show floor by zagging while everyone else zigs. Make sure your message at the show aligns with all your other brand communications. Spend wisely, not exorbitantly. Trade shows are just one of many opportunities you have to put your brand story in front of your sales prospects. Remember, someone is in the market for your products every day. Every channel should be maintained.

Trade Shows

Ernie Perich

As the owner and creative director of Perich Advertising + Design for more than 30 years, Ernie knows a thing or two about automotive marketing. He combines brand strategy with smart creative to help automotive suppliers strike a nerve. Contact

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