We’re gearing up for a busy fall full of auto trade shows, and we know that many of you are as well. Trade show season can be overwhelming – there are so many to attend and they aren’t cheap so you have to make sure they’re worth it. We’ve been doing this whole auto trade show thing for a few years now (seven, to be exact), and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are our top tips for a successful show.



1. Choose the Right Show



There are so many shows to attend in a year that there’s no way you can hit them all. The big flashy names like SEMA draw a big crowd and a lot of buzz, but they’re expensive and definitely crowded. Decide if a big auto trade show like SEMA is really going to help you reach your business goals. Maybe a smaller, more accessible show is right for you – we recommend checking out the ATI, Ratchet + Wrench, and ShopFix shows. Above all, have a plan before you go. If you can’t articulate why you want to go to the show and what it will do for your business, then you probably should stay home this time!



2. Do More Prep Work Than You Think You Need To



We’re not just talking about reading through the schedule and planning a route to walk through the exhibit halls. Do those things, of course, but also plan your route from your hotel to the conference space so you never have to worry about being late, get a full list of attendees and exhibitors from the show management, and scope out a few restaurants and watering holes a short cab ride away for post-show meetings. Why a cab ride away when there will likely be countless options within walking distance? Finding a unique and memorable spot out of the eyes of the rest of the show’s attendees will make you stand out to the serious prospects you’re wining and dining. It’s little touches like this that will take your auto trade show attendance from lackluster to successful.



3. Decide If a Booth Is Right for You



It sounds like a no-brainer to set up a booth at any auto trade show you’re going to attend – free advertising, right? While a trade show booth definitely qualifies as advertising, it’s anything but free. Those babies can cost quite a bit of money, plus you’ll have to figure out the logistics of transportation, set-up, and teardown. Finally, having a booth means one or more of your team members is always tethered to it. Without a booth you can divide and conquer, covering more ground and maximizing your opportunities to talk to the big names in attendance.



4. Choose Intelligent Freebies



What’s a trade show without some sort of giveaway? Every booth is handing out something, from pens to frisbees to bags to carry it all. You can slap your logo on just about anything these days, so make it count. Pens are always a good option – people are constantly looking for something to write with at an auto trade show – but you can also get good results if you think outside the box. Attending a summer show in sunny Florida? Sunglasses. Long days on the floor with no breaks? A cell phone wallet attachment to make carrying business cards easier. Lots of great selfie opportunities? PopSockets. Think about the specific show, your audience, and your objective, then choose the item that best meets your needs.



5. Take Care of Yourself!



Self-care is probably the most overlooked aspect of a successful auto trade show experience. Trade shows are filled with exhausting days, late nights, lots of rich food, and lots and lots of alcohol. While the day you head off to an auto trade show is probably not the best day to start your new diet, remember that you won’t be getting the most bang for your buck out of the show if you party too hard. Drink in moderation, hit the hotel gym in the morning, and get adequate sleep. Resist the urge to believe that one more midnight cocktail will close a deal – if that deal is going to close, you’ll be better equipped to do it the next morning after a good night’s sleep.



We’ll See You There!



We can’t wait to catch up with all of you on the road this fall! Catch us at Ratchet + Wrench, Moran Family of Brands, ShopFix, SEMA, and American Towman this fall, just to name a few. We’ll see you there, but if you’re interested in chatting with us outside of the auto trade show craziness give us a call at 1-855-360-0360 or drop us a line on our website. We’d love to talk.



PS – Here’s how to choose the best credit card processor for your auto repair shop.



PPS – Your 2018 marketing plan isn’t sunk yet! Here’s how to salvage it.