The management of Dealer Expo, the powersports industry’s top business-to-business show, have been accused in the past of turing a deaf ear to complaints by dealers and exhibitors. But that situation seems to have changed.
Late last year Advanstar created a four-person marketing team charged specifically with surveying dealers across the country and recommending changes suggested by dealers.
The purpose of the team, which was put together last summer and fall, is to work with attendees to make sure the show delivers what they need for their business.
“It’s a personal, hands-on approach to working with the buyer base,” says Tracy Harris, general manager of the Powersports Group at Advanstar Communications. Advanstar owns the Dealer Expo.
Each of the marketing team members has been assigned a specific region of the country and spent several weeks in the field visiting dealers last year, according to Harris.
The key states of California, Florida, Texas, New York and Ohio, drew plenty of attention, she said.
Collectively, the group spent about 50 days on the road visiting dealers, and averaged close to 100 outbound calls to dealers per week per person. “It’s a significant investment in travel and resources and people,” says Harris.
The program is getting a good response and solid involvement from dealers, according to Harris. “They’re surprised to find them show up in their dealerships — not to sell them something but to find out their needs. This will help us over time do a better job.”
EXPANDED SEMINAR OFFERINGS
Perhaps the biggest change being made this year is the creation of an extensive seminar schedule, based upon dealer requests.
Recently, while the Expo has had some seminars, training was not a high priority for management. But that’s changed; this year, there’s a full slate of in-depth training opportunities, according to Harris.
“It (the research) validated what we thought we knew,” said Harris during an interview with Powersports Business. “Dealers are starving for educational components.
“The key is not to provide surface (training), but to go deeper than “101” classes. They want us to go deeper and be more comprehensive.
This year, Harris said, the company didn’t try to deliver a complete education program because of time restrictions. “We put together a small program (of seminars) that will run concurrently Saturday, Sunday and Monday.” (A complete listing is shown below.)
Dealers also can sign up for a free private one-on-one session with Retail Design Associates to discuss ways to improve merchandising at the dealership.
MORE CHANGES AT EXPO
Dealers also will find a new innovative coupon program at the Expo. In early January there were nearly three dozen participating exhibitors; Harris expects that number to climb close to 100 by the time of the Expo.
Dealers can print the coupons from the Expo Web site at dealerexpo.com, or pick them up at the show’s Resource Center.
The coupons vary from exhibitor to exhibitor but many include discounts, free shipping or other types of savings.
One noticable change for dealers is that the RCA Dome will not be devoted exclusively to V-twin suppliers. This year, it will be split about 50/50 between V-twin and other exhibitors.
The dome also will be the home to three restaurants located in a dining area in the middle of the dome. Custom Chrome will sponsor free breakfast each day from 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday and Sunday and 10am to 12pm on Monday. Lunch will be served at the restaurants from 12pm to 3:00pm each day.
“We’re working with the Convention Center to offer good variety and three different types of food,” notes Harris. “We’re trying to make it easy so people don’t have to leave the building.”
Jack Daniels will sponsor a Happy Hour in the dome on Saturday and Sunday, from 3:30pm to 5:30pm, offering a $1 savings on each drink.
Also new is a game card promotion with Toyota in which a new Tacoma pickup truck will be given away.
Coming back again this year will be the BlueRibbon Coalition’s Breakfast of Champions breakfast and auction. It’ll be held at 7am Sunday in the Westin Capitol Ballroom. (For details, see Page 26 of this issue.)
Also returning is the Joe C. Parkhurst Education Fund Silent Auction benefitting the Joe C. Parkhurst Education Fund and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
For information on the Dealer Expo and exhibitors who will be presenting 2005 products, see the Feb. 14, 2004 issue of Powersports Business magazine.