Dealer Expo 2006

Dealer Expo plans on Indy through 2011
Attendance at Advanstar’s Dealer Expo in Indianapolis has grown during six of the past eight years. Now that the decision has been made to keep the event in Indy through 2011, organizers say they have a better idea of what needs to be done to further attendee and exhibitor growth through the next five years.
Advanstar says 21,178 people attended the Dealer Expo in 2005, up 11 percent from the 19,566 people who attended in 2004.
Tracy Harris, vice president and general manager, Advanstar Powersports Trade Group, said the fundamental difference between ’04 and ’05 attendance was an investment made in a retail marketing team.
“Our job as a promoter, and responsibility to the exhibitor, is to get the most buyers we can get under one roof for three days,” Harris told Powersports Business. “The way you generally market a trade show is via direct mail. You do a ton of direct mailing and print advertising. In the summer of 2004, we brought a team on board of three full-time people to focus solely on attendee acquisition. Their job is to work with the attendee community, focusing more on the needs of the retailer — the key buyer for the exhibitor.”
Harris said each member of the team has a territory and spend their time calling on dealers to ask about their interest in the show, filling them in on some of the things Advanstar is doing, and encouraging them to attend.
Cities at the forefront of Advanstar’s plan to move the Dealer Expo were Houston and New Orleans. The question of whether to move the show was among those posed to exhibitors and dealer attendees last spring.
“We surveyed the exhibitor base — including current and noncurrent exhibitors — and did the same thing with the attendee community, surveying dealers who have attended the show in the last three years and dealers we knew who were not attending the show,” Harris said. “From the exhibitors’ perspective, we found there was sort of a 50/50 move/don’t move feeling. What we learned from our current exhibitor community was that the bulk of our long-time exhibitors were not that interested in moving, and that our newer customers were more interested in moving.”
Harris said that shouldn’t be a surprise. “If you’re a newer exhibitor to the show, it’s far more likely you’re in a location that wouldn’t be thought of as ‘traditional’ exhibit space. And, if you’ve been with the show for a long time, things appear just fine because you’re content in your space,” she said.
Concerning dealer attendees, the survey showed that dealers within a 500-mile radius of Indianapolis said they would support the show if moved, but would likely send less people. Why? “Because they said a show outside of that area would require them to fly,” Harris said.
“So we looked at the dealer population in a 500-mile radius of both New Orleans and Houston to see if there would be a big enough population to replace the buyers we would lose with a move, we wondered if we could attract even more buyers,” Harris said. “The answer to that was probably not. Since the propensity of this community is to drive rather than fly — I think 56% of attendees drive to the show — we would probably have fewer buyers come to the show.
“We did this exercise three years ago and came to the same conclusion. And, when we moved from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, the reason we picked Indianapolis was because we came to these conclusions.
“However, at that point in time, we thought Indianapolis had a big enough facility to accommodate the show, but there was huge growth, and we’re going to have to understand is how that may inconvenience exhibitors and attendees.”
Indianapolis’ construction schedule is a main factor in Advanstar’s plans during the next five years, and the promotion company plans to pick up another 30,000 to 50,000 sq. feet of space through construction of a new stadium being built across the street from the existing dome and convention center. Indianapolis made a commitment to the Colts that a new stadium would be ready by the 2008 football season.
Since the new stadium will be an independent structure, that building will be constructed without anything happening to the existing dome. However, once the new stadium is open, the city plans to implode the RCA Dome to make way for an expanded convention center. Then, the new stadium will be connected to the convention center via a tunnel.
“So there will be a few years of transition and construction — there’s no getting around that,” Harris said. “I think 2009 and 2010 are going to be transitional years with construction issue we’re going to have to address, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Harris said Advanstar is focusing on offering exhibitors and attendees better service in the future through technological offerings.
“One of the things we’re really focused on for 2007 is new software out there that’ll match buyers with sellers. Think of it like a dating service,” Harris said. “There’s also a lot of new technology out there related to lead generation, which will make it much easier for exhibitors to capture and follow up on leads in the future. It’ll allow you, a buyer, to go into the program and request meetings with specific companies, correspond back and forth confidentially, through the Web site.”
A new offering is The Full Throttle Club, something Harris said is modeled after programs held at other large trade shows. “There comes a time when it’s not all about quantity but about quality, so one of the things we’re doing is starting this program,” Harris said. “Think of it like the airlines’ frequent flyer clubs, geared towards the volume buyer community.
“The goal is to be able to tell our exhibitor base that we deliver the top buyers from all 50 states and from around the world,” Harris said. “Volume buyers — dealers — will get an invitation from us, and the club will serve breakfast, lunch and cocktails, and we’re looking at having televisions and private meeting rooms for them to use.
“It’s not an effort to exclude anyone buying at a lower volume, it’s an effort to recognize a community of buyers out there who are spending a significant amount of money.” psb

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