Expo: Good for Everybody?

© 2001 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2001
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 36-39

Expo: Good for Everybody?

By Tom Wadsworth


Dealers travel hundreds of miles to attend. Manufacturers invest tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, in exhibits, dinners, parties, promotion, and personnel. To a dealer, it might seem that all 150 exhibitors gain a similar benefit from exhibiting, and that all should be there.

In reality, manufacturers have widely varying reasons for exhibiting at Expo, and each one yields widely varying returns on their overall Expo investment.

One exhibitor generates hundreds of sales at the show, while another won’t sell a single product. One manufacturer gains dozens of leads for new distributors, another is lucky to find one new dealer from the show, while others go to the show primarily to meet with their current customers.

Everyone, however, participates in the friendly activity of scouting out the competition, seeing the latest new products, and gathering information on "the other guy."

For this story, we spoke to key personnel at seven different companies that typically exhibit at Expo. These companies represent a healthy range of our industry’s products: sectional doors, rolling doors, operators, hardware, and supplies.

Two of these companies, Amarr and Overhead Door, did not exhibit this year. This story tells why they didn’t, and why the others did.

Amarr Garage Doors
Richard Brenner, President
Products: Commercial and Residential Garage Doors
Booth: Did not exhibit in 2001

"We exhibit for three reasons. One is to exhibit new products, the second is to see our old customers, and the third is to meet and gain new customers.

"We spend six figures exhibiting and attending the show, and we evaluate the success of our exhibit at every type of show. It was clear that we were not getting a fair return on our investment at Expo, particularly when the event was held in the smaller cities such as Atlantic City. So, we decided to not exhibit in a typical way this year. Even though we didn't have a booth, we had 10 people at Expo, and we threw a party for our dealers.

"We are excited to be showing again next year in Nashville, and Amarr fully supports IDA and its mission.

"A couple years ago, DASMA passed a resolution about Expo. It wasn't worded very well, but in essence, it recommended having a trade show every other year. In the off years, we recommended holding a major education event. We thought that would bring better value to the exhibitors and to the dealers. I still think that's the way to go."

Chamberlain Professional Products
Ken Roehl, Vice President of Marketing
Products: Commercial and Residential Door and Gate Openers, Telephone Entry and Access Control Products
Booth: 50’ x 80’

"We're very fortunate to do business with a lot of people who attend Expo, from small installing dealers to the large distributors and national accounts. For us, the show is a selling opportunity. We generate a lot of sales at the show by offering contests, incentives, and premiums.

"As we don't have a large dealer meeting every year, the IDA Expo is our one time annually to show new products, spend quality time and say thanks to our customers, and generate sales. We also exhibit at FenceTech and at three International Security Conferences, and a number of smaller shows.

"This year, we introduced a number of great new products at Expo. We work hard all year to have new products ready for that show. Whether it's our residential or commercial operators, gate openers, or telephone entry systems, our goal is to have something new to show in each of those product categories.

"Besides our exhibit, we also support the training aspect of Expo. This year, we had Ed Bellock assist with IDEA's Train the Trainer program, and Barb Kelkhoff helped present a seminar on UL 325. We believe it's important to support the industry."

Cornell Iron Works
Michael Simon, Vice President
Products: Rolling Door Products
Booth: 10’ x 20’

"The main reason we go to Expo is to support our distributors. It's a good opportunity to get a group of them together and discuss common issues. It's a far more cost-effective approach than setting up a regional meeting. In lieu of formal meetings this year, we opted to entertain many of these customers. It is a great chance to build on existing relationships in a very relaxed environment.

"The main reason we had a smaller booth this year is because we expected Atlantic City to attract more of a regional audience. Few of our distributors attended from west of the Mississippi.

"Right now, we have a very solid distributor base. We did get a couple good leads for new distribution this year in some smaller U.S. markets, but that wasn't our main goal for being there. Even so, we were pleased to make several international contacts at this year's show.

"Besides that, the show is also a great opportunity to see what our competitors are doing. I don't know if everyone brings out their latest products at the show; I think companies are conscious about ‘tipping their hand’ to competitors."

Garaga, Inc.
Michel Gendreau, President
Products: Commercial and Residential Garage Doors
Booth: 20’ x 30’

"The primary benefit is to meet our existing customers and potential new customers. Both are important to us. It's a good place to show potential dealers what we offer and what we can do for them.

"Since we're a Canadian company, we find the Expo to be a good place to meet U.S. and Canadian customers, as well as overseas customers and suppliers. We don't have a big show like this in Canada.

"When Expo is held so far away from our market, such as in Las Vegas or California, it's less helpful to us. When it's so far away, we will continue to have an exhibit, but it will probably be a smaller booth. I believe it's important to support the industry

"The show also gives our employees a chance to see what's happening in the industry. This year, since the show was close to us, we had about 25 employees attend. They were primarily sales and marketing, customer service employees, as well as some management employees.

"It’s a big expense, but who can do something these days without spending money?"

Murphy Industries
Inez Van Meter, Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Products: Cables
Booth: 20’ x 30’

"Our continual presence at the Expos demonstrates our commitment to the garage door industry. Through our participation, we gain new customers, we build relationships, and we provide helpful product and safety information. Our booth is also a forum where dealers and installers can ask questions and help us formulate new ideas to better serve our customers.

"Over the many years of our exhibiting at Expo, we have developed a growing list of faithful Murphy customers from coast to coast. By making one annual trip to a single location, Expo gives us an unparalleled opportunity to see dozens and dozens of people from many market areas. We consider it to be cost-effective marketing tool and an essential part of our commitment to the industry."

John Schram, Sales Manager
Products: Garage Door Hardware and Operators
Booth: 30’ x 40’

"The major benefits we get from the show are sales and sales leads for potential business from dealers and manufacturers. Sales efforts are always more effective when you can talk to people face-to-face instead of over the phone. There’s an increased level of trust.

"For us, it’s a great opportunity to go to one building and talk to potential customers from all over the world. It’s a lot harder to travel to 20 different countries than to go into one room and find customers from those countries. We always pick up international business from Expo. From the perspective of international sales, the show is very cost effective.

"We came away this year with an excellent quantity of sales, and we always do. We had a good-sized booth and about 18-20 people attending. Yet, our sales in the booth have always paid for the show."

Overhead Door Corporation
Sandy Wilson, Vice President of Marketing
Products: Commercial and Residential Garage Doors, Openers, and Rolling Doors
Booth: Did not exhibit in 2001

"Overhead Door Corporation has participated in the Expo for years and continued to do so after the acquisition of the Genie Company. We then combined the two show booths into one. This year the timing of the Expo fell on top of our National Distributor meeting where we needed the Overhead Door portion of the booth."

LiftMaster Photo Caption:
All-Out Effort: The Chamberlain Professional Products display, at 50’ x 80’, was the largest exhibit at Expo 2001. Since nearly every attendee is a potential LiftMaster customer, Chamberlain works to maximize the benefits of Expo.

Marantec Photo Caption:
150 Exhibitors Extraordinaire: The show attracted a wide array of manufacturers, such as those shown here: Marantec (garage door opener products), Clopay (commercial and residential garage doors), Elero (supplier of gear motors, box motors, and tubular motors), and Bradley (producer of rollformers and manufacturing equipment).