News Article

Making An Exhibition Of Yourself

Getting out there and being noticed is by far a sensitive operation for a company with many factors to be considered. Whether it be corporate branding PR promoting or just plain old fashioned networking all these things are highly sensitive elements when it comes to generating new or sustaining existing business. This is why strategic exhibitions can be a place of all things to all people. However it would appear there IS an art to working a show after all to get the best return on your invested time and money. Mike Smyth – S2K Chairman, JEMI Director gives a personal account on just how effective an exhibition is as a results generating platform.

It's the beginning of the New Year and I am on a plane to Korea where I will attend Semicon Korea, a large semiconductor exhibition. However, is this the best use of my time? Nowadays if customers want information they go on the web of course, and if they want to meet you they bring you into their plant for a meeting. So what is the point of spending a vast sum of money on an exhibition stand that gets torn down again after 3 days? It all seems very inefficient! So then are there really any invaluable benefits in going to all the trouble of exhibiting or attending an exhibition?

First Day At The Show
An initial point to note - this is a busy show for us - our booth is not very big and is in the smallest hall, but this actually helps. The hall has the best buzz and the booth has customers on it continually, often forcing meetings out onto the aisle which stops (or at least slows down) traffic and draws people in. There are several lengthy discussions about serious projects held each day; perhaps these meetings could have been arranged at the fab site, but it suits both supplier, company and fab to do it this way, enabling our company to see many customers in a short time, and enabling the fab to see several potential suppliers on one visit. It is also a pleasant and relaxed environment that lets the meeting flow. At Semicon Europa, our very experienced sales manager actually has customers queuing patiently to see him when his current meeting concludes - extremely efficient!.

An Ode To Marketing Etiquett
As there is cover from local sales personnel, I can take a tour of the show. Mainly thanks to large teams of engineers from nearby fabs, particularly Samsung, it is well attended and has an optimistic air. As the marketing gets more refined and sophisticated in what is now a mature industry, the mission statements and straplines on most major companies booths reflect this. Variations on ‘ Technology inspiring OUR future' and ‘Leading (fill in the blank) technology into 45nm and beyond' are all over the place and try to be bold and arresting but end up seeming bland and wishy washy. Probably due to local influence, some statements are much less open to misunderstanding, with my personal favourites as follows -

‘World's Best People, World's Best Products, World's Best Company'
Let's face it if you have those type of people and products you can't help having the World's Best Company.

Mind you, I think it is beaten into second place by the less long-winded

‘We are the best!'
And because we are the best, we are using an exclamation mark! You don't get to be the best by being shy! No way!

The really big players take different approaches, some attend, some set up rooms in the conference hotel, and some are absent. The approach may be different for geographically different shows, and as Semicon Korea is all about Korea, the concentrated nature of the target fabs can be accommodated by each method - whilst for a more broadly covering show like Europa, some US companies may attend (although they are not at Korea) so that they can reach all the European countries plus Middle Eastern and Russian manufacturers, thus saving multiple visits to areas with different languages, currency and cultures.

Company Cultures Mix
For smaller companies, with many of the larger systems manufacturers as customers for their materials or components, the large shows are great. It is quite simple to visit all customer stands present, and organise a drinks reception on their own stand to create a good corporate profile event and provide positive account management in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere - new products and capabilities can be presented at some length without the pressure of a big fab-based roadshow. The stress level drops effectively for both sides - fab and supplier. Access to senior executives is available which would not be achievable in the target customer site - when the high level corporate management attend these shows, they are actively seeking to connect directly with customers, and this means they are in transmit mode which can mean valuable face time for a key supplier if executed well. I had a useful conversation with the President of a company which gave an opportunity to briefly pitch an idea to him - this would not have occurred on any of his global sites, as the schedule he follows has no windows for speculative chats, but on the booth it worked.

As my company is recruiting for an experienced sales manager to live in the AsiaPacific area and run the sales and customer support teams out here, I also get a chance to do some interviewing of a few potential candidates - again, the pace and layout of a large exhibition enables this to take place quite discreetly and effectively. Although, due to current buoyant market conditions, everyone is pretty settled, so we are still looking.

Eyeing The Opposition
Last (and least), it is a place to catch up on competitor developments in our area - this is a two-way street and we have a visit from the President of one of our competitors trying to prise information and maybe steal our agent in the region from us; meanwhile one of our people is on his booth picking up information on their new systems.

All part of the PR Platform
Shows need to work alongside other marketing elements - advertising, mailshots, publishing technical papers, user meetings. Targeted specialist seminars are also more predetermined to have a high concentration of target market personnel. However, the overall verdict is that this large industry show is a worthwhile and cost-effective way to operate marketing, selling and customer contact/account management activities, and it also updates market information with recruitment thrown in. It is for me anyway - perhaps you have a different experience, got upset with other companies thinking they are the best or to just want to say hello!

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