Indy Update: Countdown to Dealer Expo 2010

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The editorial team is insisting I get this article done before Thanksgiving (and they call me a slave driver — ha!), but you won’t be reading it until January. Black Friday will have come and gone — in fact, all the holidays will have come and gone. Right now, you’re starting to pick up the pieces and get yourself refocused on your business.

Great!

That must mean you’re thinking seriously about how you’re going to get ready for Dealer Expo in February. After all, it’s just six weeks away. (And those of you who were hoping that being registered means you’re good to go, guess again.)

Dealer Expo is the largest trade show in the powersports market (and one of the top 50 in the U.S.). It’s HUGE! I don’t think you could actually visit with every exhibitor, attend every seminar, go to every event — let alone sleep, eat and breathe — in the four days the show is open.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Tracy! I don’t want to do all that!”

Uh-uh. Nor should you. But what do you want to accomplish? What is critical for your business this coming year? Lower prices? New equipment? Employee training?

You need a game plan. Before you walk out the door, headed for the show, you need to know what your goals are and what you need to see and do at the show. Yes, now, or you’ll end up walking around in circles and only getting half the things done that you could!

“Oh, great,” you say. “You sound like my old high school counselor, who was always prodding me to set goals. So, what exactly do you mean by a game plan?”

Lucky for you (and me), our Attendee Team has put together a program called R.I.D.E. that will help you develop goals and get more from the show this year.

So, yeah, the name’s a little cute — but it does help you (and me) remember the steps you really should complete before February 15. So, here we go…

“R” is for register, research and relax.

Register everyone. You may need to make last-minute changes on who’s going and who’s staying, so get yourself, your staff and other key people signed up now. It costs nothing, and you’ll avoid on-site registration congestion and fees by registering your entire team in advance.

“Ha! Already done.” OK, how about the next extremely important step?

Research opportunities and figure out what you need from Dealer Expo. This is a good one, because you can get it done now in advance — or waste half a day or more at the show trying to figure it out.

  • Products: Make a list of products your customers might want. Make a list of the products that aren’t working. What’s your key criteria: price, margin, quality or availability?
  • Operations: Talk to sales and service to learn their ideas for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Make a list of the tools, equipment and services that would improve your business.
  • Education: For your business, your team and yourself, education is a vital tool. Make a list of the skills that need sharpening and who would benefit from one or more of the many programs offered at Dealer Expo.
  • Face2Face: Make a list of issues that have been on your mind. This is an opportunity to sit down, ask questions and gather valuable information from vendors, distributors and peers.
  • Awareness: Come to Dealer Expo ready to gain from your industry!

The more you know, the better returns you can expect from the show. And remember to relax — it ain’t rocket science!

“I” is for invest, involve and inquire.

How will you invest your resources? You’ve figured out your priorities — now figure out how to get it all done. Review your lists (products, operations, education, Face2Face) to figure out how much time you need. Time is money — so decide which items are most important for your business.

Involve your staff. It’ll take a load off you and help them better understand that Dealer Expo is an important tool in your business’ success. There are reservations to be made (hotel, air, restaurants); appointments with key people to organize and a schedule to be set. Where and when does each person need to be? What else can they accomplish coming and going?

Need help? Inquire! As part of the R.I.D.E. program, there are worksheets available to help organize your planning. (They should be online, or you can call Scott Hartwick and Toni Lee for fax and snail mail.) Remember — we put together the Attendee Team specifically to assist you with show planning and to help improve your show results. This program is an extension of that team and is available 24/7 (unlike the staff, who likes to go home to catch up with family and such). If you have questions or want clarification about anything regarding the show, the Attendee Team is still at the other end of a phone line (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST), ready to talk and provide any insight they can.

“D” is for develop, decide and discover.

You wouldn’t hit the road for a long trip without doing some basic maintenance, plotting your course and figuring out where you can stay, right? So, develop a checklist, map out the show and schedule your team.

Decide which vendors you need to see, in what order and how long for each. Decide who goes where and when (and why).

For example, there are 11 specialty pavilions at the show this year — some of them probably match the various areas of your shop. Decide if you want your service manager to tackle the Tools & Equipment Pavilion, your parts guy the Helmets Pavilion and the Tires & Wheels Pavilion, and your bookkeeper/accountant the Business Services Pavilion. By dividing up your team like this, you know they’re doing a really thorough job and you’re getting the most value from the show.

Don’t forget to budget some time to just wander — you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover! This is truly when you’ll increase your understanding and awareness of what’s going on in the industry — recent trends, new products, competitive changes, potentially harmful issues on the horizon, and more.

“E” is for execute, evaluate and exercise.

There are people who are great planners and organizers. They don’t even need the first three steps of R.I.D.E., but when they get to show, they’re distracted by everything going on. Then there are people who are great at getting things done. They probably skim through those first steps, but get them to the show, and they’ll go, go, go (kinda like the Energizer bunny). Neither one really gets the full value from the show.

But as a forward-thinking retailer (and loyal Dealernews reader), you’re going to research what you need to learn, invest time, staff and money in reaching the show and develop a plan to get everything done. You’ll be ready to execute and have a very successful show!

“I am?” You are. I’m sure of it. (Otherwise you would have stopped reading these articles long ago.)

Don’t get sidetracked. Meet with your team once or twice a day — at lunch, after the show closes, before it opens — whenever is best for the team. Talk about what you’ve learned, assess what still needs to be done and make any adjustments you need to meet your goals. You only have the time you allotted for the show (one day, four days, whatever), and once you leave, it’s over. Make sure you don’t miss addressing anything critical to business.

(Pay careful attention to this next-to-last bit — it may be the most important tip.)

Evaluate your trip. You’ll be back at the shop. You’ll be tired and trying to catch up on a million little things that came up since you left for the show. Still, take the time to evaluate your trip — what was learned and what was gained, and how to use it all. By the way, this is another really good reason to have a team at the show; each person can contribute to the show wrap-up. Not only will it lighten the load, but you’ll get different perspectives — which can often be worth as much as or more than the information itself. Don’t let what you’ve gained drift away. Put it to use ASAP.

Finally: Exercise this opportunity to make a real difference in your business this year. It’s all here. With an advance game plan, your trip to Dealer Expo can be the most rewarding and beneficial effort you’ll make for your business all year.

It’s up to you to make the most of it all, so R.I.D.E.!

This story originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Dealernews.