Staying ahead of the curvePosted on Written by Reagan Haynes
IBEX is the place to gauge what’s in, what’s out and what’s going to move product more efficiently
Steve Nelson, global product manager for Veethree Sales, was at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference a few years ago when he picked up on a trend: Many of the boatbuilders who were potential buyers of his dashboard instrumentation were going for a retro look.
When Nelson returned from IBEX he began working with his colleagues to design a line to complement that throwback feel. “We were able to launch a product with styling in that direction, which has sold very well,” he says.
IBEX, he says, is a “good place to get all the customers in one place, show new products and see where they’re going next. We are always interested in seeing what our competitors are doing, as well as what the OEMs are doing and what trends are happening.”
IBEX will be held Oct. 2-4 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. It’s a crucial show, says Jason Pajonk-Taylor, president of Taylor Made Products. “Aside from METS in Amsterdam, it’s the largest component-only trade show,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for the aftermarket side to have all the industry stakeholders [in] one place.”
The three-day show gives Pajonk-Taylor the opportunity to not only showcase products but also to see what cutting-edge products are coming down the line. “It’s an opportunity for aftermarket companies to showcase to dealers and distributors,” he says. “It’s terrific for networking, whether you’re on the OEM or aftermarket side. You get to see all the OEM products that will be coming through the channels for the next few years.”
It’s not just the convenience of IBEX that appeals to Pajonk-Taylor. “At consumer shows the dealers really want to be selling boats, and as component manufacturers we want them to be selling boats,” he says. “So at Miami or Boston or Fort Lauderdale, we want them selling boats. I don’t want to be training them on new products. IBEX provides an opportunity where that dynamic isn’t there.”
Michele Goldsmith, who is in charge of marketing for Mastervolt and is on the IBEX planning committee, says convenience is a large factor. “It’s one of the main venues for debuting new products for the season,” Goldsmith says. “For builders, it’s a chance to see across multiple suppliers what’s new. It’s one plane ride, one or two days, and they get to see what’s new for the entire industry in North America.”
A wealth of learning
It’s important for industry players to gather as an industry, not only for networking but also as a community, Goldsmith says. And beyond that “it’s one of the premier venues for education,” she adds. For example, the American Boat and Yacht Council and the National Marine Manufacturers Association worked with the National Marine Electronics Association to again hold ConnectFest, Goldsmith says. ConnectFest demonstrates techniques for networking a range of marine products using a single NMEA 2000 “backbone.”
The groups worked together to produce a “well-rounded education program for those building boats and selling products,” Goldsmith says. “I applaud IBEX for staying ahead of the curve. The virtual booths, the social media lounge, the video contest — all those things are pushing the show forward and keeping it current and relevant.”
Aftermarket dealers and distributors can get questions answered by the engineers and design teams that created the products being showcased, Goldsmith says. “To introduce a whole new line of products from our BEP brand, some of our team from New Zealand is actually coming over. They’re not going to go to Joe’s boat shop, but if Joe happens to be at IBEX he’ll have a chance to talk with the people who designed those actual products.
“When you have to attend multiple shows in multiple venues, you only get a piece of the puzzle,” Goldsmith says. “IBEX is one umbrella and very broad. And the more fragmentation you have, the more time and money it costs.”
NMMA president Thom Dammrich agrees that having technical people on hand to answer questions is invaluable for dealers. “The manufacturers of parts and accessories don’t just bring their marketing people. They bring their engineers and designers, so there’s an opportunity to learn from the people who design and build all these parts,” Dammrich says. “That’s something you just can’t get anywhere else. Very few people are going to be able to travel to factories and talk to the engineers and designers.”
All-day preconference workshops will take place Oct. 1. The exhibit hall will be open Tuesday through Thursday and will feature seminars, exhibitor workshops and demonstrations. The social media lounge also will be operating during exhibit hall hours in Hall B. The Industry Awards Breakfast is scheduled for Tuesday from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. in Ballroom C, and an opening-night party will be held at 6:30 p.m.
A Louisville red carpet
The exhibition center is offering all IBEX attendees a Very Important Badge, a special discount program for show participants to use while they’re in Louisville. More than 70 local establishments, from restaurants to spas, are participating. (They are listed at www.gotolouisville.com). For example, Volare Ristorante is offering show-goers half off bottles of wine and the “small plates” menu in the bar and lounge area. Makers Mark Bourbon House & Lounge is offering 25 percent off lunches and 10 percent off dinners.
Kentucky Show — a live performance venue — and Comedy Caravan are offering “buy one, get one free” specials on tickets. An independent bookstore, A Reader’s Corner, is discounting newly released books by 20 percent. The Actors Theatre of Louisville, a Tony Award-winning theater, is offering $20 tickets to any performance.
The networking opportunities at IBEX are invaluable, social marketing guru Gaspare Marturano says. “This is one of the places you can have face-to-face conversations with people,” he says. “Sitting back and saying it’s just another show is not going to get you anywhere. You get to see what competitors are doing, you’re seeing new products, and it’s a great opportunity … to network.”
The value of face time at trade shows is immeasurable, adds IBEX marketing director Anne Dunbar. “Just by walking in the door you’re guaranteed to leave with something,” she says. “You’d have to stand in your booth with a bag over your head to not come out with an invaluable amount of information. If people don’t get that, they’re missing such an opportunity.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.