Reflections on Automechanika

The dust has settled and Automechanika Birmingham has been wrapped up for another year. Connections have been made, business is being done. It’s time to reflect on one of the biggest UK based events in the automotive calendar.

Our team attended all three days of Automechanika as delegates, with the goal to support existing clients, meet potential new ones, absorb new technologies and develop a clear steer on the direction of the UK automotive industry.

First glimpse at Automechanika 2017

Our initial impression and response (after Wow – this is BIG!), was how buoyant the automotive industry remains to be. Despite political uncertainty and the ever-present shadow of Brexit, there was a general upbeat, optimistic atmosphere and, typically British consensus to just get on with it. The aftermarket, in particularly, is thriving and dominated this year’s event. The automotive supply chain was also represented at Automechanika, but somehow seemed to lack cohesion and definition. I found myself wandering the isles of the Supply chain area, visiting the exhibitors but not coming away with too much information. A shining star within the Supply Chain was, unsurprisingly, the SMMT booth. Automechanika’s emphasis is definitely on aftermarket, and that’s great but personally, I’d like to see this balanced out somewhat in future events.

A new addition to this year’s event was the SMMT Technology Zone,  dedicated to, and displaying connected and digital automotive technology, electric vehicles and showcasing some of the roles Virtual Reality is beginning to play in the industry.

Virtual Reality in AutomotiveIf you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to don a VR headset and allow yourself the chance to experience this amazing technology and some of the possibilities therein, I strongly suggest you do so at the earliest chance you get. Where this technology will take us and the auto industry is simply mind boggling. Advice: keep an eye on VR and its continuing development.

The over-all appearance of most exhibitor stands was of a high quality, with most companies putting their best foot forward and making efforts to impress. Business meetings, networking and relationship building was the name of the game at most stands. My usual bugbears [exhibiting staff speaking on mobiles rather than to visitors, working on laptops and eating their lunch on the stands] were ever-present, but I’ve yet to visit an event where these bad exhibitor behaviours don’t happen!

As alternative propulsion systems and mobility are becoming a mainstream reality, many exhibitors were showing the way in to this emerging technology with various fully electric propulsion and vehicle connectivity solutions. The aftermarket is beginning to realise the impact this will have on the sector and are at least starting to consider ways to incorporate new technologies into their offerings. Not all have worked it out yet but we can see the fear is starting to set in, so solutions are needed! Watch this space is what we say.

 

The bigger companies including Denso, Delphi, ZF TRW, Valeo, Dayco and Schaeffler to name a few, we there in force, with huge stands and, like the well-oiled machines they are, all had great displays. Particularly impressive was Valeo’s technology, Bosch’s Virtual Reality headsets and Delphi’s Augmented Reality display.

Denso AutomechanikaThese companies were all using new technology for creating better visitor engagement, which is commendable. However, from a marketing perspective, they all, missed the mark somewhat by not building in the opportunity to capture visitor data and create further engagement post-show, with additional lead nurturing or outreach. Our details were taken by event staff in the format of business cards and written paper forms but so far, 2 weeks after the show, no further contact or engagement has come from any of these companies. It’s great to see this new tech making its way in to auto industry events but I do question the logic driving its use if not put towards better marketing.

Now, a quick rant. With all the exhibitors we visited at Automechanika, all the conversations, meetings and swapping of business cards, I’ve had only 3 emails from exhibitors acknowledging my visit and thanking me for coming to see them. 2 weeks have gone past and only 3 emails. No phone calls. Of the hundreds of contacts made, only 3 have followed up. Something there is very wrong. This is basic stuff. Regardless of who visits you, you need to follow up with them. Rant over (for now).

To conclude, Automechanika is one of the best automotive industry events in the UK. We feel it was well organised, well promoted and we tip our hats to the Automechanika Birmingham Team – as well as the SMMT. To be able to meet key decision makers, to have specific business conversations, to quickly asses the feasibility of any future engagement, to be able to undertake comparison shopping AND be a part of that comparison, all under one roof is what trade events like this are all about. In essence, the event is an extremely efficient way of positioning your company and brands and in creating awareness for your products and services. All the while, the opportunity to immerse yourself in the automotive industry and create sustainable commercial relationships abounds. We thoroughly recommend attending either as an exhibitor, to check out potential suppliers and products or just to see the direction the industry is moving in.

However, if you do make the decision to exhibit, make sure you connect with your visitors and follow up with them after the event. After all, this is what exhibiting is all about!

A final piece of advice: If you attend future events, wear very comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a considerable distance around the event. We’ll be taking pedometers and fitbits next year, as I’m sure the number of steps we made cumulatively offset the evenings’ social activities.

We work with Automechanika, as their recommended marketing agency, have developed a useful guide to assist exhibitors make the best of the event. Download the Automotive Trade Show Marketing Guide here. Planning for next year starts now for most seasoned exhibitors, so Contact CMB  and we’ll assist you through all the stages; pre-event, during the event and post-event follow ups, to make sure you maximise on the biggest automotive industry events in the UK calendar.

Roll on next year!