Thursday, May 10, 2018
In his latest blog, Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd., looks forward to visiting a landmark UK-based trade show for the first time.
Next week (16-17 May) Vertikal Days takes place at a new venue at Donington Park in Leicestershire. Also for the first time, Rope and Sling Specialists (RSS) will be in the show’s aisles, and I wanted to take an opportunity to share (some of) our reasons for attending and our strategy for getting the most out of the event, indeed, any trade show.
I’ve monitored Vertikal Days from afar for many years. It had something of a spiritual home at the Haydock Park racecourse before moving to the Silverstone circuit, where it was held last year. There are pros and cons for a show changing venue but it can certainly keep an event fresh with a new audience perhaps drawn to a different venue. (Honestly, timing has more to do with our attendance.) Fittingly, the show’s logo features a glowing sunshine behind the lettering, which I guess captures the essence of a largely outdoor fair, but it’s also symbolic of the new dawns and opportunities people go to such events to discover.
Vertikal Days has grown year on year, attracting buyers and end users from the rental sector, major contractors, utility companies, local authorities, and more. For rental companies, fleet owners, users or lifting professionals, it offers an unobstructed view of the industry’s latest products. As the organisers say, it is a specialist event with its core centred firmly on lifting and access equipment. While the latter sector isn’t of real interest to RSS, the majority of exhibitors and visitors are likely to be folks we want to network and engage with—and learn from.
So why now?
It’s an important question to ask, and one that all businesses should put to themselves before considering participation in a show. After all, if a company has never attended before, why should they ever? For us it was simple; we always outline our core short- and long-term objectives, and assess whether activity at a show (in this case, Vertikal Days), first, aligns with those goals and, second, will help us achieve them. The answers to both questions should be ‘yes’ if a company is going to invest time and money on participation.
A starting point for many prospective trade show attendees is the exhibitors. Alan Varney, our operations director, who will visit the event with me, pored over the list of vendors at this year’s event, which includes providers of all kinds of cranes, such as mobiles, crawlers, minis, spiders, towers, loaders, and others. We are keen to open dialogue with these industry professionals, particularly as we are endeavouring to raise further the percentage of business gained from mobile crane inspections, for example.
Say, 25% of our current revenue is generated by Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and other specialist testing / inspection activity. We test and inspect all types of cranes and rigging gear, but we also carry out specialist tests on items used for the nuclear or construction sectors. Further diversification will inevitably lead to greater demand. Additionally, as customers place repeat business and we earn work via word of mouth, we must ensure we are equipped to respond to enquiries. Also remember that we’re looking to expand on services related to heavy lifting.
Networking at Vertikal Days can only help us succeed in these areas.
As a rigger gear supplier, we’re also interested in sampling the wares of the show’s component suppliers. Alan notes that safety equipment training centres, parts and service suppliers, accessories manufacturers, and trade associations will be among tabletop exhibitors. It’ll be interesting to compare notes on the products and services that other companies are pushing. All trade events provide an opportunity to gather intelligence and it might be that there are trends or forecasts that other members of the Vertikal Days community have detected before us. Conversely, we’ll be happy to share insights on what we feel is around the next corner.
We certainly don’t intend to ‘suitcase’ our way around the show and I’d urge others to avoid that temptation. By that I mean it isn’t etiquette to visit those who’ve spent money to exhibit and present a product or service to them. Likewise, visitors won’t appreciate being handed brochures or stopped to hear sales pitches. That’s not how business is done at trade events, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s about networking, exchanging information and exploring astute ways to spend, and make, money. If we generate a tangible lead or two out of the experience that will be a bonus.
We’ll also be making notes of what we like and don’t like about exhibitors’ stands so we can apply that to our booth at this year’s LiftEx, where we’ll exhibit for the second time.
A lot of trade show attendees limit their options by focussing too narrowly on the time they spend on an exhibitor’s stand. Alan and I have found that coffee breaks, receptions, functions, and small talk in the aisles have yielded equally good opportunities. Go into these extra curricular sessions open minded. It’s amazing who you can find yourself stood next to in a queue for refreshments or the common ground one can share with the group of people at the same table who happen to have a collective interest in below-the-hook equipment.
If we bump into anyone looking for a mobile crane inspection or heavy lift rigging gear contact, needless to say we’ll seize the moment.
I always say to people, in this industry and others, to consider the size of a trade event and the challenges and opportunities it creates. Not all shows are alike and it takes a different approach to work a small business expo in a roadside hotel versus a major, international event that sprawls across multiple halls and outside areas of a fairground. Regular readers of this blog will remember our trip to Munich a couple of years ago, where the giant construction trade show, Bauma, took place in the Bavarian capital. Alan and I had to devise a battle plan to cover miles (literally) of aisles and ensure valuable time wasn’t wasted navigating irrelevant halls.
Vertikal Days is different, again. There’ll be big equipment on show, but we expect to get around it in a timely fashion. It’s still important to plan, however. We’ve earmarked a number of stands to prioritise and arranged other meetings over coffee in between. I’m a big advocate for remaining flexible at shows; one can’t always tell when an opening will present itself, but at least a strategy marked ‘Plan A’ should be put together in advance. I’ve had too many conversations with people at after-hours networking events at shows who’ve said they wished they’d have achieved more during the day. Such regrets can usually be attributed to the lack of a plan.
Alan and I are also encouraged by the organisers of Vertikal Days—the Vertikal Press. We receive their printed journal on a regular basis and it’s clear the publishers are committed to our marketplace. I have nothing against anyone of an enterprising nature but I’ve heard good things about media companies’ crane-related events, which hasn’t always been the case when broader conference providers and others who aren’t stakeholders in the industry have tried to capitalise on a sector that embraces live content and exhibitions.
If you’re attending Vertikal Days, let’s meet up. Fingers crossed the sun is shining!
Thank you for reading.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd