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Wed, Jan 25, 2012

Marketing At The 2012 LSA U.S. Sport Aviation Expo

As Usual, Some Do It Better Than Others

By David Juwel

Prior to the start of the LSA Expo this year, I wrote an article about ways to improve your presentation at the show. While at the show I evaluated the various booths and product presentations to see if there was any improvement. The fascinating thing that I observed was that some vendors took my articles to heart and really improved their public presentations. Contrariwise, I also observed some of the worst sales activities possible. The contrast was amazing.

 I simply can't imagine spending the fees for the show and then allowing your booth to become the epitome of an anti-sales environment. One company was introducing a new product, and it appeared to be an excellent product. I stood at their booth for twenty minutes and watched numerous patrons look at it and discuss among themselves what they were seeing. Sounds great doesn't it? The only problem was that there were no company representatives at the booth for the entire time I watched. I stopped at one booth where two representatives were reading books. I said hello and one said hello back. Neither of them put their books down, or stood up to talk to me. I simply walked away. One booth had a limited number of products displayed, but didn’t have a representative present for almost the whole show. At another booth there was a provocatively dressed girl sitting on the display table. She was wearing a t-shirt that said, "Remove before flight." Nobody else was at the booth. This wasn't a high ticket item, it didn't require a model, and the patrons that stopped at the booth spent most of their time talking to her instead of examining the product. I observed another booth with a very expensive layout. One of the senior managers was selling his heart out at the airplane while four other sales people sat around a canopy table hanger flying. When i approached, nobody even said hello. The only thing missing was a deck of cards!

The gates of the event opened at 0800 hrs. In the merchandise building, nobody had opened up yet. At 0915 hrs, twenty-one of the booths were still unattended. At 1000 hrs, eight of the booths were still unattended. This occurred every day. You know my feelings about this; if the public can be there at 8:00 A.M., so should the sales people!

And I saw many more equally unprofessional activities occurring throughout the event. I'll tell you, if there is one thing I can't stand, its having to beg sales people to do their job so I can give them money. Don't you just hate that? But let's not dwell any further on the negative. Let me tell you about some of the positive things I saw.

I saw sales people and company representatives dressed in professional, easily identifiable corporate attire instead of plain Levi's and sneakers. I observed upgrades in interior upholstery, open cockpit planes with multiple choice canopies, planes that can carry bigger people, electric innovations, a tow vehicle innovation, better aircraft displays, and sales people that were more attentive. This was very encouraging to me because I know that success will follow the upgrades, innovations, and attentiveness.

Now let me tell you about two of the best presenters that I saw at the show. One was Pipistrel aircraft, and the other was Revo Trikes.

Pipistrel Virus Motorglider

Pipistrel aircraft had an excellent display. They had aircraft available for demonstration flights and potential customer flights. They had a representative at their booth prior to the gates opening. He was dressing up the display aircraft and was immediately available for questions. One morning, at precisely 8:00 A.M., I stepped inside their display area and I was immediately approached with an offer of assistance.  The majority of the competition's representatives hadn't even shown up at the airport yet. If you want to buy an aircraft, get there early. You'll quickly be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. What's that old saying about the early bird gets the worm? Brochures were amply available. Sales assistance was immediately available, you didn't have to search them out or interrupt their hanger flying. The area was clean and neat. The sales manager showed me a program where they have the ability to follow-up on every contact they make at the show. This is a critical aspect of their operation and one that will enable them to fill their sales pipeline. I was impressed. They have an excellent product and I wish them the best of success.

Revo Trike

The other company was Revo Trikes. This is a company that really has their act together. They arrive at a show in a self-contained trailer with a billboard size sign on it. Neat, clean and professionally done. They pull their trikes out of it, set them up, dress them up, and immediately start selling. They have materials, DVD's, and every answer you're looking for about their genre of flight. In fact, this company is a trend setter. They have taken the trike and changed it into a near fixed-wing experience. No longer is trike flying limited to early morning and early evening flying. Because their trike has a 10 lb per square foot wing loading (which is comparable to fixed wings), it can fly all day long and it's not as susceptible to turbulence. As proof, one of the sales representatives (Todd Halver) flew his trike solo with no ground crew, from North Carolina to Sebring (600 miles). Cruising at 85 mph, it took him 7.75 hrs to make the flight. Larry Mednick, Chief Designer at the company, recently flew a group of trikes from Tampa to Oshkosh (round-trip) to attend the EAA AirVenture event. These people document real world experiences and make it part of their sales presentation. They offer rides and give demonstration flights. When some of the ultralights are grounded due to the wind components, they're still flying. Their aircraft is truly the motorcycle of the air. Their staff manifests a lot of enthusiasm which draws people in. They have numerous videos on YouTube and their website. It's hard for me to walk past their booth for all the sales activity I observe. It makes this old sales manager shiver with nostalgia. And when the day is over, they quietly pack their equipment back into their trailer and lock it up safe and secure until the next day. Neat, efficient and professional.

Does any of this marketing stuff work? I asked one of the company managers. They stated that doing all of the professional things they do when they market, they have sold as many as seven aircraft in a single month. If you want to increase your sales, look around the site when you attend a fly-in. Look to see who is doing benchmark activities, and then simply emulate them.

FMI: Tell Us Your Experiences

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