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National Farm Machinery Show Post-Mortem: Q&A with Andy Wilhelm

Just last month countless farmers and over 860 exhibitors invaded the Kentucky Exposition Center as Louisville, played host to the world’s largest indoor farm show: the National Farm Machinery Show.
Cutting-Edge Agriculture EquipmentCutting-edge industry technology and equipment were on display as well as more than a dozen seminars covering a range of agricultural topics over the course of the 4 day event. Randall-Reilly’s Industry Manager for Agriculture, Andy Wilhelm, was one of the many in attendance. Over the course of his eighteen year stint with Randall-Reilly Andy has worked with clients in both the construction and agriculture industries to help them better reach their audiences.
The past two years Andy has been focused on the agriculture industry and personally works with around 60 clients with data/digital to help them meet their goals. With his extensive experience he makes a wonderful resource to call on, so with that in mind I sat down and talked with Andy about his thoughts on the recent show and the agriculture industry in general.

A conversation with Andy Wilhelm.

Question: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Andy. Let’s jump right in. What are your feelings on the agriculture industry as a whole? Do you see any recent trends?

Answer: The last two or three years have been some tough years in the ag industry. There are some cycles that repeat themselves over time. So, it’s not necessarily an unexpected down turn, but right now I’d say we’re still in that downturn of the cycle.

Question: What are your feelings for agriculture in 2018?

Answer: From everything that I have heard, 2018 could be a relatively flat year for agriculture. But, in the end it all comes down to how many machines are bought; and for farmers to buy that equipment the commodity prices for things like wheat, soy, and corn have to be high enough that they can afford to reinvest into equipment.

Question: Is this downturn something we should be concerned about?

Answer: No, I don’t think anyone in the industry has any major fear or concerns about a downturn like this. The business is cyclical, so for the most part it’s something they understand and to some extent expect. It’s not something they like, but it’s just part of the cycle.

Question: You recently attended the National Farm Machinery Show. How do you think it went?

Answer: I think it went great. For us there’s a couple of ways we look at it. Was it a success for us as far as reaching our clients and prospects? And…how was the show from our clients’ standpoint? Were they able to make the connections they were after? The weather was a little rough this year, but overall the turnout was good.

Question: How was the show traffic? Did there seem to be a peak time?

Answer: Throughout the show mornings tended to be a little heavier in terms of traffic for booths and it seemed to drop off a little bit in the afternoons, but the overall attendance and traffic for the event was still really good.

Question: What’s the major advantage to attending a show like the National Farm Machinery Show?

Answer: By far the biggest advantage is having the opportunity to speak and meet with so many clients or prospects in one place. That’s something that just doesn’t happen every day so shows like this are extremely valuable.

Question: Was there anything that stood out to you that an exhibitor did or excelled at to generate interest or drive traffic to their booth?

Answer: I’m sure everyone put a great deal of work into promoting their presence before the show, but as far as the booths on the floor that seemed to have a buzz there was a couple things. Several booths had large screens and interactive videos playing to promote engagement, and those seemed pretty effective at drawing people in.

Question: So interactive displays and video displays seemed pretty effective in terms of pulling people in?

Answer: In general yes. People seemed to be drawn to the booths with those sorts of things. There were a few with some music playing and things like that too. Those areas tended to be a little louder so it could be a little harder to communicate, but it did the job of getting attention and drawing people in.

Question: Was there anything else you saw that seemed generate a lot of interest among the attendees?

Answer: One interesting thing I noticed was that a few booths were catering to families and children in particular. One booth even featured a mini-tractor pull and that really seemed to be driving a lot of traffic to their booth.

Question: On the flipside of that, was there some mistakes being made by exhibitors that were detrimental to their showing?

Answer: Well, I did see one major thing. This was a common mistake I saw several times, typically at the smaller booths with less personnel. It wouldn’t be uncommon to walk by and see the one or two people “working” the booth on their phones and completely oblivious to the traffic passing by.

Question: What kind of message does something like that send to potential prospects in the area?

Answer: Something like that basically tells people, “Hey I’m doing something more important than speaking with or prospecting the customers right here in front of me.” It’s such a huge opportunity to have the ability to meet and engage with that many people that sometimes unfortunately just gets wasted.

Question: When getting ready for next year’s National Farm Machinery Show or other industry shows like it, do you think a resource like EDA could be useful?

Answer: I think EDA could be a great tool for those getting ready for upcoming agriculture shows. Something like the ability to prospect or target based on location is extremely useful. If you have EDA you can hone in on farmers within a certain radius. Meaning if you are getting ready for a show, you can specifically identify and target those within say 150 mile radius of the show.

Question: Why would you specifically want to target those closer to the show?

Answer: Location, location, location. There’s simply a much higher likelihood of them attending compared to someone who lives say 900 miles away.

Question: So, using a resource like EDA could really help people get the word out and let their clients or prospects know about them attending a show?

Answer: Most definitely. It’s an odd thing, because ag shows are a little different than other industry shows in that there is no pre-registration. So, you don’t really know who’s coming to the show until they show up. And even then you don’t really know until they’re at your booth because there is no general registration either. That means resources that other industries may rely on, such as direct mailing or emailing pre-registrants, aren’t available when talking about ag shows. So, the ability to be able to tap into a resource such as EDA to find those most likely to attend a show is really invaluable.

What can we learn from this?

Talking with someone as close to the pulse of the industry like Andy really shed some light on some things I’d never thought of before.

  • Anytime you have the opportunity to get in front of your current or potential clients is a good thing. Face to face interactions are a luxury and you should do everything you can to take advantage of them.
  • Embracing a valuable data resource such as EDA to help target and reach those most likely to be in attendance can help you get the word out to those you want interact with and give you an edge over the competition.
  • Bring the right people with you and never forget to give people the attention they deserve. Anything you can do to attract more traffic to your booth such as interactive displays or giveaways is a plus, but it should never overshadow your main objective…personal interactions with current or potential clients.

Industry shows, such as the National Farm Machinery Show, offer us the rare opportunity to see new industry tech, cutting-edge equipment, and offer invaluable time with clients and prospects…all at the same venue. Take advantage of these unique events and get the most out of them embracing these simple takeaways.
I’d like to thank Andy Wilhelm for his time and insights on the subject. I hope this has been useful to you and we wish you all the best in your future show outings. Good luck!

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