Our client Koh Young publiced an article in a magazine called "Circuits Assembly" about Technology Truck Tours: The New Alternative to Trade Shows?
As the electronics manufacturing industry worldwide has changed dramatically, marketers of OEM capital equipment have changed their strategies and methodologies. Successful marketers have learned to think outside the box – and in some cases, even outside the exhibit hall.
Exhibiting at trade shows has become an increasingly costly proposition
It’s no secret that exhibiting at trade shows has become an increasingly costly proposition, even cost-prohibitive for some, and as show sizes have diminished, so has trade show attendance, making trade show exhibiting a less rewarding marketing tool for the equipment manufacturer.
It's not easy to get the right people at your booth during the trade show
It’s not just the cost per square foot of exhibit space, but the tight economy that is a big part of the problem. Travel budgets have been slashed. People who are involved in the purchase of capital equipment within a company (and that circle is growing ever larger), can’t always get to a show to see and evaluate the equipment they may need. OEMs, conversely, also know that to effectively make a sale, the prospect’s engineers really need to see the actual machine up close, watch it demonstrated, and examine the technology in real time.
Visiting a website is not enough, live communication is very important
“Visiting a web site isn’t enough to learn about technology that you’re going to pay tens of thousands for,” says Andre’ Myny, general manager, Koh Young Europe, the Korea-headquartered global manufacturer of automated inspection equipment for electronics manufacturing. “And if enough of the right people can’t evaluate the equipment first-hand, they can’t make a truly informed decision. They might end up purchasing less-appropriate solutions from the wrong vendor. It’s only when they know all the facts that they can invest in the right technology solution for the job. In today’s electronics industry, the wrong decision can be terribly costly, not only in terms of a technology investment, but in terms of competitive standing and the ability to satisfy customer quality and throughput volume requirements.”
Organizing seminars was the first step to a truck tour
At a previous company, Myny conceived the idea that if engineers couldn’t get out to get the knowledge they needed, then it was the OEM’s responsibility to bring the knowledge to them. “We held technology tours, where we would schedule one or two-day free seminars in hotels in various cities over a certain time span of a couple of months. Attendance was free and we served a catered lunch. We didn’t bring equipment, but we had good speakers who were knowledgeable engineers, and we had good presentations,” he adds. The seminars would address specific process issues that were of considerable interest at the time, such as lead-free soldering. “Of course, we showed them how to develop and run a successful process, and we also worked in a little bit of our own solution as well. We also provided valuable reference materials. We offered a CD full of reference materials, charts, papers, literature, guides, animation, and much more. We titled it our “Five Steps to Lead-Free Soldering.” Many people still remember that reference guide.”
The concept of the Truck Tour was born
The technology tour concept was proven first in Europe, then in the United States. But Myny had a bigger dream; he asked, “What if we could actually take the equipment on the road to people, as well as process knowledge?” From this idea the concept of the Truck Tour was born.
Pictures from the EU:
Pictures from the USA:
Truck Tour: A mobile showroom at the doorstep of your customer or prospect
Last spring, Koh Young concluded its first North American truck tour, titled “3D Inspection on Tour.” Over a span of 90 days, a tractor-trailer combination, using a specially-designed exhibit trailer, brought the best that Koh Young has to offer in solder paste inspection and automated optical inspection systems to 25 states throughout the continental US, plus stops in Canada, stopping in key cities where major electronics manufacturing and assembly factories are located. The tour involved more than 60 hands-on equipment demonstration locations, or ‘whistle stops’, designed to make it easier and more convenient for engineers across the continent to examine the company’s equipment first-hand. The stops were scheduled well in advance, and were usually at a hotel complex or manufacturing facility for easy access and overnight lodging for engineers who could make short trips. The two machines on display in the van were the two flagships of the Koh Young line in two very specific process disciplines: the Zenith 3D AOI and aSPIre2 3D SPI.
The most efficient way for engineers to experience the technology
“This truck tour is the most efficient way for engineers to experience our technology hands-on so that they can understand its capabilities, the process, and make informed decisions,” Koh Young president and CEO Dr. Kwangill Koh said. “Today’s tightly-scheduled manufacturing environment and restricted travel budgets often do not allow engineers to travel to see the equipment at a trade show, or in another plant,” he stressed. “There are a number of significant advantages to bringing our technology to the manufacturer, rather than the other way around. First, we can reach both large and small shops. Many small facilities simply don’t have the resources to send their engineers great distances for trade expositions that go on for several days. As a consequence, they miss out, or don’t get accurate information or the chance for hands-on evaluation. This truck tour gives them that.” Dr. Koh adds that although the total cost of the truck tour is nearly twice that of participating in a trade show ($300,000 for the truck tour, vs. an average $160,000 for a large booth at a show such as IPC Apex), the effectiveness of the truck tour approach is far greater. “The truck tour allows us to demonstrate our equipment to more interested customers, in a one-on-one setting, than the trade show venue allows. There are no competitors and our visitors are focused on the technology. In our case, we were able to showcase our AOI and SPI strengths together in one place,” he said.
Another advantage: you reach the entire chain of people involved in the approval process
Another distinct advantage to this approach, explains Koh Young America managing director Harry Yun, is that the entire chain of people involved in the approval process can evaluate the machine at the same time. “If you think about it, the typical purchasing process takes months, and also great expense, because the prospect must visit a demo facility, probably more than once, and then other people in the chain must see the machine also. Think of the cost, in time and travel. This approach is actually more time and cost efficient by far.” Yun goes on to say that “It may not cover the entire process, such as processing sample boards, but it streamlines the process. In fact, we told people who were going to see us to bring their boards and samples if they could, and we showed them how the equipment worked on their own product when it was practical.” One additional advantage was that process people were able to bring proprietary boards that would not be allowed to be shipped elsewhere, over to the truck for evaluation. “We were right on the property, so there was no problem.”
No noisy, joistling trade show floor
Visitors also didn’t have to weather the distractions of a noisy, jostling trade show floor, or try to see the equipment from behind the heads of a booth crowd. They could examine the equipment as part of a small group, with help from Koh Young engineers who could give them hands-on instruction in operating the equipment.
Deal closed because of the approach of the complete DMU
In the end, the tour was a success. Literally hundreds of key customers and prospects visited the truck exhibit and signed the guest book. “We estimated that if the truck tour could bring 10 to 15 additional machine sales, that would pay for the tour,” Yun says. “One sale was concluded right at the truck at one of the ‘whistle stops’. Of course, they had been in the evaluation process for this particular machine for some time,” he adds, “But when the C.O., the C.F.O., the programmer, the process engineers and the purchaser, every key member of the decision chain were all able to see it at the same time, and see the machine in operation, that closed the deal right then and there. Most importantly, they were confident that they were making the right decision. That comfort level and confidence is very important.”
It actually costs less than exhibiting at a trade show
However, if you’re an equipment manufacturer and think you might like to try a truck tour of your own, Myny says, it’s not a simple matter, even if, in the end, it actually costs less than exhibiting at a trade show. Of course there is much advance planning involved, but you can’t do it on your own, you really need to partner with a company that specializes in truck tours. Logistics must be considered, such as how much power the machines will require to operate on site, and how that power will be generated. Local caterers at every stop must be contracted to provide food and refreshments. Specialists from the truck tour company must expand the trailer and set it up in the morning as well as close it up properly at night. A skilled driver must be employed for the duration of the tour.
Create your own experience
The truck and trailer combination is a specially-designed exhibition platform, whereby the trailer expands to create a roomy environment with adequate space to allow people to move freely around the machines and examine them.
Announcing and registration are very important
As part of the initial planning, a marketing and advertising campaign was put together. The first task was to establish a website where the advertising would drive those interested. The ite featured the schedule of stops, gave visitors the opportunity to register (even though it was free, the tour managers had to plan for the number of visitors, order lunches and refreshments, etc.) and provided daily reports or logs, tour photos, and news updates. From the sales perspective, registering attendees on the web site automatically updates and adds to the potential customer database. “In the end you generate more potential sales and reach customers you didn't know before,” Yun says.
Then, advertisements were placed in key industry trade journals well in advance of the beginning of the tour which, for the sake of "impact," a favorite concept of Myny’s, the huge Canadian tractor, brand-new and clean as a whistle, was driven onto the display floor and parked in the Koh Young exhibit booth at IPC Apex, the annual electronics assembly exhibition and conference. The tour would quite literally begin from the booth at that San Diego show.
Cooperation is the keu to success of the truck tour
As mentioned, partners were key to the success of the truck tour. For the first truck tour in Europe, Koh Young had partnered with Movico, a company that specializes in mobile visual communications headquartered in Deurne, The Netherlands. Movico has been wildly successful in Europe as a specialist in road shows, particularly those linked to sports events. Founded in 1993, Movico has grown into one of Europe’s leading companies in the area of mobile communication concepts based on extendable trailers, which provide clients like Koh Young with highly advanced technological arrangements to support their marketing activities, road shows, sports events, exhibitions, training sessions, sales activities, etc. Movico’s fleet currently includes more than 40 different mobile units for Promotion, Hospitality, Roadshows, Mobile showrooms, Stage trailers, Mobile exhibition stands, Mobile training units, and other themes and functions such as Press accommodation.
Movico customized the trailer for Koh Young, a trailer that expands to three times its original width. The trailer was shipped to the US on a container ship. The spanking-new tractor to pull it was provided by Stage Door Transportation, a full-service transport company located just outside of Toronto, Ontario. Stage Door is a fully licensed and bonded commercial carrier, with coast-to-coast running authority across Canada and the US.
“The combined specialization and experience of Movico and Stage Door quite literally made the Koh Young truck tour a success,” Myny says. “They knew their business, and on top of that, Movico has been a pioneer in the high-level road show business. They have perfected the art and advanced it. They know what they are doing. And that made all the difference.” Mobile visual communications is the key factor that makes a technology truck tour a success for an equipment manufacturer. If you’re going to turn the trade show concept on its head, or in reverse, you have to do it right, with the right partners, and all your ducks lined up. “It has to be a complete package,” Myny said.