Thriving in a Splintered Market Print E-mail
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Written by Susan Mucha   
Monday, 31 December 2007 19:00

Is a U.S. “must-see” manufacturing show beyond reach?

Focus on Business Marketing, in general, is a challenge for many EMS providers because of the combination of limited budgets, long sell cycles and geographically dispersed prospects. Properly selected, trade shows can be a good marketing venue for EMS providers. However, U.S. trade show organizers seem determined to make it difficult for EMS providers to choose such forums as part of their marketing mix.

To be fair, a number of regional shows focus on contract manufacturing and the job shop market. For regional EMS companies, such events are often a good venue for identifying regional prospects. But cross-functional decision team members at large OEMs typically aren’t making time to attend regional contract manufacturing shows. These decision-makers tend to be attracted to larger shows that feature technical conferences and a broader exhibit focus. In some cases, decision-makers are even evaluating the tradeoff between buying equipment and outsourcing to contractors.

This year’s breakup of the Assembly Technology Expo into three competing (and smaller) shows benefited neither EMS exhibitors nor the sponsoring organizations because it splintered the exhibitor and attendee markets. It is important to note that EMS exhibitors never will be the primary target of a large-scale show organizer because, as a group, they are not a major buyer of floor space. Large equipment manufacturers are the cash cows every show wants to attract because, like anchor stores in a mall, they consume floor space and are a traffic draw. Yet a show with a related, yet diverse exhibit range can draw better traffic than a show centered on one commodity. Add a good conference program and the show can become a must-see, like Surface Mount International and Nepcon West once were, and Productronica is today.

I attended SMTA International in September. Rather than limit this column to my opinions, I thought I’d share some conversations with EMS and equipment exhibitors on the show floor.

Kevin Coats, who is in business development for EMS provider Creation Technologies-Lexington (creationtech.com), mentioned that fewer shows might create more market momentum. Eliminating SMTA’s tabletop regional events might increase focus on SMTAI, he added. He also saw value in changing the technical conference scope to attract more attendees. He felt traffic was less than anticipated and didn’t know about exhibiting at future shows. He indicated traffic was down year-on-year, which he attributed to more show options diluting traffic. In addition to exhibiting, Creation had a speaker in the Contract Manufacturing Symposium segment of the technical session.

Matthew Kehoe, president of SIPAD Systems (sipad.com), a supplier of solid solder coating services, saw the tighter show focus on board assembly as a positive. He felt ATE had been too focused on electromechanical and mechanical assembly. He thought traffic was good and also planned to exhibit at PCB East. He mentioned he’d love to see those shows combine.

Randy Morrison, marketing manager for Pentagon EMS (pentagon-ems.com), a PCB assembly process tooling supplier, said he prefers IPC and SMTA technical conferences over non-association technical conferences, but believed that more than one in a quarter splits attendance. He chose not to exhibit at IPC Midwest because its announcement was made after his marketing budget was allocated. He saw the current show alignment as positive, but felt traffic was light.

Dave Ellison, business development manager engineering services for Celestica (celestica.com), a global EMS provider, said his company was still evaluating the show. In addition to exhibiting its engineering services business unit, Celestica employees participated significantly in the technical sessions, presenting papers (and winning an award for Best International Paper) and chairing a session. Celestica also has a member on SMTA’s board. Ellison pointed out this combined approach of association participation, conference participation, and exhibiting offered a number of different opportunities for increasing Celestica’s name and brand recognition among attendees. He mentioned the tight show schedule driven by the breakup of ATE forced the company to pick one show to support this year. SMTAI was selected over the Midwest conferences because of the strength of its technical conference.

Marietta Lemieux, analytical lab manager for STI Electronics (solderingtech.com), a supplier of training resources, engineering services, and assembly and solder supplies, said interest in failure analysis support was strong. She saw no real degradation in lead generation.

John Le, program manager at Quality Systems Integrated Corp. (qsic.com), an EMS provider, said he felt ATE’s traffic had been higher. Until lead quality was evaluated, he added, it would be difficult to tell which show was better because traffic doesn’t necessarily translate to quality leads. He had also exhibited at IPC Apex with good results and plans to exhibit there this year too. He was concerned about the show split and thought there would be value in IPC and SMTA collaborating.

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), a consulting firm providing strategic planning, training and market positioning support to EMS companies. Her new book, Find It, Book It, Grow It. A Robust Process for Electronics Manufacturing Services Account Acquisition, is scheduled for release this quarter.

 

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