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Capitalize On Car Wash Trade Show Attendance and Participation with Expert Tips from Howco Veterans

by David Martin, Tim Fitzpatrick, and Danny McRorie / Howco, Inc.

Car wash trade shows can offer tremendous value for those involved in the industry, whether they are new or potential investors exploring the business; seasoned, growth-oriented operators staying apprised of trends and looking for the next big thing; or vendors showcasing their latest and greatest equipment, chemicals, and myriad support products. It’s one of the best opportunities to learn, network, and position yourself for success in the industry.

Our Howco team actively participates in every pertinent trade show and offers these tips for navigating and optimizing your show attendance and participation.

● Do your homework in advance of attendance, including talking with experienced operators and getting advice from those veterans. Determine what people and companies you want to connect with, know where their booths are, map out your strategy, and make appointments if possible. A bit of research will save you valuable time and effort at the show.

● Prioritize your target list and connect with the vendors that you deem most important first, then explore lower priority opportunities. Have a daily plan, try to stick with it, and adjust as needed. There are lots of distractions and numerous vendors who will want your attention.

● Prepare for lots of face-to-face interactions with vendors and operators of all kinds. Have a concise, rehearsed “elevator pitch” to relay eloquently and succinctly who you are and what you plan to accomplish. You will encounter numerous industry experts that could end up being lifelong associates and friends.

● Bring more business cards than you think you will need, and pass them out liberally.

● If you have already chosen a distributor such as Howco, let them assist your efforts and enlist them for introductions to your targeted vendors. Howco team members work in our vendors’ booths rather than staffing a separate one, which permits time to escort customers to all our vendors. Many shows can be overwhelming, especially for first-time attendees. An experienced, personal guide can be invaluable.

● Write down any questions or concerns you may have about a particular vendor, and use the list. You may want to record some conversations on your phone’s voice memos app. You should let the vendor know that you are doing so.

● Forget about your work back home. Have someone competent cover for you so that you won’t be distracted by phone calls, minor issues, and worries from the business. This allows you to concentrate on the mission at hand.

● You will discover that car washing can be a “big little industry” where so many participants have long-term connections. Relationships are vital, and information is abundant and ever-evolving. Embrace it.

● While planning the priorities for your showroom floor time is critical, note that sometimes visiting vendor booths toward the end of the day can result in a less crowded and more productive experience.

● Dress professionally. You are representing your business and livelihood, and first impressions are important. Business casual attire should suffice. Note that there may be after-show-hours activities where other attire would be more appropriate.

● Comfortable shoes will go a long way toward making your day fruitful. Many shows are several acres in size on concrete floors. There is typically a lot of walking and standing with little to no sitting.

● A backpack will come in handy for carrying any materials you accumulate, in addition to a bottle of water, snacks, and other personal items.

● Never eat a meal alone, if possible. Use mealtimes to meet with your targeted resources or knowledgeable associates.

● Research and attend as many pertinent professional development sessions/seminars and operator roundtable discussions as possible. These are usually held in the mornings before the show floor opens, are always informative, and offer great networking opportunities.

● If a local car wash tour is offered in the host city, take it. Attending these customized tours allows you to see behind-the-scenes operations of select washes, as well as network with operators and vendors.

Let your Howco representative know what shows you will be attending and ask for their advice and/or personal guidance. It will save you lots of time and energy, keep you on track and on schedule, and might even rescue you from aggressive vendors not on your wish list.

Enjoy the shows!


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