The North American Trailer Dealers Association (NATDA) show is a big part of the racing and performance industry. It’s hard to campaign a vehicle as a pro or a weekend warrior without SOME kind of trailer, so the trailer business plays an essential role for racers, their crews and families. The NATDA show is a chance for the dealers who belong to the trade organization to get together and learn how to strengthen their dealerships. This year, like many of the other industry trade shows, it’s going digital!
RacingJunk reached out to Corey Langley, Director of Marketing for the NATDA, to talk about the evolution of the show to a digital experience as well as the effect that the pandemic has had on the trailer dealer industry and what NATDA is doing to help.
RacingJunk : Can you tell us a little bit about how the decision came about to make the NATDA show virtual? A lot of shows have been cancelling, but not many have made the transition to digital.
Corey Langley: Unfortunately, the city of Nashville and many states key to the trailer industry, at the time of our decision, were having increasing troubles in dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The city itself had chosen to enact restaurant and bar closures, travel restrictions and expansions of its city-wide limitation phases. At a certain point, we were no longer guaranteed that the city would be at Phase 4, a requirement for a show of our size, during our dates or that dealerships from certain states would be allowed to come.
While we did attempt to move the show back into a safer date territory, the city’s COVID incidents continued to climb. Unfortunately, that affected phase extensions once again. Ultimately, we were forced to look at different alternatives and decided upon a completely virtual event, allowing attendees and exhibitors to retain the benefits of the show from the safety of their own homes.
RacingJunk: What can attendees expect from the experience? What are some of the unique opportunities of the digital show?
Corey Langley: While there is no replacing the physical incarnation of our show, the virtual event will provide many of the same benefits dealers expect from the NATDA Trailer Show and, in some cases, more. A great example of this is expanded educational offerings – something normally limited due to room requirements at different venues. Due to the virtual nature of the event, speakers have the time to dedicate to the specifics of our industry.
When looking at the exhibition platform itself, the software is simplistic enough to ease accessibility but robust enough to still provide those connection points between attendees and exhibitors. Upon stepping into a virtual booth, attendees can see a variety of information points – product images, explainer videos, links to helpful content and more. Additionally, they will be able to speak with a representative, through a chat box, or leave contact details to speak on items such as order quantities, territories and more.
However, a large reason attendees and exhibitors enjoy our show simply comes down to networking. Dealership owners want to meet other people that have the same interests, problems and solutions they encounter daily. A virtual networking lobby will still allow this to happen. It’s a digital forum that creates a space for dealership-specific discourse to take place.
RacingJunk: How has the pandemic and subsequent industry challenges affected the trailer industry? And what role did that play in the decision to move the NATDA show to the virtual world?
Corey Langley: At the beginning of the pandemic, many dealerships faced the same issues all businesses faced. They were forced to shut their doors or limit personnel and consumers. In fact, some dealerships and other members of the industry, including manufacturers, still face those issues.
Many dealerships turned to the service side of their business to keep them afloat, which worked well for a while. However, once business started reopening and government-funded checks started hitting mailboxes, many dealerships saw a surge in business. Of the same token, many manufacturers are backlogged due to the highest demand we have seen in a while.
The shelter in place/work from home orders have forced a lot of companies to embrace a digital presence. I know that NATDA has been advocating for the industry to be comfortable on digital platforms for a while, so, trade show aside, how has the NATDA been supporting that effort?
It is true that we have been recommending dealers venture into the digital space more and more over the past several years. For those that did, the pandemic might have been a little easier to work through as they were able to transition to a virtual sales process.
Each year, NATDA tries to find a new, digital avenue that it believes dealerships should consider. It may be something as complex as a new management business software, or it could be as simple as setting up Facebook page. The idea is to provide as many ideas as possible so dealerships can tailor items to fit their needs. Many companies we have partnered with over the years are there to help with just that.
RacingJunk: What are some highlights of the Virtual show that you’d like exhibitors and attendees to be aware of?
Corey Langley: It is important to understand that the virtual show is not here to replace the Trailer Show experience. It was created to provide a new alternative that will allow dealerships to dig into the digital experiences of exhibitors. These platforms, often, introduce a more detailed look at product lines than what dealerships may remember to ask at the show. At the same time, an immediate line of communication still equips dealers with the opportunity to speak on items that may not be addressed digitally. Additionally, we’ve expanded our educational offerings, and continue to do so, to cover a gambit of material applicable to the current economic climate.
To learn more about the show, or to register, go here: Virtual NATDA Trailer Show