2020 HAI Heli Expo Reflections
It has been more than a week since the last day of the 2020 HAI Heli Expo and there is much to unpack and reflect on. I am the current marketing manager and along with the sales/production manager, we represented Aerotex at this year’s Heli Expo. We were invited by our close friends at Eagle Copters to Anaheim to enjoy and promote our newly approved products at the expo. This was our first helicopter expo and suffice to say, our eyes were wide and mouths agape. Here is my reflection of the expo as a new marketer in the helicopter industry.
Days prior to my flight for Anaheim, I scoured for any relevant information; whether it’s videos, blogs, or researching the sponsors and exhibitors, I was searching for any inkling. Monday, January 27 rolled around and the morning, airport, flight, drive to the hotel, and settling-in felt almost standard; the palm trees and endless highway threw me off. There was a lot of firsts on this trip: my first expo working as a representative, my first helicopter expo, the first time in California in more than a decade - it made time feel slow. My colleague and I met with PWC reps monday evening to discuss potentially new markets for light helicopters and that set the precedence for the days to come.
Did I mention the 23 degree celsius weather? For a Canadian at the end of January, this was warmly welcomed. We registered early morning Tuesday and surveilled till exhibit doors open. As time hit, we stepped through the packed doors and took a moment to soak in the scenery. I’ve been to conventions and fan expos in the past but nothing could really compare in scale, from lavishly decorated booths to the 30+ helicopters spanning the entire convention centre! We first made contact with our benefactors, exchanged pleasantries, asked for guidance from expo veterans, and then we were off. Our mission was to connect with any relevant organizations to touch base, follow-up, and exchange cards and brochures. It took us a majority of our days walking through the halls, entertaining our company owner, checking each exhibitor, and connecting with past, present, and future clients, all while capturing footage along the way. It was notable watching a company’s press conference live where they would announce new deals, partnerships, projects, and highlighting recent helicopter safety inquiries by paying respects too the recent Kobe Bryant tragedy.
There was seminar I attended early Wednesday morning by Vertical Magazine (or Aerospace Marketing Lab) on Digital & Content Marketing. Presented by Marcus Sheridan, a successful marketer & entrepreneur who brought his pool company from the ground to making 7+ million/year, he presented his book “They Ask You Answer” in a 90-min format with the helicopter over-tones. As the marketer for B2B, this was utmost valuable knowledge to bring back. Between my colleague and I, we walked almost 100km in the span of 3 days and like that, the 4th day came and we went our separate ways home. Back at the office, I unpacked luggage, bags, swag, brochures, and most importantly, our contacts.
The expo was a valuable learning experience - besides the continuous education about new helicopters, maintenance, products, and services at an international scale, I learned about the future of the industry. For example, the impending “Air Taxi” service that has been perpetuated in recent years and how service and manufacturing companies alike are rearing to participate in the potential market. The expo was valuable time spent connecting and networking with our existing customers and the newly interested. We got face-to-face, engaging and conversing, questioning and answering, laughing and whispering, interactions typically is not feasible in any other circumstance than at this expo. Lastly, the expo was valuable to further my understanding of Aerotex as an aviation upholstery organization through navigating the expo floor and witnessing relationships Aerotex has built over its lifetime. From the seminars, meetings, and unabashed introductions, we both gained further recognition of our company and its niche within the industry. Within the short period of time, we brought back valuable experiences, connections, and clarity.
It’s been almost two weeks since the behemoth that is HAI Heli Expo and I can reflect and say the experience has made me a better marketer. As I integrate the education, touch base with contacts, and follow up with customers, I can confidently say I am better equipped than before. There’s much to follow and stay informed regarding the helicopter industry and I look forward to delving deeper until next year’s expo in New Orleans! For this fresh marketer, I give 2020 HAI Heli Expo a solid 8/10.