GIE+Expo kicks off tomorrow in Louisville, Ky., with its Dealer Days, where dealers get a first look at new products. It’s an important show for our industry, and I’m pleased to see the number of exhibits and attendees grow every year. At this year’s show, there will be 750 exhibits and more than 18,000 participants, including dealers, manufacturers, landscape contractors and others.

Trade shows, by their nature, are nothing if not crowded, both in terms of people, machines and noise. By noise, I’m talking about what is said as well as the overwhelming cacophony of voices and engines. So, here’s what I’m hoping to see and hear as we check out the latest in mowers, UTVs, skid steers, snow blowers, tractors, trailers and power tools:

  1. Context behind the new features and models
  2. Competitive analysis
  3. Conversations between dealers and manufacturers

It’s exciting to learn about the new features and updates — especially those that are making equipment operation more intuitive and helping reduce wear and tear. However, these features would have much more impact on me as a consumer and a journalist if product managers put the features in context. Are the improvements part of some larger corporate strategy, for instance, and what consumer research has been done to justify the development? This background information can also help dealers develop new talking points that can enhance a sales conversation. A consumer wants to know they’re buying from a company and dealership that is progressive, smart and forward-thinking.

Along those lines, I’m hoping to learn how the features or models are better than what the competition offers. Many times, new features are explained in terms of improvements from previous models. That’s a given. What I want to know is how the new features or models compare with similar equipment. For instance, will a manufacturer be honest and say that they are just catching up to what others are offering? Or, what is their new twist on the innovation? And, can the manufacturer quantify the competitive advantage, such as how much they exceed the performance, speed, etc., of the competition.

Finally, besides learning about the new equipment, I’m hoping to listen in on your conversations with manufacturers. Too often, I see exchanges where a product manager expertly explains the equipment, while the dealer listens, seeming only mildly interested. There’s a lot to take in, but don’t miss this chance to ask questions. Make the manufacturer justify why you should sell their product and have them prove how it will help make you more money — that the extra cost for training of your sales and service teams is worth it.

GIE+Expo is offering tools to help us all get more out of the show. Their 2015 mobile app can help you build a personal itinerary and a list of favorite exhibitors and products. It also provides an interactive floor map with search tools. Download the app on your mobile device.

I’m looking forward to walking the show floor — and talking with you. There’s a lot of energy in our industry right now as many of you are having great years. We’ll be sharing show updates on as well as Facebook and Twitter and providing extensive coverage in our fall issue. I encourage you to share comments and let us know what products will bring you the most success in the coming months.