Fabtech 2014 was almost as busy as a lunchtime rush at the city’s famous Varsity Diner.

But instead of going to feast on onion rings and slaw dogs, show attendees came to see the latest in sheet metal forming machinery. And the sound of “What’ll ya have?” was replaced by the humming and banging of equipment.

The busy southern U.S. city and almost 1,500 exhibitors attracted an estimated 30,800 who converged on the Georgia World Congress Center Nov. 11-13. Spending the day inside the large convention facility might not have been easy when temperatures outside were sitting in the low 70s°F — unusually warm by mid-November averages.

But the many sheet metal products and HVAC market items on display filled up more than 550,000 square feet of exhibit space, setting a record for an Atlanta-hosted Fabtech. The show floor banged, hammered and punched with activity as Fabtech kept its reputation as one of the sheet metal works industry’s loudest trade shows.

Mark Hoper, one of the show’s managers, said attendees from 70 countries had a lot to see.

‘Solid return’

“Fabtech Atlanta delivered a solid return on investment for exhibitors and provided manufacturers from across the U.S. and around the world with the opportunity to see new technology, gain knowledge and network with peers,” he said.

John Catalano, another one of the show’s managers, said the exhibitors and attendees he spoke to were very happy.

“Attendees were impressed with the size and scope of the show and the large number of new products and groundbreaking technologies on display” he said.  “As important, our exhibitors told us they collected high-quality leads and sold machines right off the show floor.”

Officials with industrial gas manufacturer Air Liquide said they always find a lot of interesting products at the show.

“At Fabtech, you have a wide display of new innovation and new technology every year,” said Charles Caristan in a video interview from the show floor. “Also, there is a real ability to network among all of the associations and trade organizations at the show.” 

Arnie Mayher Jr. of Cleveland-based stamped sheet metal products company Stripmatic Products Inc. said attending Fabtech boosts his company’s visibility.

“Fabtech gives us the opportunity to meet the type of customers that we couldn’t possibly know exist out there,” Mayher said.

A military focus

Since the event overlapped with Veterans Day, organizers held a roundtable, “Bridging the Manufacturing Skills Gap with Veterans,” Nov. 11, focusing on ways to bring veterans into the manufacturing industry. More than $10,000 was raised for the charity Workshops for Warriors through the show’s Fabtech Expo Cares program.

Vietnam veteran and four-time Super Bowl champion Rocky Bleier spoke Nov. 12 about how to “Be the Best You Can Be.” He drew parallels between his life experiences and today’s business world.

He also took part in an industry night event at the nearby College Football Hall of Fame.

Another keynote speech at this year’s show was given by Cindi Marsiglio, the vice president for U.S. manufacturing at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Her presentation focused on “Creating U.S. Jobs and Bringing Manufacturing Home.” Marsiglio said Wal-Mart has promised to spend $250 billion in the next decade on American-made products and boost U.S. factory work.

And Google’s Mike Watson, the head of enterprise manufacturing, gave two presentations on “Transforming Your Manufacturing Business for the New Digital Age” Nov. 12 and 13. 

Digital business was also the subject of a series of Nov. 11 sessions presented by three Internet marketing experts. First was “How Your Website and Social Media Can Be Powerful Tools to Enhance Your Online Presence & Drive Success,” hosted by Nicole Wagner, the Internet marketing director at Chicago-area advertising agency Stevens & Tate.

Searching for content

“The online world is constantly changing,” Wagner said. “Each year is a new opportunity for me to help organizational leaders hone in on the latest issues in social media to strengthen and maximize their marketing programs. Additionally, learning how to properly implement a series of interactive strategies can enhance your Web, search and social marketing campaigns — and creates efficiencies — which is especially important in the business-to-business market.”

She explained to the audience that they need to care about “search engine optimization” or “SEO.” That means ensuring that your website and its content is found quickly by the algorithms that Google, Yahoo and other programs use to find relevant websites during searches.

“There are things we can do to ensure your website is search-engine friendly,” she said. “It’s about watching activity over a period of time.”

Putting the proper keywords in your website’s copy, updating it frequently, adding videos and securing backlinks will improve your results when people look for businesses similar to yours, she said. The more popular your company’s website is, the better it will do in search results.

“If you have videos, I highly recommend you put them on your website,” she said. “You want to do videos as much as possible.

“People like to be fed information,” she said. Give them something they can watch.

“(You) want to have copy on your website. You don’t want to just have the bullet points,” she added.

Stay friendly

You also need to ensure your website’s content can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet, Wagner said. Google now says that if your website is not “mobile friendly,” your search result rankings will likely decrease.

Other social media sites matter too, she added.

“You want to develop your company profile on LinkedIn” and become active in discussions there.

“We want people to see us. We want to be top-of-mind,” Wagner said. 

Adding to the discussion was Matt Self of Pennsylvania-based Web Talent Marketing. The vice president of client relations at the company said content is king when it comes to being found on the crowded World Wide Web.

Google judges websites on all types of content, from video to blogs to audio such as podcasts, Self said at his session, “It’s All About the Content: Learn How Content Marketing Is Changing the Game Online.”

“Pay attention to Google,” he said. “Google controls the world.”

And while you used to be able to fool the giant search engine’s “crawlers” by overstuffing your copy with keywords and phrases, today you’re likely to be punished for such shenanigans, he said.

“Bad content leads to bad links,” he said. “You want (content) to be something that is long-lasting and sustainable.”

Unlike a posting about a short-lived event, it should be “evergreen,” Self added.

“It people aren’t linking to it, it’s just not that good,” he said.

An FAQ is A-OK

The type of content that has the longest shelf life includes articles on frequently asked questions or “FAQs,” tutorials, how-to pieces, histories and glossaries of industry terms.

The topics that don’t sustain readers: new hires, statistics and seasonal news. That doesn’t mean you can’t include such items, but make sure they don’t comprise the bulk of your information.

Information that can be linked and easy shared is especially good, Self said. He gave the example of a client that included an industry salary calculator on its website. The calculator was so popular, competitors included links to it on their website.

Blogs are another great way to boost the prominence of your company and brand yourself as an industry expert. But they have to done regularly.

“It can’t be willy-nilly,” he said. “It can’t be when you feel like it.”

Echoing Self’s comments was frequent Fabtech speaker Jon Goldman of Brand Launcher. Goldman stressed that content has to be unique to have value in today’s constantly changing social media world.

“If you’re not dramatically different, you don’t have the right to come up to bat,” he said.

And while it may sometimes be difficult, don’t block comments.

“Allow people to give you feedback on your social media,” Goldman said. “You must respond fast and from the heart.”

The key is to become an online expert on your business by posting content with click-worthy titles.

“I implore you: become the expert,” he said, adding, “Social media is not an event; it’s a process.”

 For reprints of this article, contact Renee Schuett at (248) 786-1661 or email schuettr@bnpmedia.com