Up to 20,000 people visit the American Water Works Association’s ACE Annual Conference and Exposition each June. About 500 exhibitors attend the conference to showcase their products and learn from water technology industry experts. Each year, the McWane family of companies stands out as an industry leader among attendees and exhibitors.

This year was no different as the McWane family of companies attended the conference in Denver, Colorado, June 9 through 12. At the event, Trilix helped position the McWane brands to share their message. Here’s how we did it.

A Circular Approach

The Annual ACE Conference is intended to bring together innovators in the water technology sector to solve global water challenges. Represented at the McWane booth each year are McWane Ductile, Clow Valve Company, Clow Canada, Tyler Union, Canada Pipe, Kennedy Valve and M&H Valve Company, all under the McWane family umbrella of companies.

The conference is a chance for McWane companies to educate attendees on their products and initiatives, make new contacts in the industry, exhibit new products and meet with other industry leaders and potential customers. Trilix employees have attended the conference for more than a decade.

“We went for the first few years to learn about the industry. It gave us an idea of who the other big players in the industry are, the new innovations coming down the line and a chance to get to know McWane managers and their needs better.”

Todd Senne, Trilix President

The learning opportunities paid off. Trilix employees have represented McWane brands at the conference for several years now.

Months before the conference begins, Trilix, McWane and other vendors consider the booth layout, featured products and audience engagement efforts. The challenge for any brand at a trade show is standing out among hundreds of other businesses and garnering interaction with attendees. To their advantage at the ACE conference, the eight represented McWane businesses already have reputations that stand apart from the competition. With Trilix’s help on innovative marketing efforts, audience engagement at the conference has become a cinch.

One of Trilix’s most entertaining ideas was to add a competition element to the ACE lineup. Teams have long competed in ACE events such as tap water taste testing, or a pipe tapping competition in which water operators from across North America work to be the quickest team to open a cement-lined, ductile iron pipe, and install a tap. Four years ago, Hydrant Hysteria, an event during which two-member teams work as fast as possible to assemble a specified hydrant, was added. This year’s donor is M&H Valve Company, part of the McWane family.

Trilix also has used new strategies to get visitors to flow through the McWane booth, talk to representatives and learn about products.

“As opposed to sitting in the booth and waiting for people to walk by, we’ve implemented different ideas that bring people to the booth.”

Todd Senne, Trilix president

“As opposed to sitting in the booth and waiting for people to walk by, we’ve implemented different ideas that bring people to the booth,” Todd said. “Once they’re in the booth, we talk to them and make them feel welcome. In doing this, we’re creating much more activity than our competitors.”  

The marketing approach we use is circular. Visitors wear badges with their name, contact and employment information. When they stop at the booth and learn about featured products, McWane team members scan their badges and enter them into a giveaway. They also receive a free McWane-branded product — a golf divot tool for the 2019 conference — to hang from their badge. McWane booth workers hand out gift cards throughout the day for those wearing the tool on their badge. When other attendees see the tool hanging from badges, they visit the booth to get their own, and their badges are then scanned.

"It’s a great way to capture visitors’ information. They get to be involved in giveaways, and we’re able to gather data and market to them all year.”

Austin Narber, Account Manager

“There’s a lot of engagement,” said Austin Narber, Trilix account manager for McWane. “It’s a great way to capture visitors’ information. They get to be involved in giveaways, and we’re able to gather data and market to them all year.”

The automatic giveaway began at 3 p.m. each day of the conference. Prizes included big-ticket items, such as an iPad, Apple Watch, Air Pods or wireless speakers. Winners must be present to collect their prize, so the giveaways drew a sizeable crowd.

“People gather by 2:50 p.m. each day,” Austin said. “Toward the end of the day, people are getting restless. They’re ready to win a prize. It’s a good way to get them through the booth and talk to them for 10 to 15 minutes before the drawing.”

This year, there was a second large-prize giveaway after 3 p.m., using geofenced social media advertisements that Trilix implemented. The advertisements encouraged conference attendees to follow McWane’s social media pages. A follower was chosen each day of the conference, and the winner received Air Pods.

Todd Senne, Trilix President
Photo: Todd Senne, Trilix President

During the conference, Trilix employees led these marketing efforts and provided a few helping hands at the booth to chat with visitors. They also met with representatives from industry trade publications — Journal AWWA and Opflow magazine — to share McWane’s latest products and initiatives.

Because of these efforts, Trilix employees tracked an average of 800 visitors to the McWane booth each day of the conference. The second busiest booth had an average of approximately 500 visitors daily. This year, we added new approaches to take the McWane brand further.

A New Look

The additional giveaways aren’t the only new approach the McWane booth took for the 2019 conference. Traditional booth layout was replaced by an open-concept setup designed to give the eight McWane companies equal space. A pillar is stationed in each corner of the booth, with two companies represented on either side of the pillar. Featured products are showcased on each side. A column in the center of the booth with the McWane logo stretched high above the pillars, grabbing visitors’ attention over the crowd.

Planning for the new booth layout began nearly a year before the 2019 conference. Trilix Creative Director Paul Burger oversaw the design for the banners and skins on the booth pillars and central column.

“Trilix tried to position it so that McWane was at the forefront with the McWane Corporate logo and blue wrap on the column. The column is backlit, so the white section at the top really stands out.”

Paul Burger, Creative Director

“Trilix tried to position it so that McWane was at the forefront with the McWane Corporate logo and blue wrap on the column. The column is backlit, so the white section at the top really stands out,” Paul said. “The pillars have the full color logos of each company so they’re individually represented. It’s a huge step in positioning McWane as one of the top companies there.”

Paul also ensured that conference brochures and handouts were formatted with the same layout, adding consistency across the brands. Trilix designers created conference graphics and social media advertisements on behalf of McWane.

"McWane team members and Trilix employees are excited that we were able to set audience engagement records again during the 2019 conference, Trilix Project Manager Megan McDonald said.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to work with the McWane companies, understand their goals and develop strategies based on those goals.”

Megan McDonald, Project Manager

“It’s a fun event to be a part of,” Megan said. "It’s great to have the opportunity to work with the McWane companies, understand their goals and develop strategies based on those goals. Being able to be part of the show and see all of the hard work come to fruition is gratifying.”