The goal of exhibiting at a food industry trade show is to maximize engagement with current and potential customers, but in order to do this, you must have a solid strategy in place. While most of your prep work should be done before the event, there is still work to be done once you arrive on the trade show floor.
The following tips can help you make the most of your time and resources.
- Arrive early – Show up a day in advance (or as soon as the show floor opens to exhibitors) to set up your trade show booth and materials. The day of the show, arrive as soon as the floor opens to exhibitors to make sure everything is in place and your staff is prepared.
- Be present and approachable – You don’t have a lot of time to make an impact on booth visitors, so make sure your booth design and sales pitch are engaging yet authentic. Focus on the valuable tools and resources you have to offer and how you can help current and potential customers. Additionally, greet all trade show attendees with a smile and welcome them to your booth. Inviting body language and other non-verbal gestures can go a long way.
- Identify what’s going on – Keep a copy of the trade show agenda on hand (whether that’s downloading and using the trade show app or having a hard copy of the program) so your team knows what’s happening at all times. This can help you gauge when your booth is likely to experience the most traffic and when things may be slow. If you’re not staffing a booth or have extra team members on hand, attend other trade show sessions and presentations to network and learn more about the latest industry developments.
- Befriend the media – It’s important to maintain positive relationships with editors and industry publications by making time for them at the show, as they can help you secure future placement and gain additional exposure. In addition to reaching out in advance via email or media pitch, consider scheduling a time to speak with each contact individually at the show.
- Engage in real-time – Pre-scheduling social media content can help save you valuable time at the show, but you will also want to create real-time engagement with attendees and anyone following along from home by sharing live posts with pictures or quotes from keynote speakers at the event. Interactive booth components can also help you increase awareness for your brand and products. For example, our client Ardent Mills recently hosted a #doughthrow (mock pizza-dough-tossing photobooth opportunity) at its 2018 International Pizza Expo booth. By encouraging trade show attendees to share photos interacting with certain elements of the exhibit, Ardent Mills was able to reach more individuals.
- Host events – Take advantage of opportunities to interact with customers, prospects and media contacts beyond the trade show floor by hosting events after expo hours. Invite attendees to join you for an offsite happy hour/reception at a local restaurant/bar or consider renting a room or hospitality suite for networking after the show floor closes in the evening. This is another opportunity to have customers/prospects sample foods made with your ingredients and showcase the tools and resources you offer.
- Promote thought leaders – Another way to get in front of attendees and to promote your brand is by presenting on a specific topic at the show. If you don’t have time to submit a proposal for an official presentation, consider hosting a mini presentation at your booth. Regardless of how formal it is, it is important to know your audience and tailor your messaging based on who is listening.
- Take notes – It can be difficult to remember every conversation you had at a trade show. Most trade shows today have badge scanners or lead generation tools that make it easy for you to track your interactions and exchange contact information. You can also take notes next to each person’s contact information for easier follow-up after the show. If the show doesn’t provide a badge scanner or you are walking the show floor and don’t have the scanner with you, be sure to get your customers’/prospects’ business cards. Once you have their cards, take a second to jot some notes on the back to help you remember the conversations and any follow-ups that need to take place once you’re back in the office.
- Stay late – Trade shows can be exhausting, but it’s important to make the most of every minute you have to engage with attendees. By skipping out early, you risk missing out on valuable conversations with current and potential customers and sharing the qualities that make your products or services attractive.
With the right strategies and tools in place, you can better allocate your time and resources for food industry trade shows. Download our trade show best practices report. For more information about developing a clear integrated strategy for trade show marketing, please contact us.
Stay tuned for tips on what to do after a trade show ends.