So you’re thinking it might be time to exhibit at a trade show? Maybe you’re launching a wholesale fine food range or maybe you’ve started supplying a few farm shops, deli's and food halls and you are thinking about expansion..
Well the good news is that exhibiting at a trade show can be a great way to get your brand and products under the noses of a whole range of wholesale buyers and industry contacts all at one event.
What is a trade show?
A trade show is a large buying event, usually taking place over a few days in a large exhibition venue such as Olympia and Excel in London, the NEC in Birmingham and Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate. Trade shows are B2B events - business to business. So food and drink brands wishing to sell their products, usually on a wholesale basis will have a stand to present their brand and products to professional buyers from a range of organisations, who attend the show to source new products for their stores and outlets.
As the show is a gathering of food industry people, there are usually talks, demonstrations, live pitching events and Q&A’s, with different topics and speakers everyday.
Related: Am I ready to do a trade show?
What sort of food buyers attend trade shows?
A whole range of professional food buyers will attend trade shows ranging from food halls, department stores, tourist attractions, distributors, corporate gifting companies, online marketplaces and whole lot more. The shows are usually also of interest to Press & Pr, sales people from other shows, and other key food industry contacts.
Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly affair and will require significant investment. It pays then to make sure you do all the right things to make the most of the opportunity and maximise the return on your investment. Here are a few tips on how you can do this:
1. Get clear on your goals and targets for the trade show.
Before you even decide on a show or confirm your stand location, its really important to get clear on why exactly you are investing in exhibiting at a trade show. Is it to get more wholesale stockists? Is it to raise awareness of your brand? Is it to meet and network with key industry players?
The reality is that exhibiting at a trade show can be a very costly affair so you need to be clear on how much revenue you want to earn from the show. How many orders does this equate to? If done right, the ROI can be huge, but if you’re not strategic in your thinking and planning, you run the risk of wasting the opportunity.
Related: Top Trade Shows for your Food & Drink Business
2. Start your planning as early as possible
Honestly you can't start your trade show planning soon enough. The planning around the show can be fairly intensive and there are a lot of details which may seem quite minor but can actually have a huge impact if you get them wrong or worse, forget about them.
It helps to think about the trade as a mini project and set out detailed plan with timelines, milestone and clear marked responsibilities so you know who is doing what. It pays to set some time aside in your calendar every month to tick off trade show admin tasks so you don’t leave it all to the last minute.
Related: Download your Printable Trade Show Planning Checklist
3. Involve your whole team
When planning for the trade show, involve your whole team. Not just in the days leading up to the show, and actually at the show. This can be an exhausting experience, with set up, and then 3 or 4 days of being on your feet for 8 hours. But also in the months leading up to the show. Get your teams input to planning, preparation, packaging up etc. This will hopefully help you to conserve your energy for the most important show days. And at the show the more hands on deck, the better for you.
4. Let everyone know when/where you’ll be exhibiting
In the months leading up to the show start telling people that you’ll be attending and share your stand number and location with them. Again and again. Invite buyers, share on social media, include details in your email marketing. Make sure that everyone who needs to know, knows. Don’t rely on the show organisers to get people to your stand. Play your part in making sure that people know where you’ll be and encourage them come visit you.
5. Have a well designed stand
I’m not just talking about getting some beautiful stand furniture and whizzy stand graphics. WhatI mean is have you thought through the flow of the stand and how you will be using it on a practical level, to see if the design helps or hinders you?
You’re aiming for a well thought out uncluttered layout, a design that draws the eye in and actively encourages buyers to stop and take a look at your products. It’s also really important to think about having dedicated spaces where you can talk to a potential buyer without disturbing other visitors.
You might want a dedicated space with pens, order forms etc where you can physically take orders, Also think about appealing to all the senses in your stand design - not just sight, touch but also the most under utilised by food businesses - smell.
6. Take those orders - capture those leads
You’ll be able to take orders at the trade show, if you gear up to it and actively pursue them. Think about how - in your discussions with buyers - you will encourage them to list your products. Maybe have a special show offer, or introductory pack. Think about any potential objections they might have and make sure you can counter them. It pays to practice this side of things before the show. Make sure you have orders forms, calculators etc ready to take orders at the show.
And for those buyers who like your products but aren’t ready to buy at the show, have a mechanism for taking their contact details. It could be as simple as a notebook where you handwrite details or staple in business cards, you could use a business card scanning app or hire a lead capture tool from the show organisers.
How to follow up on leads from a trade show?
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the show. The lead up, planning and set up can leave you feeling a bit frazzled and its really easy to hit day one lacking energy. Do your best to keep your energy levels up until 5pm on the last day of the show. If you’re tired and feeling a bit grumpy, it will show. You want to convey your enthusiasm and offer big smiles and a warm welcome to all visitors!
There is a certain buzz and energy around trade shows which is hard to replicate through other marketing methods and they do give both you and buyers an unrivalled chance to meet in person and see / taste products tin he flesh, gauge quality etc. Part of the fun is getting to know other stall holders and meeting industry contacts. It can be great fun and provide a much needed boost to team morale.
Before you go, don't forget to download your printable trade show planning checklist here.
Til the next time
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Hey I'm Nila. I make beautiful iced biscuits and I'd like to help you launch or scale your baking business. Welcome to my blog.