By the Staff of the Fiery Foods & BBQ SuperSite
Trade shows can be as boring as food without chile–or they can be a sizzling success. It all depends on you.
Nearly every type of business in the fiery foods industry can utilize trade shows in its marketing plan. For one thing, trade shows are relatively inexpensive. For less than the cost of a few spots on prime-time local TV, a business can utilize a display space in a three-day show. Such shows are a terrific way to sell the product or service directly to a pre-qualified group of prospects. Trade shows are also useful in gathering leads for a future approach by phone or mail, and can be used for on-site test marketing purposes. Additionally, a show can become a special event within the context of the company’s existing advertising program. In fact, many exhibitors plan on shows as reasons for sales promotions.
After buying space in a trade show, do not forget about the show and then–at the last minute–put together a weak display consisting of a card table, a chair, a miniscule sign, and a chart. Just as your product must compete within its own marketplace, your exhibit must compete for public attention within the show. Thus your entire display becomes an extension of your marketing program and should be planned as carefully as any brochure or TV campaign. Here are some hints to maximize your marketing dollar in the trade show environment by adding some sizzle.
1. The more appealing your display, the more traffic it will get. Little touches like attractive signage, carpeting, furniture for customers to rest on and nice lighting help a lot. Informative (as well as sales-oriented) signs tend to keep the attention of prospects. If possible, use a hands-on display, where the customer participates by taking a quiz, touching an object, or sampling a food product.
2. Whoever is manning the exhibit should remain standing and should greet each and every person who wanders by. Inevitably, the displays that fail in a show are those manned by sullen or uncommunicative employees who sit in the back of the display and work crossword puzzles. The best people to work the booth are the principals of the company or the sales department–not secretaries, receptionists, or temporaries.
3. Have information for customers to take with them. Think how much it costs to place your information directly into the hands of qualified prospects by any other method. Imprinted gifts such as pens, sacks, and balloons are also helpful. If you wish to build a prospect list, hold a registration give-away. The customer participates by using his/her business card to qualify.
4. Utilize the available technology. Short video presentations (under five minutes) are quite useful, as are slide shows. Interactive, touch-screen computer technology will be the wave of the future in trade shows.
5. If you sell directly to the public, don’t be shy. Have a team of hungry yet polite salespeople manning your display at all times, presenting the product and closing sales.
6. Support your display with other advertising which will tell about the show and your appearance in it. Although many exhibitors rightly feel that advertising is the producer’s responsibility, the important point here is that the impact of the show is much greater if everyone works together on the promotion of it.
7. Try to have something or someone very unusual at your display–an expert in the field, a new technology breakthrough, a celebrity endorser, the world’s only thingamajig. For example, Bueno Foods gets attention by way of a person who wanders around the show wearing a green chile costume with the Bueno logo on it. Other companies pass out pins, badges, or shopping bags.
8. Remember that only a portion of the business you receive will occur during show hours. Attendees and buyers must visit more than a hundred booths and sample hundreds of products, so many do not have time to place orders at the show. Rather, they collect information, take notes, and make their decisions later. Overheard from an exhibitor at the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show: “At first we were disappointed because we’re used to working gift shows; but a few weeks after the show, orders started pouring in.”
9. One show does not a marketing campaign make. Many first-time exhibitors expect instant success with their first show. Well, it took the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show three years to turn a healthy profit! Likewise, it often takes more than one-time exhibiting at the same show to gain product identification.