Food and snack shows are one of the most rewarding but also most intimidating experiences for those in the bakery business. The possibilities to scale your business and find new partners that can have direct results on your company are nearly endless. Considering the opportunities, there are so many questions that circle around how to maximize these experiences, but unfortunately, there’s not a go-to how-to guide. Below are some ways brands can get the most out of attending a trade show before, during, and after to see results that expand beyond the show itself.
Choosing a Trade Show
The very first step in attending or exhibiting at a trade show should be to ask yourself, “What is my intent of going to a trade show? What’s my objective?” If you’re in the market to promote a new product or line, consider looking into shows that align with the specific product(s), but if you’re looking to promote your overall brand, find shows that are aligned with your entire company. For example, if your company isn’t all-natural or all-organic, avoid shows that are exclusive to those verticals.
Once you have an idea of the shows you’d like to attend, there are some boxes to check off before confirming your participation. Make sure there will be retailers at the show so your products aren’t only reaching peers, but potential buyers as well. Speaking of asking who attends, get an idea of the media presence there. Many large shows have a large media attendance who are interested in learning about your brand and can provide another opportunity to increase the longevity of your presence. Finally, ask where your booth will be and for a layout of the show to get a better idea of foot traffic. Attending a show has great potential, but only if you’re meeting with the right people.
Preparing for the Trade Show
If you’re showcasing a new offering or line, you should bring along core products that are central to your business, but sprinkle in those innovative ones as well. This will help drive interest in your brand while creating buzz about new offerings. Additionally, try to make sure that all of your products are individually-packaged. This will allow attendees to bring them home and share with others for an even bigger audience. A good rule of thumb if you’re wondering how many samples to bring is that for a mid-sized show, having 30 samples for each hour should suffice.
In addition to products, you’ll want to make sure your elevator or business pitch is well thought out for the show. You don’t want to read off of a script and come across as robotic. Instead, identify three to four overall themes of the show. For example, if you’re focusing on one large product, decide what the main points are and make sure everyone can deliver them to attendees (i.e. New ingredients, expansion into dietary-restrictive market, etc.). Having other facts on hand are great, but they shouldn’t be the focus of your pitch. One way to start this process is to have each on-site team member describe the product and build from there. Take the responses from your team members and identify points that are critical for your product or brand. Cut away the rest of the fluff, but make sure everyone can at least speak to the core elements.
During the Trade Show
While on site and in the middle of the action, there are a few things to keep in mind. You want to have samples, but make them seem fairly exclusive. You don’t want a full bowl of products that anyone can grab a handful of as exclusivity is attractive and being able to share a genuine connection with each person who grabs a sample is an advantageous opportunity for your business.
Thinking into manning your booth and building connections, have an appropriate amount of people stationed at the booth but err on the side of being minimalistic. Consider what you would think of as overcrowded if you were an attendee and make sure you’re under that threshold. Too many people at a booth can seem overwhelming and could potentially prevent others from approaching your booth. Extra team members should be encouraged to check out the competition on the floor. See how competitors are exhibiting their products as well as what trends they can identify. Maybe gluten-free products are everywhere this year. That could be a great insight during your next product development session. Finally, for connections you or team members make, don’t strong arm attendees into buying. Build a foundation with the attendees and establish strong connections.
After the Trade Show
Just because the trade show ends doesn’t mean the work does. In fact, this point is when most of the sales will probably happen, so wrapping everything up nicely with a bow is crucial. Look back at the connections you made at the show. Follow up with thank you emails and push for an in-person appointment, not an immediate purchase. Similarly to while at the show, you don’t want to come across as too sales-focused. This is when your established connection comes in handy. Once you’ve established a time to meet one-on-one, this is where you can focus on closing the sale and pushing the envelope organically.
While food and snack shows may be a crucial part of the bakery business, they shouldn’t be looked at as a scary experience, but rather an opportunity to show your business off and bring it to new potential fans. Having a better grasp of what you can do before, during and after can relieve some of the stress and help you focus your time into the most important part of your bakery business: Bringing the best product possible to market and making existing and potential customers as happy as possible.
Pete Thomsen is the Director of Sales and Strategy at Sugar Bowl Bakery, where he has been on the team for nearly five years, focusing on product performance and tradeshow participation. Pete has 25 years of experience in the CPG industry, serving in various sales and marketing positions, specializing in account penetration, category management and strategy.