Making the most out of your time spent at shows and ensuring a good return on investment.
Sanjay says: "Trade Shows are 100% worth doing. However, they are time-consuming, expensive and can take a lot out of you physically, so it's important to do everything you can to maximise your time at them. Over the years, I've come to get a really good understanding of what works for me. I hope these tips can be useful to others starting out".
Before the show:
- Get prepared in advance. I can't stress this enough, and I have been caught out on several occasions in the past. Printing brochures and visuals for stands takes time. Allow for this in your planning. Work backwards from the date of the show and treat it like a proper project, with milestones of when things need to be done. Get your samples together, book tickets, and have everything in one place. It all helps.
- Do your research and 'learn by doing'. If you ask your network, you'll find that everyone has an opinion of how well you might do at a certain trade show based on their own experience. How well they did or didn't do has no bearing on how well you might do. So, don't ask too many opinions from others: you'll end up procrastinating too much, and only you will know if it works by doing it. In reality, you might need to do a few shows to find your feet.
- Check out deals for startups. Often, event organisers have a launchpad stand for new companies less than three years old. This can be a great way to step into the world of trade shows. Do your research and find out what is available if you're just starting out.
- Jump on PR opportunities. Spice Kitchen has a reputation for getting great PR, and this is because we know its value of it. Trade Shows are great opportunities as there are loads of free ways to promote yourself. You'll get emails about this in the lead up to the show. Take advantage of all the press and media opportunities beforehand, and keep your trade show portal up to date with company information to maximise your visibility.
- Give to receive. Be prepared to give out samples and budget for this; the more you give, the more you get back. This principle has worked for us in all areas of our business, and trade shows are no different. It doesn't even need to be expensive, but it does need to be memorable. As a food business, you have a perfect opportunity to smash this.
During the show:
- Use your time wisely. Don't waste your time talking to people selling to you; instead, give them your card and tell them to contact you after the show. You will be approached by packaging, marketing, PR and new platform companies, all useful but not what you are there to do.
- Take orders. We always have an order form and will create a simple starter order to make it easy for retailers to buy. Try and handle all the objections you might get and focus on getting orders at the show. It's A LOT harder to get orders after the show over the phone as some people won't remember you. Remember, retailers have come to buy and stock their shops; try and make sure some of this budget is spent with you, not your neighbour!
- Qualify your customers, especially when it's busy. We always try and ask what sort of shop they are quite early on in the discussion, and then we can tailor the conversation (or avoid one) if they aren't buyers. The last thing you want is to miss out on a proper sale by talking to someone irrelevant.
- Commit to the WOW factor. Stand out or do something to WOW visitors and draw them to your stand. At our last trade show, me and mum made 300 veggie samosas and dips and gave them out to visitors. No one else was doing that, and so it meant we got loads of attention, and the gorgeous food naturally became a talking point.
- Try not to be on your phone at the shows. Make sure you are approachable and are approaching others, not looking at a screen. It makes it easier for people to walk past. We make more than 50% of our sales from approaching people walking past who wouldn't usually stop by.
- Tell your retailers where you will be via email or over the phone. And on the day, make stickers with your stand number and attach them to your literature so they can easily find you again. Often buyers sit down at lunch and place orders in the afternoon or the next day, so make it super easy for them to come back to you.
- Be super friendly with your neighbours. Many of the businesses I've stood next to at trade shows have become long term friends, and we support each other to this day. Some we have ended up supplying spices to and have done collaborations with. You never know who you are standing next to until you take the opportunity to get to know them, and you never know where this might lead!
After the show:
- Swap any leftover stock with other sellers at the end. And even sell quietly. Often, other exhibitors want to buy our products, and we always end up selling any samples we haven't handed out. We take a card reader with us, and more often than not, this approach means we cover the cost of our stand fee!
- Stick around afterwards. Enjoy socialising/networking with other businesses, and enjoy the free drinks the exhibitors are offering!
- Follow up on leads. You should keep a really good record of all the people you speak to, especially if they are hot leads. But this alone isn't enough. When you're back at the office, make sure you chase them and don't expect people to always come back to you if they are interested. Be persistent. It may be worth investing in a CRM system to help you with this.
I think the last thing to say is, over and above everything I’ve said, is to have fun. Be positive, be engaging and enjoy speaking to people because that energy will radiate out from your stand and people will want to come and talk to you simply because of that!
By Ann Lowe
Head of Community