Five Tips to Help You Succeed at Your Next Food Show

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For the rising food company, exhibiting at a food show can give your brand the boost it needs. Food shows are a chance to build brand awareness and get your product into the hands and mouths of influencers, investors and buyers.

Yet, attending a show can be a major investment. You’ll need to budget for not only the cost of your booth space, but travel, food samples, marketing collateral, staffing, booth signage, venue fees and more. That’s why it’s critical to have a plan in place to maximize your investment and ensure your success at the show.

Here are five tips to help you succeed with your next food show:

One - Start With A Plan

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What are your objectives?

  • What is a successful outcome look like after the show?

  • Who do you want to meet with? It could buyers, influencer, media, or the general public.

Having an understanding of who you’re trying to connect with and what success looks like will help you develop a plan and leave the show having accomplished your goals.

Two - Work With A Timeline

A successful event doesn’t happen when deadlines are missed and you throw everything together at the last minute. If you miss logistic deadlines you’ll pay more in late fees. You might miss opportunities to reach your target market if you wait until the last minute.

Once you determine which show you’ll attend, set up a timeline and work backwards. This way you can be thorough and keep the stress to a minimum, knowing you fully utilized all resources to have a successful show.

Three - Create a Booth Traffic Driver

When you know your show objective, then ask yourself, why would someone want to stop at my booth?

Determine what it is about your booth that will drive traffic and encourage them to interact with you. Don’t be satisfied with just a pass by and grab a sample. Find ways to interact with your booth visitors.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Introduce a new product and have samples available

  • Create a game or interactive experience

  • Use a drawing or contest

  • Create a test market and have visitors vote on a new flavor or vote for a package idea

  • Show a sneak peek no one else will see unless they visit your booth

Tip: Make sure you’re collecting leads - whether it’s scanning badges, taking business cards or an email sign up. You’ll want to connect with attendees after the show.

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Four - Develop a Robust Social Media Plan

If you’re not using social media to promote your booth and interact with attendees, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity. Start your social media content early. In fact, according to a study from Buffer, there are nearly as many posts leading up to an event as during the event itself. If you wait until the show starts, you’ve missed huge opportunities to build awareness.

Tip: Make sure you use the official hashtags of the show.

Five - Follow Up With Contacts After The Show

The show is over and you’ve connected with hundreds of people. It’s important to build upon the connections you’ve made at the event. No doubt, buyer may be your most valuable show connection.

Alli Ball , a former buyer for Bi-Rite who now consults with food producers and manufacturers, has three tips to ensure success after the show:

  • Don’t forget to follow up

  • Send a concise, personalized email

  • Pick up the phone and call one week after the show

You can read more about her tips here.

With these five keys, I’m confident your next show will be a success. You will meet your objectives, be a lot less stressed and you can focus on building meaningful connections that will last into the future.

Need help building your next show strategy? Connect with me here.

3 Steps to Reaching Attendees at the National Restaurant Association Show

Those of us in the food industry know that a massive trade show is just around the corner, the National Restaurant Association Show. The annual event in Chicago draws thousands of attendees and exhibitors, showcasing everything in the restaurant industry from plates to pâté.

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If there's one opportunity I believe an overwhelming majority of exhibitors are missing out on is reaching attendees via social media. 

Here are my 3 recommendations to drive booth attendees via social media: 

1) Determine your why.

Why should attendees seek out YOUR booth? You need a booth activation plan - it could be product demos, customer consultations, games or drawings. Don't just wait for attendees to walk up, give them a reason to engage with you. THIS should be the foundation of your social media content. 

2) Build pre-event awareness.

Connect with attendees on social media now. A study from Buffer indicated that there are as many posts leading up to an event as during the event itself. If you wait until the day before the show, you're missing opportunities to build awareness. 

3) Create content on-site.

Much of your social content can be created ahead of time, but you need to be create engaging and relevant content based on what's happening at the show. Consider videos of your team setting up the booth. Or post quotes from speakers. Ask questions. Take polls. Go live.

With just a bit of thought ahead of time you can use social media to reach attendees, build awareness and drive additional booth traffic.

WANT MORE IDEAS? I created a FREE guide with some additional recommendations to building your event social media strategy. Just go here to grab the guide. 

5 Simple Social Media Tips to Drive Booth Traffic at the National Restaurant Association Show

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The National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago kicks off on May 19, 2018. If you implement an effective social media strategy, you'll not only stand out and build brand awareness, you'll also drive booth traffic. Everyone wants booth traffic - it's critical to capture those leads!

Here are 5 tips for an effective social media strategy at the NRA show:

Tip 1: Use the correct hashtags. The official hashtag is #FiredUp but people are already posting with different hashtags and you’ll want to use multiple hashtags to get the most visibility. Here are a few to use:

#NationalRestaurantShow #NRAshow18 #NRAshow2018 #RestaurantShow #FiredUp #NationalRestaurantAssociation  

Definitely use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. They really aren’t effective on Facebook or LinkedIn so I wouldn’t worry about those. 

Tip 2: Post a video! The current algorithms for social media put a high value on video - and it just gets more attention from users who are scrolling through their social media feeds. Attention (the good kind) is what you want from your social media strategy. 

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You can use your phone, virtually ever smart phone has high enough quality to record a video - no fancy equipment or complex editing software needed - it’s simple - just keep it short, get your point across and be yourself! 

What should your video be about? you could demo your new product or introduce your team. Give people a reason to watch!

Tip 3: Go LIVE. Take your video a step further and try going live. You’re more likely to get additional views and attention. In fact, the Facebook algorithm promotes video and live video. So give it a try!

What could you go live with? How about setting up your booth at the show. Or maybe demo your product. Or go live at the convention center at your booth. The options are endless.

Tip 4: Interact with fellow exhibitors and attendees. Don’t simply post content, respond to everyone that leaves a comment. Don’t let any comments go unanswered. 

Not only should you respond to comments on YOUR posts, go and interact with other posts - respond, like and retweet other content that you think is valuable. Build connections with your fellow exhibitors AND attendees!

Tip 5: be YOU, not the SALES YOU. It’s important to just be yourself - customers buy from people they know, like and trust. No one wants a hard sales pitch - it’s not interesting to watch and it’s boring. Just be you! 

There you go - all 5 tips for social media success at the National Restaurant Association. I hope these have been helpful! I’ll be at the show Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - I’d love to connect with you then. 

If you’d like to chat about food marketing, the food industry or how to help your brand really connect with your customers, I’d love to chat. Send me a note - we’ll see you soon!

How To Reach Buyers After Expo: 3 Critical Tips

Now that Expo is over, you may be asking “what’s next?” Here’s my one piece of advice - keep the momentum going!

You’ve connected with hundreds of people - social media influencers, industry experts, service providers, distributors, suppliers, buyers and fellow entrepreneurs. It’s important to build upon the connections you’ve made at the event.

One of the most critical connections you can make at Expo East is with a buyer, and nurturing this relationship is key.

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Alli Ball is a former buyer for Bi-Rite and now consults with food producers and manufacturers, guiding them with business planning, product development and wholesale launch. According to Alli, “Your follow-up to the show can make or break that new relationship that you formed on the sales floor.”

She has three tips that Expo East exhibitors need to remember following the show.

1) Don’t forget to follow up. While this seems obvious, as a buyer, she’s seen this step skipped time and again. “When I was a buyer, I had many instances where I met a producer on the trade show floor only to get back to San Francisco and realize that I didn’t have their contact information and couldn’t quite remember their brand,” Alli said. Takeaway: Buyers are busy - it’s unlikely that they will follow up with you, so you must make the first move after the show.

2) Send them a concise, personalized email that includes all of the information that they need to know to make a decision on your brand. Do not mass email - make each one personalized. According to Alli, “as a buyer, I’m much more likely to delete a generic group email than one that is addressed to me and speaks specifically on how your product can help my store.” Don’t forget to include your sell sheet and your pricing on this follow up email.

3) Pick up the phone and call one week after the show (after you’ve sent that follow up email). Then email again. And call again… and again and again. “It takes, on average, seven points of contact with a buyer before they respond and take action on your brand. I always say - as a producer you need to apply constant, gentle pressure on that buyer!”  

It takes, on average, seven points of contact with a buyer before they respond and take action on your brand.
— Alli Ball

Need help taking the next step? Alli has a wealth of information on how to reach buyers and make your product stand out. If you have questions on how to pitch to those buyers so they say “yes!”, what to include on your sell sheet, or how to continue that retail relationship, reach out to Alli here