Even in an increasingly digital era, in-person industry events like trade shows provide bakery manufacturers invaluable opportunities: networking and building new relationships; introducing new products to customers and prospects; and keeping up with industry trends. But the financial investment—which can reach five figures per show when you factor in booth fees, equipment costs and travel expenses—means it’s critical to make the most of every trade show experience.
Read on for tips on how to get more out of trade shows.
Understand who could be stopping by your booth. Start with the basics: How many people will be attending? What types of businesses will attendees be representing? Who are their customers?
This will affect everything from the total samples you’ll need to the number of employees necessary to staff your booth. This information can also help you determine which products to showcase and alert you to any potential conflicts—you don’t want to make maple-bacon donuts your flagship sample if many attendees cater primarily to vegetarian consumers.
Attendees may see thousands of products over the course of an event, so offering them something that stands out as delicious, visually captivating and easy to sample should be your first order of business.
Desserts that have unique colors, textures, ingredients or flavors—or even height—can be memorable. However, keep in mind the trade show’s environment and your booth’s capabilities. Samples should be easy to eat while standing or walking; one-bite items like donut holes and mini-cookies are ideal. Also, take space and equipment needs into consideration: If your booth doesn’t have the room or electrical outlet for a freezer, avoid serving anything that needs to be chilled or frozen.
In addition, samples should be something booth workers can serve while holding a conversation. Anything too complicated will take away from their ability to interact with visitors and could cause them to miss valuable networking opportunities.
The focus on visuals should extend beyond your samples to your overall booth display, says Terry Seal, food marketing consultant at Corkscrew Consulting in New York. Think about how you can incorporate your brand’s personality into every aspect, from the color of your plates to the uniforms employees wear. A strong, cohesive look will project a polished, professional image. Booth design is also an excellent opportunity to work with memorable props; anything from inflatables to unique lighting—as your booth’s capabilities and budget permit—can help create an immersive experience that draws in visitors.
“Make it easy for buyers and bloggers to take Instagram-worthy shots by having well-displayed hero products that visitors can easily photograph,” says Seal.
Additionally, according to a study from the Harvard Business Review, when people see their food being prepared, their satisfaction is 17.3 percent higher. A live demo is a great way to not only draw people in but also associate your brand with positive feelings.
To ensure solid attendee turnout at your booth, it’s essential to make the most of preshow communication, says food writer and former marketing manager Cathy Branciaroli. “Networking the way we think of it is hard to do at shows,” she says. “Take proactive steps beforehand, like promoting a demo that’s done in the booth.”
Branciaroli recommends this preshow communication take place on social media. Manufacturers can also have account representatives keep customers up to date on the business’s trade show schedule, whether in person or by making the announcement part of an e-blast.
At the event, have both an elevator pitch and a more detailed version of your value propositions prepared to ensure positive, productive interactions with visitors. The goal shouldn’t be to have full-fledged presentations that lead to closing sales, but to pique attendees’ interest long enough that they’ll want your personalized follow-up.
And be sure to capture the attention of attendees who don’t have time to stop and talk by making your key product points easily viewable in your booth. You can create posters or print relevant information on plates or napkins you’ll serve samples on.
Post-show communication with sales leads is also essential, says Seal. “Have a system for capturing contact information at your booth, and make it easy,” she suggests. “Most shows offer a way for booths to scan badges, making follow-up a breeze. Just be sure to keep track of the conversation so that you can tailor your follow-up.” In addition, when reaching out to new connections, mention upcoming product launches and events.Ready to reap the benefits of trade shows? Finding upcoming ones on platforms like Food Industry Executive and 10times, as well as on Dawn’s website.