Develop goals and a strategy for attending trade shows - SKUFood
Sharing is Caring

Develop goals and a strategy for attending trade shows

We got some great feedback from our newsletter last week about consumer shows. We did put a link to a previous article about trade shows but our environment continues to change so we decided to continue the theme with trade shows. Trade shows are events created to provide businesses an opportunity to showcase their products to industry. Often, suppliers in the industry will exhibit their products and retailers, buyers, distributors, brokers and wholesalers will attend the shows. Some trade shows provide the opportunity to strengthen existing customer relationships and/or build new ones. In some markets buyers commit to orders and in others it can be more of a meet and greet.

If you will be at the CPMA in April or SIAL in May let me know, it would be great to connect there!

Develop goals and a strategy for attending trade shows

Any trade show is an investment in time, resources and money. Before committing to any show, you should define your purpose for attending the show. A list of defined goals should guide your decision making. It is also a good checklist to assess your success and your return on investment.

In food and beverage, most of the events have returned to in-person shows. This is good and bad. Most would say it is more effective, but it is also more expensive.

Your goals can be one or a few of the following:

  1. Find new customers to grow your sales
  2. Find a broker to represent you in the market
  3. Find a distributor
  4. Check out your competition
  5. Look for new packaging or marketing ideas
  6. Re-establish relationships with existing customers
  7. Look for ingredient, packaging or other input suppliers
  8. Learn from the content sessions at the show (this is where we put in a plug for those knowledgeable, entertaining and engaging speakers!)
  9. Explore opportunities with suppliers for logistics or other channel partners
  10. Introduce new ideas, flavours or concepts to gauge industry feedback

Remember, you probably can’t do it all so identify the priorities that will benefit your business the most.

Once you know why you are attending it is beneficial to think about some strategy to ensure you come home with the sales or other resources for your business.

Considerations for your strategy include:

1) Do you need a booth?

A booth can be a critical component to showcase your offering and attract prospective buyers. It can also a lot of expense, work and prevent you from accomplishing some of your goals.

2) How many people do you need at the show?

If you are trying to see a lot of things at the show or set up meetings it is very helpful to have a few people to take care of the booth. These can be long days and you want to provide the best impression. The chance to attend an industry trade show can be a motivating opportunity for some employees. For others it is a grind. You want the right people there and fresh to greet your customers. It is also expensive so find the right amount of people.

3) Be proactive

Reach out to existing customers in advance. Try to arrange a time to meet in person or have them stop by your booth. If there are suppliers you know you want to meet do the same thing. The more you can arrange in advance the better your experience will be.

You can usually find a list of attendees and exhibitors on the trade show website. This is a great place to find people and set up meetings during the show. Do not wait for them to come to you.

4) Create a schedule

Look at the trade show hours, content sessions and your pre-scheduled meetings. What is realistic and figure out who will be where and when.

Remember to leave some time for people to walk the trade show floor. I like to walk the show when it is only open to exhibitors. You can see things differently when it is less busy.

5) Plan your sampling

Trade shows are great opportunities to showcase your products. You can forecast the samples you will need with the following formula:

(Days of trade show) x (Hours trade show is open each day) =Total sampling hours

(Total sampling hours) x (realistic number of samples per hour) = Samples required

The variable is realistic number of samples per hour. If you are just feeding people, you might give out a sample every minute. If you are planning to have meaningful conversations perhaps only 30 samples per hour is realistic.

Some of this sampling could be the most important demo you ever do. Make it memorable and give people a good experience. Your product on the end of a popsicle stick is not a good experience.

Keep track of the samples so you have this information for planning next time.

6) Treat your existing customers and the real potential customers differently

I am not a huge fan of bringing something to a trade show your existing customers have not seen or heard about. You want a relationship with these people so no surprises. If you plan to ‘launch’ something at the show, tell them in advance and if possible get some product to them before the show.

Create some special sample packs or ‘goodie bags’ for the people who really do or might make a difference to your business. Make them feel special and show them you appreciate their existing or potential business.

7) Determine how you will capture the valuable information from booth visitors

Trade shows can be a very valuable market research opportunity. These are not typical consumers and you can learn a lot from these people. If you are testing products or concepts figure out how to capture the information. You can go old school with a ballot or high tech. Regardless of how you do it, just make sure you do it. It gets busy and it can be very difficult to just ‘get a sense’ for that people are saying.

8) Determine how you will follow up

A bag full of business cards or many new connections on your smart phone are great, but only valuable if you can follow up with the best ones. You can develop a 1-5 rating system prior to the show. Best prospects or best opportunities are a 1 and then people you met who probably will not impact the business are a 5. After the show start with the 1’s. You can make a note right on their business card after you speak with them.

Asking how to follow up is a good question. Some people want you to call and others prefer email or a connection on Linked in. Make note of this on the card as well and it should increase your chances of a solid lead when you start with their preferred method of communication.

After the trade show is where the true payback happens

When you get back to the office it is time to assess the value of the show. You can determine the success, relative to the goals you outlined for the show. Consider each goal and whether you were able to find those new customers or have a good, positive meeting with existing ones.

It is also time to pull out those business cards or contacts and follow up. If you were able to capture their preferred method you should get to work.

A quick post-mortem is valuable for planning in the future. Consider what went well, what could have been better and what you would do differently next time. It is best to complete this while it is fresh in your mind. If you have multiple people at the show di this independently then get together to discuss the information. People see things differently. When I was at Loblaw we would do this for each key selling season and it was a great starting point for next year.

If you have any questions about trade shows, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


FCC Food and Beverage highlights processor margins

Recently FCC released the food and beverage industry report. It is great to have all of this information for suppliers in our industry. One area that is helpful is processor margins. FCC report that processor margins were negatively impacted by increased input costs and increased labour costs. Not news to people in the industry but the numbers should help you understand how your business is doing, relative to others.

If 2019 was 100, FCC tells us the following story:

2020 97.2

2021 100.2

2022 89.2

2023 89.5

You can now assess your financial performance relative to the overall industry. If your margins were down more than .3 from 2022 to 2023 then you are falling behind the overall industry. Certainly, this can vary from category to category. You can find more details in the overall report.

Really excited to work with Norm Purdy and Al Archibald to deliver this new program for Food and Beverage Atlantic. We have created a unique masterclass for food and beverage business owners. This has been developed to help you run your business, not work in the business. We will focus on key metrics you need to measure and how to manage your business for the best results. The combination of virtual and in person will really deliver the tools and strategies you need to take your business to the next level.

Any questions just give me a call at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email

Where is Peter Speaking?

Food and Beverage Atlantic

Sobeys Pitch preparation Apr 19th

Food and Beverage Atlantic

Preparing for SIAL Apr 20th

Foodpreneur program

Getting ready for retail May 16th

De Sedulous Women Leaders

Pricing and positioning Jun 23rd

De Sedulous Women Leaders

Finding the perfect distributor Jul 14th