Why are food marketers already planning for 2017 tradeshows?

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Tradeshow season winds down in the fall, but savvy food marketers are already evaluating how this season went and making plans for next year. Why? Because it takes time to cover all the marketing bases and really be prepared for showtime.

To help get the most ROI from tradeshow exhibit and travel costs, here are some exhibitor tips.

1. Get the word out early. Some companies rely solely on tradeshow foot traffic to attract prospects, but this game of chance does not ensure that you’ll attract the best prospects. Developing a solid plan for pre-show communication allows you to contact the people you really want to visit your exhibit in advance. Social media, personalized email, website posts, direct mail, print advertising…all of these tools should be considered in developing a pre-show communication program. Once you’ve got a good pre-show communication program in place, it’s easy to replicate it throughout the year for each tradeshow on the schedule.

2. Unify your branding. One of the biggest mistakes a food marketer can make is exhibiting at a tradeshow with a patchwork of brand visuals and marketing messages. Everything, from exhibit design, product packaging, marketing materials, digital displays, down to your business cards should present a unified brand. It is tempting to “make do” with materials on-hand and outdated packaging, but the cost of these “cost saving” decisions can be pretty steep in terms of the misperceptions about your company and products visitors and prospects will take away. Investment in packaging design, great product photography, sales sheets, and updated websites really pay off when it’s time to present your company’s best face at tradeshows.

3. Follow it up. Chances are there will be some great conversations and requests for more information at the show, along with contacts that just might blossom into meaningful business opportunities. But little of this will actually happen without a good post-show follow-up plan. That follow-up plan should include a strategy at the show to gather as much information as possible, as expediently as possible, so that a good follow-up data base can be developed. Most tradeshows offer exhibitor support in gathering information through badge scanner systems, but exhibitors need to have a post-show plan for making effective use of the data gathered. Over time, building a promotional data base from each tradeshow grows a company’s promotional capabilities.

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