The biggest event of the year is around the corner. While 100 million people will likely be tuning into the Super Bowl in February, more than 50,000 people will be focused on something completely different.
What is Expo West? Well, if you’re a brand in the Natural Food Industry, you’ve probably heard all about it.
Natural Products Expo West is the largest and most important trade expo in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry.
How big is Expo West?
Well, last year, 57,000 people registered for Expo West featuring top retailers like: Costco, Wholefoods, Kroger, Earthfare, Trader Joe's, Sprouts, and Publix. As well as distributors, venture capitalists, and other industry members that could potentially skyrocket your brand’s success.
These important decision makers attend Expo West each year to learn about new products, expand their business and offerings, as well as make investments in brands that stand out to them.
So it may not be Super Bowl big in size… but the Super Bowl is as important for NFL teams as making a good impression at Expo West is for Natural Food brands.
In addition to sales, Expo West provides brands the opportunity to make meaningful connections that can accelerate the growth of their business. Giving you the chance to meet with retailers, distributors, investors, and press, all in one place.
It’s one of the most powerful and efficient marketing opportunities your brand can experience in the Natural Food Industry.
In this article, we’ll go over:
How to Prepare for Expo West
Lead generation, increasing brand awareness, and making sales are all worthwhile goals to pursue while at Expo West. However, in order to make the most of the event, setting up critical meetings with decision makers who are important for the growth of your business is where you need to focus.
Decision makers are busy people so it’s not easy to secure time on their calendars. But they may be more willing to accommodate your request to meet for a few minutes of “floor time” at the Expo instead of adding another meeting to their schedule.
However, the key here is to try and set these meetings up BEFORE the show. If you already have their contact information, reach out before the expo so you can schedule a meetup.
And if you don’t - many of the people you’ll want to connect with are on LinkedIn - that’s a great place to start. Try sending a personal connect message or seeing if you have any shared connections that could introduce you.
Make sure to do a bit of research on the person so that you can tailor your message to whatever has relevance or meaning for them. When asking them for a meeting at the Expo, offer something of value and/or a way that you can be of assistance to them.
Another great way to get connected with the right people is to work with a brokerage to get your meetings set up beforehand. A good brokerage will have the exact industry connections that your brand needs to make the most of your Expo experience.
Know Your Why & Then Your Who
Before reaching out to anyone, you need to figure out your “why”. In other words, what do you want to get out of the meeting? Is it simply a commitment for a longer conversation in the near future, constructive feedback about a new product, or a sales contract.
Next, once you’ve identified your “why”, you need to figure out your “who”. Considering what you want to achieve in a meeting at Expo, who are the right people that would be the most beneficial for you?
When thinking about who you’d like to meet with and setting up a meeting with them, ask yourself the following questions:
What problems are they facing?
What common interests/mutual goals do we have?
What causes do they support?
What language would they best respond to?
Knowing your audience enables you to personalize your messaging effectively which increases your likelihood of success in trying to set up those strategic meetings before the show.
Creating a Pitch That Sells
When it comes to pitching to retailers, your focus should be the ones where your customer or end user shops. You want to pitch to the decision makers for the retailers that own your target audience (customers).
Keep it short and simple. Craft a brief, compelling story for your brand that explains what makes your brand unique and the impact being made by your products.
Position what you’re selling as the solution to your audience’s most pressing problem(s)
Be sure to mention what makes you a better choice than your competitors.
Data Matters: Retailers are interested in your velocity, category position, and growth.
Support your sales pitch with attention grabbing visuals that help explain your message.
Did you know that pre-expo promotion can lead to a 40% increase in qualified leads? To maximize your impact at Expo West, begin digital marketing before the expo. Social Media is going to be one of your best tools for this.
Build excitement and hype leading up to the event through your social media platforms. Use the Expo West hashtag to announce your attendance at the expo and include teasers of new products you’ll launch and or photos from when you attended the event in the past (if applicable). Search for active, relevant hashtags on each platform and use them as well.
Note: the pre-expo marketing doesn’t have to stop on social media. You’ll want to reach as many people as possible to increase your likelihood of catching the right attention with the right people. Email marketing is another great tool to increase reach and engagement. Send pre-expo emails to your email lists to let them know you’ll have a display at the event and highlight some of your most popular products or services.
Creating a Strong Presence at Expo West
Your display at Expo West should obviously reflect your brand, but more importantly, it needs to be memorable. There shouldn’t be any dead time at your exhibit. Get creative about how you attract people to your exhibit. Invite people to play games or other interactive activities to get people to stop and focus on your brand in a non-confrontational way. Also consider playing music and even inviting dancing.
As people come up to your booth, don’t just hand out literature and marketing material. Instead, place it at the back of your space so that people engage with your reps first - this is going to be much more likely to generate a lead or a sale for your brand.
Don't just rely on a great booth and wait to be seen. Get out there, walk the show, and explore. Be nice to everyone, but also intentional about who you make time for. Don’t let socializing overtake your objectives and don't spend time talking with people you can talk to outside of Expo West. That is a waste of your time and the resources it took to be there.
Game Time: Your Expo West To-Do List
In addition to meeting with important decision makers, you’re also there to make sales. According to the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research, most attendees of trade shows ask for quotes, a quarter of them sign purchase orders and 72% say shows influence their purchase decisions. Make a game plan for how you will use the event to make sales.
✔️ Make sure your reps know exactly what your goals for the show are. They should know who you’re hoping to meet with so they can help with facilitating those meetings.
✔️ Train reps on how to have effective sales conversations. They should be able to converse fluently about your company and its products and answer any questions about them.
✔️ Create a schedule for your time at the event that supports what you want to achieve there.
✔️ Don’t overcrowd your booth. Make it inviting for buyers to access and easy for them to see what your brand is all about and what you’re offering.
✔️ Make sure your exhibit clearly explains your offerings and what makes you different from the competition.
✔️ Buyers will want sell sheets, but it’s best to send things digitally as nobody wants to carry paper around with them.
✔️ In addition to samples/product demos, consider including interactive media, games or contests.
✔️ Take photos of business cards (yes, they still exist) from people of interest and send these to your team, if given. If not, capture their email address and any other relevant information.
✔️ You also want to develop promotional materials that facilitate sales, such as a catalog, price list, and terms sheet.
Remember that short conversations can lead to big opportunities. After conversations, text or email notes to your team while it’s fresh in your mind. Don’t do this while you are in the conversation, be present! Make sure your notes include key actions you committed to.
The Game’s Not Over Yet: Post Show Events
Expo West post-show events are the ideal setting for sharing meaningful, memorable conversations with the people you want to connect with. So, the first thing you want to do is find out who’s throwing the party you think would be most beneficial for your goals. Then, work with your network or your brokerage to get invited.
To make the best impression on behalf of your brand, be sure to:
Leverage what makes you unique and talk about what makes you passionate about your work – passionate people are interesting.
Avoid dominating conversations and ditch the sales pitch. Keep things casual and light.
Ask them questions about who they are and their interests to encourage them to stay engaged.
Provide helpful information or solutions to their problems.
Follow Up & Evaluation
Expo West will leave you buzzing, but also completely exhausted when it's over. The last thing you may want to do is follow up, but this is the most important part of a successful show. It's all in the follow-up because that's when your expo goals get met.
A study by CEIR found that exhibitors who follow up within 48 hours of the trade show are 70% more likely to convert leads into sales. So you need to follow up IMMEDIATELY and with PURPOSE, otherwise you're missing out on everything you worked for at Expo. So consider drafting follow-up emails and schedule them to be sent out the following Monday.
Not every team can win the Super Bowl, but those who do have spent meticulous time planning and preparing for the day of the game. If your brand wants to take home the “Expo Trophy”, you’ll need to do just that. See you on the field!