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How to Stand Out at Your Next Foodservice Trade Show

Trade shows are a great way to find new prospects, nurture current relationships, check up on the competition. They also help us to stay up to date on industry developments. But they’re not cheap.
According to Business 2 Community, trade shows are the number one expense for B2B firms. They account for 20% of most companies’ marketing budgets, so you want to make sure you are doing it right. 
So we gathered together our 20 years’ experience attending food and beverage trade shows to put together this Best Practices Guide.

Pre-event Hype

Yes, the trade show happens on specific dates, but your work to promote your appearance should start way before then.

Start promoting as early as possible.

Trade shows can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to get there and think, “Where do I start?” Allow people the opportunity to schedule a time to meet with you at the event for a demo. You can complete a lot of work beforehand by letting people sign up to meet ahead of time.

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Share via Social Networks

Use social media to your advantage by using the event's hashtag. It's a great way to interact with other brands and attendees before the event. If you find a company with complementary services, you can even set up an event together to go on at night, after the daily activities are over. For example, a free happy hour hosted by your two companies.

Create a Landing Page

This can take the form of targeted social media or Google ads, video, organic social media posts, email outreach, texts or physical mailers. Depending on your goal, you may want to develop a dedicated landing page with your CTA and additional resources. Be sure to make your digital content mobile-friendly, since many trade show attendees will be using their phones or tablets.

Booth Best Practices

Write Concise Messaging

This is perhaps the most important trade show marketing strategy, since many exhibitors take too long to follow up—or don’t do so at all. Make personal calls to each of your hot leads to build rapport and to solidify the sale.

Make your Design Stand Out

It's super important you really think about your booth. Remember there are thousands of people's attention you are fighting for. If you don't have a large spot, remember you can always go taller.

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Add a QR Code to Your Brochure.

You can provide traditional print graphics an update by including QR codes, which are barcode-style images guests can scan using their smartphones. Scanning a code directs their smartphone's browser to a full page on the web like your website, a product description, an interactive experience, or Youtube training video. Ensure that the "experience" they are directed to after scanning the QR code is high-impact.

Use Gamification Methods

Gamification is a trend that’s worth looking into when it comes to live events. It's a great way to engage attendees and get them excited about exhibitors, speakers, and parties than by creating a fun game with swag to encourage them to discover? Some examples of successful gamification methods would be:

Examples include:

  • Scavenger hunts – just as much fun as when you were a kid, but now you’re competing for grown-up prizes, and there’s networking along the way.

  • Photo quests – encourage attendees to find locations or people to snap photos of that they can post to their social channels; it gets them to use your event’s hashtag, while promoting how much fun they’re having (and again, there’s prizes).

  • Social check-ins – getting people to check in at certain event locations can be difficult, but not when you incentivize them or make it part of a bigger game!

  • Networking challenges – Who’s going to be the first to collect 100 business cards or gain 20 new followers on Twitter?


Make Sure it is Something Useful

Everyone loves getting swag, and it isn’t that great brochure you just had designed. We’re talking something that provides immediate value. Pens are always a classic but also try to get creative.

Can you come up with a really cool branded t-shirt that attendees can put on right away? A reusable bag (that is bigger than everyone else’s so everything gets put into your bag? Stress balls? Phone holders? The list goes on. If you can get it, you can likely brand it.

Post-Event Best Practices

Follow-up Immediately

This is perhaps the most important trade show marketing strategy, since many exhibitors take too long to follow up—or don’t do so at all. Make personal calls to each of your hot leads to build rapport and solidify the sale.

Connect Virtually

Run a de facto remarketing campaign to leads (and other qualified event attendees, if possible) via email and/or social media ads. This will remind them of the context of your connection—and the exclusive deal you’ve offered—making them more likely to answer your sales calls. You could also coordinate a sorry-we-missed-you social media ad or email campaign to go to attendees who didn’t visit your booth or to prospects who weren’t at the show at all.

What are some of your top tips? Let us know in the comments below!


One thought on “Best Ways to Stand Out at Your Next Foodservice Trade Show

  1. Avatar Emily says:

    Pre-event marketing is probably the most crucial thing to do if you want people to come to your event. Great advice Dana!

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