Over the past week, the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has faced unforeseen disruption due to threats of the coronavirus (COVID-19). And we have learned a lot from it. With several major trade shows canceled, industry players have had to quickly recover and figure out how they can continue the product discovery momentum. The situation we are in now has taught us that there is a need to evolve our industry and diversify our tactics when it comes to how products get discovered. 

Trade shows are still a crucial marketing strategy for CPG brands. Though technology today is most often what brings people together, trade shows are still one of the most effective ways to make new business connections and strengthen existing relationships by meeting face-to-face.  “If you’re a CPG or food brand, trade shows are the perfect opportunity to introduce your brand and have potential retail buyers get a taste of what makes you special. When you exhibit at a food trade show, you’re able to get in front of national, regional and specialty grocers and retailers. You can also connect with press and influencers to generate buzz about your brand,” says Kristen Wiley for Statusphere. 

The tangible and intangible costs of trade shows

Between the cost of the attendance fee, travel accommodations for staff attending, booth shipping, set up, marketing materials, and more, brands can spend up to $60,000 per show, depending on how big you go. Because of the commitment to both money and time, not every brand can have trade shows as part of their marketing strategy. Some choose to attend trade shows as “attendees” for only a couple hundred dollars and use it as an opportunity to network rather than exhibit. 

In addition to the tangible cost of trade shows, like anything, there is the risk of relying on or committing to one thing, and one thing only for your marketing strategy. Unexpected events can’t be predicted, such as a personal matter, weather, or the trade show itself canceling, as the industry is currently experiencing, and there are things that smaller brands should consider, as it is a big expense. For that reason, it is important that brands not put all their eggs in one basket and build a well-rounded strategy on how to get your products in front of retail buyers, with a solid back-up plan.  

Considering exhibiting 

Exhibiting at a trade show is more than just setting up a booth and displaying your product or laying out samples. There is a lot of prep prior to a show, such as setting goals, as well as post-show, such as following up. But what shouldn’t be forgotten, is the importance of intertwining in-person tactics with technology to maximize your return on investment (ROI) from these shows. A brand should consider the following:

  • Set measurable goals: Important event metrics to keep track of and set for your trade show include cost and expenses, lead generation, scheduled follow-ups, social media engagement, and closed deals.
  • Create a printed and digital sell sheet: A sell sheet is a one-page sheet used to attract product attention from prospects. Make sure to create a printed sell sheet that shares important company and product information that will answer important questions buyers might have about your business. Save a digital copy, or use your RangeMe profile as a digital sell sheet. Your RangeMe profile hosts all of your product images, product information, and company details in one easy-to-share location.
  • Let people know you’re attending a trade show: For example, on RangeMe, you can add trade shows you will be attending or exhibiting to your profile which will increase your visibility with buyers. Your brand will be added to special product collections dedicated to suppliers attending a specific trade show for buyers to see. Buyers can access these collections at any point to check out all the suppliers on RangeMe that attended a trade show. 
  • Pre-show communications: Communicate with attendees and prospects that you’ll be at the trade show, share your digital sell sheet and what they can expect from your booth. Tell them why stopping by your booth will be worth their time!
  • A booth that stands out: Optimize your booth layout and location, offer photo opportunities for attendees, use interactive technology or tactics, offer unique giveaways. 
  • Personalized presentations: No two retailers are alike. Make sure to research who will be attending the show so you can practice a few variations of your presentation based on who you’re speaking with. 
  • A content strategy: Develop content to help promote your brand and booth. Create themed content around the trade show, advertise your booth, utilize social media, and prepare physical content such as pamphlets, flyers, use cases, and more. The possibilities are endless. Consider creating a cover image on your RangeMe profile that highlights which trade show you’ll be attending. This is another way to share with buyers on RangeMe that you’ll be attending a trade show! 
  • Prepare post-show follow up: With all the promising leads you’ve gathered from the trade show, you’ll need a follow-up plan. This is another important time to send follow-ups via your digital sell sheet so buyers can check out your profile and products again. Plus, if you’re using RangeMe Sharing, you’ll be able to track your communications and see which buyers viewed your profile.
  • A backup plan: Emergencies happen and so do unplanned surprises. Whether it’s a result of travel delays, hotel accommodations, lost equipment, or a canceled show, make sure that you are prepared with a plan B laid out and ready to go if needed. 

When trade shows cancel

When a show is canceled or postponed and being able to market your product in person isn’t an option, there are alternative ways to continually promote and market your product to retailers and their buyers. In addition to in-person marketing at trade shows, you can take your product marketing online where retail buyers will continue their product discovery search. 

One way is through RangeMe. RangeMe can be leveraged as an online source to showcase your brand to buyers and help grow your brand with tools, insights, and services.  

A second option is taking to Instagram. The number of retail buyers that use Instagram to discover emerging brands and products is growing for multiple reasons. There is value in searching brands and products on social media as retail buyers can see the impact your product is having in the community. When you’re proactive on your social media and implementing a strategy to increase your follower count and engagement, it will only benefit how buyers view your products. Retail buyers want to know that you have a loyal customer base prior to bringing your product into stores. 

Another plus of being proactive on Instagram, and growing your follower count, is the possibility of getting added to RangeMe’s Instagram Collection for buyers. To qualify being included in this collection, a supplier must add their Instagram business account to their RangeMe profile and have seen an increase in follower count over 30 days. Here, buyers will be able to see brands that are trending on Instagram amongst consumers. 

Keep moving, even in the face of a canceled show

There are some things we can’t predict, and canceled trade shows are one of them. But even in the face of challenging times as we’ve been experiencing, with a well-rounded strategy, brands can continue their forward momentum to grow and thrive.

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