Natural Products Expo is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers to introduce their new items and brands to retailers and consumers. Retailers come with the goal of scoping out cool new items to drive sustainable sales, so manufacturers wanting to make an impression must be prepared to do more than the thousands of other brands these retailers already have on their shelves.
Think of the Expo show floor as a large retail store, but instead of only advertising to potential customers, you're also trying to attract retailers. Of all the items in your category, how do you stand out against the competition? Having a solid expo strategy can help you make a lasting impression with retailers, potential customers, and even food bloggers. Here are five pieces of advice to consider.
Know your purpose:
Your booth looks great, your sales team is energetic and motivated, and you have plenty of samples to pass out but what is your purpose for being at Expo? Is it to sell cases or is it to address a specific unmet need? A lot of brands get so caught up in selling that they lose sight of their original purpose. To me this is what the natural channel is really about. It's about authenticity, helping consumers, and making a lasting impact. What story do you want retailers to communicate on your behalf? Your presentation at Expo should clearly communicate and educate retailers about this message.
Know your competition:
Most manufacturers can list their competitors but how many manufacturers are experts on their competitor’s products? Knowing your competition helps you sell against them and differentiate your brand. Retailers are not looking for another “me too” brand. They want a strong brand to take a leadership role in the category - a brand that appeals to their customers.
Everyone in your booth needs to be prepared to answer any question about a competitive product. They should use that as an opportunity to help differentiate your brand against the competition. For example yes, our competition is gluten-free but did you know that we are also non-GMO certified?
Know your target consumer:
Retailers manage literally hundreds of different categories and thousands of items. They cannot be experts in everything. It is up to brands to educate retailers on the category and give them the knowledge and tools that will help them sell more of your products. This could be the greatest differentiator between you and your competition. Set yourself apart by helping retailers meet their shoppers' needs.
Be an expert in your category:
A lot of small companies know very little about the categories they compete in. Being an expert in your category includes more than just listing each of your competitors. It also includes understanding how your category is meeting retailer’s objectives:
- Is the category up or down?
- Is there enough holding power in the categories for the top brands?
- How does the category increase foot traffic for the retailer?
- How important is the category to other departments in the store?
A good way to become an expert in the category is to be prepared with a complete category review for the key retailers you hope to target as well as the regions where you are distributing product. Retailers will be extremely impressed that you've made an effort to understand your category at their store. This creates a unique opportunity for you to highlight how your brand will help them grow sales.
Have a follow-up strategy:
Have a strategy in place to capture contact information, important conversations and organize notes for follow-up after the show. I'm amazed by how many exhibitors run out of business cards and sales literature before the end of the show. I'm equally amazed by the lack of follow-up on the part of some brands. After spending all the money, time and energy to exhibit at Expo this is a huge missed opportunity. At the very least, exhibitors should thank people for coming to their booth. Not only is this courteous but you never know when a contact might be in a position to grow your brand.