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Brand Bootcamp recap: Expert tips for making the most of Expo West

Who better to learn from than those who have been there? These Natural Products Expo veterans share their experiences so you can learn from them.

Shara Rutberg

February 23, 2022

4 Min Read
Brand Bootcamp recap: Expert tips for making most of Expo West

"It’s the Super Bowl for us in the natural products industry—and game day at Expo is not just days at the booth," says 24-time Natural Products Expo veteran Eric Schnell.

The Beyond Brands co-founder—who also is the co-chair of Naturally New York—is a fountain of practical tips for people heading to Anaheim or taking advantage of the virtual booths at Natural Products Expo Virtual. If you missed the livestream from the all-star panel, read on for a few highlights and catch the replay.

Start yesterday

"Get your LinkedIn posts up this week and next," Schell says. "Invite people to your booth, put a press release out before the show and get the buzz going."

Study the show guide. "See what’s going on, from morning yoga to evening parties. You can get so much done at this show outside of show floor hours. Some of my best meetings happened off the show floor."

Share your virtual booth now, suggests New Hope Marketing Manager Hannah Siegel. "Download the social media toolkit we created especially for exhibitors," she said. "It has starter captions, badges for product images and lots more. Remember to always put your booth number on all your images and videos, and use the hashtag #ReturnToAnaheim. We’re encouraging retailers to follow it and it allows even more chances for your products to come up."

Related:Packing tips for Natural Products Expo newbies

Michele Garske, New Hope’s senior director, strategic and international business, points out the advantages of this year's virtual platform.

"This year we have a really great opportunity with the virtual platform, starting right now," she says. "Challenge your team for the next three weeks to make 25 new connections, make 50. Get a three-week head start."

Do your homework

"Brands need to do a little homework before they come," says Jeff Crumpton, SPINS senior manager of Retail Reporting Solutions. "Data can help you differentiate your brand from others. Make sure you’re knowledgeable about what’s going on, using all the resources from New Hope." That way, it will be at the tip of your tongue when talking to retailers.

"And remember to carve out a little time to attend some of the education events," says New Hope Network's Executive Director of Content Jessica Rubino. "That where some of those richer conversations about the industry are going on."

Talk to everyone, everywhere

"You don’t know who could be your next best friend, your partner, your client—it’s so much fun," says Deb Luster, industry veteran and Goodles co-founder, who added that she has decades-long friendships that began in the airport waiting for planes to Expo.

"Don’t be intimidated. That’s what’s magical about this community," adds Amit Pandhi, CEO, Velocity Snack Brands. "It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of the biggest retailer or you make your product in your kitchen sink. Everyone is so open to help, to provide support."

Pandhi's favorite story comes from a years-ago Expo, when he was with an ice cream brand and a neighboring ice cream booth ran out of spoons. It was going to shut down when he gave them a full bag of spoons.

"Two years later, I needed an expensive piece of equipment from Sweden and it was delayed—for years. I was looking around the industry and couldn’t find it anywhere," he says. "The guys I had given those spoons to had one. They literally crated up this half-million-dollar piece of equipment and shipped it to me, no charge. I used it for two years."

Splurge for the scanner

Hailey Swartz, co-founder and co-CEO of Actual Veggies, attended her first Natural Products Expo in September. From that experience, she has two tips for other new brands: "Splurge for the scanner thingy," she says. "For the amount of time you’re saving it’s a good thing to invest in." Swartz is referring to the Aventri Lead Capture app, with which you can use your cell phone to capture information off the QR codes on attendees' badges.

She also suggests displaying some evidence of your brand's legitimacy,

"Put up a sign listing the stores you’re already working with," she says, and let people know which distributors carry your products.

What to wear

"Show up with your shirt on!" says Schnell, who appeared at Brand Camp sporting a Beyond Brands shirt. "Logos on! From the second you get on the plane. And have business cards. They may be old school, but when you’re in a crowded aisle or a bar, they’re great. Put them on sustainable paper with soy-based ink."

And of course, wear comfortable shoes.

"Don’t be afraid to wear tennis shoes with business suits," says Garske.

"And put in orthotics—even if you’re young!" adds Panhi, who said he has clocked over 40,000 steps on back-to-back days at previous Expos.

Watch the replay to find out more insider must-haves and tips for Expo, including two things you definitely need at your booth, what to carry and which bars are best for networking.

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