Nothing Beats Face-to-Face
No matter how hard your website and social media accounts are working for your brand, according to the Queensland government’s inaugural small business champion, Maree Adshead, nothing compares to the impact communicating with customers face-to-face can have.
“I’m a big believer in the power of connecting in person,” Adshead says. “And compared to meeting someone one-on-one, the great thing about a trade show is that people’s senses tend to be pretty heightened by the surroundings. It’s an exciting environment to be in, and that can make attendees even more open to having a conversation with exhibitors.”
That’s motivation enough to exhibit all on its own, but here’s a handful of other reasons to consider.
Exhibiting is great for new businesses
Emerging skincare range 3Bee New Zealand was a first-time exhibitor at Naturally Good 2019. The brand’s business development manager, Vanessa Blackmore, says it was an invaluable experience. “As a new brand and product line, we were unsure what to expect from the show, but we were delighted with the interest and enthusiasm our products and stand generated,” Blackmore says. “We made great connections and new contacts that have led to genuine, quality sales leads.”
Joyce DiMascio, previously the chief executive of the Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia, agrees that trade shows can be vital for new brands. “As a new exhibitor, it’s a chance to start building a community of followers for your brand as well as experiencing first-hand what other brands and businesses are doing well by walking the floor.”
DiMascio advises new exhibitors to lean on and collaborate with the organisation hosting the exhibition. “Reach out to them for advice and support, and take advantage of the exhibition manual they provide you with,” she says.
Gain exposure to the right audience
“One of the major benefits of trade shows is that visitors are only attending if they’re interested in that category,” DiMascio says. “So choose the right trade show for your brand and, as an exhibitor, you know you’ll be exposed to a ‘prequalified audience’.”
At Australian trade shows, that audience includes more and more international buyers. In 2019, international attendees at the Naturally Good Expo were up by 27 per cent. Takuto Kobayashi, executive director of Japanese-based company MK Enterprise, which specialises in healthcare and eco-friendly products, was one of them. “This was my first visit to Naturally Good and the experience was amazing,” he says. “I found so many unique products made locally in Australia, which can’t be located so easily in other countries. I’m really glad I decided to visit.”
Collect and analyse feedback
Taking the opportunity to get feedback is crucial for both new and established brands, DiMascio says. “Whether you collect it via a short survey using pen and paper or on an iPad, it can deliver genuine, objective thoughts and opinions about everything from your products to the experience your stand delivers,” she says. “Plus, that feedback can play a big part in your post-show follow-up strategy, so make sure part of it involves gathering attendees’ contact details.”
For Peita Pini, managing director and founder of The Swag, which makes reusable bags for keeping fruit and vegetables fresh, feedback is one of the main reasons for returning to exhibit at the Naturally Good Expo year after year. “It’s an important part of our marketing plan,” Pini says. “It delivers a great platform to talk to a wide number of industry experts, wholesalers and direct customers about our products which, in turn, enables us to hone our direction as a brand.”
Adshead says simply deciding to exhibit at a trade show can help you re-examine your offering. “Crafting everything from your signage to how your stand looks is a great opportunity to review and refine your brand’s value proposition,” she says.
Visitors get first-hand experience
Shannon Danchisen, store manager of Sydney’s Arete Organics, experienced the value of first-hand experience at Naturally Good 2019. “It was really good to see the products in person and test them out – so much better than looking at things in catalogues,” Danchisen says. “And it meant we got to meet the person behind the brand and hear their story.”
Just remember that to encourage visitors to get hands-on with your product, your stand needs to be both inviting and exciting, Adshead says. “So as well as making it very clear exactly what your brand offers, to avoid confusion or people simply passing you by, have some fun with it,” she says. “Offer something that creates a bit of a buzz and gets people talking.”
Accelerate the buying process
Overseas exhibition industry research indicates that 86 per cent of show attendees are the decision maker, or the person who influences buying decisions, for the business they represent. The same research shows how closing a sale that begins with contact at a trade show can cost 50 per cent less and takes fewer sales calls than closing one that doesn’t have the exhibition advantage.
Nourish & Care launched its new dairy alternative product, Milky Almonds, at the 2019 Naturally Good Expo. Director Markorios Salib says it was an amazing platform. “There wasn’t another room in Australia that we could find filled with the right mix of humans and companies,” Salib says. “We were super pleased with the immediate response from the retailers and distributors who were present. It’s an event we feel we should be part of regularly.”