Yes folks, it’s that time of year again when the convenience trade show season kicks off. From Nisa Stoneleigh to the National Convenience Show and P&H’s Pro Retail, the calendar is certainly chock-a-block. Over the coming weeks and months, suppliers big and small will be investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in these shows, from stand builds, staffing, promotional materials, travel, accommodation, PR, marketing and of course that bar bill. With so much outlay, are these shows really cost effective? And what are the best ways to really guarantee sales success and ROI? Trust Jellybean, your retail trade marketing to take you though the top tips…

Understandably, one of the primary metrics of success from visiting trade shows, and the question every Sales Director will rightly ask his/her returning team after the event, is…..“So, what sales did we get?” – i.e “Show me the money!” – and there is no getting away from this. At business-to-business trade events where seller meets buyer, of course it’s important and necessary to generate sales and leads to follow up. Trade shows can and will drive sales on the day(s) and long after the stand is packed away, just as long as you follow my five top tips.

1. People buy people

Assuming you’ve got your basics of stand, location, message, promotion and experience right (which of course is not always a given if you’re using inexperienced agencies, designers and promotional support teams) then you’re off to a great start. Now the old adage of ‘people buy people’ is certainly true when it comes to the convenience sector. You need your very best sales people on the stand, the guys and gals who don’t just know your brands, products and category inside-out, but know their audience too. You need your front-line convenience sales teams who’ve spent time in the field and can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk. Having other experts present from the wider category or insights teams will certainly add to your credibility, as would having retailer ambassadors you are currently working with on your stand.

If you get these basics right, you are certainly going to get some sales and you’ll do an ok job. But who really wants to go to all that effort and expense just to do just an “ok” job and get “some” sales? Achieving increased levels of sales at the shows, ensuring sustainable future sales, building quality relationships and achieving a credible thought leadership profile are all equally important ways to achieve sales success. So please read on and I’ll explain how to go about it.

2. Network your socks off

Not every retailer attending these shows is in buying mode and is there to be sold to (no-one, of course, likes to be sold to) – very often they are just browsing. Many are looking for insight, checking out the latest trends and networking with suppliers and fellow retailers, so it’s important that exhibitors are able to engage with retailers on this level too.

In our relatively small and well-connected convenience world, trade shows are an excellent way to forge relationships with other suppliers too. Why not start a conversation with another supplier about that brand link up you’ve been considering? Or arrange to meet the high profile retailer you want to run that category trial or promotion with.

The good and the great will be at the shows, so whilst networking might sound like I’m teaching you to suck eggs (sorry I don’t mean to), you’d be surprised at the number of missed opportunities there are at trade shows. Use your LinkedIn and Twitter to let people know you are attending. Go out of your way to look up your contacts and seek them out on their stands and at the various forums. Many successful partnerships and commercial relationships have started at these shows, so take full advantage.

3. Max your social presence

Trade shows epitomise the importance and popularity of face-to-face – even in a digital age, trade shows are still pulling in the punters and sales for exhibitors. So why bother about social media, you might think, given trade shows are so traditional? Well, trade shows are no longer traditional; they are socially connected just like the retailers who attend. So make sure you’re using social media channels to engage and converse with retailers, media and other influencers. Use and monitor the show hashtags, actively use social outreach at the show, create and share engaging content to drive footfall, and for the savvier ones amongst you, consider campaigns and ideas to encourage user generated content at the show, perhaps as a competition. The best retailers are all over social and surprise, surprise, they are the retailers other retailers follow and want to emulate. Social media will enable you to reach potential customers not at the show and your content and conversations will still be working hard for you long after the exhibition has finished. If you’d like to learn more about the role and importance of social media within convenience, please get in touch.

4. Engage the trade media

Trade media remains highly influential and is an essential platform for communicating with convenience retailers; journalists and reporters will be at trade shows in force. There are of course trade media partners linked to the shows and some are even organised by publishers.

As an exhibitor, you get access to PR, advertising and promotional opportunities, but sadly many exhibitors aren’t taking full advantage of this. Having a good trade PR and marketing agency on board (shameless plug alert…i.e. Jellybean Creative) will help you get more than your fair share of coverage and exposure – pre, during and post event.

Trade media exposure doesn’t just mean articles in the physical magazines of course. There is a wealth of opportunity to get your messages across via digital, social and face-to-face platforms too. Knowing which channels to use and how best to engage with the media in order to maximise sales needs careful planning and management. So it’s vital to invest in the right expertise to unlock the commercial and reputational returns.

5. Get up on the stage

Trade shows have certainly evolved in recent years and there is now an abundance of rich insight to be shared and gleaned from the various forums, seminars and retailer hubs. Alongside the National Convenience Show, for example, the Association of Convenience Stores runs its annual Convenience Summit, so for those companies who have innovation, category insight, trends and brand stories to share, there are plenty of opportunities to get up on a platform and talk to an engaged audience. If you’ve got a great story to tell then this will position your company and spokespeople as thought leaders, raise your profile and of course help you sell more cases of product short and long term. Picking your topics, training your people and crafting your content needs planning and skill, but will pay back ten-fold – we can help with all of this.

I, and the other Beans, will be attending all of the convenience trade shows. We’ll be there actively helping our clients deliver first class experiences on stands, networking, meeting media, championing thought leadership and generating compelling social content.

I hope to see you there – and if you want to talk or meet up to discuss anything that’s sparked your interest in this blog, then please get in touch on twitter @neilbrenson; email; or my mobile 07540 109191.

Jellybean Creative is a leading retail trade marketing agency. We help top brands with food service pr, food service marketing, digital and design. If you feel we could help you with your marcomms, strategy, public relations, creative or digital then drop us a line today.