EXPO is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturers to introduce their new items and brands to retailers and consumers. Retailers are always on the lookout for cool new items to drive sustainable sales. Manufacturers wanting to make a lasting impact should be prepared to do more than the thousands of other brands on the shelf.
Think of EXPO as a large retail store. Instead of only potential customers shopping for your product 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.
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’s 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 selling story do you want retailers to communicate on your behalf? Your presentation at Expo should clearly communicate and educate retailers.
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 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 shopper’s 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 each of the key retailers you plan to connect with in addition to the regions you sell in. 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 your brand and 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.
Organic and CPG Industry Strategic Advisor Daniel Lohman CPSA is an expert in the organic and natural CPG industry. With more than 25+ years experience, he is certified at the highest level of category management proficiency: Certified Professional Strategic Advisor.
Responsible for growing sales and teaching Category Management theory and principals while at Kimberly-Clark and Unilever. His extensive knowledge and expertise extends beyond that of a traditional Category Manager and has earned him recognition and a reputation throughout the industry as a thought leader.
Dan is a Natural Products EXPO speaker, is internationally published, writes for LOHAS, New Hope 360, The Natural Food Merchandiser, Supermarket News, and World Alliance for Retail Excellence and Standards. Dan is the author of Strategic Solutions and Guide to Grow Your Natural Business and the author of the What You Need To Know blog at CMS4CPG.COM.