Katherine Anne Duncan, the owner of Katherine Anne Confections, exhibited with us last year. She had a great experience, including making a connection to McCormick Place that led to a nice truffle order! Here are her thoughts on the Festival and some helpful tips to make your experience exhibiting fun and successful! – Ed.
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The Good Food Festival – Not Your Usual Trade Show
To be fair, trade shows really aren’t my thing. People are scrounging for the best deal or lowest price, they’re rushed, and they usually don’t seem to care about the same things that I care about – mention local ingredients at most trade shows and you can tell the buyers are not interested.
The Good Food Festival is a delightful exception. It was the first trade show where I ever had a lot of fun. I met a bunch of interested, inquisitive buyers. Not only were they completely on board with our not using corn syrup, they suggested sustainable alternatives for other practices as well. Everyone seemed to share a lot of the same values. This didn’t mean there wasn’t some good-natured discourse, but it did mean a lot less time explaining why corn syrup is not the most awesome sweetener out there and more time explaining the other advantages of our product.
Because I’m such a “sweet” person, I want to help you avoid making some of the same rookie mistakes that I’ve made. There’s no substitute for experience, but hopefully this list will help make your life easier.
1) Be prepared. You don’t need a long, detailed plan that requires rehearsing. But do have your cost sheet (wholesale pricing guide!) and business cards ready, and have a lot of them. You can always take the extras home. If you have a food-based product, have samples. Have some examples of your finished work (ready to sell), and have a mailing list.
2) Figure out the top three things you want to tell everyone. It should be things that THEY care about. Things that highlight how sustainable, awesome, or effective your product is. If you’re talking about your fair-trade recyclable gift boxes made from tree-free paper, and people’s eyes start to glaze over, they don’t care. Move on to something else. Perhaps they care about the location of the farm where you get your dairy. Or the farm you grew up on.
3) Have an assistant. This will help immensely with #2. Your assistant should know your top three things (and keep said assistant updated as you change the top three things). They should chat with people and pass out your business cards and samples. More importantly, they should collect business cards so you can follow up (see #5).
4) Talk to people! Don’t play the “how many business cards can I collect” game. Try to form real connections with people. I’ve never gotten a sale from a random card I collected. I get sales from people I connect with and relate to, people I enjoy being around. I was initially surprised by how many of these buyers would become personal friends.
5) Follow up. Within 2 business days. People are busy, and have a lot of things to remember. You are the salesperson trying to get them to buy your product, so don’t neglect them. Even better, mail them something. I love getting stuff in the mail, when it’s thoughtful. Send them a sample that you talked about or a new product. Include a personal note.
6) Take it seriously – but have fun too! That’s part of the reason you went into this business in the first place. Dress appropriately for your industry, shake hands firmly, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself or make a quip. Humor is a great way to get people to relax, and I like to let my sardonic side come through.
We’re looking forward to the Good Food Festival; we expect it to be a lot of work, and a lot of fun. Hope to see you there – please stop by and say hi!
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Inspired by Katherine’s advice? There’s still time to sign up as an exhibitor for the March Festival. Click here to learn more!