June 26, 2012

Are you really maximizing your trade show opportunity?

by LeAnne Philips, Entira

As another fall harvest comes to a close, many agribusiness companies are turning their attention to the winter meeting and trade show season. While you are putting the final touches on this year's plans, consider this scenario: Your marketing team has recommended a meeting with more than 500 top customers and influencers, complete with top speakers, receptions, a closing banquet, premium gifts, trade show displays and door prize giveaways. They’re going all out to impress these customers with the organization’s professionalism and leadership. It looks great on paper until you realize that nearly half of the attendees will leave the meeting without receiving a single positive marketing message about your company.

Sound far-fetched? Maybe not. After a few recent experiences and conversations with my colleagues, I’d like to propose that it is actually far too common in agriculture today.

I’ve had the opportunity to play nearly every role at ag industry events and trade shows: reporter, meeting planner, trade show worker, PR rep … basically everything but keynote speaker. Since we moved to my husband’s family farm a few years ago, I’ve also attended meetings in a new role: spouse of a farmer. And, what an eye-opener it has been. 

I recently attended a spouse’s breakfast at an industry meeting. It was an impressive group:  about 250 well-spoken, intelligent women who were either partners in their family farm operation or had careers of their own. There were also wives of ag industry managers and a few brave men whose wives were board members or company employees. We were served a buffet breakfast and spent 30 minutes listening to a very funny and charming woman telling stories about cooking mishaps and life at 70-plus. Then, we were each given a box of chocolates, a logoed ice cream scoop, and the bus schedule for trips to the city’s mall. When we left the room, representatives at the company’s trade show booths were lined up … all with smiles and more logoed giveaway materials.

I’ll admit, I enjoyed the chocolates and went home with a bag full of notepads, pens and trinkets for the kids. I’m not above a few trade show freebies. But, the overwhelming feeling was disappointment. At a time when modern agriculture is under attack from activist groups like Humane Society of the United States, and when a growing number of consumers don’t know where their food comes from, this organization missed a huge opportunity.

They had a captive audience and failed to deliver a single positive message about their organization. Most importantly, they wasted an opportunity to engage 250 people in the fight against activist groups for the hearts and minds of U.S. consumers. During the event, I couldn’t help looking at the women around the room who were checking text messages and probably updating their Facebook status. What if they were all posting social media updates about the impact of farmers and ag on rural communities? What if each person left with a goal of telling a positive story about how farmers care for their animals and land to 10 people? That’s 2,500 positive messages about modern production agriculture that we as an industry can’t afford to waste.    

Unfortunately, this is not a rare experience. How many potential customers are walking away from your organization’s meeting, trade show booth or sales counter with nothing but a new refrigerator magnet? 

There is, of course, a delicate balance between allowing your guests to enjoy themselves and bombarding them with too much information. But simply giving up without delivering messages or gathering feedback is not an option. Effective marketing programs take advantage of every customer touch point.

Entira has worked with organizations of every size to ensure that they are getting the most bang for their marketing buck. Contact Entira at info@entira.net to talk about designing a program that meets the needs of your business and doesn’t miss opportunities with your customers … or their spouses.

This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Strategic Agribusiness Review.