Trade Show Marketing for Coffee Exporters

WOC Budapest sign

The SCA World of Coffee is Europe’s largest annual professional expo

Why Market Coffee at Trade Shows?

This eight-part article describes the reason to promote coffee at trade show events and how to do it successfully, step-by-step.

Part 1: Why Market Coffee at Trade Shows
Part 2: Adding Value
Part 3: Event Selection
Part 4: Exhibit or Attend
Part 5: What to Bring
Part 6: How to Prepare
Part 7: Marketing
Part 8: Checklists

Coffee is one of the world’s largest industries and most widely traded global commodities. Seventy or more countries produce and export coffee, and practically every other country consumes it. Because of the vast geography and many participants involved in its trade, coffee trade shows (trade fairs or exhibitions) become a gathering place to promote products and services, learn new skills, socialize, and develop new business.

At a trade show, coffee exporters can:

  • Build brand awareness as an exhibitor or advertiser. Building awareness is a valuable contribution to an organizational sales effort. It is a foundation for all other sales and marketing efforts. Set expectations realistically, however, as sales cycles in the coffee trade are slow. Business opportunities identified through coffee trade show activity may only precipitate sales after the event. It may take months or years to complete new business with sales prospects.
  • Hold customer meetings. Industry events allow one to meet with many existing trade partners in one forum. Use the time to discuss ongoing or new business matters and socialize with customers. In addition to formal business meetings, social activities build trust, which is critical in the specialty coffee niche.
  • Gather intelligence. Use shows to learn how other coffee exporters promote coffee. Visit competitor displays to gauge their effectiveness. Taste coffees from other exporters to better understand the competition. Adapt good ideas from your competitors for your marketing plan.
  • Learn. Learn more about coffee, innovations in the coffee industry, or how to conduct export business better. Everyone can learn something new from attending lectures or skill-building workshops. Trade shows sometimes have courses that teach attendees to perform better, such as coffee cuppers, roasters, or baristas. Understanding the industry from soil to cup will improve selling effectiveness.
  • Develop strategic partnerships. Consider joining or aligning with regional trade groups, barista or roaster associations, or other national coffee associations with common interests. Banding together with others increases social networks and can improve the effectiveness of sales activity.
  • Meet the press. Trade press representatives attend events to cover stories generated within the industry. Form relationships with editors or other media representatives to improve the potential of future exposure for your business or region. Invite and involve trade media in your activities at shows. Making media impressions a key metric for evaluating the success of the activity.

Participating as an attendee or exhibitor at an international coffee trade show can cost substantial money. In addition to the direct costs associated with travel and display-related costs for an exhibitor, one must also not forget lost time while away from the office. Since so much is at risk, planning to achieve a positive return on investment is essential. When done right, trade shows can be a profitable investment.

Part 2: Adding Value