Trade shows are gathering places that offer opportunities to meet with existing and new contacts. Months ahead of participating in a show is the best time to start updating marketing materials.
Coffee samples should not be an afterthought. They are the most crucial part of a trade show appearance and must be carefully planned and prepared. Depending on the size and scope of your production, select an appropriate number of samples (perhaps between 5 and 10) that adequately represent the company’s offerings and actual lots available for sale.
Package and label each as referenced in (Coffee samples). Where possible, reserve samples (e.g., 5kg) of top-performing lots produced each year exclusively for marketing purposes in a sample library. Store the sample under controlled climate conditions and in Ecotact® or Grainpro® packaging to maximize shelf life. The sample library of coffee can then be used to demonstrate company products outside of peak harvest and shipment months. Store and demonstrate good (but authentic) examples of products produced by the company. As with pre-shipment samples, do not groom marketing samples to remove defects; this may be considered misrepresentation. Exceeding expectations by delivering coffees as good or better than promised is always the best path to a long-term customer relationship.
Follow SCA-recommended protocols for sample roasting. Sample roasting must be performed within a day to a few days (if necessary) before
the trade show event. This complicates sample roasting logistics, as it requires roasting immediately before travel or after arrival at a third-party location.
Make a plan for sample roasting months ahead of an event. Third-party locations (like importers, coffee roasters, cafes, etc.) close to a coffee trade event will have limited availability the week of a significant show. Many companies will compete to borrow or hire time on a limited supply of roasting equipment. Do not arrive at the event with green coffee and no plan for roasting. This demonstrates disorganization and makes a wrong impression on potential customers.
One of the first and easiest updates is to a company website: mention your upcoming event appearance on an events page or in a blog entry. Include event contact information, including the event name, city, dates, a show booth number (if known), and the names and phone numbers of personnel who may attend. This is a free promotion for the investment already being made in attendance.
Every email message can promote an appearance at an event for free. Including mention of an appearance, for example, “See me at World of Coffee 20xx” in the signature section of your email client. Despite the large size and scope of the coffee industry, there is a relatively small number of professionals engaged in international buying and selling. Many of them attend annual events, so that you may be surprised by the effectiveness of this method.
Make mention of upcoming events in a company newsletter or monthly consolidated collection of blog entries sent to email subscribers each month, two months, or quarter.
Produce simple one-page sell sheets with key company facts and coffees available specific to attendees’ interests at an upcoming event. Marketing material handouts should be light for customers to carry. Draft them to include action items that drive readers to view a website or contact a salesperson for detailed additional information.
It is sometimes appropriate to translate marketing materials into a local language at international trade shows. Be prepared, however, if a non-English speaker requests more information or wishes to conduct business. A professional translator may be necessary to establish and maintain the customer relationship. This is most effective for exporters committed to doing business with multiple clients in one particular market.
Talking points are helpful for both solo attendees and groups to provide planned, consistent, and concise information to potential customers. Make a list of key selling points about your region, coffee company (including a background story), goals for attending the event, and coffees available for sale (or expected the following season). This ensures that anyone representing the company can answer basic questions and will help to project a positive image as prepared professionals.
Schedule customer meetings
Scheduling meetings at shows with busy buyers (and sellers) can be challenging. Many hope to meet with tens of customers and suppliers during a two- or three-day event. Therefore, it is important to schedule meetings with firm times and places well before arriving.
A meeting that is not scheduled is unlikely to happen. Contact customers and prospects with whom you have had some prior communication to schedule meetings between one week and one month in advance. Choose a location, such as a trade show booth, hospitality suite, or hotel lobby, as a primary meeting point. On arrival, confirm that the space selected is suitable, as these areas may be noisy with convention crowds at the time of the event. Reconfirm the meeting and location by phone, email, or text one day in advance. Although thirty minutes may be sufficient for most meetings, allow extra time for possible delays. Many distractions at events may delay scheduled activities, so be careful not to book a calendar completely full.
Part 8: Checklists