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Back in 2011, we relaunched Process Expo as a stand-alone trade show after sixteen years of co-locating our shows with other partners. That 2011 show was incredibly successful and would serve to modernize our event and allow us to really focus on what our customer base wanted to see on the show floor. That evolutionary leap for the show would eventually lead to live production line demonstrations on the show floor, virtual and augmented reality showcases, butchering demonstrations, and high-level educational programs that address today’s critical issues in food and beverage production. However, back in 2011 it was hard to envision this success, after stepping away from a prominent show partner.

Looking back, the key to the success of Process Expo has always been its exhibitors. I’m not referring to the impressive range of innovative processing and packaging technologies that exhibitors bring to the show every two years, although that clearly is THE big draw. No, what I am referring to is how exhibitors have taken a lead role in promoting the show, THEIR SHOW, to their customers. For that first show alone, exhibitors sent out over 680,000 invitations to their customers and prospects. This number would jump to nearly 975,000 invitations for the very next show in 2013 and continue expanding every two years.

Even more impressive is that these invitations over the next ten years would be responsible for roughly half of all registrations which quickly taught us in show management a lesson. Show attendees are far more likely to take action (like accepting an invitation to register) from someone they know, than from someone or some event that they don’t.  It is for that reason that show management has continued to provide free tools, to make it easy for Process Expo exhibitors to reach out to their customers and get them to come to the show.

Of course, not all exhibitors invite their customers to the show. Exhibitors I have spoken to point to two main reasons. First and foremost, some of these exhibitors fear inviting their customers to an event where their competitors are also exhibiting. While I understand that rationale, it implies that not only are their customers unaware of who else manufactures this equipment, but also that they have no idea of how to make contact with them. We all know that’s not the case. After all, in a lot of ways this is a small industry. Do you think your competitors don’t know your customers? Don’t you want to be the one inviting them to come to the show, rather than your competition?

The other big response I get regarding inviting customers is that this is show management’s job, not theirs. What they don’t seem to understand is the extensive attendance marketing outreach that we engage in. In short, we already are targeting the customers with our campaigns but like I said, an invitation from the exhibitor is more effective than an invitation from me. Besides, in the case that my invitation convinces your customer to come to the show, don’t you want them to know that you’re participating and where they can find you? It’s a long walk on the show floor, are you going to leave it up to chance that they come across your booth? I’d suggest that you pay far too much to exhibit to leave new business up to chance.

I write this nearly six months out from this year’s show for a reason. As we exit the pandemic and move towards satisfying this pent-up demand that people are talking about, it’s critical that we all step up to make it easy for the customer base to learn about this year’s show, and plan to attend. To facilitate that, show management has engaged the Feathr platform to provide exhibitors with free custom marketing tools to promote their presence at Process Expo and to invite customers to register and visit your booth. Each exhibitor’s Feathr dashboard provides them with a custom landing page, email invites, and digital booth banners. Also featured in these materials is the exhibitor’s promo code to provide top customers with complimentary exhibit hall registration.

In short, I think we’re all looking forward to jump starting our post-COVID business cycle at November’s Process Expo. Show management is already quite actively promoting attendance to food manufacturers. Now it’s time for exhibitors to make sure that their customers come along for the ride.

Andy Drennan, FPSA SVP