Useful Lessons From The BBC Good (and not so good) Food Show

What lessons in planning your own promotional marketing can be learned from attending one of the UK’s largest scale food shows, with a trained, critical eye? Read on to see which event areas made up the good, the bad and the ugly – in the recent BBC Good Food Show!

Firstly – I will set out by saying, there were fantastic examples of what great promotional sampling should look like when well executed. These shining lights will be exemplified in due course; but first off – let’s take a look at what pitfalls you can avoid:

…It’s 10.30am on day one, the crowds have crossed the flood gates and are now pouring around the show, eagerly inspecting each offering. What can we see!?

EMPTY STANDS: Why oh why would someone pay thousands of pounds in site fees and not have enough promotion staff to ensure their stand is manned!? It’s madness to think of the wasted investment, missed opportunities and negative impact that each unoccupied event stand represents.

Key learning: Ensure you have enough event staff to maintain a constant presence on your stand, even when you are replenishing your leaflets, nipping to the loo or doing what ever else is pulling you away from your central reason for being there. The cost of the event area is thousands – but great promo support can be booked from less than £25 per hour. Save money by all means, but not on the most important aspect of bringing your event area to life.

BROWSING ON PHONES: It’s a car crash waiting to happen! Each event team must all be paying attention to who is approaching right in front of them – and definitely not watching out for who has just posted another pic of a fluffy cat on their Facebook feed!

Key learning: It’s like driving – you need to have your full attention on the road to see what’s really happening. There’s so much to look at too: How does your stand look? What’s missing? How are the interactions flowing? Where do the staff need to be positioned to optimise the engagement opportunities? Etc, etc!

If someone ‘really’ needs to reply to an urgent email – do it off the stand, so they’re not making customers feel like they’re being ignored. Or even better – switch phones off until you’re back at your hotel room.

LOOKING INWARDS: Are they really so interested in themselves and their colleagues that they’re not even facing their customers? How can they let people walk past their stand without them even getting an invite over!? Perhaps some people need to accept the fact that not everyone is cut out to be a brand ambassador; it takes a certain breed to be able to keep the positive energy flowing and work your magic with customers.

Key learning: This is show time people! Get your game face on – and keep it there!!! You are there to shine, turn on your charm and sell, sell, sell!

If that’s not your thing, then enlist the help of a promo team that can.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? Who knows? Who cares!? If your event stand takes more than five to 10 seconds to communicate your brand proposition – you’ve already lost my interest and that of just about everyone else too. With circa 300+ event stands at the show to take in, customers are too distracted to have to think too hard to solve a dysfunctional, cryptic puzzle.

Key Learning: It’s a food show! Show me your food! Replace abstract gimmicks and tap into thousands of years of evolutionary human psychology – simply by making your produce look delicious. Make me drool, whet my appetite – and I will want to know what your brand is all about.

ABC OF SALES (ALWAYS BCLOSING!): At the end of the day, if your promotions and sampling don’t generate sales, they haven’t worked. There were a range of stands for both food, drink and other lifestyle companies who were happy to show what they were about but then let the conversations end without even offering the customer the opportunity to make a purchase or sign up to a database.

Key learning: Ask the customer to buy or do something!  If you don’t even communicate what’s on offer, what the show deals are or what you want them to do – don’t expect much to happen. Make your sales deals obvious with clear signage, finish each interaction with a polite invitation to purchase – and watch your sales performance rocket.

So what was actually ‘GOOD’ at the Good Food Show?

Here are a few excellent event areas that I do applaud – and would showcase as great examples of what you can easily replicate for your events:

CLEAR SHOW DEALS: Visible signage, showing great value = lots of sales. Some stand out examples which had customers queuing included:

  • Heck Sausages: Buy 4 packs for £10.00 Not 1, 2, 3, 5 or 6 packs for X, Y or Z £££. Simple, straight forward sales deal, which offers good value and is simple. Don’t make customers think too hard – as at a show, they’ll just walk away.
  • Linda McCartney: Buy two packs for £2.00 and get a free cool bag. What a bargain! At that price, they won’t be making a profit, but they have a longer term view of getting customers trying it, cooking it at home – and then becoming loyal customers who make repeat purchases from their local supermarkets.

MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY: For a cold meat company, Woodalls British Charcuterie did a great job making their produce look appealing on a compact event area. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune:

–         Wooden crates with one colour branding

–         Attractive displays of produce, nicely arranged

–         Mix of visual displays with TV, packaged produce, clear sales deal signage, food awards

–         Enthusiastic event staff – all positively engaging with customers

–         Tasters of produce individually labeled to denote variant

–         Simple and clear sales deals – with lots of customers purchasing

GET YOUR MONEY’S WORTH: If you are going to the trouble and cost of creating an attractive event area, you might as well get as much bang for your buck as is possible for your investment. The Colgate Sensitive dome tent and the fun scientific style sensation lab it contains – has been a one off build cost that has performed hundreds of event days.

This year alone it’s been set up at multiple Foodies Festivals and different Good Food Shows. Just because I have seen it a few times over the past few years, doesn’t mean that 90% of everyone else will have. For them, it’s still as new and exciting as the first day it launched.

ALL ROUND WINNER! Bravo to the marketing team at Seeds of Change. This is what a great event stand can look like. The clues of working with an experienced promotional agency in support were obvious to me (but just made everything flow seamlessly for the customers at the show).

This shining example includes:

  • Structured event team: All had clearly visible job roles, from catering prep, sample presentation, direct sales and event area manager. At 10.15am when some stands were still being frantically put together – they had their hot cooked samples being tasted, first customers being impressed and sales being taken.
  • Creative event area: A portable catering trailer hidden behind a rustic style display, with wooden fencing, grass effect flooring, clear info about the produce – and lots of other elements of finer detail that make it really stand out. Sometimes it’s the small things tat make a big difference such as potted plants in beds with growing vegetation and wheel barrows full of the hessian sales packs. Everything was on brand and well thought out – even the trailer had steps leading up to the serving hatch so that customers and staff could interact at eye level.
  • Sales deals! They were there to sell. Each conversation lead to a polite encouragement to purchase the show deal: For £5.00 customers could mix and match four products from the wider range; and walk away with them in a stylish branded tote bag.
  • Professional promotional staff: Full of enthusiasm, smiles and positivity both about life and the brand they were promoting that day. Pro-actively approaching everyone who approached their event area and not hiding behind a table watching the world pass them by; they were a fantastic asset for the brand. 

Lesson ends for today…

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