Just a few short weeks ago, Kristin Harrison, Director of Business Development and I were excited to attend the Process Expo, held by the FPSA (Food Process Suppliers Association) in Chicago from October 8-11, 2019. We anxiously prepared for our attendance at this manufacturing tradeshow to engage with 500 exhibitors and thousands of attendees and were not disappointed!
The Process Expo is an event for food and beverage processing professionals from the bakery, beverage, dairy, prepared food and meat sectors and is held every other year. While the event was extremely organized, had an array of exhibitors and was very well put together down to a very efficient app that kept you notified of the daily events including networking events, educational opportunities and demonstrations, it seemed to be lacking in the thousands scheduled to attend. However, the educational opportunities were indeed “world-class”, the full working production line demonstrations were excellent and informative, and the networking opportunities were well attended and organized.
One networking opportunity I found particularly interesting was the Women’s Alliance Breakfast with Suzanne Strassburger, the fifth generation leader of Strassburger Meats. Mrs. Strassburger is adorably nicknamed “the first lady of meat” and delivered an inspiring and emotional story of being instrumental in bringing the family meat business back to life after her father had to shut down the entire business just a few years prior.
Additionally, I really enjoyed my experience of being able to meet and greet with exhibitors and other attendees, many of which we have been in contact with as well as others that were new to us. It was fascinating to see all of the pieces of manufacturing equipment in person as well as watching the demonstrations of how each of the manufacturers would work together to complete one process from start to finish. For example, to make a frozen pizza from start to finish required a total of 8 different manufacturers and 10 different pieces of equipment.
Overall, from those we spoke with, exhibitors and attendees were also surprised by the low attendance. On the flip side, there were a few exhibitors that exclaimed while the attendance was low, their quality of leads seemed to be better.
With the low attendance in mind, I asked several exhibitors a few questions:
- How are you making yourself known in the space?
- How are you generating leads today?
- Are you doing any digital marketing?
Most were solely reliant on tradeshows for branding and for leads, with the occasional digital print media advertising. In fact, we found that under a third of those we spoke with were working with digital marketing firms to drive leads and sales and the remaining we spoke with were doing minimal digital marketing in house, if any.
I left pondering the question of whether tradeshow attendance will continue to dwindle. Additionally, I can’t help but wonder about the tremendous expense of getting all of the heavy equipment to these trade shows, the travel expenses to have people man the booths and the cost of the booth itself. I imagine it is quite steep.
Therefore, I have to wonder if manufacturers in this space are thinking about how they can use digital marketing to help drive leads to their site before, during and after tradeshows? Being able to leverage the internet to capture people looking for your products, being able to develop those relationships, and ultimately convert them into new sales through your website seems like a no-brainer.
There are so many elements to consider to help really move the needle with regards to digital marketing strategies! Two efforts that we have found beneficial specifically for manufacturers are through content building on your website, optimized with keywords and phrases that are important to your company to grow your rank in Google search organically, and paid advertising through LinkedIn. With LinkedIn you can really capture the company and person or people you want to be in front of specifically.
Regardless, I look forward to growing our relationship with the FPSA and their members as well as the many other food and beverage equipment manufacturing associations and members to help continue to educate and serve the industry with their digital marketing needs.