4 Ways to Maximize Your Farm Show Investment

July 28, 2016

Ready or not, farm show season is here. These grand outdoor expositions provide a great opportunity for agri-marketers to connect with huge numbers of customers and prospects over a three-day span at a single location.

But the time, expense and energy needed to create an impressive and successful farm show presence can be considerable. To maximize the ROI of your farm show investment, consider these four suggestions:

1. Pre-Show Planning

There is a long list of summer and fall farm shows. Determine which ones best fit your company. Several regional shows or fewer national events? Which locations best fit the geographic footprint of your company? Which shows have the best reputation for drawing the greatest number of qualified ag producers?

Once the shows are determined, the real planning begins with clear marketing objectives for your company’s presence. These objectives could include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Attracting new customers
  • New product introductions
  • Customer appreciation
  • Lead generation
  • New campaign introduction

Once your objectives are determined, build your pre-show planning around them.  Make sure your exhibit display is consistent with your objectives and campaign messaging. If new product sales literature is being developed, confirm it will be available for distribution at the show. Apps or interactive displays need to be tested and ready well before the show opens. Carefully consider what ad specialty items will be handed out, and, again, be consistent with your objectives and messaging.

If you decide to sponsor a drawing for a major giveaway, be sure to plan the details, rules and registration items well in advance.

A critical aspect of pre-show planning is scheduling staff to work the show and clearly communicating responsibilities and expectations for all involved. Be sure that all participants are aware of the show objectives and the process by which the company will interact with show attendees.

A pre-show communications plan is another way to maximize your return. Include your presence at the upcoming farm show via all company communications. Use email, website, social media, company blog and even consider direct mail invitations to key dealers, customers and prospects to visit your exhibit at the show.

As part of your pre-show plan, consider the merit of any special public relations activities tied into your show presence. If you’re launching a new product or have an important company announcement, consider planning and scheduling a press conference or one-on-one interviews with key editors and media representatives during the show.

Also, since you already have the time and travel expense of bringing company staff to the show, consider the cost-efficiency of sponsoring an off-site seminar or appreciation reception for your dealers, key customers and targeted prospects who will be at the show. It’s just another way to get more out of the dollars spent on the farm show investment.

2. At the Show

Because of the thorough thought and planning prior to the show, working the show itself should be the fun part of exhibiting. (Plan the work—work the plan!)

Here are a few last minute reminders. First, look sharp, with all staff sporting appropriate company wear. Be engaged—no sitting at the back of the booth, and leave emails and phone calls for time assigned away from the display. Carefully collect and manage all registrations and make note of sales conversations that have a high degree of interest or urgency.

Employ social media during the show itself by posting interesting and relevant comments, photos and videos via Facebook and Twitter to encourage your followers to seek you out at the show.

3. After the Show

Once the show is over, there is still important work to be done. Be sure to send an email thank-you note to all who registered at your exhibit. Include the name of the local dealer or company sales representative servicing their geographic area. Be sure that rep or dealer is aware of the lead for local follow-up.

If you sponsored a major prize drawing, announce the winner(s) via email, website, company blog and social media, and distribute a press release. A photo of the winner should be sent to local media outlets.

Finally, do a post-mortem with show participants to evaluate the farm show investment. What worked? What didn’t? What could have improved your presence? What should be done differently next year?

More important, carefully evaluate the numbers. Was the investment in time, expense and staff energy worth the return? Were the objectives established at the onset accomplished? Could these dollars have been spent in another way to generate a greater return?

4. Free Advice

Farm shows have a long and rich history in agriculture. There’s probably no better way to personally connect with so many farmers in such a short time span.

After attending many farm shows over many years, I do have two small pieces of free advice:  bring sunglasses, sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat, but also don’t forget your raincoat, rubber boots and a towrope!

See you at the shows!