How Non-Exhibiting Brands Can Maximize Expo West

WeStock Team
March 16, 2023

Last week we partnered with Indie CPG on a guide of what to eat & drink at Expo West.

This follow-up guide is for everyone else: brands who are walking the show or tuning in at home.

Feeling the FOMO of Expo West? We’ve put together a guide with Indie CPG for how to get awareness at and around the show without having a booth.

Everyone is talking about the return to Expo West! The halls will be packed with brands and buyers happily connecting in person again after a two-year hiatus. The countless posts leading up to Expo West can make many brands feel left out and not fully knowing how to approach this week if they won’t be attending.

Although Expo West can be a game-changer for a brand, it can also be just as impactful to not go and instead focus your efforts on your sales outreach goals. Very few brands book new business during the week of the show, the great brands understand that it is all in the follow-up, and in that case, you are on the same playing field as the brands that will be in attendance.

This breakdown will go over tips that your brand can implement if you are simply walking the show or if you are not attending at all.

If you’re walking the show

Get a comfortable bag to carry some of your samples in. They can be single-serve to keep it light. You want to make sure that you have contacted buyers ahead of the show to set up meetings. Just because you don’t have a booth does not mean you can’t set up buyer meetings. Grab a couch in the lobby and set up shop!

Make sure you are swagged out in company gear! This is a great way to represent your brand and stand out while walking the show.

You can also collaborate on a happy hour at a booth so you can tell your contacts to MEET ME HERE ON THIS DAY. This is a social way to make buyer outreach fun and circle the conversation around connecting and getting to know them instead of just pushing your product. Remember, this is the first time we will all be together in almost two years, take the time to plan something special and outside of the box.

If you’re home and want to have a presence there

Collaborate on a booth with a friend! Just because your brand does not have a booth at Expo West, does not mean that your product can’t be highlighted. Check out the directory on the show website and see which brands are exhibiting and which brand’s might be a fit for your product. If you are a non-dairy milk alternative, maybe it makes sense to find a cookie product that is looking for a complementary product to highlight with their product, there are countless examples of compatible collaborations like this one. You can offer the brand free product and send them some point of sale material to highlight at their booth. Other collaboration ideas could be plant-based burgers and condiments, ice cream and canned coffee or sodas for floats, or partnering with other brands that share your hero ingredient or diet focus like vegan, keto, or allergen free.

Create digital sample bags for retail buyers. Let them know that you are sad that you will be missing them at Expo, but that they can claim a digital sample bag to try your product when they get back. Most buyers are sifting through multiple product samples and hundreds of emails after a trade show, to the point that if they have a sample of your product they will probably assume they met you at the show.

A sample bag that is delivered to the buyer post-Expo is a great way to be top of mind to a buyer. Make sure you include an insert that goes over your brand and it might be worth going the extra mile to use a tool like Loom to make a video to accompany your email to the buyer. This way if there are tasting notes or tidbits you want the buyer to be aware of while sampling, you can digitally walk them through everything.

If you’re home and want to engage with buyers before the summer

Get on WeStock to crowdsource where your customers want to buy your goods. Use this data in your retail pitch decks and outreach to buyers. WeStock will even sit down with you to go over your retail plans and make sure you are executing your goals.

Look for retailers that aren’t going to be at Expo West. Make them feel special by offering them the digital sampling program that we explained in the previous segment and ask them if they want to join you for a Zoom happy hour to discuss your brand and just catch up.

Expo West is not just about finding new retail partners, but also new distribution partners as well. Leverage third-party distribution sites like Faire and Mable. These are great resources for brands that aren’t large enough for national distribution and essentially open your brand up to thousands of new and willing buyers. You still have to put in the work and call on accounts, but now those accounts have a way to carry your product. You can also look at local DSDs that attended the show since they were most likely looking for new items. These are distributors that have a strong regional sales team and that can represent your product well.

If you are new to pitching buyers you might want to check out our chat with Alli Ball on how to pitch retail buyers, you can view it HERE.

Expo West is an amazing event where most retail buyers and distributors are in discovery mode and hunting for new brands. Just because your brand is not there does not mean you can’t take advantage of this aggressive buying mentality. Hopefully, the tips help and we would love to know how you are making the most of next week for your brand!

WeStock Team

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