Today we welcome guest blogger Marty Craner, Owner and President of B & C Fresh Sales. Marty shares her perspectives as a long-time Foodservice Conference attendee. As a supplier to foodservice operations, she also talks about transitioning from a sales relationship to a marketing relationship and which one best serves the Foodservice Produce Expo. As always, we encourage you to share your questions and comments in return.
As a sales relationship transitions to a marketing relationship, I think what foodservice buyers need most is suppliers’ strong understanding of how they prefer to do business. Some operators want deeper, very friendly relationships, others just want what they need to do their job when they need it. Understanding your foodservice customers as much as possible creates successful long-term marketing relationships.
To illustrate this point further, I’ve found big foodservice companies are very layered, with specific delineated rolls. This means you might not be able to address everything with one person; instead you’ll need to handle one aspect of your business transaction with this person and the other aspect with another person. Nevertheless, in smaller operations you might deal with one person all the time. Suppliers need to be flexible.
Also, efficiencies are paramount in foodservice; second to that is consumer trends. Again, the better we know our foodservice customers’ needs and preferences the better able we are to work in an ongoing marketing relationship to create cost and logistical efficiencies and to stay abreast of consumer trends.
When it comes to exhibiting, I think the most effective tactic is for exhibitors to have their marketing hats on from the start. Doing so will ensure you approach the Foodservice Produce Expo with the right mindset. I say that because this show is unique. It’s grassroots and hands on with a small-town feel; marketing becomes more effective than sales as a result. This is not where you write orders. This is where you have an intimate opportunity to really talk and understand potential customers’ marketing needs—that’s the beauty of this show.
I suggest exhibitors also look at the attendee list to earmark everyone they can potentially do business with. Then reach out to these people in advance to get on their radars. At the time I’m writing this in early June, I’ve already received calls from about seven exhibitors doing just that. I welcome these connections, and I personally make sure I follow up with those who have reached out in advance.
After you call or email ahead of time, make sure everyone working your booth knows who has been contacted and what their businesses are about. I find it wonderful to get stopped on the show floor by someone who already knows about my business.
And because exhibitors can get busy preparing and manning their booths, I think they often miss wonderful marketing and networking opportunities by not attending the show’s many other activities. Breakfasts, dinners and receptions are places to make meaningful connections and nurture relationships.
Finally, an indirect way you can serve the marketing relationship with buyers is by capturing the conversations. Every one of your staff in attendance has conversations with people all along the foodservice supply chain. Regroup with staff after the show to mine what they learned about customers, key demographics, trends, the market and other valuable details. There’s a wealth of intelligence that surfaces just waiting to be captured and put to use to advance your products and services and forge better marketing relationships with foodservice operators.
I’d love to hear your perspective on all this as an exhibitor and look forward to meeting and talking with all you at the show!