By using a new sales and marketing initiative that utilized board members to assist with the sales process, the International Baking Industry Exposition broadened its reach into previously underutilized international markets. Read More
The International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) is the largest event in the United States for the grain-based food industry, but for its 2016 show in Las Vegas the organization was looking to broaden its reach into international markets that it hadn’t had much of a presence in before. With the help of a new sales and marketing initiative that utilized board members to assist with the sales process, IBIE did just that.
In fact, the effort helped IBIE 2016 draw record numbers of attendees and exhibitors. The 2016 expo, which is produced by the American Bakers Association (ABA) and the Baking Equipment Manufacturers and Allieds (BEMA), attracted more than 23,000 baking professionals. That was a nine percent increase over the previous show. The triennial event also had more than 1,000 exhibitors — a 28 percent increase from the previous show in 2013.
And related to its goal regarding international markets, the participation of non-U.S. exhibitors skyrocketed, thanks in no small part to efforts by IBIE’s board.
Since IBIE is a triennial event, there are multiple competing events around the world in between shows. IBIE sales team members attend many of them to prospect, but certainly can’t get to all of them. That’s where the IBIE volunteer board members come in. As leaders in the baking industry, the board members typically travel to other events around the world for their own businesses or enterprises, but IBIE leadership thought, what if they wore two hats, representing not only themselves, but also IBIE?
Leading up to the 2016 expo, IBIE board members attended at least a half dozen competing shows in locations that included Dubai, France, Germany, Mexico and China. At these events, the board members served as extensions of the sales staff, meeting with prospects as representatives of the association, armed with collateral and talking points provided by staff.
“The international space is a growth component for us,” said Nicole Boland, IBIE sales manager. To be successful in drawing a larger international clientele, the sales team realized it was critical to make face-to-face connections. “Having these liaisons out there has helped our international presence immensely,” she said.
The status and profile of the board members — all leaders in the baking industry — lent additional credibility to the sales process. Potential prospects also responded to the commitment made to invest resources and personnel to visit them in person. “It’s a lot more effective to meet with people face-to-face versus relying on catching their attention with an email or scheduling a call,” Boland added.
The sales team provided board members with a list of prospects for each of the events. In some cases, the board members already had contacts at the targeted companies. In others, they had to establish new ones.
Staff provided each board member with market-specific talking points, sales collateral and messaging. The volunteers were given one question to ask each prospect: Who is your core audience? Based on the answer, board members could provide each prospect with detailed information about how to reach their core audience through the IBIE show.
After the board members returned home, they convened with the sales team to share any leads they had obtained — either from new prospects or existing exhibitors looking to change their booth size or placement. “Our relationships would help open the door for the team to execute some really effective follow up,” said Mike Cornelis, IBIE 2016 Chair and vice president at American Pan. “It was this coordinated effort that really allowed for us to have a successful 2016 IBIE show.”
Board members passed along business cards, brochures, transcripts of conversations and show directories to the sales team. Some provided Excel spreadsheets that included detailed information on who they met and what they discussed. Many came back with a handful of good leads, while others returned with 40 or 50 — not to mention the show directory, which was a huge help itself. “Some of the leads were very specific like, ‘Here’s the person you want to speak with — they are waiting to hear from you,’” said Boland.
Sales team members would take it from there, contacting the prospects and mentioning that they were following up on conversations had with IBIE board members. The sales team kept board members apprised of follow up activities through monthly calls where team members would report how many leads they had contacted and what the status was of each. “We want to make sure they realize the ROI that was coming from their commitment to this initiative,” Boland added.
Boland said that between 15 to 20 percent of the more than 100 leads that board members brought back from their international travels were converted to sales — either new exhibitors or existing customers who upgraded their booths. And those are just the exhibitors that signed on for the 2016 show in Las Vegas. Many of the relationships formed will also deliver sales for future IBIE shows.
The relationship component is an important part of the success, explained Boland. “The board member outreach program started with the 2013 expo and many of the contacts made resulted in more sales in 2016. We were on their radar in 2013 thanks to those initial connections, so by 2016 they were actually ready to commit to us.”
Sending people around the world is not inexpensive. But the program was an unqualified success and paid for itself many times over. “Selling just one booth covers the trip and then some,” said David Weil, strategic account director for IBIE. “It was usually paid for in the first hour or two.”
In addition to being a key element in the overall strategy to boost IBIE’s international presence, the initiative also fosters more collaboration between volunteer and staff for the betterment of the association. “A healthy culture is one where you’re all working together,” said Weil. “If you want maximum results, you have to leverage all your relationships and knowledge.”
This article was originally published in Board Forward.