I recently went to the Natural Foods Expo East in Baltimore, Maryland, and came back feeling let down. I was expecting to meet impassioned food entrepreneurs who lived a life of health and fitness but instead came face to face with business people who could care less if their product worked. Gluten free, organic, pure, primal — these were all buzzwords used to market an assortment of products that ranged from magical water to the wonders of camel milk (Yes, you read that correctly).
The highlight of the convention was meeting Bob, the owner of Bob’s Red Mill. Bob is a nice man who makes great products and treats his employees well. The rest of the companies involved in natural foods seemed to be far different than Bob. Don’t get me wrong, I met several great people who believed in what they were doing, but they were definitely the exception and not the rule. I purposely turned my badge around so people couldn’t figure out what I did. It felt like a networking event on steroids without the joy of alcohol.
Despite being let down, I managed to make the most of the experience. Here’s took away from the convention.
Three Marketing Lessons From The Natural Foods Expo East 2016
1. Be Passionate, It’s Contagious
One booth that stood out was a company that sourced chocolate out of Madagascar called Madecasse.
The guy behind the booth was impassioned, and I got the sense that he really cared about the work he was doing. We had a great conversation about development efforts in Africa and the challenges facing developing markets there. There were l chocolate vendors at the convention, but this is the only one I really care about or remember. Being passionate about your product and connecting with your customers is the name of the game.
2. Give Value First
Many of the booths I was interested were very stingy in giving things away. Whole packs of beef jerky sat for days instead of going into my bag. When I politely asked for a small pack, I was turned away and told, “I’m sorry, but these are displays only.” After showing interest in the product and having a simple conversation, most companies showed little interest in gathering my information or even engaging in basic permission marketing.
The companies that stood out were the generous ones. The ones who GAVE VALUE FIRST, and were interested in connection — and not just in a simple transaction — were the winners. Having a giving mentality is a winning mentality. Abundance is the new abundance.
3. Sex Sells, And I’m Buying
Walking around the convention, I really only started to notice the booths that looked sexy. Display design and appearance can make or break a product. One booth I ran into with a product called LifeAid, was super sexy. It had a clean vibrant appearance, and a smooth color palate bolstered by great lighting.
When I went up to the people at Lifeaid, I spoke with a guy who was their art director and in charge of the display. This company not only took the time to make a cool and easy to understand product, but they also put someone in charge of making the whole thing look sexy.
Connection And Trust> Function
The economy is different now, so why haven’t companies changed with it? Connection and Trust are the name of the game now. Connection trumps function. I want the story behind the product, I want your WHY. Natural foods need fewer buzzwords and more buzz. Your product is natural, primal, and organic huh? How is that different than everyone else?
The real natural and organic isn’t about fads or buzzwords; it’s about being the brand that connects passionate followers, understands the power of giving value first, and keeps things looking sexy — that is the brand that I will proudly get behind.
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