Takeaways from Planted Expo Vancouver 2024

I went to the Plant-Based Expo yesterday in Vancouver where many plant-based CPG startups look to gain awareness and build loyal customers, largely through sampling.

Here are some of my initial takeaways, which can be applied to any of these types of CPG expos.

👉 Sampling is great, take home samples are even better.

While I maneuvered my way from booth to booth, stuffing my face with free samples, I can barely remember any of the brand names. So if you’re trying to get ‘liquid to lips’ or ‘samples to mouths’, people need to remember you. As a CPG owner, you’re not there for fun. You’re there to win customers.

A takeaway sample allows a customer to have a better shot of remembering your name and logo, and more importantly, become a repeat customer. If they don’t have a takeaway, there’s a really good chance they’ve already forgotten about you the second they walk away.

👉 Have the right staff working the booths.

If you are not outgoing and love people, maybe it would be best to have a more behind-the-scenes role. Friendly, social people work wonders for brand loyalty. We saw a lot of founders working the booth who seemed like they didn’t want to be there. No smile, no chat, not asking questions about their product, not trying to build a relationship… I get it, when it’s busy, it’s not always possible, but there were many occasions when I was the only one there and they didn’t seem to try to win me over.

👉 Customers are judging your entire presentation.

Your booth, your packaging, your staff, your attire, your posters, your sample sizes… everything should be well thought-out and executed at a high level.

I get it – margins are super slim with CPG and running an event is probably stretching your budget. If you can’t afford to be there, then don’t go. Large samples go a long way. Production value goes a long way. Professionalism goes a long way.

👉 Have an incentive to purchase

People LOVE a deal. We noticed the prices were not visibly displayed nor deeply discounted. Have a discount structure that encourages people to increase their order value (e.g. 1 for 10, 2 for 15, 3 for 18).

Is your goal to turn a profit, or to win loyal customers? I think it’s better to have a great deal, have people fall in love with your product, and become repeat customers.

👉 Coupons are a cost-effective way to offer samples.

You need a way for people to find your product after the expo. Driving DTC sales can be a great way to have brand recall and loyalty. If they don’t need or want your sample, no worries, all it cost you was the price of printing a coupon.

👉 Have incentive to collect emails.

This is related to the last two points. At this stage, your product is probably not that easy to find in stores. Emails and DTC are a way to build a relationship with your audience and to circumvent getting on store shelves and paying costly fees. We saw giveaways that encouraged visitors to provide their email address and thought that was smart.

Did you go to the expo? If so, what were some of your takeaways?

The Inventor of Chess and The Emperor

There’s a famous story called The Inventor of Chess and The Emperor, perhaps you’ve heard it, that is a great demonstration of the power of cumulative effort. If not, allow me to sum it up for you.

One day, an inventor took his latest creation to the Emperor. He called it, the game of chess. The Emperor was so impressed with the game that he offered the inventor a year’s supply of rice for his efforts.

The inventor, being good with mathematics, made a counter offer. 

He said, “Emperor, instead of this gracious compensation, how about you just give me one grain of rice for creating the first square on the chessboard, then double that amount for every additional square on the board?”

The inventor of chess and the emperor
Exponential growth curve vs logarithmic growth curve

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