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In this series, FPSA members share their experiences at PROCESS EXPO and offer insights into how to maximize trade show ROI. Today’s interviewee is Camilla Howard, the Marketing Director at thermal food processing equipment manufacturer Unitherm Food Systems.

How was your experience at PROCESS EXPO 2015?

Very successful. PROCESS EXPO is always our favorite show, and it’s definitely the show where we close the most sales.

I think the date change had a positive effect. The traffic was great, and we found that the quality was very high. There was a lot of activity in all of the booths and good energy in the halls.

I heard some people talk about the first day being quiet. The first day was great for us! We made a sale. In total, we sold six pieces of equipment to four different companies. That’s a lot for a show that’s so short. It certainly covers the cost of the show.

Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by quality traffic?

For us, quality mainly means engagement. We love it when someone comes to us and they have a project they’re working on or a problem in their production facility, and they want to find a solution in the next six months to a year.

It’s great to have people asking the right questions. We often have people come to us with a diagram and say, “This is my production facility. I need a solution for cooking chicken wings or pasteurizing onions or whatever.”

Brand recognition is also important. Of course, we like to see the bigger companies. But what we really want is an engaged audience — people who care and have a project. And, at the end of the day, that’s what you get at PROCESS EXPO.

What was the main factor that contributed to your success?

Our live demos. We always run some demonstrations, but we don’t usually run the micro spiral oven. This time, we brought our chef with us and ran it, which was a huge success.

One day, we cooked muffins to demonstrate the oven’s uniformity across the belt, but the big hit was the bacon. I told people earlier in the week that we were doing the bacon test and we had a lot of people come to see the demo. All I did on Friday was hand out bacon.

Why do you think the live demos were so important?

No one buys equipment until they’ve seen it. I hear a lot of people say they don’t close deals at shows, but those people aren’t taking equipment to the shows. We almost always close a deal at a show because we have equipment there that people can look at, touch, and visualize in their own production setting. It’s what we’re known for. We’ve had people come up to us and say, “Oh, you’re the ones who bring all of the equipment.”

I think it adds a lot of value, not only to our customers’ experience, but for the show as well. People want to see what’s new. A lot of other companies do run live demonstrations, for example, on packaging equipment. We’re just lucky that we can cook.

Did you do any pre-show marketing to attract leads?

Yes, we sent an email announcing special show pricing. It was a great way to start relationships. We had four people engage, three of whom were new.

What do you do to follow up after a trade show?

Leads we get at these shows are top of our list, and we follow up on them as quickly as possible. Our first step is to qualify all of our leads. Then, our sales team starts with the hottest ones and works their way down the list. Our goal is to contact everyone we talked to at the show within one week.

Anything else about PROCESS EXPO or your experience you’d like to share?

PROCESS EXPO is the biggest U.S. show, and we consider it the show for thermal solutions and processing equipment. We look forward to seeing everyone again in 2017!