Inner Circle

Audience Acquisition  

Baking a Difference

by Cecilia Lopez

A consolidating industry. Low-carb diet fads that won’t die. Niche competitors around every corner. That’s whatmdg has been up against since we began marketing the triennial International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in 2007. So, just how is it that attendance has increased by 65 percent since then (from just under 14,000 attendees to just over 23,000)? Here are a few ingredients in our carefully crafted recipe for success.

Connected content
What’s the most common objection you get from non-attending prospects? If you’re like us, it’s all about time and money. That’s why this year’s campaign used a jargon-and nonsense-free tone of voice that spoke directly to the ROI of attending. But we didn’t lead with benefits, as event marketers typically do—we led with industry trends, consumer trends, product developments and technological innovations. Then, we connected attendance to the audience’s ability to seize opportunities. Rather than promoting education with generic copy like “Get ideas,” we targeted benefits to the appropriate audiences so we could say things like, “VP of Marketing: Learn how to get your share of the fast-growing gluten-free market.” Or,“VP of Engineering: Discover how to reduce energy costs and product waste.”

International marketing
For many years, IBIE had been sending a sales team to international events in order to sell booth space. This year, mdg requested a seat on the plane, too. Our multilingual staff arranged and facilitated meetings between IBIE executives and the heads of international organizations who were interested in joint promotional opportunities. Pre-meeting, we would perform research and provide briefings (including information on cultural mores). After the meetings, we would provide detailed notes and perform follow-up—allowing the executives to get back to their “day jobs.” Because, let’s face it, executives are GREAT at laying the foundation on which a meaningful relationship can be built, but don’t always have the time to follow through on the details necessary for the actual tactical execution.

Patience and persistence
Have you ever launched a new initiative at your event that didn’t get much traction out of the gate, but you still knew you were on to something? This was the case at IBIE when we originally introduced the B.E.S.T. (Becoming Environmentally Sustainable Together) in Baking program in 2010. Although we didn’t get many entrants that first year, we sensed sustainability would be a growing trend in the baking industry and brought it back in 2013. This year, 65 companies submitted entries and five received top honors in their respective categories. Bakers now come to the show specifically looking for suppliers who have the B.E.S.T. in Baking seal on their products. One exhibiting company told us that a huge buyer—one who would make his entire exhibiting experience and sales year—sought him out because he had won this award. And that is why we do what we do (and love it!).

Video and popular culture
Several years ago, we spoke at Expo! Expo! about marketing trends of the future, putting a huge emphasis on the growing importance of video. Now, the future is here as 2016 was a full-on game-changer for video. Capitalizing on this reality and on the excitement and hype surrounding the Summer Olympics, mdg created a series of teaser videos called IBIELive! to position IBIE as the “Olympics of the baking industry.” We regularly promoted these videos across all IBIE social media channels to spark conversations and generate engagement leading up to the show. Speaking of which …

Social media and digital
mdg expanded IBIE’s digital and social media offerings, resulting in a full-stack online marketing effort that drove 1,000-plus conversions to registration (at a cost one-third the industry average), nearly three million impressions and impressive click-through rates. Blending an organic social media, paid social and paid digital strategy helped to create a 360-degree online marketing effort that nurtured prospects throughout the event cycle. Perhaps most notable, IBIE’s online marketing campaign drove over $100,000 in revenue from registration.

According to Jacquelyn Wells, Senior Account Strategist and IBIE account lead, “A solid strategy, leadership and support from a dedicated show committee and the desire for results are the perfect recipe for a thriving trade show.”