How to Maximize Your Trade Show Experience

Posted on October 31st, 2022 to Events

cannabis trade show best practices 2022

Cannabis sales are expected to hit $32 billion in 2022. What a time to be alive!!! In a growing industry like ours, trade shows are a key place to network, scope out the competition, learn about your local market and keep pace with national trends.

At the end of the day, your goal at any trade show is to get leads and build relationships that will positively impact your business. We’ve attended a variety of these events and we’ve also been fortunate enough to collect insight from others along the way. If you’re in the biz and preparing for an upcoming trade show, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

In this post:

  • Choosing the right shows to attend
  • Doing the right research beforehand
  • How to spend your time (exhibitor vs attendee)
  • Creating a plan & budget
  • Making a great first impression
  • How to stand out from the crowd

cannabis trade show best practices 2022

First, the Value of Cannabis Trade Shows

Dispensaries, cultivators, brands and services all benefit from trade show events. These events bring people from across the industry en-masse to learn, showcase products, connect, and support the emerging cannabis economy.

Events like MJBizCon in Las Vegas draw as many as 35,000 people every year with more than 1,400 exhibitors. Likewise, New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN) shows are considered the can’t-miss cannabis events on the east coast for everyone from entrepreneurs to growers and consumers.

Trade shows pose tremendous opportunities for getting your brand, product line, or services in front of your core demographic. However, these events are also important for learning about the cannabis industry as a whole, networking with valuable connections, and solidifying your brand in the minds of people that truly matter for your business.

Tradeshows present opportunities just based on who is in the room that you might not get otherwise, so it’s important to show up fully prepped.

A Few Best Practices to Keep in Mind

1. Choosing the Right Shows to Attend

Pick trade shows in your brand’s region. This may seem obvious, but it’s no less important. For most in cannabis industry, geographic limitations apply. Each cannabis market exists primarily independently within state lines. Think about the geographic limitations your business faces and book the trade shows that make the most sense.

This is especially important for businesses with smaller budgets as events like this can get pricy when you account for ticket cost, travel, food, etc. – choose wisely. For example, NECANN hosts events in a handful of New England states, including Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts. Likewise, the Hall of Flowers event in California is all about connecting retailers and growers in CA.

Visiting the event in your home state is an obvious choice, but national events can still provide value in terms of relationships and insights from other folks that have dealt with similar challenges that you may be experiencing in your business. It’s worth reaching out to your network to see where similar business owners may be headed. MJBizcon in Las Vegas, for example, attracts exhibitors from all over the country – like us, travelling from VT. 🍁🍁🍁

2. Doing the Right Research Beforehand

The quality of the audience is a huge factor when it comes to finding the right events for your sales and marketing strategy. About 64 percent of business owners claim that the quality of the visitors determines whether or not they choose a certain trade show.

So it’s critical to research the event and past events before you secure a booth and start making travel plans. When researching tradeshows, consider which event will offer the best ROI not only in terms of exposure but also think – where will you make the most valuable connections?

Consider these research tasks:

  • Looking up the sponsors of the event
  • Checking social media pages and other forums for reviews & opinions of the event
  • Reading reports to see previous years attendee numbers
  • Talking to past attendees to learn of their experiences
  • Checking out last years exhibitors

3. How To Spend Your Time (Exhibitor vs Attendee)

When you plan to attend as an exhibitor, it can be easy to sink your focus into the plan and making sure your setup is perfect. But it’s equally important to explore the show. You’ll want to plan time for walking around & making sure that you have a team member or two that can hold it down at the booth.

Look at the map & plan your visits

While it may not be best to walk up to another person’s booth and start pitching them on your product or service, you may have some strategic partnerships or connections that you’re looking to make. Check out the tradeshow’s website and make a plan of which booths you want to visit, where they are, who you want to talk to, what conversations you want to have, etc. Even better, reach out to those businesses via email or LinkedIn to plan a time to meet with them on the trade show floor!

For example, if you own an up-and-coming cannabis product brand, interested retailers may gravitate toward your booth. Yet, it can be just as important to visit other exhibits, meet retailers, introduce yourself, and have a booth they can visit if they want to know more about your products. These other connections may help you discover a cost-saving product/service, meet that acquaintance of an acquaintance that leads to a sale, or provide valuable insight from someone that’s been in your shoes before.

4. Create a Plan, Goals, and a Budget for Your Exhibit

It’s important to be mindful of your time at tradeshows as the events happen quickly and you will have MANY conversations. For this reason, you need a solid plan for obtaining contact information and organizing it. The last thing you want is a mountain of business cards with no idea which conversations were productive and worth following up. Have a plan for how to follow up with these leads after the show.

Trade show exhibits require a lot of planning and a significant investment. Before you sign up, make sure you have the time and resources to pull off the event in a way that will secure the best ROI.

Remember the following:

  • Start planning several months in advance
  • Establish why you will be at the show and clear goals you want to fulfill
  • Design your engagement strategy and determine how you will stand out
  • Plan your exhibit to the letter, right down to signage and marketing materials
  • Pick the team that will work the event and identify their roles
  • Identify the type of person and businesses you want to meet

Budgeting is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. You could easily spend thousands of dollars, but you need a clear-set limit before getting started. The best way to budget is to think about what percentage of your funding you want to allocate to which element of the event. For example, you may plan for 30 percent of your budget for securing the booth and 5 percent for promotional items.

5. Make the Best First Impression and Create an Experience

Keep in mind, you will be immersed in a sea of others at a trade show. People will naturally gravitate toward booths that catch their attention and make standout first impressions. If you can hook an attendee right from the point they walk up, you’re more likely to get them to stay long enough to receive a brand message. A big part of this is the booth’s design, the signage you use, and whether you have something tangible to give away for free.

Take notes on what big names in cannabis have done at past events. For example, Dutchie once created a “Hotel Dutchie” booth that looked like a luxury hotel at MJBizCon. As soon as attendees walked up to explore and “check in,” they were handed a complimentary pair of branded slippers. The booth was a full-on experience people won’t soon forget with things like photo ops with staged bicycles and “ride with Dutchie” captioned on the backdrop.

6. How To Stand Out From the Crowd

Speaking of freebies, promotional items are always a best practice for trade show exhibitors. When you hand over a tangible item, you don’t just make an impression, you give the person something branded to remember you by or possibly even spread your brand message.

The key is to offer an item that is actually related to your brand message (and that attendees will actually use). For example, the cannabis brand Dreamt (known as CA’s brand for sleep products made with cannabis) once gave out branded silk eye masks for bedtime. Get creative with it and have fun!

Looking to build your brand’s presence?

At CannaPlanners, we’re the nutrients that help you grow your cannabusiness. As a full-service web, design & digital marketing agency, we can help you spread the word about your brand to ensure it takes root in a growing field of competition. Ready to get started? Let’s talk.

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This post was written by Zach Santarsiero.

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