Tips and Trends

Best Practices for Integrating a Food Truck into Your Trade Show Exhibit

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

trade show food truck line

Smart trade show marketers take hot trends and translate/customize them into brand-immersing exhibit marketing experiences. For example, Jacobsen, a manufacturer of golf course turf maintenance equipment made itself the talk of the Golf Industry Show in San Diego by creating a food truck event that delivered free lunches to show attendees.

Jacobsen painted the town orange—its signature color—with a branded café experience that it located across the street from the San Diego Convention Center where the show was held. The event featured popular gourmet burger purveyors—The InSliders—orange crush, orange umbrellas and a team of enthusiastic brand ambassadors.

Jacobsen trade show food truck cafe

The end result was 400 lunches served per day—and a 30% increase in new leads generated at Jacobsen’s exhibits inside the convention center. If you’re thinking of doing a food truck event at one of your shows, here are six best practices to ensure that your results are as stellar as Jacobsen’s:

1.  Location, Location, Location

  Branded trade show cafe environment

The location of your food truck event can play a key role in its success. Ideally, the location will be somewhere highly visible so people will notice it on their own, which will launch word-of-mouth buzz.

It also needs to be very close to the show—either on show site or within a couple of blocks—so people will feel that they can visit without taking too much time out of their day.

Jacobsen’s location, directly across the street from the convention center at the foot of the famous Gaslamp Quarter, ensured that show attendees noticed it when they first arrived at the convention center and felt comfortable taking time to walk over at lunchtime.

Other ideal locations could be somewhere within the convention center—or even within your exhibit—so long as you have room to set up controlled entry to make sure you’re not just feeding lunch to your competitors’ booth staffs.

2.  Make a stop at the exhibit part of the program

  wrist band for trade show food truck cafe

Jacobsen customers and prospects earned entry into the Jacobsen Café by visiting the Jacobsen exhibit to receive an orange wristband. This wristband also qualified them for free pedi cab rides to and from the convention center.

The advantage of this approach is that the free lunch becomes a reward or thank you for visiting the exhibit and taking time to learn about your products. This increases both length and quality of your engagement with your audience. Without a required stop at the booth to qualify for admission, you’re just giving away food to the masses.  

3.  Brand the experience

  trade show cafe order taking

Jacobsen integrated its brand into its café in every way possible—orange flags, umbrellas, tablecloths and balloons; orange t-shirt attired staff and brand ambassadors, orange beverages (Orange Crush, Orange Gatorade and private label water) and even orange food trucks serving burgers with orange cheddar.

This complete orange-washing served to make the event more fun, more memorable and ensure that all participants remembered who their host was long after the close of the show.

4.  Integrate a product touch-point

  branded trade show food truck beverages

As wonderful as brand recognition is, Jacobsen’s ultimate goal for GIS is to sell product. To this end, it made sure that everyone who came to the café for lunch interacted with its equipment by using its equipment—specifically its flat beds—to chill and present its array of orange beverages. Jacobsen also had product specialists on hand to answer questions about the equipment.

5.  Staff it well

  branded trade show food truck servers

Jacobsen added to the café’s success by staffing it with enthusiastic Jacobsen team members and a handful of hired brand ambassadors. Every one of these individuals had been briefed on their job—help visitors, answer questions and make sure everyone who visited the café had a great time.

Jacobsen understood that the quantity and caliber of its event staff would be the #1 factor in ensuring a high quality experience for visitors.

6.  Measure your results Jacobsen quantified its success in lunches served and in quantity of new leads generated. The next step would have been to scan attendees as they received their burgers—which would have enabled Jacobsen to track exactly who it had hosted and cross-check that data against its other lead data.

Have you ever integrated a food truck into one of your trade show exhibit marketing programs? If you have, how did you ensure its success?  

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