Trade shows can be a huge distraction and expense for retailers, but they don’t need to be. You can maximize these opportunities to gain a competitive advantage in your market.The original purpose for trade shows was for brands to display and introduce new products to retailers. This is where retailers would typically order new products for their stores. Trade shows have changed, though. Much of the focus now is about the exhibitors and attendees and not what matters most—your customers.

What differentiates natural retailers from your mainstream competitors is your relationship to the consumer. Instead of trying to be a one-size-fits-all retailer, your ability to connect with your consumers on a more intimate level gives you unique insight into what they really want.

For this reason, I advise viewing trade shows as the ultimate shopping trip for your ideal consumer. What would your customers like to find on your shelves? This way of thinking can be the difference between converting occasional customers into loyal evangelists or constantly trying to reacquire the same customer—like your mainstream counterparts.

The 3-step strategy I recommend:

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