SupplySide West observations from an industry marketing professional

As a marketing professional with years of experience in the ingredient and supplement category, I was inspired by the attendance and energy at SuppySide West this year. The current consumer trend of prioritizing personal health is undeniable, and the activity at SSW was sure confirmation of the unstoppable momentum of the global wellness economy.

I expected to observe companies evolving their brands and communications efforts to keep up with the growing industry; what I found was a lack of marketing strategy and many opportunities for companies wishing to drive growth.

Here are just a few of my observations.

Companies are using trade shows as their #1 marketing tool.

I heard a lot of companies say that they use the four big shows (SSW, SSE, Expo East, Expo West) as their “marketing opportunity.” And it makes sense. These shows are a must-attend in this business. I can’t help but wonder how much additional success and growth could be gained through marketing efforts outside of and in addition to these shows. Building awareness and generating leads prior to the shows could help make their time even more productive.

To succeed in this growing and competitive industry, companies must think beyond short, transactional connections and focus on expanding the long-term value of the customer.

B2B brands don’t need a marketing plan?

This seemed to be a common perception at the show. But the reality is that business customers expect the same experiences that they encounter as consumers, and they desire information when and where they want it, regardless of their industry. 

Few organizations have true brand story.

I heard many strong product stories about everything from sourcing and formulations to clean labels and the end consumer. What I found to be missing, however, were the value proposition and the competitive differentiation that really allows a brand to break through the clutter of hundreds of other similar products.

Over 200 new companies joined the scene at SSW this year, many of which were smaller start-ups making their debut in the health and wellness category. These companies are selling the same core products and services with “twists” — cleaner, easier, more affordable, etc. With the huge variety of choices in the market, so many of them redundant offerings, it’s no longer the basic differentiators that make a product or service rise to the top. It’s the connection and how it makes us feel, which come directly from the brand story. Brand stories provide value and prove competitive advantage.

The emphasis on sales is unbalanced.

Most exhibitors brought their sales force but left their marketing team at home. According to my sources, “This show is about seeing our current customers, collecting leads and making sales.”

One of the most valuable functions of marketing professionals is their ability to support sales by knowing the customers’ needs and the content they desire; MARCOMM lays the groundwork. Where in the past, B2B companies in this category relied on a single sales agent to close the deal, customers today have teams of buyers that come to the table with challenges and choices. And they need to be cultivated.

Exhibit booths and content materials need a refresh.

Exhibitors are not updating their booth and collateral often enough. It was impossible to ignore the fact that the booths with attractive graphics and displays were generating larger crowds on the show floor. From my estimation, less than 5% of exhibitors were using digital displays or iPad presentations.

The power of effective branding and marketing in demonstrating the value of a product is as relevant to consumer-facing communications as it is to B2B. Bottom line, with over 1,200 booths, you must stand out by offering interesting and relevant content.

In Summary

Many companies at SupplySide West could not express a coherent marketing strategy. Sales strategy? Yes. Solid and aggressive. But marketing strategy to help position and build brand equity is still underdeveloped in this category.

How can we help?

Few agencies have the depth of knowledge in marketing nutrients, supplements and healthy-living products as GKV. After decades of experience, we have become passionate experts in the wellness and nutrition category. And we have the success stories to prove it.

Looking forward to connecting!

Garry Raim

Partner, Executive Vice President

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