In the absence of trade shows and expos, some b-to-b brands might have pivoted their event programming to digital, but for Hussmann, a manufacturer of display merchandisers and commercial refrigeration systems, the only effective way to educate its customers on its products and technology was to show them in person. Enter: The Shop the Future Mobile Experience, a roadshow that traveled to nearly 40 locations across the U.S. showcasing new food retailing solutions in a 53-foot-long, 700-square-foot expandable trailer. As for the results? Consider Hussmann’s pipeline filled.
Producing a b-to-b roadshow wasn’t a first for Hussmann; it executed a successful tour in 2017. But in the midst of a pandemic, the brand was uncertain about its customers’—grocery and convenience store operators—willingness to engage in person. After speaking with them over the summer, Hussmann learned that many were eager to do business face-to-face after months of meeting virtually. Considering their input, and a decline in trade show attendance, the brand ultimately launched its Shop the Future Mobile Experience. The 12-week tour kicked off during the last week in August and made stops in customer parking lots across the nation.
“We’ve got this whole part of our company that is really about innovation and technology,” says Matt Judkins, director-corporate marketing communications at Hussmann. “Hussmann makes commercial refrigeration equipment at its core, but really what we are is an engineering company… We wanted to be able to showcase all of that information to our customers and then get in front of them in more of an intimate manner instead of going to your traditional trade shows, where we’re seeing less and less engagement and less and less attendance.”
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Safety was, of course, top of mind. Masks were worn, temperatures were taken, documents verifying attendees’ good health were signed and time slots were implemented so that no more than eight people at a time were inside the trailer. The experience began outside the vehicle, where attendees met up with their sales contacts for initial conversations. Next, they viewed a welcome video from Hussmann ceo Tim Figge on a large outdoor monitor, with updates on the brand’s 2021 plans and a quick explanation on why meeting customers where they were through the roadshow format was important.
After viewing the video, groups of eight people, including six customers, a tour guide and one of a rotating cast of Hussmann sales representatives, boarded the trailer. Nine products were on display, many of which the grocery industry had never seen, like electronic shelf labels. Attendees could spend anywhere from three to 30 minutes learning about each product, and the technology behind it, depending on their needs and preferences. And if they wanted to go into further detail, a virtual product specialist was on hand via Zoom to take them on a deep dive—a strategy Hussmann plans to continue to implement in a post-COVID world.
“There’s a definite place for trade shows, especially in some of the areas where we do business. But to me, this intimate setting is so key to engaging directly with our customers. To see how thankful they were that somebody is out there actually engaging with them I think is going to go a long way in setting up longer-term relationships with them.” Agency: Pro Motion, Chesterfield, MO.