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MAKING THE MOST OF TRADE SHOWS
WHAT'S THE FASTEST WAY TO ACCELERATE AWARENESS OF A COMPANY'S NEW MESSAGE" TURN FARMERS INTO RACECAR DRIVERS!
"The Cell-Tech Challenge," hosted by Nitragin, gave trade show visitors an opportunity to learn about the benefits and evolving technology of inoculants.
Faced with a rather challenging set of marketing goals for 2003 and beyond, Nitragin Inc., Brookfield, Wis., decided to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, at this year's Commodity Classic. And the results were nothing short of fantastic, which is why the company plans to use a similar approach in the future as a way to gain maximum value from its trade show investments. Here's what the company was able to accomplish at this year's show.

GAINING RESPECT

Nitragin Inc. is the world's leading manufacturer and marketer of inoculants, which are used to help boost legume yields. The primary challenge it encounters is that most U.S. farmers who grow legumes don't understand the true economic benefits of inoculants. There's also a misperception in the marketplace that inoculants are inoculants and the products haven't changed in the 100 years that they've been in existence. What's more, many growers mistakenly believe that inoculants are a hassle to work with and simply not worth the time and money when striving to achieve profitability.

The reality is, however, that companies like Nitragin have made significant strides in inoculant technology in recent years that greatly enhance its ability to boost yields. Additionally, the products are much easier and faster to apply. In short, inoculants have come a long way, and the company had a lot to share about the technology and the respect it now deserves.

COMMODITY CLASSIC: A NATURAL

With a renewed focus, team and enthusiasm, the company set out to tackle its biggest challenge - growing the inoculant category. For Nitragin, the Commodity Classic was a natural place to begin as it attracts exactly the right audience - growers with large acreage, as well as influential soybean growers in key states.

Another reason why Nitragin decided to use this show as a launching point has to do with relationships. Other than test plots that demonstrate results and endorsements from fellow growers, there are few ways to get farmers to believe in a product. The next best thing is a show like the Commodity Classic.

At the same time, the Commodity Classic was well-timed. In late 2002, the company initiated a renewed focus to the inoculants businesses. Among other things, this included the return to the historic Nitragin name - a switch from LIPHATECH - and the naming of Scott Fleetwood, Ph.D., as the new vice president of sales and marketing. So what better time to communicate a higher level of commitment to the industry?

START YOUR ENGINES!

At the 2003 Commodity Classic in Charlotte, N.C., Nitragin Inc. played off the trade show's "Accelerate Performance" theme with a racecar simulators that drew quite a crowd.
To make headway at Commodity Classic, a plan was needed. For a hook, the company decided to play off the Commodity Classic "Accelerate Performance" theme. Additionally, the show was in Charlotte, N.C. As such, Nitragin developed a NASCAR theme for the booth and created a contest called "The Cell-Tech® Challenge." (Cell-Tech is the leading product that was marketed at the show.)

Prior to the show, employees distributed a mailer that took the form of a traffic citation and invited people to enter the contest. At the show, the contest allowed growers to experience the thrills and chills of being a professional racecar driver by racing against each other via a stockcar simulator. Grand-prize winners of the race were invited to participate in a real stockcar setting with their Nitragin rep via the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which boasts "one of the safest and most exciting driving and riding programs in the world." Runners-up took home a leather jacket.

But before growers buckled in, they had to share information that allowed the company to prove how Nitragin's products delivered a 6 to 8 percent Return on Investment (ROI) on the growers' operations. Gathering this information also provided a good base to conduct follow-up activity after the show. Additionally, it helped establish a solid database for future marketing initiatives.

Meanwhile, as growers focused on the game, the PR staff concentrated on discussions between editors and Scott Fleetwood. As with growers, Nitragin also wanted to bring editors up to speed on its renewed focus and the latest advancements in inoculant technology.

HITTING PAY DIRT

In terms of results, Nitragin struck pay dirt at every level and continues to reap the benefits of show efforts.

For starters, the Cell-Tech Challenge was a huge hit. Throughout each day of the event, crowds formed outside the booth as growers lined up five and six people deep to get into the contest. The display actually created a sizeable traffic jam in the aisle in front of the booth. In fact, the logjam rarely cleared throughout the entire event as attendees typically came back time and time again.

The company also far exceeded its goals for qualified leads. By the end of the event, it surpassed the goal by 300 percent. Throughout the event, more than a few growers explained that they had no idea as to how much ROI they could realize using the Nitragin products - and how the technology has changed for the better over the years.

On the PR front, company representatives had the opportunity to meet and cultivate relationships with more than a dozen editors of key agricultural print and broadcast media. Those meetings continue to pay dividends in the form of stories that Nitragin expects to see later this year and into early next year - just ahead of the growing season.

It's also worth noting that leads are important, but it's what you do with them that really brings value. Nitragin validated important data by following up with all of the booth visitors. For example, it learned that 43 percent of those who visited the booth had a neutral perception of inoculants before they learned about the Nitragin ROI story. However, follow-up surveys showed that 66 percent of the visitors felt that the ROI demonstration was beneficial to their buying decision. Plus, 35 percent said they wanted to learn more about Nitragin's inoculants, and the sales team is beginning the process of developing stronger relationships with these contacts.

For Nitragin, the Commodity Classic serves as a textbook example of how to do a trade show the right way. Now, all the company has to do is find a way to top it. AM

David Fox is marketing manager for Nitragin Inc., Brookfield, Wis.


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