The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.

for employees working World Dairy Expo booths, making a connection can often be more important than making a sale.

For many dairy companies World Dairy Expo, is simply a must-attend event, but it is not for the reasons many of you think. Truthfully, companies might not make a single dollar of sales. For many, the takeaways far exceed any monetary value, it is about real connections and passing on useful information to farmers that can be potential future customers.

Like many dairy industry leaders, Laura Pires, marketing communication content lead for Cargill’s U.S. dairy feed business, believes that World Dairy Expo is an excellent time to get out of the office and into the field to meet a broad range of dairy farmers.

“Many companies are based in metropolitan areas and are not able to connect with dairy farmers on a regular basis,” Pires explained. “But, we can come to Expo and chat with small farmers from the Northeast as well as large farmers from the West,” Pires said. She elaborated, explaining that intimate discussions and learning firsthand what is going on in the minds of different customers — learning what are their top concerns, future hopes, and areas they might want and need help in — is what makes Expo really special.

Kim Billman, director of communications for the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) agreed with Pires, stating, “AJCA feels strongly that the connections we make each year through the trade show at World Dairy Expo are valuable to us and the growing Jersey breed.”

Billman explained that AJCA exhibits at World Dairy Expo, year-after-year, not because of the immediate revenue it generates, but the road it builds for future growth. She shared that the initial steps that can start a deeper, more meaningful conversation with dairy producers at World Dairy Expo are crucial for creating a win-win atmosphere for both the customer and AJCA.

“We might not get the potential producer’s business that day, or even that month, but the contacts that we make at Expo allow us to put the right staff member in touch with the producer,” stated Billman. “We have many staff members on-hand, ready to answer questions on our AJCA programs and services during Expo. Then we can connect the right staff member to follow up with the producer, depending on where they are located.”

Connecting for the future

Pires believes that in addition to engaging and listening to farmers at World Dairy Expo, it is equally important to follow up with that contact. “This is another important piece of a successful trade show plan,” she said.

The following up, according to Pires, can happen in various forms. “If your booth featured a giveaway of some kind, then you will want to send a follow-up to everyone who entered, thanking them for their entry and announcing your winner,” she explained as an example. She also said that for those more intimate, one-on-one conversations with farmers who were looking for help in a specific area, companies might want to send a local representative to the farm with some additional resources.

Billman agreed that follow-up is essential to a successful trade show and ultimately the success in procuring future business for a company. “Follow-ups to individual producer meetings at World Dairy Expo come in many forms. For the dairy producers who we meet, it can be a visit from their local area representative or a phone call from the office helping them with their question,” she said.

USJersey also has a variety of events that the American Jersey Cattle Association hosts during the week of Expo. “We have two consignment sales in the area: one at Expo and one 45 minutes south in Janesville, Wis. In addition, we try to have a virtual farm tour each year to showcase one of our standout registered Jersey herds. It is also a chance to collaborate with the allied industry through meetings and to stay abreast of the latest dairy technologies,” she said.

For Cargill, their Expo related events vary from year-to-year. “It really just depends on what our objectives are for the year and the event,” said Pires. “There are several World Dairy Expo events to be involved with, as well as the opportunity to host your own at the nearby hotels.”

Dairy producers who attend World Dairy Expo’s trade show are visiting with dairy companies that can add value to their business and improve their operation. For dairy companies exhibiting at Expo, a successful trade show plan to them is really about connecting pieces to helping their customers succeed in their day-to-day life on the farm.

Pires stated, “When you’re able to really learn about what your customers’ dreams and challenges are, then you can better tailor solutions to help them achieve those goals and illustrate to them that you and your company are really there to be a trusted, long-term partner for them to work with.”

“Opening up conversations with current and potentially new customers and understanding both their challenges and opportunities is what drives our company to new levels,” said Billman.

Dairy companies often ask what is the return on investments for every cost associated with their business, but attending World Dairy Expo isn’t an easy mathematical solution. The takeaways far exceed dollars generated, but the real connections that generate future customers is why many dairy businesses continue to make their way to Madison every fall.