Trade shows take on a much larger importance in international business. Not only can you meet prospects but it is the one place where you can meet customers from around the world. Here’s my recent article in the February 2013 edition Export Magazine from the Riverside County Office of Foreign Trade (see pages 10-11)
John W was seething behind his booth at the US pavilion at the massive CEBIT expo in Hannover. “No one is coming by my booth. Coming here has been a complete waste of my time and money.”
I was the US Consul General in Hamburg and John was directing his complaints at me as an American official. “I’m not getting the leads I was promised.” Now I knew that the US Commercial Service never promised him specific leads when he signed up for the booth but I listened to his story. He had shown up the day before the event, his marketing collateral was tied up in customs and he was behind the booth all day waiting for customers. He was so tired that he skipped all the evening networking events.
John made many common mistakes that led to his poor results. Here are five tips to avoid those pitfalls and get the most out of a trade show:
1. Set Your Goals. You should think about your ideal customers and identify the best shows to reach them. www.export.gov, the US government website to help exporters, has a list of trade shows and resources and your local Commercial Service office can also advise you.
2. Assess Your Participation Level. You have many options – go to the show as an attendee, participate in the US pavilion or have your own space. You can also sponsor events or have special advertising in the catalog or the show website.
3. Make Sure You Have the Appropriate Look. The show will have specifications on display size and content but make sure your follow the guidelines, particularly for shipping. (Hint: use a professional freight forwarder for trade booths – it is worth the extra cost.) Also bring along LOTS of business cards!
4. Map Out Your Strategy. Don’t spend your time behind the booth. and don’t wait for visitors to come to you. Figure out a strategy to visit all of the relevant booths (particularly in the mega-shows like CEBIT with dozens of pavilions). Set up appointments in advance.
5. Build Relationships. Don’t be a wall flower – attend the evening social events, even if you are bone tired. Also be a respectful visitor – learn phrases for welcome, please and thank you. (Resource tip: “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison has business etiquette for more than 60 countries.)
So don’t be like John and lose out on an important market development opportunity. Do attend those trade shows but plan ahead of time to reach the right customers!
by Chris Lynch