Trade shows and missions are vital to SME exporters. They are an effective way to test markets, attract customers, appoint agents or distributors, and make sales.
Attending trade shows opens opportunities to build potential supplier networks and to find out what your competitors have developed without having to resort to subterfuge. Exposure to new industry trends and educational seminar attendance can also be a catalyst for product innovation.
Globalisation has seen the emergence of ‘super-shows’ with exhibitors and buyers from around the world attending. Governments are investing in supporting these shows and it’s not uncommon to have ambassadors visiting national exhibition stands in order to extol the strengths of their countries’ manufacturing.
It’s important to choose the right trade shows to attend in order to meet your specific growth goals. National exhibition stands are often arranged and sometimes sponsored by chambers of commerce and this could be the first port of call when choosing which show to attend. Shows often have websites and magazines that list all the exhibitors and this will give you an indication if it’s right for you.
Having to pay for booth space, designs, hand-out materials, product giveaways, and personnel travel makes shows a costly investment. To capitalise on your participation, it’s important to have a clear marketing plan for before, during and after the show in order to make the most impact.
Marketing preparation before a show should include careful consideration of the theme you will use to promote your company and the key messages you want potential customers to know about your products and services. Shows are a positioning event and you should think about how you want visitors to remember you when they make a purchasing decision.
It’s important to define your objectives for the show, which could be generating leads, meeting with targeted prospects, introducing new products, or making sales. Once you know what your objectives are, you can think of possible ways to measure them during the show. Develop a strategy for recording visitors’ names, how much time they spent with you, what they were interested in, what their business does, and how they’ll use or sell your products.
Research indicates that 75 percent of trade show attendees develop a ‘must-see’ list of exhibitors before the show. It’s therefore a good idea to let visitors know you are exhibiting before the show starts. You could consider listings in directories, notifications on your website, or direct mails targeted at prospects you’d like to meet. Direct mails could offer an enticement for those who visit your stand, such as a give-away or promotional offer.
Whether your trade show goods are being transported by ocean or air, the date it needs to arrive in the destination country needs to be carefully planned so that it doesn’t arrive late or too early. There can be no holdup at customs and so getting experts to help is a good investment. Special warehousing can be arranged so that the goods arrive at the exhibition venue at the correct time.
Show materials should be packaged extremely carefully so that nothing gets damaged. It’s vitally important that everything looks absolutely perfect for the show. Pallets or packages should also be marked with your company’s name as well as the exhibition hall and booth numbers so that it can be delivered to the right spot. It’s wise to include additional packaging material in the pallet so that you’re able to re-package everything easily when it needs to be sent home.
The objectives you set before the show will guide your ability to make an impact at the show so that you can get maximum return on your investment in exhibiting. It’s a good idea to introduce products with demonstrations, schedule appointments, and make sure your verbal communications are rehearsed. Practice communicating your theme and key messages, but be careful not to sound ‘canned’.
When the show is over, re-package your exhibition stand and mark it with return address labels. The real work starts when you get back home. If anyone asked for information about your products or company at the show, make sure you respond promptly and try reassert your theme or key messages from the show.