International tradeshows can be great for exporters looking to meet potential buyers and partners in international markets. However, they can be costly to attend and are not necessarily going to be the ready-made solution to reaching customers that you’d hope for.
As ever with international trade, it is vital that you have a clear strategy and that you prepare properly in order to make the most of the opportunities that some tradeshows can create. Here are 10 key tips to ensure you make the most of them.
1. Choose the right show for your strategy
One of the biggest tips we always give to exporters is to ensure you do your research. There are several big tradeshows out there, so you need to decide which is the one that will create the best leads for you.
The obvious starting point is to look for tradeshows that are most relevant to your sector in the markets you are looking to sell into. However, you should also consider what sorts of shows your competitors have had success at as well.
Contact your trade association for tips – it’s likely that they would have gone to and worked with companies who’ve attended many of the tradeshows in your sector.
And consider why it is that you’re wanting to go to a show. Are you looking to just build brand awareness or are you looking to meet potential buyers? Are you looking to meet distributors, sales agents or looking to meet customers to sell to directly?
Finally, consider the size of your business compared to others attending the shows you’re looking at. If you’re a lot smaller than the other companies exhibiting, will you have the resource for a stand that truly stands out?
Doing your research and coming up with a clear strategy is so key because if you go to a show that isn’t fully relevant to your business, you will have wasted a lot of time and money.
2. Preparation is key – what do you want to have on the stand
Once you’ve decided your show and signed up to be an exhibitor there, then you will have to decide how you’re going to implement your strategy at the show. A large part of this will be the materials that you will take with you. Brochures, banners, samples and business cards are all an essential for getting your brand out there and educating prospective buyers about what it is you’re selling.
You’ll need to have something that can be quickly read and understood by visitors who are being bombarded with information from everyone else at the show – something that catches their eye.
Further, if you’re looking to meet overseas partners, factor in the fact that you may need to translate your materials. You are much more likely to strike up a potential new partnership with someone if you can engage with them in their own language.
3. Preparation is key – sending materials overseas
When sending your materials to your stand at an overseas show, bear in mind that delivering things internationally is a bit more complicated than delivering things domestically. It may be worthwhile working with a freight forwarder who can help you through some of the additional paperwork involved when sending promotional materials and samples overseas.
And don’t forget to ensure you’ve planned other logistics for the show, including your accommodation and your own travel!
4. Arrange meetings in advance
Tradeshows will now often have online platforms to help you find out in advance who is visiting the show. These platforms will also often allow you to invite visitors or fellow exhibitors to meetings at the show.
Either way, look through all the information that is available about the show to see who is coming. Ensure you contact people in advance to let them know who you are and what you will be doing there. That way, potential leads are more likely to meet you and discuss what it is you you’re trying to pitch.
5. Make a buzz on social media
These days every tradeshow will be looking to create plenty of buzz and excitement through social media platforms. Make sure you’re able to piggy back onto this buzz by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever it is that is being used most at the show to raise awareness about your business to the many potential leads who will be doing the same. Get your hashtags ready and take lots of pictures!
6. Talk to the other exhibitors
Make sure to set up your stand as early as you can either early on the day or the day before the show kicks off. This will make you look professional and organised of course, but it will also give you the opportunity to network with the other exhibitors around you at the show.
Fellow exhibitors may or may not be directly relevant to your own business strategy, but if you are friendly with them they may help to direct more relevant leads to your stand throughout the show.
7. Don’t waste time with false leads
You will meet and talk to a lot of people at these shows and the majority of them will not be your next distributor. Many people will talk to you out of curiosity or even politeness but won’t be particularly interested in buying your product once they’ve left the show.
Make sure not to spend too much time talking to these people and make sure you’ve got questions you can ask them which will help you to ascertain if they are a proper lead or not.
Always be polite, of course, but don’t waste too much time talking to non-leads.
8. Make clear notes about decent leads
When you do meet a proper potential lead, make sure you get their contact details through a business card, form on your stand, or a note.
As important, when taking their contacts make sure to write down any information about them which will you can remember them by.
Why was the conversation you had with the interesting? What might they want to buy from you? Who could they introduce you to?
Whether it’s on their business card or on a note you staple onto it, always make sure to explain to your future self why that conversation you just had was useful.
9. Follow-up is everything
And within a week of returning home from your show, make sure to send them an email or to give them a call following up on the conversation you had at the show. Invite them to a meeting or call to discuss what you had begun talking about in further detail.
Don’t let this rest. Keep the hot trails hot – follow-up is everything when it comes to tradeshows.
10. All relationships take time
But always remember to be patient. Tradeshows are great for leads but they don’t guarantee deals. Indeed, a deal signed at a show will often prove to be the wrong one – don’t rush into anything in the excitement of a show!
Use tradeshows as a way of starting conversations and then be patient with the nurturing of them. Great business partnerships, like any relationship, take time and patience.
And finally, always have a checklist of all the things you need to sort out.