There is a paradox to an international trade show. And it has
It is unique because it is foreign. If it's your first show, it
should be a real adventure. If it's your umpteenth overseas
trip, you may view it as a drag, or look at it as an opportunity
to maintain and expand relationships.
It is the same as doing a show in the US.
Which is right? Both. How can that be? Because.....
The principles of trade shows are universal. There's a
practical understanding to the basics of trade shows - no
matter where in the world you exhibit. Of course, there are
the cultural nuances you must accept. Knowing where you
are going and how to be accepted once there are critical
In addition, there are universal standards in design,
promotion, presentation and follow-up for any trade show.
Your appearance and business practices must align to the
actualities of the host country, industry and the international
These are a sampling of questions you should ask as you
consider starting or expanding your exposition schedule-
ARE YOU GOING TO THE RIGHT SHOW?
A show is not just a show. Each exposition has its own
personality, and that changes from year to year depending
on locale, exhibitors, the health of your industry and how the
economy affects your clients. It is important to understand
there are three Types of Shows. In the US, we tend to
separate these show types - B2B Marketing, B2B Sales and
B2C Marketing/Sales. In many countries, the functions and
audiences overlap throughout the show, or on certain days.
Align your expectations for each type of show. Consider
each show a new show, not a repeat of the previous year.
Then ask - is your timing right for entry into that country via
that show for your products and services? How do you find
the right shows? One obvious way is to ask your clients
what shows they think are important.
ARE YOU GOING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS?
What are you looking for? There are myriad opportunities to
connect with leads, partners, clients, reps, dealers,
distributors and agents. The more you understand how
business works in that part of the world and within your
industry, the more you should network and target your
markets prior to leaving Virginia. Use the pre-show months
to get to know each other and build trust. We Americans
have a tendency to rush into relationships; our overseas
partners may take much more time.
ARE YOU INFLUENCING THE RIGHT PEOPLE?
There is great value in spending time and money for
pre-show research and promotion. Networking skills are
expanded via online research, discussion lists and asking
your business associates. Appreciating the pecking order -
social and business - and how decisions are really made
by your target markets can cut your sales time dramatically.
ARE YOU SENDING THE RIGHT MESSAGE?
We've all heard stories of the misguided, arrogant or
oblivious foreigner who rubs the hosts wrong. We tend to
assume everyone loves us and speaks English. Wrong.
Take time to understand the value of promotion in native
languages and current cultural vernacular. Use professional
translation services - carefully checked so you know what
everything says - for all signs, graphics, letters, promotional
materials, demonstrations. Hiring local multi-lingual talent
is always appreciated for initial and qualifying conversations
at the show.
ARE YOU SENDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE?
First impressions are critical and Your Staff = Your
Company, both on and off the floor. Take staff selection
seriously. This is the time to be smart, not stingy. Search
your options for the best company representatives. Write a
job description and ask for volunteers. Send the people
who are competent but also enthusiastic about spreading
the word about your company. Maybe you have experienced,
savvy in-house staff, or this is the time it makes sense to
hire experienced stand staff at the show locale.
ARE YOU FOLLOWING-UP PROPERLY?
This most critical part often is lost because there you have
no real plan beyond an initial contact or two. Sure, it's
expensive to pursue international business, but today's
technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch. Ask
visitors how they want to be contacted - do they need a local
contact or is e-mail preferred? Consider outsourcing initial
ARE YOU GETTING ROI FOR THE DOLLARS?
Your Return on Investment is not just dollars you can track
after the show. There are many ways to boost your bottom
line, sone direct, some subtle. For example, publicity is a
powerful driver for marketing and extending rememborability
after the show. PR and advertising must be planned and
tracked. Tips for getting the most bang for the bucks -
Match your expectations for returns with reality of the money
you are investing in a show.
Understand your sales cycle, delivery times, international
shipping options, customs, tariffs and always have a Plan B
Be truthful about your investment. Trade Show Training, inc.
says there are eight line items of a trade show budget and
seven are definite expenses for Every Show. The exception
is that if your exhibit is costly, you may be able to amortize it
over a couple of years. These are the major line items you
must decide before you can get a good handle on ROI.
1. The Rent on Your Space
2. All On-floor Expenses
3. Your Exhibit, Graphics and Accessorie
4. Freight and Drayage
5. The Cost of Your Time, Staff Time
6. The Costs of Travel and Entertainment
7. Promotions and Advertising Before the Show
8. Follow-Up and Sales Costs After the Show
Is it easy to do an international show? No, but it is easier
when you understand the parameters of the paradox.