Worried about the expense? Renting booth space and covering travel costs for staff can take real money. On the other hand, it makes sense for first timers to attend a show as a visitor and scope it for more robust participation the next year. Grant money is sometimes available for small businesses, so be sure to ask the trade development specialist with your local or national government. In the U.S. that’s your local Export Assistance Center, a division of the Commerce Department. Getting a portion of exhibition costs paid, including overseas travel, is an attractive incentive.
Making the most of the show
Shows get promoted months in advance, or you can look at the program for a show you missed this year to help plan for next. Many shows offer education programs and you should consider asking to be a speaker. Usually there’s a spot on the show website that has info on how to apply. If, not phone or email the show management people. Potential buyers and partners may be in the audience to listen to your pitch.
Show media is another way to get your story in front of buyers. Many news outlets in the industry usually attend the show. Often there is a show daily, both print and digital and available on each day of the show. Some are pay to play, but others are looking for interesting products and services to feature. Make yourself a little media list before you depart for the show. Maybe send a press release ahead of time and offer to meet the editor or reporter at the show. If there’s a reception for or sponsored by the industry media be sure to attend. Not sure about how to write a press release? WPG can help.
Go to the receptions
Unless it’s a show promoting abstinence, when the show day is done the parties begin and drinks flow. This is a good time to relax and meet people. Come with elevator speech and business cards. Go to more than one reception, including ones where members of the media are likely to be present. The show organizers can help target the right places, as they’re eager for you to have a good time and to return next year.
Many shows may have room for you up to the last minute, but local hotels can sell out early, forcing you to travel to accommodations far from the city center where show facilities are usually located.
Utilize government help
Governments with export promotion programs often help show organizers recruit buyers and sellers from their countries to large international shows, especially those in Germany, which tend to be well-established, heavily attended and represent key industries. Services vary, but often include arranging meetings with vetted buyers and sellers. Fees also vary but are mostly nominal. Specialists from different countries often attend and provide insights into their particular markets and introductions to sellers and buyers in delegations that they’ve recruited. They will also help with post show follow up.
Post show follow up
Do it. The head-exploding truth about trade shows is that many leads collected don’t get followed up on. True, some leads may be duds. But we’re talking about solid ones that somehow fall by the wayside. Make a spreadsheet, annotate business cards—do whatever it takes to protect and organize your leads. As soon as you get home, send those emails. And if you’re received help from show organizers or your government’s trade specialists, follow up with them and make them part of your sales or procurement team.
Trade shows are changing in response to changing times. Consolidations have taken place and some shows have gone from being help annually to every other year. But they’re not going away. Face-to- face meetings are still important, especially when doing cross-border business.
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