Trade shows are known internationally as a means to engage in establishing new business relationships. Nearly all businesses have trade shows where businesses and consumers come together and promote new products and services. Trade shows afford the opportunity of social interaction quite different from the fast paced web based marketing approach. Buyers and sellers shake hands, exchange business cards, and promote his/her product or service. An interpersonal connection is made. A potential buyer is able to see, touch, and try out a product. Questions and an interchange of knowledge/discussion transpire. A connection not experienced with social media. Both are invaluable marketing tools. Conceivably, a combination of solid web based marketing and international trade show marketing is a solid way to expand globally. Consider the success of Julie Austin, a business owner fromLos Angeles,CA.
Julie Austin was featured in an article written by the website, “Business without Borders” – Helping Businesses Grow Internationally. Julie exports “Swiggies”; water bottles for runners. Julie was against foreign market entry. Julie’s barriers to International export were “time, money, and a lack of cultural knowledge of foreign markets. Yet an opportunity presented itself and Julie attended an International Trade show inHong Kong. This trade show is known as the “bi-annual China Import and Export Fair” inGuagnzhou,China. This was the start of an exponential business growth where today 90% of Julie’s business is International: “I’d tell anyone thinking about it to go – you are limiting yourself and your sales if you only focus on the United Sates” (businesswithoutborders.com, 2012). As with web based marketing, International trade show marketing has challenges to overcome. The sheer volume of this trade show inHong Kongcan be seen as a challenge: There are 60,000 booths and 210, 00 buyers from 213 countries. No doubt planning is essential. How do you plan for success as Julie did?
The article briefly touched on six fundamental ways to broach the challenges of promoting/selling at International trade shows. What I am hearing is research-research-research! First, research what trade shows provide the best exposure. For example, I went to Google and typed in International trade shows. Several websites came up listing a wealth of trade show organizations in various types of businesses. After selecting a trade show, find out sources within the host country. The article suggested making a call to the U.S. Commercial Service in the host country to find contacts in distributing, manufacturing, etc. (businesswithoutborders.com, 2012). The next step is acquiring a local agent within the host country. The local agent is the middleman who can speak the local language and conduct business negotiations in your absence. This is key when one is not well versed in the local language and culture, or an in person meeting follow up is required on a whim and your over 2,000 miles away. Third, revamp your marketing pitch. Remember, you are now thinking “Global”! Hence, one must make sure all promotional products are global: No slang or slanting. Fourth, staff up by making sure you have all bases covered. Fifth, and in my opinion the most important: Are you well versed in the social culture of the host country? Are you willing too adapt your approach away from the typical American style and mingle after hours? This can be when most deals are made; after hours over dinner and cocktails. Cheryl Locakhart, and Edmonton, Alberta-based international business consultant states, “Try to relax and develop relationships. The real business often happens in the wee hours of the morning after show hours”. Lastly, follow up with the leads attained by sending out emails and thank you notes. Lockart suggests scheduling face to face meetings by use of a local country agent (businesswithoutborders.com, 2012).
International trade show marketing is an excellent means to expose oneself to new foreign markets, or maintain existing relationships. The face to face connection cannot be stressed enough when expanding across other cultural dimensions. One must conduct research and prepare just like any other event. If research and preparation are met, the outcome will be new and continued business growth as Julie Austin’s exporting predominately to International markets.