How to push your company at an international trade show

How to push your company at an international trade show
Denver Business Journal

The world-is-getting-smaller concept means Americans are attending more foreign trade shows to perform market research, sell their wares, engage in competitive analysis, or seek partners and alliance companies.

There are nuances to doing this overseas, and here are the top 10 tips for working a foreign trade show:

Set a strategy —
Are you going to this show to look for cooperation opportunities? Are you trying to find customers? Are you looking for vendors? Are you just showing the industry that your firm is still in the game? Prepare the staff with the proper expectations, and set an action plan for what you’ll be doing at this show.

Translate your material, or at least an introductory sheet —
Remember your audience. If you’re heading overseas, people may speak and read English, but it may be their second, third or fourth language. While it’s an expense to translate a firm’s materials into many languages, you can usually use an “at a glance” sheet to deal with your firm’s major benefits.

And when coming from the United States, don’t forget to put the country and country code on all business card and letterhead addresses.

Have multilingual people available —
It’s a courtesy to the locals (and visitors from other countries) to speak their languages. In Europe, you can provide trade-show support in four or five languages, and cover a great portion of the population. In Asia, having someone on hand who can speak Chinese and Japanese will be seen as a differentiator, and a courtesy (your hotel can usually help you locate that expertise).

Have several people in attendance —
First, there’s nothing more pathetic than seeing some lonely guy sitting at a booth at a trade show. Usually, when there’s no booth traffic, that person can be found reading or looking at their computer, hence, visitors are interrupting.

But also, international trade shows are exhausting. Time differences, jet lag and logistics necessitate breaks for booth staff.

Arrive early, stay late —
Get to know the town. Make sure your booth arrives (things like that can get held up in customs or suffer from shipping delays, breakage, etc.). Get over your jet lag.

Learn a few words of the local language (such as “please,” “thank you” and “where is the toilet?”).

Staying late provides an opportunity to meet with people after the show. And Americans are notorious for having their business trips be too short. When you tell people at the show that you’ll be in town for the next several days, you have differentiated yourself.

If you use giveaways, make sure they’re culturally sensitive —
I once attended a trade show in Mexico with a company that insisted on giving away pocket knives with their logo on it. To a Mexican, the presentation of a knife means severing a relationship.

At another show in Belgium, an American firm was giving out chocolate at its booth. Belgians view their chocolate with national pride (it just may be the world’s best) and therefore had no interest in Snickers bars. This type of mishap is easily avoidable by asking a native of the country what is and isn’t acceptable.

Prepare your website to deal with inquiries —
The beautiful thing about websites is that they’re so easily modified. Have a “Berlin Trade Show” button on your site, and house everything there you wish the participants to find. You can even put your multilingual benefit sheets up there.

The second word in trade show is “show” —
The people in the booth handing out brochures and cup holders don’t represent the American marketing machine. The United States is known worldwide for marketing prowess, and this is the place to do it. Rent an animal, hire a magician or give out snow cones. Remember that trade-show participants are jet-lagged, tired and hungry. Cater to them.

Follow up —
Once you’ve met the people you want to see, don’t forget to keep up with them. Send a friendly email, put them on a newsletter list, or — if they warrant this — arrange a visit for your next trip. Remember that most other nations are relationship-oriented, and you’ll need far more touches to make a deal.

Don’t forget to have fun —
Why go through the hassle of international travel if you’re only going to work? Take some time to see the sights, shop for ridiculous souvenirs and take in the local cuisine. And if you’re really trying to do business with people from other cultures, then it’s necessary that you spend some personal time with them to build relationships.

Using these tips will help you accomplish your goals at trade shows. Many of them even can be used here in the United States.

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