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Ten Tips: Maximizing Trade Show Productivity

By: Greg Seminara, Export Solutions
Topics: SIAL Fancy Food GULFOODS ISM Cibus

Everyone loves a trade show. Where else can you rent a booth and witness lines of customers and distributors waiting to see you to talk about your brands ? Trade shows represent sizable investments and valuable booth time can be wasted with non-productive meetings. 

Read our Ten Tips to maximize your trade show productivity.

1. Create Sign : Distributors/Customers Wanted – List countries where you are searching for a distributor or retailer partner. This serves as an invitation to distributors from those countries to stop by. This strategy also acts as a deterrent to discourage distributors from visiting from countries where you already have a partner or maintain limited interest.

2. Use Export Solutions Database to Pre- Screen Distributors and Schedule Meetings-Over 2,700 companies have used our proprietary database to find qualified distributors. Quickly !A common technique is for brands to list the countries where they hope to find new distributors one month in advance of a major trade show. Then they use the Export Solutions database to pre-screen distributor candidates and identify three to five high potential candidates per country. Then, exporters email these distributors in advance of the trade fair to schedule a meeting. This srategy increase's chance for quality meetings  versus the "hope and wait" approach.

3. Create a template to recap capabilities of potential distributors- Request that prospective distributors complete the template in advance of a meeting. Think of the template as a distributor CV or resume. How long has the distributor candidate been in business,annual sales, number of employees, key brands, length of service for key brands, and most importantly reference contacts from other brand owners and in country retailers.

4. Prepare a One Page Recap of your Company Credentials – This should include product “beauty shot”, current export countries, and unique product characteristics. List export manager contacts and a photo on the back with a space for notes. Professionally print this on a one glossy page handout. This will serve as an important reminder for the meeting when the retailer or distributor returns home with hundreds of business cards.

5. Participate in Show Sponsored Matchmaking Events- Most trade fairs organize matchmaking events. The formats can vary, but basically they can arrange meetings with interested buyers or distributors. As always there is a mix of good meetings and bad, but the approach is worth consideration.

6. Take Photo’s of Potential Distributor Candidates – First take a picture of the distributors business card. Then take a photo of the potential new distributor. After hundreds of short meetings, this will help you remember the candidate once you begin serious due diligence after the trade show.

7. Bring at least 500 Business Cards – I am serious. We have all run out of cards at a trade show. Better yet. Bring 1000 business cards.

8. Schedule a Group Event for Current Distributors- This event is an efficient way to launch a new product or announce “Distributor of the Year”. You must schedule the event before or after show opening times. Best bet is a Breakfast or a dinner if you schedule it four months in advance to avoid conflicts with other events.

9. Get to the Show Early and Leave Late – As a trade show visitor, it is normally much easier to reach senior decision makers of a supplier before 1000 am or after 400 pm.They are often less distracted and have more time to spend with you. Similarly, Brand Owners are always more accessible on Sunday of a trade show or the last day. Normally, the retail buyers don’t attend trade shows on the weekends or “last day” of the trade show.

10. Create a Trade Show Exhibit Planner –Trade Show’s post a listing of all exhibitors on their web site in advance of the show. Many also have a routing software that will allow you to add exhibitors of interest to your private list and plot a route based upon your selected exhibitors. Exhibitors that maximize trade shows schedule most of their meetings in advance.