Apr. 21, 2008 – Keys to preparing for overseas trade shows

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
International shows have always provided alternative opportunities overseas, but with domestic sales mostly flat, companies might be more inclined to explore the global market.
Various factors like cost and language barriers have U.S. companies at times hesitant to cross the Atlantic. But Vince Marazita, the North American representative for the Italian show EICMA, says as long as companies are prepared before attending the shows, there are great opportunities.
“There are so many well-known American brands that just don’t export that really should because it’s a wonderful opportunity from the currency point of view,” he said. “The dollar in my opinion is probably going to stay where it is for a long time.”
This fall, U.S. companies will have a chance to break into the global market with two of the larger international shows, INTERMOT and EICMA, both of which take place in Europe.

What to expect
Although there are some significant differences between U.S. and international trade shows, Marazita suggests a company new to the global scene should run their show overseas just like they do domestically.
However, U.S. companies should do research beforehand, including selecting what companies they want to deal with and what markets they’re interested in breaking into or expanding.
“While you’re doing that research, ask [the companies] which show they’re going to be at,” Marazita said of EICMA, the Italy show, or INTERMOT, the Germany show, “especially in the even number years, there are both shows. The odd number years it’s just the Milan show.”
Marazita notes both shows have more than just European visitors.
“They are the majority of trade visitors,” he said, “but if you even have South American or Asian markets that you sell to or want to sell to, they’re both great shows for that as well.”
The European shows usually have a press day before the event opens, which is when a lot of companies do their press conferences.
“That’s a good service if they have new product,” Marazita said, noting at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, there are about 15 people working in the press office. “It’s a large show.”
After the press day, EICMA has two days where mainly dealers are on hand.
“The ones you want to see of course are the importers and buyers from various importers or distributors,” he said. “Those are the ones you should seek out if that’s the way you want to go.”

Trade days
The trade days’ agenda is not much different than shows in the U.S., except that the consumer and trade days are joined into one show. With that being the case, there isn’t much time for manufacturers to do business on the trade side, which is typically a U.S. company’s main purpose for being there. Thus, Marazita says appointments are crucial.
If the U.S. company is already in the global market, Marazita notes to make sure to arrange appointments with existing clients. Then, make appointments with potential clients. Unlike U.S. shows, often times meetings are done in closed rooms, making it difficult for people without appointments to make new potential clients.
“Make sure you have appointments with the important people,” Marazita said, “but save some time in case some prospective buyers come by and want to talk.”
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, concerns of companies is language barriers. While most people speak enough English to get by, Marazita says it can be more comfortable for both parties if there’s an interpreter.
“Many interpreters speak four languages, and that’s all you need,” Marazita said. “It’s not necessary, but it’s more helpful if it’s the first time you’ve been there. I think it’s worth the money.”
He adds the interpreter doesn’t have to be a professional one. If a company knows someone who speaks the native language, it would be enough to get by. “For comfort level,” he said, “it’s nice to have someone speak their language.”

Consumer days
The consumer days usually come after the trade days, and Marazita says often times OEMs will put up a storefront window-type structure and leave the booth. While this works OK, he believes it’s not the best solution. Even though many OEMs don’t care to speak with consumers, Marazita says the consumer side of the show can be a valuable marketing tool.
“The most important thing is to look at it as an opportunity as opposed to something that’s a nuisance,” he said. “Most of us in trade aren’t used to dealing with consumers. I would still put in a few hours with consumers.”
Even if a company isn ’t selling directly to consumers, Marazita says it can use those days to find out what they think about the product.
“It’s invaluable information to have that many people walking by your booth,” he said. “It’s direct marketing information from your eventual customers.”
Marazita notes to have questions ready before the consumer days, such as: Would you buy this off the Internet? Have you ever heard of my brand?
“If you’ve never advertised in an area and they’ve heard about it,” he said, “you can ask them how they heard about it: because you sponsored this race, or we saw an article in a motorcycle magazine. Those are the types of things you can get from consumers just by working the booth.”
Every company should have a checklist of information about its product. Marazita says that list should include a sales sheet in different languages.
“If someone shows up that doesn’t speak your language, you have at least a sales sheet in their language,” he said. “That’s something they can take back with them.”
That sheet also should include pricing. While not all OEMs have set pricing, at least have a ballpark number. “You want to be able to give a good idea of what it costs if it does come out on the market.”
In addition to the checklist, companies should have some commodity consumers can take with them. Marazita says the easiest, cheapest thing are stickers.
“Put the Web site on there too,” he noted. “A lot of people forget that. It’s more to get your brand out there and have people remember your brand. ”
Marazita adds that works well for the trade days. Companies can also expect to see trade people walking around on consumer days.

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