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  • Writer's pictureLarry Kulchawik

Building your Brand through International Trade Shows

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

For US companies, taking steps to build your brand and expand market share in North America continues to be a challenge. Depending on your core business, marketing your product and/or services internationally can open new opportunities for added sales.

One of the most effective marketing strategies to expand your business reach internationally is through trade show marketing. This tactic is not only extremely effective, but can be a costly expense if not executed correctly. The power of face to face marketing can deliver effective results. Trade show marketing is more effective than any other component in your marketing tool box. It utilizes one thing that the others do not — human emotion. Eye to eye contact serves to create opportunities faster than any other marketing method. This is not to say that other tactics are not important, but that each of the various marketing tactics need to be connected and integrate to influence a prospect to a decision to buy. This final decision is often based on emotion. Trade show marketing will deliver this.

Trade show marketing is not a new tactic for companies and industries in North America. Trade shows and events, as an industry, generate $100 billion in revenue. 13,000 shows a year in North America. As an industry, it ranks #22 in contribution to the US GNP, and is said to be over $300 billion for the world as a whole. As the world market grows closer together as a single marketplace, trade shows marketing play a significant role in providing a platform for world companies to connect, promote, and expand their services.

For experienced American companies who have participated at trade shows in the US, and now wish to exhibit abroad, be aware that one size does not fit all. Design and trade show tactics that work well in America do not translate the same when electing to exhibit internationally. The venues throughout the world each have different regulations, design styles, labor issues, and cultural differences when exhibiting in their Components to Marketing country. Each region of the world conducts an industry specific trade show, but each do it differently. There is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is only a different way. Recognize and respect what is different, and you are on your way to a successful experience. A word of advice, work with a trusted partner to act as your seeing eye dog through the process. There are too many differences to fully capture all of the regional ways of doing things as you market the world for the first time. In time, you will know what to expect the second and third time around. If you have experienced success at American trade shows you are in for a pleasant surprise as you make arrangements to exhibit internationally. Of all the countries in the world, doing trade show in the US is the most difficult. International exhibitors who participate in US shows are annoyed to find the US methods to be restrictive and expensive. The major points of difference are material handling at show site (drayage), requirements for union workers, and carpet cleaning. At most locations in the rest of the world you are allowed to unload your own truck, install the exhibit yourself and vacuum your own carpet. Considering that America is the land of the free, some things are not so free.

In spite of the cost, trade shows in the US operate efficiently and deliver qualified attendees for good results. The same can be achieved internationally, but the methods are different.

Although expensive, trade show marketing offers a powerful way to build a brand and expand business reach globally. International trade show marketing requires a recalculation from your traditional marketing strategies. The expense must be viewed as an investment, and the results need to be measurable. Doing it right for the region is a key to success.

Larry Kulchawik Past President - IFES (International Federation of Exposition Services) - Brussels EDPA (Exhibit Designer & Producers Association) - USA Author - Trade Shows from One Country to the Next


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