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International trade shows are indispensable for gaining new business in a global market. A company can forge meaningful relationships with international prospects or partners there, and then use them as a good point of entry when the business is ready to market overseas to foreign customers. But with so many trade shows, finding that perfect venue isn't easy.
Peter LoCascio, founder and president at Trade Show Consultants, based in Oceanside, Calif., and Salem, Ore., recommends attending a national show in the U.S. before jumping into an international trade show. However, there are many resources online that can help business owners find the best overseas options. LoCascio recommends the website Tradeshow Calendar, and other resources include Trade Show News Network and BizTradeShows.
Business owners should also research if specific trade publications and industry associations hold their own shows.
— Peter LoCascio, founder and president at Trade Show Consultants
Michael Gray, vice president of sales at Chantilly, Va.-based Exhibit Edge Incorporated, which designs, produces and manages trade show exhibits, says it's common for international businesses to find out about trade shows via word of mouth, other companies' websites or associations that sponsors event in their field. "If one company goes to a trade show, we'll have five or six clients of ours all exhibiting at the same event, including international events," he says.
Also, the U.S. government offers a wealth of resources for business owners wanting to build international sales through trade shows. The U.S. Commercial Service has a handbook devoted to international trade shows, and an up-to-date calendar of upcoming trade fairs.
LoCascio recommends obtaining the previous year's list of exhibitors for a trade show to evaluate the competition. "If the company is smaller and the bigger companies aren't there, I would be suspect," he says. "Exhibiting at trade shows where your major competitors are takes advantage of the draw the major exhibitors create in attracting qualified new prospects and customers to the trade show who will also be attracted to your exhibit."
Rather than going it alone, business owners should consider partnering with an industry trade group or working closely with a foreign distributor who can show them the ropes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce often hosts trade groups, or companies can exhibit as part of a U.S. Pavilion. U.S. government representatives will even distribute marketing materials on a company's behalf at international trade shows.
To maximize a trade show investment, a business should know its current selling costs and how long it takes to make a sale. "The investment is relative to how much it currently costs you to do business any other way than a trade show," LoCascio says. "The right trade show will cut your sales costs and reduce the amount of time it takes to sell a product."
Also, business owners should be aware of currency value fluctuations when traveling abroad for trade shows, Gray says. "I would caution people to understand exchange rates, fees to exchange currency and currency trends."
To combat fluctuating exchange rates, business owners can use risk-management tools such as bids. In addition, businesses can sign up for email market-rate alerts of a trusted online foreign exchange provider.
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