The reason why we talk about the use of the exhibition here is that it can be ranked in the second place in developing new customers, followed by search engine, paid B2B (Business to business ) Websites, company’s resources, free B2B website, etc.
As for NO.1, it is the introduction of customers by friends, which is also the most effective method. Experienced salespeople or purchasers usually get new orders and suppliers through acquaintances. Those people are more likely to get orders and opportunities.
However, for novices, there are almost no friends in the business. Under this circumstance, the introduction of customers by friends is impossible. Thereupon, the exhibition becomes the most critical customer development channel.
The exhibition is different from the network or B2B. It gives a chance for customers to come to look at the products, exchange business cards and take the samples. The initial connection established in this way will give each other an intuitive impression. And its effect is much better than that of mail or fax. At least the customer will have a little impression after a short meeting with you. Then follow-up development will evoke the part of his memory and you will be more likely to receive a response.
Some people may say that the exhibition costs too much. Using paid B2B, they can also receive inquiries that bring a little effect to follow up. That is true. But relatively speaking, people who spend time, energy, money to travel across the ocean for the exhibitions in China will more desire to place orders.
Furthermore, the international purchasing director and the boss are senior people. They decide the company’s purchasing direction and the attribution of the order. They do not have much time to find suppliers and detailed information on the Internet. Besides regular suppliers, they will look for alternative vendors at the exhibition to cooperate. Of course, big buyers may rarely appear at the Canton Fair or shows in Hong Kong or Taiwan. They place orders through big traders or importers. But those traders and importers also try to find new factories or trading companies through the exhibition.
Experienced trading companies or factories also need to attend some exhibitions every year. They are not only for developing new customers but also to meet their frequent customers, show their ability and advertise. Even if the company has the strength, you cannot show your products to customers if you don’t go to the show? If the company is a developing small or medium enterprise with limited funds or starts foreign trade work recently, it is necessary to expand potential customer bases quickly through some cost-effective exhibitions. Attending the exhibition is also an excellent opportunity for training employees.
You may wonder which exhibitions would be better to participate. In my opinion, the exhibition that suits you is the best. You don’t need to attend the most famous exhibition or set a big booth with luxury decoration. But you need to customize a whole set of plans for yourself.
During my career, I have been to more than 70 exhibitions, including the well-known comprehensive exhibitions and trade shows in China, Western Europe, the US, the Middle East, etc. I have summarized the following seven critical skills and hope to give some reference and inspiration to you.
Tip 1: Choosing the exhibition cautiously
For exhibitors, the choice of the exhibition is significant. If they go to an exhibition without any gains, it not only harasses the people and wastes money but also is a blow to confidence. Therefore, they should do a detailed investigation about the cost performance, the advantages as well as disadvantages of each exhibition. Then they can choose the exhibition that you are going to participate on the basis of the actual situation.
At present, most suppliers in China may choose the Canton Fair because of its long history and the largest number of exhibitors. However, the Canton Fair has a relatively high investment, so it is not suitable for small companies or companies just starting the foreign trade industry. Furthermore, the comprehensive exhibition is not ideal for some professional products. Thus, industry exhibitions will be better because they only face buyers in the same industry.
If the company’s products are single or highly professional, exhibitions of hardware, furniture, electronics, digital, raw materials may be more suitable. Of course, if it has sufficient budgets, it also can use a comprehensive exhibition as a supplement.
The company dealing in groceries should choose a comprehensive exhibition with a large flow of people, such as Canton Fair, China International Fair, International Houseware Fair in Las Vegas, Dubai International Commodities Fair in the Middle East, as well as various comprehensive exhibitions in Cologne, Birmingham, Milan, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo.
For the exhibitions in Hong Kong, you’d better choose the exhibitions organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Those exhibitions are relatively high quality with a high reputation. Because of the appeal of the Hong Kong government, many customers come here, which is more favorable to exhibitors.
Aside, the foreign trade bureau of the local government has different levels of subsidies for overseas exhibitions. Therefore, attending these overseas exhibitions is no more expensive than visiting the Canton Fair, or even cheaper. One of my friends goes to participate in three exhibitions in Russia, Japan, and India, with a total cost less than attending the Canton Fair once. Hence, you should first position your company, products, consumer groups plus target customers, and then select the exhibition in a targeted manner. Do not swim with the stream.
Tip 2: Determining the size of the booth according to the situation
After selecting the exhibition, attention should be paid to the size of the booth. Take the Canton Fair as an example. The specification of a standard exhibition is 3m × 3m, that is, 9 square meters. For companies with a large number of products, this specification is not enough. They will rent several booths and put them together to display more things.
In theory, the bigger the booth, the better. Not only can you put more products, attract more customers but to demonstrate the competence of the company. However, the problem is that the larger the booth, the higher the cost of fund and staff.
Suppose that the price of a Canton Fair standard booth is 3,000 ¥, and the cost of two employees is about 15,000 ¥. If you want to add one more booth, you will increase the cost by 100%-150%, because the price of booth bought through the exhibition company will definitely be higher than the public price.
Then it’s inevitable to considering the issue of a marginal benefit. If there is no double revenue, small and delicate booths are better for controlling costs and maximizing benefit.
If you do not have many samples and big things, you can get a standard booth with a good location, such as near a door, elevator, or aisle in the middle. These locations will have more flow of people and bring more chances. Next, try to make your products and designs more attractive to customers.
There is another situation. If customers’ strength is not strong, they would not visit those large and luxurious booths. They will choose some small booths that are professional because their goals are to find the proper suppliers and desired products. For instance, if a customer wants to find a kind of utility knife and takes 500 of it as a test, he will choose small booths instead of those big ones.
There is a hotel decorated like a five-star hotel. But, while attracting many customers, it will also block out some of them who think that the hotel is too expensive to afford. The price of the meals may be low, but customers have no idea of this due to the gorgeous decoration.
In a word, the size of the booth should depend on the specific situation, their ability and the positioning of the target customers.
Tip 3: Preparing the exhibitions well
For exhibitors, an exhibition is not only to advertise their company, but also to display their products to attract more potential customers. Then, the preparations in the early stage are essential.
In addition to samples, there should be business cards, quotations, laptops, cameras, notepads, A4 papers, black pens, tape measures. You also need notice stickers, staplers, paper clips, folders, solid glues, scotch tapes, metal ticket holders, pencils, erasers, paper towels, etc. If it is possible, you’d better bring a printer, a scanner and an electronic scale. On the condition that the booth is too small, an electronic scale is the best choice among the last three.
The following are brief explanations of the usefulness of these things.
The roles of samples, business cards, cameras, and notepads are well-known. As for the laptop, there must be a large amount of information in it, such as a quotation for the electronic version, product renderings, packaging drawings, design drawings, and even engineering drawings. Once you have an intentional customer, you can show them to him at any time. Besides, you need to prepare a presentation on the computer, introducing your company, products, market, existing customers, output value, etc. This is because some large customers would care about the supplier’s background.
A4 paper is for customers. When customers want to write and draw, it is necessary to resort to graphics. At this time, you can provide A4 papers for them. Concerning the black pen and pencil, many customers will use pens while some like pencils particularly. You need to take care of their habits. Moreover, pencils are often more useful for sketching.
Always keep the printed quotation in your hand. And quotations should be prepared in two ways. One is in Chinese for yourself and colleagues. The other is in English, which provides a standard format for customers. The standard one can be printed more. If customers are interested, you can give them a copy. When customers only need a few of them, you can use a paper clip or stapler. You can stick the business card on them and give customers another card because they may leave the business card in the hotel. Another business card will be another chance for your business.
Notice sticker is also for customers. When some samples are too thick to turn over, they need to post a notice sticker to indicate some information.
The folder is for your own use. If customers ask some professional questions which need reference material, you look them up in a neat folder and give answers, which shows a professional feeling.
Solid glue is used when customers take the sample without interesting in the quotation. At this point, you can stick the quotation on the first page of the sample with the solid glue, so that they will see it at once. If you just clip it inside, it might be lost.
Scotch tape is generally used when you are packaging samples after the exhibition. You can use it to roughly seal the booth to prohibit others from entering after the first day of the display. For customers, it is not necessary.
Tape measure and electronic scale are practical. Many customers will care about the weight and size of the product when asking for the price. If you cannot tell, you need to weigh or measure it immediately and tell them in metric or imperial units according to their request.
Candies and drinks can be placed on the table for customers during the interview. It is a good way to get closer to each other that can reduce the psychological defense of them.
Finally, the paper towel is provided for customers or yourself to wipe hands. Here are a few details to pay attention to. If customers want to see samples on your shelf, you pick them up and clean them with a paper towel before you pass them out. This action will make customers feel that you are very considerate. This is also a reflection of the excellent quality of foreign trade personnel.
Tip 4: Choosing attentive exhibiting staffs
Exhibitors, especially those who attend for the first time, should pay attention to some details so as not to give customers bad impressions, such as proper clothing, smile, behavior, and thoughtful service, and so on.
When customers come, you should warmly receive them to give a good first impression. When they are interested in products, you should first ask them to sit down and give a short answer. And you can tell them you will provide a detailed email with quotation later. Generally speaking, customers will take out business cards at this time. If they do not take actions, you can exchange your business cards with them proactively. And you ought to hand or receive business cards with both hands, which show your respect for them. If you give the sample to customers, you also need to use both of your hands.
Furthermore, timeliness is vital. After returning to the hotel, you should send emails with detailed information to customers who have talked with you. Many of you always collect business cards at the exhibition but distribute them to different salespeople after the exhibition. So they get few responses for the overlook of timeliness.
For example, you export plush toys. You meet a customer who picks up a plush rabbit on your booth. He asks for the size plus a quotation and gives you a business card. But you reply to him with a quotation after the week later. Do you think it still works? Though it has a bit of effect, you have inadvertently wasted a good opportunity. How can you know that the customer only talks about this product with you at the exhibition? If he discusses this project with others and gets an accurate mail with the quotation on the same day, is there still any chance for you? Perhaps when you return to the company to prepare the quotation, he has almost confirmed the order with others.
Therefore you have to move fast. Customers at the show often come with goals, so they are very likely to place orders. Once you receive the inquiry, you ought to dispose of it in two days. Even if customers are busy all day, they will have a little impression of the products they have seen. If you send e-mails timely, they will evoke some memory of customers that you get a chance to continue.
For the samples displayed, salesmen should know all their details, from performance to packaging, materials to price. No matter how small they are, you need to consider them comprehensively. It is impossible to negotiate directly with customers at the exhibition if you are not familiar with the products. When customers ask some questions if you turn to others, how can you let them believe that you are professional?
To be continued…
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