Trade shows and the business of exporting

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Posted by , 21st March 2017

Exporting. Trade shows have long provided an excellent route to international sales

Shown above is a design example of a pavilion stand Reed Exhibitions build overseas for trade associations who are funded by DIT (Department For International Trade)

Trade shows have for many years been an excellent way to develop sales in international markets. If your company is a complete newbie when it comes to exporting, exhibiting as part of a plan to develop international sales offers an attractive and relatively safe way to start.

I recently interviewed Jack Hassall of Reed Exhibitions about exporting. Jack works within Reed’s long established and very extensive, International Sales Group as Export Development and Commercial Manager. And when I say extensive, we’re talking about a group that operates in 50 offices worldwide.

Jack; can you tell us something about your experience of working in international trade shows?

I began working in this field in 2014 with a company that was promoting exhibitions in China. This appointment also led to me living in China for 6 months which I really enjoyed. I got to experience a totally different culture to the one I was used to. I joined the International Sales Group (ISG) here at Reed Exhibitions just under three years ago. I’m now working with a wide variety of UK businesses in markets across the world.

And how would you describe what it is that the ISG offers?

We are an information provider to companies that want to grow their businesses in international markets. We are seen by our clients as an export partner rather than a company that sells exhibition stands in overseas events.

The ISG is organised by industry groups. Working this way helps us to build a deeper knowledge of the markets that we operate in. This enables us to offer comprehensive advice to our clients.

We also work with government departments and trade associations. For example, we have a partnership with the British Chambers of Commerce. We promote our advisory services to all of these organisations and attend association events. In November I gave a presentation to BCC members on exporting at BCC Global Business Network Live.

Use this link to see the topics that Jack’s presentation covered..

Exhibitors Only DIT export seminar at a trade show

Above; An export seminar sponsored by the Department For International Trade (DIT). Similar seminars are now a feature of many trade shows in the UK

How active are British companies when it comes to exporting?

Not as active as you might think and certainly not as active when you compare British businesses with German, Italian or some of our other European neighbours. I think is a missed opportunity, because there are many markets where British goods and services are welcomed and do well.

Which countries or regions would they be?

The United States is currently the hottest export market for UK companies. In January we took a big group of exhibitors to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. This is a very big trade show for the golf industry attracting more than 50,000 visitors and it proved highly successful for our group.

I would also highlight that China is still a very good market for UK goods as is Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia.

Germany is always a safe bet for British companies. The FIBO show, a huge Fitness convention in Cologne, has a very large British exhibiting contingent. They make-up the biggest international group at the show.

France, our nearest neighbour is not a strong market for UK exports at the moment although there are exceptions. One of these is the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE) in Paris. British companies are the second largest national group in the show (behind French exhibitors). The Cannes Boat Show and Batimat, the building and architectural show in Paris are also very strong events for UK businesses.

So, if a company is thinking about exporting, what is the process that an exporting newbie would go through if they contacted your organisation?

Well the first thing that would happen is that we would ask the would-be exporter a lot of questions. We ask things like;

  • Why they think the country or countries that are planning to export to are the right markets for them?
  • We would ask if the would-be exporter has conducted any research into that market?
  • We would check whether or not they have they visited any trade shows in the region?
  • Are they members of the trade association for their industry? If so, have they taken any advice or information from them?
  • Have they tried selling into this region or country previously and if yes, how did that work out?
  • What are their best selling products or services?

The answers provided to all of these questions helps us to identify which markets would be best for our client.

And once you have answers to these questions, what happens next?

We might offer different target suggestions based on our knowledge of what’s happening internationally. Suggestions for  exhibitions within the markets that we think the client could consider participating in. may also be supplied.

And we would also recommend that our client visit the show or shows suggested before they decide to exhibit. Doing so would form an important part of the research that they should be doing, before they launch their exporting campaign.

We will also advise on any UK trade missions or Pavilions in the target market. If government grants  may be available we will highlight this too. We can provide access to local area guides. These are contacts that inform clients about any red tape or special rules and regulations that we think they need to be advised or aware of.

What practical help can you provide to a company that exhibits with the ISG?

We provide assistance in various ways through our Client Relationship Managers (CRMs). These managers are based in the country where the exhibition will be taking place. Their role is to assist our clients with any exhibition related questions they have. Questions about local rules and regulations that apply; import and customs advice are frequently raised. Our managers can also help in alerting appropriate buyers and show visitors to the participation of our clients.

The CRM team works to ensure that exhibitors meet visitors who have an interest in their products and services. They market appropriate exhibitors to appropriate visitors and in many cases this will include providing a meetings agenda for our exhibitors.

A show that illustrates this approach in action would be the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, an event that attracts 20,000+ attendees.

Our CRMs worked with exhibitors to help attract buyers from Home Depot and Walmart. Both are huge organisations, but critically, our managers attracted the buyers who headed-up the individual teams for the products that our clients were exhibiting. This targeted approach meant that the quality of leads generated was extremely  high and much more likely to produce orders. Which,I’m very happy to say did occur, in many cases.

We also supply guides to Emerging Markets. These are export guides to countries that are suitable for UK companies to consider as export targets. We also arrange stand building, furniture supply and other standard exhibiting requirements.

How easy is it to obtain a government grant to assist exporting?

It’s harder then it used to be. Government grant support has been cut back drastically but a part of our service involves advising clients if they are eligible for a subsidy or grant offered by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The reduction in government assistance grants for export is a big reason why we partner with trade associations as their resources are also now very stretched.

What advice would you give to a potential exporter?

Do your research so that you really understand the market that you are considering exporting to. Ask yourself if it is right for what you offer? Would any changes need to be made to your product for this market? If so, what are the implications for your business?

I would advise that when seeking sales agents, would-be exporters should ask for quotes based on an exclusivity basis. There is no point in being represented by an agency that also handles dozens of other products. Yours is unlikely to receive the sales attention it will need to get established.

If possible, visit trade events in the region and of course talk to us. When we understand your objectives we can offer advice. Above all, be open-minded but don’t make assumptions because trading conditions can vary considerably from country to country.

And what would be the wrong way to go about exporting for the first time?

That’s easy. Don’t take any advice. Believe that you know how things work without actually doing any research. Poor preparation and no follow-up in place after an event, all of these are pretty much guaranteed to produce failure and there really is no need for that.

Can you highlight any recent export success stories?

A big one to mention would be Cammegh an exhibitor at G2E in Las Vegas. They invested £30k in the show with their stand and associated costs. They clinched orders worth £5.5 million with Ceasars Palace. The order placed was for 52 roulette wheels.

In a totally different field, Lindapter, won significant orders at the World Nuclear Show in Paris last year but there are many other successes we can report and offer as case studies.

Which of all the venues you have visited is your favourite and why?

The Sands Expo & Convention Centre in Las Vegas would be my choice because it’s part of the beautiful Venetian hotel. It has great access all around the halls and lots of rooms for delegates.

Visitors and exhibitors at shows held there seem to be that happiest and the atmosphere is great. Maybe it’s because this venue is located right in the middle of town!

I would also add to my favourites Station Berlin which is a beautiful and very unusual venue in the heart of Berlin. One of the shows that it hosts is Bar Convent, a show that has a very large UK contingent among its participants.

Thank you Jack, any final thoughts on exporting?

There will be ups and downs. These are inevitable when you are trying to grow your business in locations thousands of miles from home. But if you work with your trade association or an organisation like ours, you will be supported. You will be provided with good advice and that can make the process much easier and less stressful when compared to trying to do things all on your own.

About Jack Hassall 

Jack Hassall, was appointed as the Export Development Manager in August 2016, to work across the entire international portfolio of events at Reed Exhibitions. Jack’s role is to support UK companies that are utilizing Reed events for international export opportunities, as well as work closely with the Department for International Trade (DIT) and UK trade associations to offer further assistance to these UK exporters.

Jack joined Reed Exhibitions in February 2015 as a Sales Manager, heading up a portfolio of international events covering various industries including: Aerospace, Energy, Nuclear, Hospitality, Food and Beverage, Gaming & Gambling and Sports. Before his move to Reed, Jack was based in Shanghai managing an office organizing aviation trade events across the APAC region.

Posted in Exporting  /  Trade show marketing  /  Trade show sales

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