There are many details to get right before, during and after a small business exhibits.
How should SMEs prepare for a big industry show?
Like any project, a trade show should be carefully managed. Objectives need to be set: what do you need to achieve and who do you need to target? Budgets must be prepared and key people must be briefed and available.
From the outset you need to determine whether the event targets the right market and that it will deliver the information and contacts you require.
Your stand needs to be a "must visit" destination - an exhibit that will be noticed and create noise. It's important to have a system in place to capture all visitors' details. The most common mistake companies make is not following up quickly with hot leads they've gathered at a show.
What can be achieved at overseas trade shows?
Trade shows are a fantastic way to gain valuable market intelligence. Information on global industry trends is discussed at shows, so attend presentations from industry leaders, forums and workshops to find out what customers want, and what your competitors might be up to.
They are also an opportunity to meet potential new suppliers and are a great vehicle to increase brand awareness through the media. Make sure you have a good story prepared for any media.
How do SMEs protect their intellectual property at shows?
Most trade show organisers are very supportive of protecting exhibitors' IP. Usually they provide a comprehensive guide when you register. But only exhibitors themselves can take effective action against brand and product piracy. You can do this by taking two important actions before exhibiting: register trademarks, patents and copyrights and maximise the possibility of a successful outcome if your IP is copied.
Should businesses organise meetings before they go?
The key to trade show success is to clearly communicate what you have to offer to as many key people as possible before the show. This is far and away the best way to maximise your presence at a trade fair. It pays to study the directory of exhibitors and invite any potential partners in the market to your stand - and ideally commit to a time to meet.
NZTE may be able to assist with the identification of key people for companies to make contact with. Be enthusiastic about your product - others will be talking up theirs.
What about the cost?
Entering a new export market requires significant investment and this should be planned and budgeted for. Attending a trade show should form part of a larger market entry or market penetration strategy.
It can take up to three years' regular attendance at a show, establishing your credentials and so forth, before you may see real success from it. Customers will be looking for proof that you are committed and capable of servicing the market, so it is important to project a long-term view.
To reduce the cost and increase the impact, it pays to check with NZTE and industry bodies to see if a joint stand with other New Zealand companies is possible.
Carole Wright is NZ Trade & Enterprise's customer director.