Going Global

The year 2011 was a busy one for technology buyers and sales and marketing professionals, with many trade shows and conferences on the calendar; both old and new events vied for companies' and customers' budgets and time. As more U.S. companies realize the need to export for growth, attending a global business-to-business (B2B) trade show is a sales and marketing tool that must be considered.

Just like events in the United States, major global B2B shows are designed for customers and other industry players to interact via face-to-face meetings and conference talks. According to a recent study by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, securing in-person meetings is more valuable than ever for business-to-business exhibitions. The personal contact with new and current clients is a key benefit of attending any global event.

Global shows also offer the opportunity to meet foreign press, individually and through press conferences, and to discuss business with qualified foreign partners. Many companies recognize great value in saving on travel by holding these discussions and interactions with everyone in one location—a great way to support your business goals abroad.

So how do you gauge the value and success of attending a major global B2B event to ensure you meet your company's international business and sales goals?

Following are ways to make sure that when attending a global B2B event, you ultimately enhance your brand's success by engaging with existing and prospective foreign customers, generating targeted leads, and bringing in more revenue from outside the United States.

Build International Business Goals

One of the most important things to do before planning to exhibit at a global trade show is to determine who your ideal target is, what their needs are, and what you want them to experience, remember, and do once you meet them face-to-face. A crystal clear understanding of your international business goals will help you create a unique and compelling international business and exhibition plan. It will also push you to develop concise targeted messages that effectively increase visitor mind share—the level of awareness across your company's target audiences.

Many major global trade fair organizers have development programs in place to help you build your international exhibition goals and plans.

Drive Mind Share

Conducting multiple preshow marketing outreach programs to drive mind share and to arrange industry contact meetings is critical. Many global B2B trade event organizers offer marketing and communications tools to help you reach your targets. Engaging customers and partners via the organizer's social media platforms is invaluable for driving potential business contacts to arrange face-to-face meetings. Online matchmaking services offered by event organizers allow companies and their targets to connect, for free in many cases, prior to a global event. During the show, matchmaking services facilitate personal meetings once you have prequalified international business leads online.

Also, marketing and promotional activities around the show's location offer incredible potential to reach like-minded industry leaders, and can multiply your marketing outreach and secure brand awareness. Combining preshow social media, matchmaking, and onsite promotional activities with targeted product demonstrations and presentations is key in influencing mind share.

Launch New Products

Like their U.S. trade show counterparts, global event attendees expect to see new products and developments, source deals, and keep up to date on the latest industry technologies. By exhibiting and unveiling new products at a global event, you are taking a valuable step in building recognition for your company worldwide. For instance, during CeBIT 2012, the world's largest information, communications, and digital technology event, based in Hannover, Germany, more than 300,000 global visitors and 5,000 members of the foreign press attended each day throughout the run of the show.

A new product launch at such a global event can effectively turn international prospects into valuable customers and place your new products directly in front of foreign business partners and decision-makers, as well as the foreign press. As U.S. companies look to increase export activities, it becomes increasingly important to differentiate your company and your products from those of your competition. New product launches will increase visibility across your industry's global marketplace, offer an entree to meeting new distributors and strategic partners seeking to add to product lines, and provide opportunities to gain the attention of existing foreign distributors.

Global Buyers Are Intelligent—Identify Their Needs

Many foreign buyers and potential partners are increasingly operating in an environment where they see the need to take advantage of global B2B trade shows. These events offer exposure to markets abroad by bringing everyone together to network with one another and discuss issues of importance. It is critical, therefore, that your exhibition team understands that to improve profitability, they must meet the real needs of customers as identified prior to and during the show. This is how to make a big difference to the bottom line.

During a global trade show, your team will have the perfect opportunity to build your company's competitive advantage and foster relationships with intelligent buyers. Customers will become more connected with your organization, products, and people on the show floor, and you can expect to be the first to learn about opportunities for potential new product needs. Finally, meeting face-to-face with these intelligent global buyers enhances loyalty to your company, its brand, and its products. Therefore, you will have the opportunity to deliver products that meet intelligent global buyers' needs and delight them.

Global Events—Small Business Is Welcome

Major global B2B events are not just for Fortune 500 companies. Currently, a grant awarded by the U.S. Small Business Administration across many states is supporting small business trade and exports, and several states are opting to support small business attendance at global trade fairs via this grant. For organizations looking to expand their global reach, this is an opportunity to look into.

John Moriarty is a vice president of sales and marketing for Hannover Fairs USA (HFUSA) and CeBIT, the world's largest information, communications, and digital technology show held annually in Hannover, Germany.

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