Participation in international fairs is the main instrument that an exporting company, like us, must consider to access international markets and should be taken into account in any internationalization strategy. In a short period, between 4 and 7 days, in one place, the fairs offer the possibility of exhibiting products, contacting directly with customers and suppliers and identifying new market trends.
In 2001, after the "9/11", the economy of our main market, the United States, suffered a great cooling. In a world where digital marketing, social networks, and endless forms of marketing that benefit from advances in technology were unimaginable, international fairs, today considered by several as a marketing "dinosaur", was what opened the doors to the 40 markets to which we export today.
Without a doubt, it was not an easy task. Not only did it imply a considerable investment of resources and time, but nothing guaranteed immediate results. Identifying which trade fair(s) it is convenient for us to participate in is complex. Advised, in our case by DINAPYME, we participated in the Ambiente fair in Frankfurt for the first time 16 years ago, a costly task as it is a prestigious fair, in a distant country and with high living costs. The first years were very difficult, we had to go one, two and three times to start seeing results. We observed that many customers the first year you attend see you, the second ask about your product and only the third year, after seeing you three consecutive years, finally buy. At the February 2009 fair, after the 2008 crisis, I remember seeing several empty spaces. Many companies canceled at the last moment and we understood that if you are not there they do not see you, if they do not see you they think something bad is happening and they lose all the credibility and prestige that you achieved over the years.
Once you choose which fair to attend, it is advisable to visit it before exhibiting. Why? Well, to get to know the venue, the location, the visitors, who and what products they exhibit, the design of the stands, but mainly to know where they are going to locate us. In 2014, we participated in the Las Vegas Market in the United States without having been there before. What happened was that we were placed in the wrong place, and while the results were not all bad, the location played a trick on us.
From the point of view of experience, it is also necessary to take into account other aspects such as the design of the stand, the presentation of the products, contact prior to the largest number of customers and potential customers to invite them, promote the event through web, social networks, e-mail, advertising in magazines or online. The biggest challenge for us is to make a good stand with a low budget, be good and look good investing as little money as possible.
It is not easy to accurately measure the degree of success achieved by participating in a fair because many times it is not possible to identify what is attributable to the fair, nor is it possible to limit the time interval in which it has an impact. It is easier to evaluate results if, prior to the fair, objectives and goals are identified that are expected to be achieved. Ten years ago, the count was as follows: the sales I collect from the fair (which at the time were order forms written on copy paper) minus the budget used (includes all items, from the price of the stand, the design, the shipment of samples, and any costs associated with the promotion of products and other marketing actions). Today, the development of new technologies, more specifically the Internet, are changing the way of doing business and facilitating exchanges between companies, making post-fair monitoring indispensable.
Finally, another very important aspect is networking, talking to everyone everywhere, in the corridors and even in the bathroom, where we happened to meet our distributor in the UK. It is also important to liaise with the event organisers so that they can better understand your needs and be able to advise and help you. Without a doubt, fairs are an ideal space to connect with suppliers, fellow companies, vendors, specialists in the sector, and should be used 100%!