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Trading Posts

Trade show tips and more.

When satellite dish manufacturer Kaul-Tronics Inc. (KTI) attended its first international trade show in 1990, president Jim Atkinson was surprised at the results. He expected the London show to help his Richland Center, Wisconsin, company expand into the European market--and it did. But the trade show also introduced KTI to another region.

"A lot of Middle Eastern customers attended the show," says Atkinson. "We have done very well in the region as a result." In fact, since KTI began exhibiting regularly at London and Hong Kong trade shows, overall export sales of its primary product line have increased to 40 percent of the company's total sales.

As Atkinson discovered, exhibiting at an international trade show is a great way to storm new export markets. "There's nothing like meeting your prospects face to face," says Carol Armbrust of Norwalk, Connecticut-based Reed Exhibition Companies, a trade show organizer. "With visitors being able to see, touch and [test] your product--that's something you can't buy any other way. Also, you get to visit with more prospects in three days than you could in six months to a year [with other methods]."

Some tips to make trade shows work for you:

  • Contact your industry's trade associations and the U.S. Department of Commerce to find out which international trade shows apply to your business. Trade publications will most likely have a calendar of domestic and international shows.

  • Get your hands on a copy of the annual Tradeshow Week Data Book, which lists trade shows around the world by region, industry and trade show name. To order, call (908) 665-3510; the cost is $355.

  • Ask trade show organizers for audited visitor statistics. This will ensure accuracy of the number and quality of visitors organizers claim.

  • Ask organizers if they offer direct-mail lists, trade show directory advertising, press conference participation or the chance to sponsor special events.

  • To keep costs down, contact a trade show organizer. They often offer discounted air fare and hotel accommodations, exhibitor display packages, and access to special freight forwarders, who consolidate product shipments to reduce shipping costs.
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This article was originally published in the May 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Trading Posts.

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