From the May 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

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.

Talk Is Cheap

When you're traveling overseas, making phone calls can be difficult and expensive. For one thing, some hotels block calling card access, forcing you to go through their switchboards and spend $7 to $10 a minute. For another, if you're traveling on business, you probably need constant access to a phone. The solution? Rent a cellular phone before you leave the United States.

Some airlines and other communications companies offer the service, but it can be costly, and country access is limited. Now, thanks to Bethesda, Maryland-based International Mobile Communications (IMC) Inc.'s WorldCell International Cellular Service, you can make and receive calls in 56 countries at a price that won't break your travel budget.

Phone rental costs $75 for the first week and $50 per week thereafter; air time is extra. You get one phone number, pre-printed business cards and voice-mail service. Plus, IMC has roaming capabilities, which means you can receive phone calls in Paris on Wednesday, Bahrain on Thursday and Beijing on Friday. Speaking of which, IMC is the only operator that offers cellular service in China.

Contact Sources

The Export-Import Bank of the United States, 811 Vermont Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20571, (202) 565-3204;

International Mobile Communications Inc., (888) WORLD-CELL, (301) 652-2075, (http://www.worldcell.com);

Kaul-Tronics Inc., fax: (608) 647-7394, kti@kaul-tronics.com;

Reed Exhibition Companies, (203) 840-5570, fax: (203) 840-9570.