International Business and Technology Blog

Include Trade Shows in Your International Marketing Mix

Posted by Tom Sadtler on Tue, Jan 19, 2016

Trade shows are an important component of the marketing mix. A recent survey of 500 companies found that 83% listed trade shows as the 2nd most important “tool” in the marketing mix after the corporate website’s home page.

In this blog I cover 3 beginning strategies for getting the most out of your trade shows.

  1. Define and communicate clear objectives and metrics, including clear lines of responsibility and reward
  2. Identify the right trade show to achieve your international business objectives
  3. Prepare – broadcast your presence via multi-channels throughout the year

Goals and Metrics: Being clear what your goals and metrics are for attending is an essential component of trade show success. The primary goal for attending any trade show is to generate sales. However, when you use trade shows to increase exports or enter a new market, other goals may rise to the top. As a first step in attending any international trade show, prioritize your goals and identify the top 3 to better guide your planning.

Typical international business-focused goals include:

  • Evaluate your market (competitors, prices, new trends, innovations…..)
  • Raise your brand profile
  • Introduce new products / educate the market
  • Reach new distributors
  • Generate new leads
  • Increase website organic traffic
  • Extend social media following
  • Gain media coverage
  • Recruit new employees
  • Strengthen relationships with existing clients

Establishing objectives and ranking them by priority at the outset is a prerequisite for the next steps in optimizing trade shows. Setting out clear goals and communicating these to the relevant staff helps determine which shows you should attend, which teams and how many resources need to be allocated and what long term marketing efforts must be employed. 

Once you have set company goals, translate these into goals for the individual teams. Known goals act as a healthy stimulus for staff.

In addition, ensure your trade show involvement is widely known in your company and encourage cross-team communication. This helps leverage existing knowledge or contacts.

Choose the right trade show to meet your goals. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research notes there are >12,000 trade shows hosted annually in Europe. Here are 7 Criteria for choosing the right show

  1. List all the industry relevant shows in the target market, including local smaller shows.
  2. Rank the shows according to size, industry relevance, national / international appeal, reputation (years since establishment can be a proxy), ease of attendance (date and place).
  3. Identify current clients and/or competitors that are attending. Pick low-hanging fruit by leveraging existing domestic clients that have international operations.
  4. Evaluate the attendees. Is the typical attendee the person you want to meet? Note also presence of press, VIPs, industry leaders…
  5. Does the show match your timing? i.e. to meet buyers’ purchasing patterns and the ability to showcase your products/services?
  6. Is the location desirable? Key considerations include: accessibility and hotels, as this will affect attendance -but also places where you can meet clients and prospects.
  7. Is this an international or local show? On average, 60% of attendees come from a 200-mile radius. Except big global shows often have +50% international attendees.

The Internet is the most efficient way of identifying and ranking trade shows. There are numerous portals where you can sort trade shows by criteria: Date, Industry, Event name, Location, etc. A full list of trade show portals can be found on .

Preparation: Your website is your best tool to communicate with your current and prospective clients. This makes sense in today’s connected world but is especially crucial for international markets where there is no on-the-ground sales support team. In North America and the EU:

  • 93% of businesses research B2B purchases and judge potential business partners online
  • 85% of business procurement commences online
  • 86% of B2B firms use social media

Online Strategy: Get your online marketing strategy in place at least 3 months prior to the trade show. International trade shows require all the advance planning and practical considerations of traditional local trade show –only more so.

  • Prominently display your company’s attendance with contact details on your website.
  • Use calls to action and case studies on your website to get customers and target prospects interested an involved in the upcoming trade show.

Leverage recurrent shows: If you attend a large international trade show on a regular basis, consider dedicating space on your website throughout the year. This not only highlights your company’s commitment to the show, but helps you stay connected with leads from the show.  Sharing the annual experiences positions your company as an industry expert and a main driver for the show.

Use all channels:  Social media, such as LinkedIn provides the most effective means to broadcast your trade show presence early by offering the ability to connect with your prospects before the show.

In this blog, I have discussed 3 strategies for successful trade show preparation. Read my next blog for 4 strategies for success during and after the trade show.

Download the ibt partners “International Trade shows” whitepaper.


or sign up for our Webinar “Using Trade Shows in Your International Marketing Mix.”



Tags: All posts, International Online Marketing