1 Why should companies consider exhibiting abroad?
Overseas exhibiting is the perfect way to test new and emerging markets. No matter what service or product you provide, exhibitions gather together all the players in your field in one place at one time – what better way to network, research and test the water somewhere new. Exhibitions are also the place to expand your brand outside of your domestic market.
2 What are the major differences between exhibiting at home and exhibiting abroad?
Whether you are exhibiting at home or abroad the same basic rules apply – the 4 Ps.
If you adhere to these rules by planning carefully, promoting your stand, training your on-site people and being productive with leads, you will enjoy a good event despite being a long way from home. Once the basics are established there are only a few areas that require special consideration.
Cultural differences need to be taken seriously. Be mindful of how different cultures behave in business with greetings, business card exchange and personal space. In some countries, business people expect to do business on the same level, MD to MD, Chairman to Chairman. Make sure you know this before hand so you can plan for the right stand-staffers. Careful planning and awareness of cultural differences will solve any difficulties.
Logistics can often through the international exhibitor into turmoil. However, every exhibition has an Exhibitor Manual and careful reading should answer all your questions. Your exhibition contractor should also be able to assist. Make sure you choose a contractor with the international experience and presence you need. Think about shipping options, costs and times – if you plan well ahead you can find the best and most cost effective solution. If you leave it too late you’ll only have the most expensive option left! This also applies to customs and movement of stands. Each country has its own set of rules. Taxes you were not expecting can seriously damage an exhibition budget and in the US, for example, union rules are strict and falling foul of them can be a big issue.
Language always has the potential to cause difficulties when working overseas. Do you need a translator? If so decide whether or not to take your own or employ locally. Don’t forget it is not just conversation that can be a problem – consider the printed word as well. But be careful. Make sure the translation of literature and/or graphics makes sense. In some languages a single word can have different meanings and embarrassment is the lasting memory you want to leave for your audience. Local exhibition terminology can be even more confusing. For example, ‘Drayage’ is the US term for moving your stand to and from your exhibiting location; space terminology also differs from country to country – in-line, aisles, open 3-sides, shell, island, peninsular, row stand. Read the Exhibitor Manual and you’ll soon understand the differences.
Stand design is a big consideration and depends on the show objectives and budget you have set. There are many options available including shipping the whole or part of your existing stand, changing the graphics or renting. Again you should choose your exhibition contractor carefully and consider all the options. If this is a new market for you and your searching for distribution channels, your stand will look very different to one where you already have significant distribution and an objective of the show is to support these existing channels. Renting is a viable option for a toe in the water or consider exhibiting as part of a trade association pavilion.
3 How do you deal with the logistics of exhibiting abroad? (eg Is it better to ship your existing stand or to hire another one abroad? Etc)
Once again this depends on what you are trying to achieve. However, your choice of contractor will also have a large impact. If you are exhibiting in an emerging or new market and don’t want a large financial commitment, then renting is a cost-effective solution. You can always expand on this the following year. The show organiser will be able to put you in touch with a suitable contractor.
However, a far better solution is to use a domestic (to you) supplier with strong overseas capabilities. They can work with you on stand requirements and establish a strategic plan for buying/renting stands. With their help you may decide for the majority of your exhibiting programme that purchasing a stand is the best option but in far away locations it is easier and more cost-effective to rent. This can be a very attractive option if your domestic contractor has a presence in your exhibiting market and can provide the rental from a local source to the same standard of quality and service that you receive from them at home.
We often provide such a solution for clients. In addition, where we have clients whose exhibiting programme is largely in the US, we can design the stand in the UK, have it built by us in the US and then ship and store it in America for the duration of the programme. A contractor that is well known to you and reliable at home and who has international capability will also provide confidence for you to embark on an international programme of events. You know that they will be able to provide the necessary standards of service, support and capability at local level wherever you choose to exhibit.
4 How do you transfer what works in the UK to another country? Or should you be looking at completely redesigning/retargetting for foreign markets?
5 How do you maintain brand integrity/continuity of brand values abroad? (Ie finding staff that are multi-lingual at the same time as being fluent in your brand’s values, etc…)
Exhibiting abroad is inherently the same as exhibiting in your domestic market and requires the same careful application of the 4Ps principles. Careful planning will show where the differences lie. In the case of branding it is vital to ensure your promotion is as well focused as it would be in the UK. Use the show organisers and trade associations for advice and help to build your brand.
6 How do you avoid the pitfalls of foreign safety legislation and sign-up processes?
I can’t say it often enough – read the Exhibitors’ Manual and then plan carefully! Everything you need to know is in there and if you have any other queries the organisers will help you. This is also another area when contractor choice can be a godsend. Local people will have local knowledge and are far less likely to fall foul of regulations. Therefore, it is worth spending time investigating suppliers in your domestic market to find out which have the overseas capabilities that you need. As a global service provider we have 52 distributors in over 200 countries and specialised Global Service Providers in the key exhibiting locations around the globe, able to service our client needs to the same level of quality and service as Nimlok in the UK.
7 Are there any bodies/organisations that can help you plan your foreign exhibition?
Almost all overseas exhibitions will have a domestic trade association exhibiting or attending who will be able to help you and ensure a successful show. They provide local support, guidance and help in participation at show. Large stands are often taken by the trade/regional bodies, giving companies the chance to take smaller space at lower costs.
There is also the UK Trade and Investment Body, which helps UK exhibitors abroad with grants and advice etc.
8 What are the key issues/dangers for the first-time foreign exhibitor? And what is your advice to them?
Not reading the manual, following the rules and setting clear objectives are the biggest pitfalls faced by most exhibitors. Consequently they do not understand the details that seem obvious but can turn a show into a disaster. Again the use of an international contractor who understands the details will solve most of these problems – the right one should be able to take care of everything. However, make sure you do your homework.
How global are they – offices in London and New York just aren’t enough
Do they have rental facilities
What is their response time to problems overseas – can they provide replacement parts or last minute solutions from a local base or will they need shipping from the UK
Can you really count on them when it all goes wrong
Jamie Brown, Director of Sales, Nimlok Ltd
The above article was prepared for and extracts published in Marketing Week