Participating in Industrial Trade Fairs – Reflections From a Small Scale Industrialist

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Last month I received a call from my client Mr. Paul (name changed). “I want to discuss about a design modification I need in the latest Pipe bending machine we developed. Can you drop in?”

Mr. Paul’s requirement was simple. He wanted to cut short the length of the machine from 3.2 meters to 2.5 meters. Why? This “shortened” machine will be able to fit in to a smaller plinth area of a display cubicle in the trade show where he is to display the machine.

“You know, I never miss an opportunity to show-case my machine in the trade shows. But the cost of hiring floor-space in the trade shows is always a huge concern for me. Our standard machine is long, justifiably for the length of the pipe it handles; But if I can shorten the length just for demo purpose, I can go in for the next smaller standard cubicle space and save about 30% costs!” explained Mr. Paul.

With my 10-year association with Mr. Paul, I know pretty well what a smart business man and marketing wizard he is. All his pipe bender models were designed by me.

“Catalogs can inform; but they can’t sell” he would say. “Seeing is believing. A potentially new client wants to physically see the existence and working of the machine made by me” he would say.

Participation in a trade show is not an economical proposition for all. It involves lots of costs — cost of hiring the stall area, cost of transportation, erection and commissioning of your equipment, cost of interior decoration of the stall, rent for furniture, electricity bill, cost and time of your personnel who have to man the stalls and so on.

That Mr. Paul, who is extremely frugal to the extent of being labeled as stingy does not mind spending in all these, speaks volumes about the effectiveness of his marketing through trade shows.

Showing proudly more than a dozen participation mementos in trade shows that he has displayed prominently at his office, he would say, “At practically each of these shows, I have come across new clients whom I would have never known otherwise; who would have never known my existence. Of course, I don’t make one-to-one sales in every trade show. There are exhibitions in which I paid through my nose but ended up with no orders. But, leads — new business leads, possible future clients, valuable inputs from potential clients on what features they want in the machines they intend to buy — I get them all there.”

Mr. Paul says two “F”s are extremely important: Focus and Follow-up. “Focus on the right type of trade shows where the most potential clients are likely to visit and focus on entertaining the right clients amidst casual on-lookers; then follow up with them after the trade show. Chase the most interested customers; send “thank you” mails to all those who gave business cards or made an entry in the visitor’s books”.

Yes. Trade shows are very effective if you focus and then follow-up.

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