Attending international trade shows in 2012 can be a great way to market one’s products and services to an international audience, especially for U.S. and Western businesses.

For the U.S., business (b2b) products and services make up a large percentage of exports. Some of the top U.S. exports include transportation equipment, semiconductor, automobile parts, industrial supplies and materials and capital goods.

To make sales to foreign businesses, it often takes at least one face-to-face meeting, said Ruth Stevens, owner of eMarketing Strategy and author of “Trade Show & Event Marketing: Plan, Promote & Profit.”

One potentially cost-effective way to have these meetings is by attending international trade shows.

Should You Attend?

The decision to attend an international trade show is a calculus of the value of face-to-face meetings and the cost of obtaining them.

If a business has determined that multiple face-to-face meetings is valuable and the trade show is the cheapest way to accomplish it (versus, for example, flying to multiple countries to meet the various clients), then it may be a good idea to attend the international trade show.

A business should find out the firmographics of the attendees to determine if enough of its potential clients will be there. This and other pertinent information can be obtained from the international trade show marketers, said Stevens.

Some of these marketers may try to convince businesses to attend the trade show because their competitors will attend, often by stating that if they do not show up, their competitors will get all the potential clients, said Stevens.

However, this argument is flawed because if the clients are not there in sufficient numbers, the competitors will not secure any meaningful advantage by attending.

In the final analysis, attending trade shows is about lead generation and face-to-face meetings and less about presence and awareness, said Stevens.

Below is a list of trade show directories:

Attendee, Booth, or Sponsor?

A business can participate in international trade shows as an attendee, a booth operator or as a sponsor.

Participating as an attendee is the cheapest option. Getting a booth gives a business a platform to discuss their products; this option could make sense when introducing a new product, said Stevens.

Participate as a sponsor, the most expensive option, may give a business special access to potential clients, speaking opportunities and public acknowledgement of their sponsoring status.

One strategy a business can use is walking the floor as an attendee to assess if potential clients will be an international trade show. If they are there in sufficient numbers, the business can attend the same show next time as a booth operator or sponsor, said Stevens.

Success at the International Trade Shows

If in a booth, signage for the booth should be legible from 30 feet away and contain a message that should convince a potential buyer to stop by.

It is also a good idea to get a show booth trainer, for the cost of a few thousand dollars, to train the staff; doing so can dramatically increase the number of leads they obtain, according to Stevens.

Some general tips for the booth staff include:

*Standing instead of sitting (unless having a sit-down meeting with a potential client)

*No eating and drinking while at booth

*Matching the demeanor and dress style of the potential clients

*Have a scripted message for politely disengaging with attendees in order to not waste time with people who are not potential clients