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Six considerations towards a successful trade show in China

When entering the Chinese market many Western companies will start by participating in an exhibition. Trade shows and exhibitions are indeed a great way to gain exposure in China for your company. You are not only benefitting from brand exposure, exhibitions are also an excellent way to learn what is happening in your specific industry.

A comprehensive preparation is key towards a successful exhibition. This is true for an exhibition anywhere in the world, but it is particularly true in China due to the specific nature of the Chinese market, the language barrier and cultural differences. It is also known that around 80% of the visitors have limited English proficiency, thus good communication and follow-up is crucial. Understanding the Chinese market, culture and traditions and seizing your target customers’ expectations can make a massive difference between foreign companies being successful in China or not.

In general you should take into account the following 6 considerations:

1. Research your industry’s leading trade shows

Across industries, there are typically several fairs per year, so research is a key element to choose the correct exhibition for your company. First of all, it is important to define your target audience and goals (increase sales, brand exposure, provide insights within your industry, launch a new product, etc.). Once these are mapped out, it should be simple to find the right fair to attend. Secondly, consider also your budget in which fair you want to participate in. A cheap setup might seem like a great cost-saving idea, but in this case it could be possible that you are participating in a fair or at a place on the fair that doesn’t look professional at all. 

2. Register your trademark in China

It is well known that Chinese persons and/or companies are notorious ‘trademark squatters’. Unfortunately, we have already witnessednumerous times that European companies discover during the brand or domain name registration process that someone already beat them to it. That’s why it is advisable to register your trademark and domain name in China before your trade fair participation. Once the registration has been completed by another person or company, it will be hard, very costly or even impossible, to recover your brand or domain name.

3. Identify or select a suitable partner / importer / distributor

Many Chinese visitors will ask you if you already have a Chinese importer or distributor, because they are not capable to import products on their own or they don’t want to take the risk to do so. Do not underestimate this necessity for local partners to make your participation a success. It is very important to take your time to find a suitable Chinese distributor (or distributors) and exhibit together during your first trade show in China. It would be even better to conduct a market research and test your product(s) prior to taking part in a trade show. Equipped with this knowledge, you will be able to judge whether your company and/or products might be successful in China.

4. Hire a professional Chinese interpreter and/or project manager

It is important to have one or more people at your booth who can interpret and speak Chinese, so that you don’t miss out on opportunities to capture a potential lead. You can opt for students that can assist you to attract Chinese visitors and give them basic information about your products. Those students usually don’t have real business experience, so no professional sales can be expected from them. In order to be more successful, it would be better to appoint an external Chinese-speaking professional project manager. This project manager should be fluent in English and Chinese, and has professional experience in dealing with potential distributors and customers.

5. Market your brand in Chinese

Moreover, it is crucial to grab the attention of people passing by your booth. It is recommended to have a brochure or flyer in Chinese that briefly introduces your company and products. The content of the brochure and other marketing materials in China should focus on your key values, such as tradition, authenticity, quality (‘made in Europe’), safety, etc. It is even better to create an official WeChat account before participating to the fair. WeChat is THE app in China and an essential tool in your China marketing and communication strategy. Within WeChat you can set up your own company page, like a mini-website, and visitors can scan a QR code on your booth. After scanning this QR code, the visitor can find information about your business in Chinese. They become followers of your company, which allows you to communicate directly with your target audience via IM, articles, video, etc.

6. Follow-up after the exhibition in China is finished.

Once the exhibition is over, it is important that you follow-up properly and make full use of the connections you have made during the fair. The professional project manager would not only be the one to help you in your negotiation and communication with potential customers on the booth itself, but the same project manager can also be appointed to help you with the follow-up afterwards. In our experience, in order to be successful in China, we believe that it is important to have someone with feet on the ground in China at all times and able to communicate in Chinese with all customers and in the Chinese time zone.

Horsten International has many years of experience in doing business in China and is regularly helping foreign brands during exhibitions in China and – if required – also for the follow-up after the exhibition. Please check our website or contact us in case you have any plans to participate in an exhibition in China.

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