Practical planning tips for trade events
Participation in a trade event is expensive and time consuming. In order to get the best value from the time and expenses involved, there are some steps you must take to make it easier and to increase chances of attracting the business opportunities available to you.
  1. Book ahead for your travel and accommodation to help you obtain the most convenient journey times and arrangements and best value fares.  Wherever possible travel in a group to take advantage of group fares. 
  2. Ensure that your travel documents (passport, visas, health certificates and insurance, driving licence) are complete and up to date well before you travel.
  3. Make sure that you have sufficient funds to pay your expenses and incidentals. Do not make a false start or not to pay your way through the entire event.
  4. Stay in a hotel or other accommodation which is of an 'acceptable' standard, i.e recognised and used by other business people; this helps to establish your credibility and allows access to good communications and business centre support services, Internet, international calling facilities.
  5. Prior to travel, find out about the formal rules and regulations for business, including foreign exchange regimes, currency control, customs regulations, contractual arrangements etc. Gather information about business conventions, preferred mode of dress and of entertaining, business hours, so that you feel part of the business community rather than being the exception to the rule or uninformed.
  6. Find out who the major importers/buyers are before you travel, so that you have a target group to approach and you can easily take the initiative in contacting them.  Wherever possible, visit them in their own business premises and be willing to talk and to share information.
  7. Carry your corporate materials including product catalogue, last two annual reports, audited accounts, test data on individual products and pictures of your business enterprise or factory.  It is essential to have business cards, price list, and statement of terms of business, delivery schedules, and a short company profile for all business missions. These demonstrate your status and capabilities as a professional and successful business person. 
  8. Ensure you maintain high quality product display on allocated stands with an outstanding and prominent appearance during the event. Conduct your business in a professional manner and describe your product and its potential in clear presentation to prospective buyers. This will enable the customers to see the benefits or advantages of your product more than the costs or disadvantages. 
  9. If possible, purchase copies of business and trade directories and other reference materials, while you are in the market.  They will be much cheaper and more readily available, and you can use them on return to Kenya for follow-up or contacting new business partners.
  10. Contact commercial officers in the Foreign Service, business associations, chambers of commerce, trade centres in the country.  All will be pleased to provide you with supporting services, though often there will be a charge. It will save you time and money in the long run.
  11. Use your business, fraternal, sporting and social connections (rotary, lions, etc.) to help build a network of contacts.  You never know how useful knowing local people and having access to local knowledge can be, until you have problem to solve far from home.
  12. Don't be afraid to go and talk to your competitors.  They will not tell you everything but most will give you some information.  The closer you can get to the established price structure of the market, the greater the chances of your doing business if your prices and quality are competitive.
  13. Buy samples of competing products, analyse them for their value for money objectively. There is always something to learn from the competition and someone who does it better than you in one way or another.
  14. Do not make promises especially on prices and deliveries, which you cannot fulfil. Keep within your price structure but remember the competition and find out ways of reducing your costs and increasing your profit margins. If you do make a promise, ensure that you keep your word.
  15. Be prepared to start with a small trial order or sample consignments to prospective buyers. Your quality and consistency in delivering small orders will give you the opportunity to get large orders.
  16. Remember the best profits come from repeat orders from satisfied customers.  One-off deals are necessary sometimes, but the foundation of a lasting business relationship is a contract that both sides are happy with and eager to repeat, because both benefit.
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