German Trade Fairs: Five Questions Newcomers typically ask

Because most of my clients tend to be on holiday during June, July, or August, I have also kind of gotten used to gearing down a bit. But things will be speeding up again soon: For me, typically, the months of September, October, and November as well as February, March, and April are the busiest. That is when most of the trade shows in “my preferred industries” happen.

For example, I am already especially looking forward to FachPackKFrankfurt bookfairproductronica, and AGRITECHNICAIf you need help with any of these, please let me know.

You are still trying to figure out whether attending one of the upcoming fairs would pay off? Well, I appreciate you don’t just assume it would, and in asking that question, you are not alone!

Newcomers who are still contemplating whether they should give trade fair participation in Germany a try often ask me one or more out of the following five questions when deciding whether to attend a German trade show (or not). And, overall, this is what I tend to tell them:

Question 1: Will we be meeting our target group?

See, in an average year, German trade fairs attract around 10 million visitors. Chances are high that you will meet your target audience here – provided you choose the appropriate event and carefully prepare for your participation.

According to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), mostly, fairs are visited by more than just one company representative; considering German companies specifically, 37% send two or three people while 29% have more than seven people visit the fair. Only one in five companies is represented by only one person.

There are ways to get more information about who exactly is visiting (in terms of industries, departments, and so on). I can help you gather this kind of data. Most of it is publicly available (like the one in the below picture is also available on electronica.de/statistik), but if you are busy with your core business, I am happy to assist.

From “Factsheet electronica 2020” (click to see the entire document)

Question 2: Will we get orders?

According to an extensive study published by AUMA in 2015, the three most important visitor objectives are to look for innovations and trends (67%), procure information (64%), and exchange information and experiences (56%). To a lesser extent (48%), visitors said that it is important or very important to them to further their knowledge and maintain existing business relationships. Market observation (42%) ranks higher than buying at the exhibition (26%) or preparing to buy after the show (32%). When asked for an overall evaluation, 83% of the respondents described their trade fair visit as good or very good.

Local (i.e. German, in our case) and international visitors differ greatly when it comes to their purchasing behaviour. 29% of the foreign attendants said that they had plans to buy at the fair; only 24% of the Germans agreed – for them, information on innovations and trends is the most important objective (74%). While 30% of the local visitors want to prepare their buying decision, 34% of the international guests rate that objective as important or very important.

For you, as an exhibitor, that means do not expect to bring home orders from the fair. In most industries, the events are conducted primarily to help you get in touch with new contacts and very briefly check out the fit of a potential business, which you can then discuss in more detail after the show. Therefore, invest in attracting visitors to your booth (again, I am happy to give you a hand) and make sure that you keep track of your visitors and record their needs; you need to follow up with them shortly after the fair – individually! 

Bottom-line: Do not expect that with only one visit, you will conquer the market.

Question 3: Then, what can you expect as an exhibitor?

In November 2016, TNS Emnid – acting on behalf of AUMA – conducted a representative survey among 501 companies that exhibit at trade visitor-oriented fairs. The findings show that the “acquisition of new customers” has taken first place among their objectives, with 83% naming this as their main objective. Taking care of regular customers (“customer care”) has been mentioned by almost the same number of interviewees. Following are the subsequent objectives: “enhance company awareness” (81%), “presentation of new products / services” (80%), and “image improvement of company / brands” (79%).

AUMA finds it remarkable that “the objective of ‘concluding contracts during or after the exhibition’ is again becoming important and is now the objective of two-thirds of exhibitors.” To “open up new markets” (61%), and find “new cooperation partners” (58%) is considered more important by exhibitors than “market research” (45%).

Please note: These are common objectives of more or less seasoned exhibitors. To which extent goals are achieved, depends on many things.

Question 4: Fair enough, but why bother about objectives?

Maybe you think: “Well, that’s basically what we want too. And since we are there anyway, can’t we achieve all the objectives mentioned above at the same time?”

Let me give you an example. If you are quite new in the (German) market, and your most important objective is to meet potential partners for cooperation / joint ventures, you most probably would want to invest more time and effort into conducting research in advance and inviting suitable contacts; at your booth, you would want to create a relaxed atmosphere, putting more emphasis on comfortable seating and good catering. On the other hand, if the presentation of new products is your highest priority, you would want to have plenty of space to showcase your exhibits and find ways to attract casual visitors. In the below ebook you’ll find some very hands-on examples how to do that.

German Trade Fairs
You can either read my book or hire me to help you out. Or even better: do both!

Clearly defined trade fair objectives are a critical success factor for the entire project; they help you define the (next) steps you need to take. Based on your trade fair objectives, you design your booth and align your visitor marketing and promotional activities. Depending on what you want to achieve, you select and brief your team and supporting service providers. For example, if you are keen to meet local buyers, and you operate in a market where decision makers most likely are not fluent in English (e.g., building and construction or agriculture), don’t forget to have somebody on the team who speaks German (and is capable of understanding the local dialects!).

And, not to forget, without clear objectives, how will you measure your trade fair success?

Question 5: Will a certain event help us achieve our corporate goals? In other words: Will participating in the show pay off?

Well, good question, and typically, I would ask back: “What are your corporate goals?” If you are not able to answer that question instantly and with some confidence, my gut feeling tends to tell me that no, it will not pay off. Better stay home – or, at least do not waste money on a booth, etcetera.

However, if that is the case, no harm done! I recommend you go back and discuss with your team and sort out what are your corporate goals. Along with that, double-check what you (already) know about, for example, the (additional) markets you like to reach, whether you can (already) cater to these markets (logistics, industry norms, language, production capacities, etc.), and how attending an international show, or a German trade fair in particular, would – in quite general terms – fit into the picture.

Then – or in case you can anyway confidently talk about your corporate goals even when woken up in the middle of the night – you can take a look at the MNC – TradeFairBenefitCheck; it is offered by AUMA as one of a variety of free online tools to help increase transparency. Industry experts have told me that is a very useful tool; I find it a bit difficult to use but, according to my contacts, if you are a marketing pro, it is worth the effort. The key question when using the AUMA tool is: “What would it cost to achieve my corporate aims and marketing goals using other marketing measures? How much can I save on other marketing measures by taking part in a trade fair?” (Watch this video to see how the tool works: explainer video). The objective of using this tool is to quantify the benefits of your trade fair participation and enable you to do a cost-comparison.

Bottom-line

Especially for smaller companies, attending a trade fair is a big decision that needs to be considered carefully. First-time exhibitors should not expect the exercise to be a no-brainer and must keep in mind that participating in a trade show requires much more than unpacking a few boxes and waiting for buyers to drop into their booth. You need to do your homework before you go! Visitors, and more importantly exhibitors, should also know the key facts and figures about the industry and events, to be able to evaluate which show(s) will best suit their purpose and goals.

What else?

You have more questions? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch (e.g., send me a message on LinkedIn or andra[at]andra-ibf.com).

You should talk to me if you want to gain a better understanding of your opportunities, and you value a local’s help in finding buyers and potential business partners.

Learn more about some past projects and what I can do for you: You’ll make it in Germany!

German Trade Fairs
On amazon, through Google Play Books and many other online book stores

 Read more: The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany

 Join my LinkedIn Group Doing Business in Germany: Trade Fairs, Events, FAQ and Best Practices

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And….for Indian exhibitors: Please check out the special edition for Indian managers on amazon.in

Trade Shows Germany
Special Edition for Indian Managers