In the not too distant past, attending international trade shows and conducting business globally was the domain of only the largest players in a given industry: IBM, Intel, Cisco, Dell.
A company had to be large enough to expand and sustain growth overseas, which required ready access to capital, a distributed workforce, and offices in the world’s capitals.
Then along came the Internet and with it the potential to reach distant markets with the creation of a website, a solid offering, and a robust marketing campaign.
Of course, it hasn’t hurt that English became the ‘lingua franca’ of global business, making it far easier for small and mid-sized U.S. companies in the B2B tech sector to scale across continents.
It should come as no surprise that, according to a recent survey by USForex, more than half of all U.S. companies (58%) have some kind of foreign market involvement.
So how can an aspiring tech company, with its sights set on global growth, step into a trade show halfway around the world and wrestle some the media spotlight away from the big players?
Below we’ve listed some of our top tips based on our experience running trade show media outreach campaigns in far-off destinations like London, Hong Kong, and Dubai. Indeed, with the right media and marketing strategy, we’ve seen our clients double and even triple their media coverage, along with a corresponding boost in lead generation, from one year to the next.
Here are some key takeaways on how we approach international trade show media campaigns:
1. Research and Strategize.
Whether it be a local or international trade show, we always start up to five months in advance of the event by researching the client’s and their competitors’ trade show media coverage from previous years. We note recurring trends and topics. From our organic research and any information available from the conference organizers, we make a list of the of media outlets (digital, print, podcast, TV, influencer) we expect to be in attendance.
We figure out how much localization is required and whether we need to involve one of our international agency partners from First PR Alliance to provide in-country assistance. We also work to determine what products, updates, or partnerships can be announced to maximize buzz at the conference. Announcements offer the media a timely and newsworthy angle that can be included in breaking news features, event recaps or both.
We then create our trade show media plan, which includes a timeline of key PR activities surrounding the trade show (e.g., press release distribution date, product data sheets, demo script, panel or speaking opportunities, booth layout and design, etc.), a schedule of spokesperson availability and their contact information, agreed-upon talking points or message maps, and more.
2. Time Zone Management.
One of the biggest challenges to implementing a successful international trade show media outreach campaign is managing key stakeholders from around the globe. Take the example of Pelco, a client we have in the security and surveillance technology industry. Our team, based in Austin, Denver, and Houston, not only worked with client stakeholders based in Paris, Fort Collins, Fresno, and
In order to successfully execute an international trade show campaign, you have to be able to work flexibly across time zones, usually at the convenience of others. For Swyft, this meant arranging and staffing interviews at 3 a.m. EST and taking unscheduled calls as late as
Extreme flexibility is a must in order to pull the necessary resources together, coordinate meetings on the opposite side of the planet in advance of the trade show, and accomplish the end goal of maximizing positive media buzz — regardless of whether you attend the trade show in person or work remotely with your onsite marketing team.
3. Observing Local Customs.
When working internationally on trade shows, going the extra distance also means you have to respect the customs particular to the trade show’s home country. For instance, some countries work different hours, even different days of the week. Holidays are bound to be different due to the prevailing religious customs of the trade show’s home country.
France has more religious-based holidays than the U.S. given their historically Catholic leanings. Work in Spain tends to start around
In short, to pull off a successful trade show in a country different from your own, you need to play by the rules of the home country.
4. Customized Media Pitching.
As mentioned in our first tip above, it’s wise to dedicate time to research international media outlets and journalists long before starting to pitch your news announcements. Understand what each journalist focuses on and ensure you pitch related topics — avoid the ‘spray and pray’ mass pitching approach as that will only alienate the journalists with whom you want to develop relationships.
Just as important, every interview opportunity should be matched to an appropriate company spokesperson. For instance, when pitching a media outlet on the technical virtues of a new product or service offering, it may be better to arrange an interview with somebody who has in-depth insight into product development and the underlying technology challenges affecting the industry.
At HIMSS (Healthcare Information Management Systems Society), which brings 45,000+ professionals from 90+ countries to Orlando every year, we supported a health care technology client with five different spokespersons. We ensured that the CEO spoke to company growth and broad industry trends while others like the CTO and CISO dove into more wonky technology issues like Kubernetes, multi-cloud solutions, and cyber-security.
Key to success? Have enough spokespersons on-hand and customize the pitch to ensure the right spokesperson talks to the right journalist about the right topic. The extra care you take will pay dividends in the form of productive interviews, happier journalists and company executives, and greater share-of-voice at the trade show.
5. Don’t Forget Social Media.
LinkedIn and Twitter both come in handy when planning for and executing trade show media outreach. Unfortunately, not every media outlet puts the direct contact information of their journalists online.
That means if you want to find a way to include an off-the-radar journalist your news announcement, you will have to resort to guerrilla tactics like reaching out on LinkedIn or Twitter. Avoid using Facebook, by the way. It’s an unwritten rule that using that platform for pitching is strictly verboten.
Do make use of social media well in advance of the trade show as part of your research and strategizing phase, and even use the platforms for one-on-one pitching if that is all you have to work with. Twitter is useful to give a journalist a quick, real-time alert about one of your product demos or panel sessions in the trade show. When using Twitter to invite journalists to stop by your booth stay professional, stick to the facts, and keep it short.
Retweeting journalists is a great way to get and stay on their radar. But be careful not to
Finally, Twitter provides a great way to monitor the ebb and flow of the event, especially the posts of key journalists you are pitching. Say for example a cyber-security journalist comments about the lack of payment processing security in the hotel industry at the annual Money20/20 Europe conference, and your company provides a new blockchain solution for targeting that exact vertical, then sending a short response tweet and pointing the journalist to the company’s booth number could net an interview.
Want more information on trade show marketing and media outreach?
Check out our guide entitled Your Roadmap to B2B Trade Show Success and see our insider-tips on how to turn your next trade show into a roaring success.