Maximizing the ROI of Your Visit to the Canton Fair and Other Trade Shows
Attending trade shows such as the Canton Fair is an excellent way to identify new products and trends as well as get access to suppliers that aren't listed in online directories such as Global Sources or Alibaba. Attending Chinese trade shows requires a significant investment of time and money, however. Optimizing your ROI is paramount, but it's possible for the trip to end up being more trouble than it's worth. Following a few guidelines can help ensure that your visit pays off.
Take Advantage of Government Incentives
One of the best ways to maximize the return on any investment is to use someone else's money. And when it comes to an overseas trade show trip, one of the most overlooked sources of financing may actually be your state government. Programs such as the matching grants offered by Maryland or the Wyoming Business Council's Trade Show Incentive Grants work to expand commerce in their respective states by supporting international trade. The funds usually come in the form of reimbursement, but they can help you recoup the costs of transportation, lodging, entrance fees and other related expenses. Funds are limited, so it's a good idea to apply as early as possible to increase your chance of getting a piece of the pie.
Map Out a Strategy
The Canton Fair Complex boasts 12,174,000 sq ft of space and houses over 50,000 booths. It can be overwhelming for even seasoned professionals, so unprepared novices won't stand a chance.
Your plan needs to start with learning everything you can about your product's manufacturing process. You'll be able to discuss the details of your deals more knowledgeably with booth staff as well as gain insights into how to spot shoddy production practices and bad bargains.
If you're attending the Canton Fair, the next step is to check out the official e-commerce platform to find suppliers that'll be in attendance. You can also study any maps, pictures or other info about the exhibitors that many trade shows provide online in the weeks before the big show. You can then run through the exhibitions on paper, allowing you to plan your attack.
Failing to do your homework and identifying specific targets can leave you wandering aimlessly around the convention grounds. Not only will you waste time, but you'll probably miss out on opportunities to connect with relevant suppliers, increasing your opportunity costs and decreasing the value of your trip.
It's also a good idea to install the messaging app WeChat before you leave. This is the main form of communication in China, so you'll get more responsive service than with email or Skype by adding the salespeople you meet at the trade show on that platform.
Ask the Right Questions
Although trade fairs are generally not the right places to nail down final terms, it's still imperative that you ask useful questions.
What are your minimum order quantities?
One of the most important is questions regarding minimum order quantities. If their first order is around or below a manufacturer's standard MOQ, it may be a lower priority for the factory, if it can even be fulfilled at all. At the same time, factories with low MOQs can be small and unprofessional, so it's a double-edged sword.
What are your manufacturing and shipping times (both domestic and international)?
You need to know shipping speeds and capacity to make sure that your goods get where they need to go in a timely manner. Always add extra time for unexpected hiccups, especially for first-time orders.
What will the setup costs be?
These are often overlooked, but new products often require new tooling such as dies, molds, etc. This results in setup costs for the manufacturer, which you will likely need to cover for small orders. Suppliers will often swallow these costs for larger orders.
Who else are you supplying?
Try to find out the competitors and markets they are supplying, as well as their largest clients. It's a great indication of quality level.
Even if you get answers you like, it's a good idea to take everything with a pinch of salt. The sales staff that occupy the booths are keen to say "yes" to everything, but things may change once you get to placing the order.
Plan to Stay a Few Extra Days
Ideally, you should allocate a few days after the trade show to go on factory visits and other follow-up meetings with suppliers. Keep in mind that China is a big place and factories are usually located far from the airport. Make sure you leave enough time for flights, trains and long car journeys. This approach can help you save on flights as well as time, ensuring that you optimize the investment on these sometimes expensive but very valuable trips!