Whether you’re new to exporting or a seasoned pro, attending trade shows is a great way to generate new sales, find partners or enter new markets.

When I speak to Canadian businesses about their export strategy, trade show preparation is always a common theme. Why? Because trade shows can help you:

  • Become visible in your industry within Canada or internationally
  • Break into a new market or find new upcoming markets for your products and services
  • Find customers, partners or distributers
  • Understand your competition and how they are competing internationally
  • Introduce your products to a new audience

TIP: The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service’s online magazine, CanadExport, also publishes up-to-date information about international trade shows of particular interest to Canadian exporters. Refer to the Trade Events section of each issue for details.

The benefits are immense, but attending a trade show requires an investment in time and money. Without proper preparation, you risk missing out on major business opportunities. The least effective strategy is to show up at a trade show with just business cards in hand and expect sales.

Trade show preparation is key

When I say preparation, I’m not referring to things like booking your hotel or making a list of all the vendors you might want to visit, although these are important tasks. One major step that many businesses miss when attending a trade show is taking the time to develop their unique value proposition (UVP).

Potential customers, no matter what industry they’re in, are looking for you to tell them why they should buy from you and not someone else. This means proving to them that your product or service is:

  • easier
  • faster
  • more cost effective.

You need to be able to clearly articulate your unique value proposition to potential customers. Your UVP is especially important if you are competing internationally, where the competitive landscape is even larger.

Trade show strategy: How to create your unique value proposition

The first step is to understand your competition. Do some research into what your competitors offer and at what price. Understand how you differ from them and what value you bring to the table. Without understanding your competition, it will be difficult for you to say how you stand out.

Once you have an understanding of your competitive position, you can start to develop your UVP. It’s best to have a couple versions on the tip of your tongue depending on who drops by to visit. One version will be your “elevator pitch” where you know you only have a few seconds to capture their attention before they move on. The other will be for more detailed conversations where you elaborate on the basic points you cover in your elevator pitch.

5 tips for exporters to keep in mind while creating your UVP:

  1. Clearly communicate what products and services you offer in plain language.
  2. Identify the unique value you provide.
  3. Describe your product or service by talking about the benefits not the features.
  4. List 3-5 things that differentiate you from your main competitors and memorize them.
  5. Prove your claims by using customer testimonials, performance comparison data and images from product demos.

Once you have completed your UVP, next you need to practice, practice, practice. Being able to market your UVP is essential to getting new customers and beating your trade show competition. Remember, first impressions matter.

Don’t get caught in the features trap

One thing to remember is: do not get caught up in the features trap. Some companies focus too much on the technical features their product or service can provide. While that is important, don’t lose sight of telling your customer the value you can provide to them. That will win the business.

If you want to learn more about creating a UVP as part of your trade show strategy plan, check out our 3 part series on creating your unique value proposition. The series includes tips, a sample competition grid that you can use to weight yourself against your competitors and examples of good and bad UVPs.

Next time you attend a trade show, I wish you luck in creating your own personal UVP!