Posted on 22 May, 2014 by Neil Sharp

trade showWe’ve all been there haven’t we? Each time you pass an exhibition stand another branded carrier bag is thrust into your arms along with a pen and matching USB stick. At least you can use the plastic bags to put all of those heavy product catalogues in.

Walking up and down the same aisle because you lost your bearings an hour ago; your legs are screaming at you to stop but you must carry on and find a bottle of water before you become even more dehydrated. That will be £4.50 please sir

The truth is if they are left unplanned, trade shows can become time consuming, tiring and an expensive wasted day out for all those that attend. However when approached correctly, exhibitions can be an effective way to unearth potential new supply partners.

So, here are some tips to help maximise your time at the show and ensure sore feet aren’t the only thing you come away with.

Looking behind the scenes

As a potential buyer of Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS), trade shows are specifically designed to overload your senses. Often only run once a year, organisers of such events will have invested a huge amount time and money in getting you to the event. Once you are in, they want to make sure you leave overwhelmed with how useful their show was so that you tell all of your connections. They hope this will lead to an increase in footfall figures next year – which, in turn, they will use to convince new exhibitors to buy up more floor space from them.

Similarly, exhibitors are there for one reason only - to sell you their products or services – which can be tricky for them when they are surrounded by direct competition. Exhibitors will use a variety of tactics to try and stimulate your senses. Glitzy light displays, powerful sound systems, shiny display cabinets, branded goodies, promotional staff smiling sweetly, VIP areas and physical demonstrations will all be used in an attempt to differentiate themselves from neighbouring stands.  

It’s important to understand that once you walk through the doors, you become one the many stars of a carefully rehearsed show. During your time at the show you will meet a number of fans that will do everything they can to try and get your autograph. But who will you give it to?

Rehearsing your lines

Before attending any trade show it’s important to be clear on your business objectives. If you are outsourcing elements of your manufacturing for the first time, then perhaps you will be looking for an EMS company who can offer practical guidance on the steps you need to take. Alternatively if you are looking to change supplier, maybe you will use your time at the show to benchmark your existing supplier’s capability with others. You need to set clear and measurable goals before you visit, so you can determine afterwards how successful the show was for you.

To make sure you are fully prepared on the day:

  • Make contact with the show manager a couple of weeks in advance and ask for an exhibitor floor plan. This isn’t always listed on the website but will confirm who is still exhibiting (things may have changed) and where the CEMs you want to speak with are located. Shows are often merged with others and can span across vast areas, so having an idea of your route in advance can save you time.
  • Thoroughly research the EMS companies you plan to meet before the show. If you are able to build up a profile of their products/services beforehand, you can use your time more efficiently at the show to understand how these can then benefit your business.
  • Monitor the event’s social media pages such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Exhibitor news, guest speaker details or changes to schedules etc are often posted up on these platforms.
  • Create a quick way of capturing information that’s important to you during your time at the show. You may already have some kind of supplier questionnaire or checklist that can be adapted? Try and establish what capabilities a contract electronic manufacturer must have and which are a ‘nice to have’. If you are planning on meeting with a wide range of suppliers over a period of several days, it will prove to be a useful aide-memoire when you get back to the office.
  • Resist the temptation to put an RFQ or ‘quote pack’ together to hand out liberally at the show. Whilst this can be a quick way for an Original Electronic Manufacturing (OEM) to get initial pricing back, it can sometimes work against you. If you give the pack out to multiple suppliers you could be artificially increasing demand of the electronic components - which in turn could push the price up to you. Hold the quote pack back until you have shortlisted potential providers to say 2 or 3 and then talk through your requirements in detail with them outside of the show environment.
  • Contact potential suppliers in advance and pre book appointments with them at a time that is convenient to you. This is often a missed opportunity for two reasons. Firstly you get to keep control of your schedule and secondly I guarantee you will have the supplier’s undivided attention for the time that you are on their stand! 

Taking your place on centre stage

Trade shows can be a cost effective way of networking with a large number of potential new suppliers and contacts within your industry. Many of the companies you meet will be able to add value to your business so now’s the time to really find out how - and make sure you enjoy yourself whilst doing so! You’ve seen their website, read their blog, subscribed to their newsletter and now you get to meet some of the team behind the company logo. So how do they measure up? Do they seem like people you could do business with? Do they seem to match the profile you built up before coming to the show? Can they demonstrate how your business will fit seamlessly into their manufacturing environment? In order to really find out you’re going to have to invest a little more of your time and ask lots of questions but that’s OK -  because so far you’ve kept to your script and you are right on cue.

Image by LaMenta3

The Essential Guide to outsourcing your electronics manufacturing

Topics: EMS

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About the Author

Neil Sharp
Neil Sharp
Previously holding sales, account management and customer service roles, Neil has over 20 years’ experience within the Electronics Manufacturing Services industry. Neil heads up the marketing departme...read more