Marketing has gotten a good workout contributing immensely to the growth of global trading among small to medium size businesses. While it has redefined and remade itself, evolving with the needs of a growing global marketplace, it is often viewed as a short-term tactic versus a long-term strategy.

A common thread when studying successful exporters is a commitment to take a long view of marketing. Tactics like advertising buys, sales promotions, and social media marketing often get a short-term vision instead of a long-term placement.

A colleague of mine recently shared how his company (plastics manufacturing equipment refurbishment) built a successful international sales funnel using a two-prong approach. For twenty years he consistently placed print then digital ads and coupled the ad buys with attendance at international and domestic trade shows and fairs. The premise of his “marketing plan while not revolutionary nor high tech, but it produced long-term growth. The seemingly opposing tactics successfully supported each other on a pathway to building a global customer base for not only his refurbished equipment but also for suppliers and parts distributors.

On the one hand, the company owner engaged in face-to-face interaction by attending targeted international and U.S. based trade shows. Since the marketing budget would not support exhibiting at key shows, the business owner “walked” the trade shows, attended presentations, and mingled with potential buyers at hospitality functions. He also was convinced to start taking out ads in the trade show or fair’s program.

On the other hand, the second tactic went a long way toward solidifying his place in a crowded market. The company placed print then a digital ad for 10+ years in the same publications, in about the same location in each publication. The ad placements proved to be a perfect complement to personal interaction at trade shows. The consistent placement of ads in industry-specific periodicals in targeted countries signaled to customers and prospects the company was available to service clients for the long haul. Despite setbacks in the industries served and dips in the economy, the company maintained its visibility.

The bottom line, he consistently showed up for customers and prospects.

Three commitments were at play in this marketing strategy:  identify the trade sites or publications where future customers would go to gain product knowledge; place ads in targeted countries’ publications and websites; rinse and repeat.

If you are interested in attending virtual trade shows (now more prevalent than ever and possibly around for longer than expected), the District Export Council is co-hosting a free webinar on how to make the most of attending or exhibiting at a virtual trade show. You will gain insights of what it takes to “meet up” with prospects on a virtual platform. For details, go to:

Looking for a line up of international trade shows within targeted industries? A variety of sources list trade shows and expos by industry, country, and interest such as Absolute Exhibits, Trade Shows Worldwide, or Trade Fairs.  Another source is the free digital edition of  Trade Show Executive (TSE) which publishes a  monthly calendar, trade show metrics  (attendees, exhibitors, future sites, etc.), and resources.

Recently featured on a TSE podcast was an interview with Michael Duck, Executive Vice President of Informa Markets and Group Chief Representative for China, and a former chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry and Association. As manager of a portfolio of 130 major trade shows (B2B) and 150 smaller shows and a variety of trade marketplaces, Duck remarked how expos have found “a hybrid direction with a virtual and digital online presence.” He described the current landscape of virtual shows as “what we always wanted for our partners and sponsors.”

When asked to share a best practice in using trade shows to build global sales, Duck replied, “Very often people are not coming for the long term. Invest in people’s time and in being in those places. Build relationships and plan how you will work with international partners.”

To explore best practices for global market identification and marketing planning and development, contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and request a meeting with an international trade specialist. SBDC offices are in northern, west, and central Florida.

If you have a specific need in building your long-term growth strategy in global trading, consider contacting a member of the Central North Florida District Export Council. Council members are listed by area of expertise. Further resources are found on the Central North Florida District Export Council’s website,

Margy Lang is the president and founder of Sportive Marketing, Inc. and a member of the District Export Council. She regularly attends trade shows to assist clients in making key contacts in the marketplace.


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