Attending international trade shows are a great opportunity to meet potential buyers, understand what customers are looking for and learn about your competitors. Trade shows can seem a bit daunting at first but with some preparation they can be very beneficial for your business and export development.

The first thing you need to understand before attending a trade show is whether there is market access for your vegetable product for the country that the trade show is being held. The quickest way to determine this is to check the AUSVEG Market Access Matrix (visit: au/app/uploads/2018/02/Market_ Access_Matrix.pdf), followed by a more The first thing you need to understand before attending a trade show is whether there is market access for your vegetable product for the country that the trade show is being held. detailed search of the Department of Agriculture’s MICoR database (visit: It’s also worth checking the market access requirements for your products for neighbouring countries, as buyers from smaller countries within a region will also attend major trade shows. Knowing the market access requirements is important not only to know which products you can supply, but also the cost of getting your product to the market. If a phytosanitary certificate is required, pre-export treatment or direct freight route, these will all influence the cost of getting your product to market which needs to be reflected in the price you quote.

Customers go to trade shows wanting to do business, so be prepared to provide pricing to them. Knowing your costs is essential preparation before attending a trade show and you should be able to quote a potential customer the price of each of your products, including freight. It is also important to know the tariffs and quotas (if any), or opportunities to use Australian Free Trade Agreements for the market to gain an advantage over other international competitors.

Your sales pitch
At the trade show there may be many companies selling the same vegetable lines as you, including other Australian growers. It’s important to have a sales pitch prepared outlining why customers should buy from you. Firstly, you need to be able to explain what your business does, the scale of the business and what the history of the company is (emphasising multi-generational family farming can be important in some markets). Knowing the volume of product that you can supply and when it will be available in market, as well as pricing, is essential. You should also have a pricing negotiation strategy.

One of the most important things is to be able to answer the question ‘Why is your product better than a competitor or other countries product and why should a customer buy from you’.

The answer needs to be honest and succinctly explains why your product is the best. This can be a quality attribute, for example your ability to supply is better than your competitors, or the freight times are shorter and therefore freshness of your product is better. Whatever your unique selling point (USP) is, you need to be prepared and confident to explain it to your potential customers in order to give yourself the best chance of making the sale.

Promotional materials
Having good promotional material can create a lasting impression with visitors to your trade show stand and increase the chances of gaining new customers. Business cards and a company brochure are essential promotional materials to take with you when you attend a trade show. A well designed and thought out brochure should include a brief family business history/story, why customers should buy from you (unique selling proposition), what products are grown, what formats are available and which months they are available, details of any quality assurance (QA) or other certifications, freight options and delivery times to key ports, as well as contact details including contact name. 

Brochures can be expensive to print and heavy to transport overseas so it may be worth considering having two brochure formats — one that provides a brief overview of the company and then a more comprehensive ultipage brochure for more serious customers. If you are targeting a specific market for your produce than it may be worth considering translating your brochure into the local language. Having some small give-aways or company merchandise can be a nice touch for interested customers, but it can get expensive if you are not targeted in how you give it away at the trade show stand.

Display samples
Samples of produce on display provide an opportunity for you to showcase the quality of your vegetables. Customers like to see what you can supply and how your produce compares to local or other imported options and what formats you can supply in. The logistics of getting samples into overseas markets can be straight forward or complicated depending on the country and their requirements. A good freight forwarder will be able to assist you, but it is worth doing your own homework and being aware of any issues that could arise.

DISPLAY samples of your produce.
Customers like to see what you can supply and how your produce compares to local or other imported options.
Meeting customers
Identifying potential customers and arranging meetings before travelling to a trade show can increase the likelihood of gaining new customers. Many companies may visit the tradeshow, but if you want to ensure that you meet with them it is worth trying to schedule a specific time to meet with them. Trade show organisers often make meeting rooms available that can be booked by attendees, or there are usually tables available in the Australian trade display area. Arranging meetings with customers in advance signals that you are seriously looking for export business and can increase the chances of securing new customers.

Market insights visits
Attending an overseas trade show provides a great opportunity to learn about the market and the consumers of your product.

Plan to visit as much of the supply chain as possible to learn about how your product will arrive in the country, how wholesale distribution works, who the major retailers are and how consumers will prepare and eat your product.

Arrange visits to retailers, wholesalers and logistics providers to build your knowledge on how the supply chain works. It is also recommended to contact AUSTRADE, as well as your state government trade office in the market, as they may be able to provide useful information and contacts to help you get the most out of your visit.

Check the market access for each of your vegetable lines
Calculate your pricing, including freight
Prepare your sales pitch and know your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Print business cards and promotional materials
Arrange freight for your sample products
Arrange meetings with existing customers or identified potential customers
Prepare for follow up after the trade show and schedule the time to do this when you return home
One of the most important things to do to secure new export business is to follow up with buyers that you meet at trade shows. When you return from a week or more away from your business it can be hard to find the time to contact people that you met overseas, however this is essential to building your relationship with potential customers. It’s better to send a brief email that simply reminds them of you and your company, rather than not making contact at all and then trying to remind them of who you are months down the track when you are looking for customers again.

Preparing a standard email about your company and sending it to each customer, with a few personal or specific details, can be an easy way to save time but keep in contact.

These follow up emails can even be written before you attend the trade show so that they are ready to go when you get back home. WhatsApp or other message service are also a common and less formal way of keeping in contact with buyers and can be a great way to build a relationship with potential customers. Relationships are key to building export business and simply following up and keeping in contact is a great place to start.

Contact Manus Stockdale on (08) 9486 7515 or