PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

Growing your brand means having to step up your game by going out there and source. A great venue to kick start that process is through tradeshows and fairs. However, there is a difference between the two, which most people do not know. Fortunately, Meghla Bhardwaj of Global Sourcing can guide you through that. She talks about the different types of tradeshows and fairs happening around the world, telling which is which, what’s the best one for you, and what to expect. She also provides some great insights as well as some tips on how to go around these events and what you need to prepare.

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I am so excited to announce if you haven’t heard on Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube already, that I’m going to be speaking at the Global Sources Summit and I am bringing to you one of the organizers of it. I’m going to introduce Meghla Bhardwaj. Meghla is a dynamo. I met her at the Prosper Show. We’ve had a little conversation since then and I’m excited about the Global Sources Summit. This is in conjunction with the Global Sources Trade Show and it’s in Hong Kong.

I want you to understand what these trade shows are about, why they’re here and why they’re so important as you’re growing a bigger brand because that’s the critical aspect of it here. You’re growing a bigger brand. You need to step up your game and we’re going to talk a little bit about differences in different types of tradeshows and fairs because they call them fairs out there, which are a little different than trade shows. We want to discern the differences for you. Then we’re going talk a little bit about what I’m going to talk about and invite you to come with me. Meghla, thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you so much, Tracy. I’m super excited to be here and thanks for the lovely introduction.

Where in the world are you right now? Are you in Singapore?

Yes, I’m in Singapore.

I’m in California, you’re in Singapore, and we’ve managed to coordinate the whole thing. This is the number one thing I recommend is FaceTime.

It makes all the difference whether it’s in business or personal relationships.

You don’t want to be in email, you don’t want to be filling out a form. There’s FaceTime and when we’re talking about sourcing, FaceTime means everything. That’s why you have this fabulous summit and the trade show going on. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started with Global Sources?

I’ve been working with Global Sources for more than fifteen years now. I’ve worked in India and the Philippines. I was based in China for ten years and I’ve been in Singapore now for three years. I’ve been working a lot with manufacturers, importers and suppliers. When I was in China, I used to visit a lot of factories for research reports for Global Sources. I’ve been working with Amazon sellers, eCommerce sellers because we’ve seen an increase in the number of eCommerce sellers doing private label and developing their own brands and coming to China to source their own products. At Global Sources, we’ve launched a series of initiatives to better meet the needs of eCommerce sellers. One of those initiatives is the Global Sources Summit that you’re going to be speaking at. I’m organizing the summit and I also host Meetups in Singapore as well as Hong Kong to engage with the community a little bit more to understand what their pain points are and try to help eCommerce sellers source from China.

When going to tradeshows, you should absolutely have a plan in hand. Click To Tweet

It’s so important because it used to be hard. When I was doing this fifteen years ago, it was a lot harder. We didn’t have Zoom and we didn’t have all these other fabulous devices and other things we could do to communicate. It was a lot harder. You made a trip and you stayed on the ground for a couple of weeks and it’s changed over time. Getting in what these good practices are that we used to do fifteen years ago, those are the same practices. Some of it gets accelerated by technology and by locality being able to come into one place. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the co-location with the trade show and the summit because that’s interesting the way that you’re doing it? They can do two things at once, but they also are going to get some special skills along the way that they can apply at the trade show.

Let me talk a little bit about the summit first. This is a three-day conference. It’s mostly for established eCommerce sellers who are building their own brand, doing their own private label business. We basically bring together about 20 to 25 speakers from all over the world. We have speakers from the US, Europe and you’re flying in. We have a lot of speakers from China and Hong Kong. The topics at the summit range from sourcing-related topics; how to find your ideal supplier, how to do inspections, how to negotiate with your supplier, how to get better prices. What are the payment terms that you should talk about with your supplier? We also cover a lot of selling-related topics. For example, how to do your listings right on Amazon, how to do PPC on Amazon, your photography, videography, how to work with KOLs. One of the topics that I’m excited about this time is chatbots in eCommerce. We have a speaker who is coming to talk about chatbots and she’s also going to be showing people how to create their own chatbots.

I’m going to talk a little bit in mine about Blockchain coming forward. I’m going to add a little Blockchain talk because I’ve been getting hooked up in that community. We’re going to have a little bit of that in my talk as well. We’re talking about lots of very new and emerging technologies because Chatbots, I’ve heard some sellers who are firing it up with their Chatbots.

The summit is co-located with our trade shows. There are two trade shows that are held at the same time and the same venue as the summit. One is called lifestyle and it covers products from gift products and home products, Christmas products, decoration, stationary items. The other is the fashion products, which covers apparel, garments, shoes, bags, jewelry, accessories, and all of those things. The idea is that the two events are co-located. The conference is held on the second floor of the venue and then on the first floor of the venue you have these trade shows with literally thousands of suppliers.

The idea is you come to the conference, you learn all about sourcing, selling and you network with all of the experts as well as attendees and at the same time, you can just start sourcing products immediately. You can implement your learning on the show floor and start talking to suppliers immediately. Then you can come back to the conference the next day. If you have any questions about how to talk to suppliers or “I found this great product, what do you think about this?” you can share and talk about those things with the experts and the second day.

You can talk about your experiences and form better questions for them. That’s fabulous. A lot of people are nervous about coming for their first time to any trade show or international venue. I’ve seen it. I’m bringing a guest with me on the platform, our good friend, Brenda Crimi, who is an Amazon seller on our platform. I’m bringing her because she’s going to help me with all of my tech issues and all the things that I need because I need an assistant. She was happy to do it because it’s her first trip and she didn’t want to go to on her first trip alone. We get that a lot from people. I’m sure you’ve heard those stories like, “It’s my first trip. What do I do?” This is a great way to do it because you’re going to have the network and the community that’s there to support you, walk with you and do these things where otherwise if you do them completely on your own, you feel isolated.

PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

Tradeshows And Fairs: If you do the tradeshows completely on your own, you feel isolated.

It’s not scary at all. All of the trade shows are held twice a year in the region, April and October. There is a series of trade shows held in Hong Kong and there’s the Canton Fair in Guangzhou.

Many of you may have heard of because lots of Amazon reseller programs talk about the Canton Fair.

Most Amazon sellers attend the Canton Fair. It’s bigger, especially for gift products and home products. It has a lot of suppliers. Global Sources Fairs are held in Hong Kong and there are some other fairs that are held in Hong Kong as well at that time. For example, Hong Kong TDC, they host some fairs and all of the fairs are timed in such a way that you can hop from one fair to another very conveniently. There are little things like the dates are the same in April and October. It’s very convenient for buyers to remember which fairs are when.

This is also a warning to those of you working on product development. April and October are not a good time to be expecting your samples to be on time. It is bad and it’s usually preceding up to it. Within a month of any trade show, it’s not a good idea to expect that you have timely and time-sensitive samples. Not going to work out for you. Plan around that. Just going to say that now because they’re busy filling out their trade show booths. They want to represent well.

The first thing that you should do if you’re thinking about coming to trade shows is to decide which product categories you’re interested in and then look at the trade shows that are covering those product categories and then decide which trade shows to attend.

You don’t need to go to all of them and it’s overwhelming. You want to dial in on where your brand is focused on and what that means. I find that when you get a few strategic vendors, if you needed something that you needed one product that might be outside of the realm, they know someone. They’re happy to refer you to another factory that makes a separate type of product or help you bring it in for you.

If you’re sourcing electronic products, for example, the Global Sources Fairs in Hong Kong are pretty big. We have two sourcing fairs for electronics. One is the Consumer Electronics Show and then the other is Mobile Electronics. They’re held at different dates about three days apart. If you’re sourcing electronics, those are must visit shows. The lifestyle shows and fashion are much smaller than Canton Fairs. There are more unique and innovative products. That’s how we try to differentiate our fair. We try to curate a lot of products. This time we have something new, which is called Meet the Millennials. This is basically an area where we will feature products that will appeal to Millennials and we’ve got a group of Millennials who are going to be selecting these products. We have things like a cool design award. We’ll ask exhibitors to submit their products to us and then we’ll get a panel of judges from within Global Sources as well as designers from overseas and then they select the products that they like. All of these products are featured in a separate area of the show. We try to do such things to make it easier for people to find innovative, creative, high-profit products.

Never be too tired to have a dinner. Click To Tweet

The differences when you come to the Canton Fair, it’s large but you do realize as you’re walking it that you see a lot of the same over and over again. At a smaller show, you won’t see it that way though. There will be a lot of originality.

If you’re looking for high-volume price-competitive products, Canton Fair is definitely the place to go. Many people actually attend both shows because you get a wider variety of suppliers and you get to see all kinds of products. It’s very convenient to attend both shows. You hop from Hong Kong on to a train and then you can reach Guangzhou in about one and a half to two hours. It’s very convenient that way.

The hotels are right on the train circuit. You’re all right there too.

The Global Sources Fairs are held in Hong Kong, which is more English speaking. It’s easier to get around there and most nationalities don’t need visas to enter Hong Kong. You can decide at the very last minute you want to go in and you just buy a ticket and fly over.

You should double check because there are a few exceptions to that, but US citizens don’t have to. I recommend getting it anyway if you’re going to go into China afterwards or if you think you’re going to do it. You might as well have it because I can tell you that I’ve had it happen where someone said they weren’t going to extend their stay and the next thing they know, they wanted to go into China and they couldn’t because they didn’t do their visa ahead of time. It’s pretty easy to get your visa now. Give yourself a month and you should be fine. There’s no reason to not do it right away. It’s not that costly either. It’s under $200 if you had to have it rushed. There’s always a bunch of visa agencies. Do you feature any on your website?

No, we don’t feature any agencies. Most travel agents will be able to do that.

If you are looking for some, there will be some resources you can know that you can go to and get a visa. It always feels a little scary when you send your passport into somebody you don’t know. I worked with these companies before so I know you’ll get your passport back.

The other thing to note is that sometimes you get a single-entry visa into China. If you want to attend Canton Fair in Guangzhou, come to Hong Kong and then go back to Guangzhou again for maybe another show, then you’ve got to get a multiple entry visa. You need to get the right visa depending on what you plan to do.

I have a five year one. They’re extending those now to people who frequently come in. If you are doing this on a regular basis, they’ll do short multi-entry visits, they’ll do a dozen entries and then you can do a certain time period after that. These are easy things for you to accomplish. This is not difficult at all. We’ll make sure you have the resources if you choose to do that. Good point there. What else should they think about when they’re planning their trip?

PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

Tradeshows And Fairs: It really helps to know what specific products you want to source for.

First of all, think about what product categories, what shows you want to attend. Some of the other things to do before attending a show is to list on the specific products that you’re interested in because sometimes it’s easy to waste time at these shows because they’re so huge and you end up walking the aisles aimlessly. It helps to know what specific products you want to source for. Also list all of the product features and requirements that are important for you. For example, if you’re assaulting for the US, what are the certifications that you absolutely require? That will also help make your time at the show more efficient because you can immediately tell, which supplier is suitable for you because you know that, “These are my requirements and I cannot deal with a supplier that cannot meet these requirements.” Those are the two very important things that you should absolutely do before.

You should absolutely have your buy plan. A buy plan involves you thinking about the volume you expect, the prices you expect, the requirements, the compliance, all the different things that are absolute certifications if you need them. Those absolutes that if you’re going to do it in this category you should. That means you have to have done your Amazon search, your research, all of the different things, your Google search. You need to be thinking about how you’re going to market it because having that data ahead of time says, “How much turns can I do? How many units can I sell?” because it’s a critical factor in negotiating your price later too.

If you know you might be needing 5,000 pieces instead of 1,000 for your first order because you think you could do that because of the volume selling. That gives you a higher negotiation position with your factories that you might be considering and you can weigh the options. It also is a good indicator of factories. If you need a high volume, this is what big buyers do. When you know you can do 10,000 pieces a month or something, you want to gauge whether or not they have the capability of delivering that volume requirement or what would that lead time look like if you want to deliver that requirement.

These are things you must put in your plan, your timing, your prices and all of those. I’ll go into greater detail on what a buy plan should look like. Also, I invite you all to co-develop with me your buy plan. I’m happy to do that with all of you in advance for the show so we can talk about that further in the next episode. I’m so glad you brought that up about being prepared because that’s it. Let’s talk about the girly stuff like what should we wear, what’s the weather going to be like because there are these concerns about how much you pack and you are inside most of the time. I want to remind you, you’re going to be inside so much of the time. You’re going to go from the hotel on a train. There are a lot of indoors, just keep that in mind.

The most important thing is comfortable shoes. Sports shoes or flats. Absolutely no heels. That’s the most important thing. I’ve suffered so many times in the beginning.

The most important thing in tradeshows is comfortable pair of shoes. Click To Tweet

I have this good friend. He was a COO in Guangzhou and he would wear flip flops everywhere because he’s a San Diego guy originally. I was like, “I don’t know how you do it. The crown is dirty and my feet looked disgusting afterwards.” I don’t recommend flip flops for your Californians either. Close-toed shoes are better, it’s safer but comfortable ones. Umbrella, it’s not a bad idea. Showers come out of nowhere. You never know.

Subtropical climate but it’s quite pleasant in October. It’s not very hot. No need to pack woolens or anything, just a light sweater. Sometimes it can get a bit chilly inside the show of venues. One important thing to pack is business cards, that’s so important.

We get used to it sometimes here at the Amazon seller shows, where they all like digital business cards. They still like paper business cards. They like that handoff and so make sure you bring them with you.

Some of the other things to bring are practical things like power banks because you’re on the show floor all the time. You’ll probably be walking from morning to evening, so power banks and then bring a small trolley to put all of your brochures in because you’ll be collecting a lot of brokers.

They do not make small brochures. Their product lines are long. Those are big. We used to do this pretty frequently so we would pack a small suit case which all the clothes were packed into inside a slightly bigger one and we would take back samples with us in the second one. That is also something you can do. I don’t think you’re going to bring back that much stuff but when you go to visit factories or you’re working on sample development at the same time that you’re sourcing new, they tend to be like, “Don’t ship it. We’ll pack it in a second suitcase.” You do get two in international, so you do get two suitcases that you can check unlike having to pay for extra every time you put any suitcase in the checked baggage here in the US. It’s a little bit different over there. We’re spoiled internationally for that.

This is my recommendation for you. I wrote a blog post about this. I might have even written an Inc. article about this. Tips for going to China, tips for traveling well is I prefer that taking the afternoon flight from LA and ending up in the evening to my destination and then getting a good night’s sleep. Lots of people I know like to do over red eyes, sleep on the plane and start working next morning. I find that it wipes you out, you are no good, you don’t function well and you don’t make good decisions on lack of sleep. You need to make good decisions for your business so we want you to get some sleep.

Time costs as well. Click To Tweet

I will certainly do that because I want to come in when I give my talk, I want to be fresh for all of you and be able to answer all your questions and be thinking about that. It’s my recommendation on how I do it. I sleep at the beginning of the plane and then stay up towards the end so that you’ll sleep again as soon as you get there. For the second two-thirds of the flight, I stay awake, read lots of books and watch movies or whatever you can do to stay awake. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about the kinds of people who are going to be speaking besides me?

We have a lot of speakers coming in from the US and many of them are pretty well-known in the eCommerce circles. We have Kevin King from AMZ Marketer. he’s going to be giving hacks for advanced sellers and we have Cynthia Stein from eGrowth Partners. She’s going to be talking about dirty seller tricks on Amazon. I’m looking forward to her.

I’m not sourcing any products for myself. I only have one or two clients that I’m going to be on the lookout for, so I might be sitting in on all those fun sessions.

We have Andy Slamans from Amazing Freedom. He’s going to be talking about ten processes and procedures that will help you win on Amazon. Franz Jordan, he’s going to be giving advanced PPC tips. Liran Hirschkorn from Amazing Freedom as well. He’s going to be talking about relationships and this is such an important topic. Relationships with your suppliers, with Amazon, with other sellers. It’s so important in this business. I’m looking forward to his presentation.

The collaboration will be a key part of mine as well because that’s what I stress. The more collaborative we are with our factory partners especially but with our marketing partners and our other sellers, the better off we are. It makes for a better industry.

PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

Tradeshows And Fairs: The more collaborative we are with our factory partners, marketing partners, and sellers, the better off we are. That makes for a better industry.

When you source from China, it also helps you in your business. For example, if you’re attending a trade show, meeting suppliers face to face, you’re more likely to get better terms for your payments. You’re more likely to get a better price as opposed to sourcing online. When you’re sourcing online, you’re just somebody behind an email.

You’re a purchase order number at the end of the day. We want to move from that to being a person.

You’ve invested the time and effort to come down to Hong Kong or China and you’re meeting them face to face. It makes a huge difference. You’re familiar with the Principle of Guanxi in China. I feel that that plays a big difference and it makes a difference when you’re sourcing.

Would you explain that to the audience?

Guanxi is basically when you’re on the good side of the supplier or you build a good relationship with the supplier. You go out for dinner with them. It’s building a relationship.

It is transparent. You’re very honest about how your growth is. If it’s not big, “I’m going to do a thousand-piece test, but I have a track record and here it is. You can see my Amazon sales on my other products. I grow them up if it’s going to succeed. This isn’t in our best interest to test this out together and see if this a viable product.” I found that factories respond to that well because that level of honesty is something that they look for. This is why I asked my factories for a referral, “I’m looking for another product.” A lot of times, they have families, they have sisters and brothers who might have factories. It’s great. When you do relationships with their factories or their sub-suppliers, it makes all that groups together into goodwill. That’s the way I term it. It’s goodwill relationship building, I think of it as the translation for me.

It’s so important when you’re buying from China. You definitely get better prices. When you’re sourcing, even $0.10 will make a huge difference. We can get a lower price.

That’s a good competitive advantage and this is what I want you to think about. Deciding to come over to Asia it may sound like, “That’s expensive and it takes a lot of time out of my businesses,” so time costs as well. You start to think about those things but at the end of the day, that relationship building will save you money in the long run. The feedback loop you’ll be able to create, the collaboration you’ll be able to create they’re more conscious of it. They think there’s going to be a quality problem, they’re going to volunteer it to you, they’re going to make recommendations. Building up that is critical to sustaining success and it pays back tenfold.

They’ll work better with you if you’re a developing a new product, for example. They’ll work with you, they will make adjustments to their assembly line or suggest changes that you can do in your product to make it better. They will also prioritize your order sometimes, especially during Chinese New Year. It helps.

Relationship building will save you money in the long run. Click To Tweet

You’ve got to be a little bit of a squeaky wheel. When they know you and you pick up the phone, they were like, “I know you because the next time you come, I don’t want you to give me a hard time that I didn’t serve you.” That’s this relationship. It’s critically important. Never be too tired to have a dinner. If you’re invited, that’s an honor and I take it that way. I always try everything they put in front of me no matter how scary. I’ve eaten some things that I was like, “That did not taste good.” As long as you’ve taken a bite of it and just been open-minded about it, it’s awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about the sourcing side talks. Those are some of the seller talks that you were talking about. What about on the source’s side that you’re going to run a panel? I’m going to be on your panel. What’s the panel going to be about?

The panel is basically an ask-me anything type of panel.

That’s going to be great, especially if you’ve been on the floor and then you come back and ask these questions.

We’re going to have three experts on the stage and then the floor is open to questions and people can ask questions about sourcing, trade shows. We’ll have a selling expert as well in the panel. It’s basically open. Another thing that we have is a workshop on quality control. I feel that quality control is the biggest issue that sellers have when they’re sourcing from China. When they’re just starting out, people don’t realize how important this is and how much trouble they can get into later. I see that a lot of sellers starting out don’t do inspections, for example. They’re not very clear with their specifications when they’re placing orders and then they’re surprised when they don’t get back the product as expected. We’ve got a QC expert who lives in China. He’s been doing QC for a number of years and he’s going to spend three hours talking about quality control. It’s an interactive workshop where he’s going to be showing you how to make your product specification worksheets for example or how to do inspections and when to do which inspections. I’m excited about that.

As you move away from just doing me too products, the same stuff that everybody else has, some I’ve seen many sellers bring them in and never even inspect them themselves, which I do not recommend. If you’re coming over for this trip, you’re obviously moving to that next stage. That next stage requires quality control and potentially I’m going to call it quality assurance where you make improvements with the supplier and that relationship building is going to go a long way to doing that as well. Meghla, is there anything else that they should know and that we haven’t covered?

PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

Tradeshows And Fairs: If you’re coming over the trip to attend tradeshows, then you’re obviously moving to that next stage.

We’ve covered quite a bit. I would encourage people to consider attending the trade show if you haven’t done already and just look at the trade shows that are happening in Guangzhou, take a look at the Canton Fair and see what products are being covered there.

What are the dates of the Global Sources Summit?

It’s going to be on October 27th to the 29th.

Does the trade show start a little before and go until after?

The trade show goes a day after as well. It’s from the 27th through the 30th.

You’ve got an extra day afterwards too if you didn’t have enough time and you were mesmerized by every single session, you didn’t leave, and you still need time to go back and negotiate some more and do those things. You have another day afterwards. I am so looking forward to this. Meghla, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it and I look forward to seeing you in person again. I look forward to participating in it.

Product Launchers, if you want to attend the Global Sources Summit and The Global Sources Trade Show, we’ve got a discount code for you. I’m adding the offers of having a coaching call, live Office Hours on buy plans. We can work on your buy plans all together. No cost to you. My hour will be free and so join us. Product Launchers, thank you so much. Let’s thank Meghla and we are so excited about the Global Sources Summit.

Thank you, Tracy. I look forward to seeing you.

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About Meghla Bhardwaj

PLH 86 | Tradeshows And Fairs

I have over 15 years of experience in content strategy, management and marketing. I specialize in strategizing, planning and launching new programs and initiatives. I lived in China for 9 years and have a deep understanding of the sourcing and manufacturing industries there. Currently, I work as Head of Content Marketing at Global Sources, helping importers and eCommerce sellers source and sell more effectively via online and offline initiatives. I organize Global Sources Summit, a 3-day conference for online & Amazon sellers held twice a year in Hong Kong. I also host regular meet-ups for eCommerce sellers in Singapore & Hong Kong. I’ve been on numerous eCommerce-related podcasts, and contributed content to many blogs.

In addition, I lead the company’s social media, product classification, and buyer inquiry QA functions managing a team of over 20 people. I developed and launched the company’s video marketing strategy with a focus on live videos. This has helped increase brand awareness significantly. Previously, I lead the company’s research reports department producing high-end publications on China-made products sold to worldwide importers for US$400 – US$800. Having worked in India, The Philippines, China, Hong Kong and now in Singapore, I have extensive experience working in cross cultural environments.

My most exciting initiative was helping launch Global Sources’ Mobile Electronics sourcing trade show, website and magazine in 2015. I managed all content, and social media-related aspects for this initiative, and even got to interview a robot! The YouTube video of this “interview” went viral with almost 340K views (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJvuzZ-kol0).

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