A starting point for global exposure

Hannover Messe is a big event for a small U.S. manufacturer.

By Bob Vavra January 15, 2016

Kirk Shaffer’s second impression of Hannover Messe in 2012 was the sheer size of the booths. "I remember going for the first time, walking into the hall, and saying ‘Oh my gosh, some of these booths are bigger than our entire office,’" said Shaffer, the chief marketing officer for Bloomfield, Colo.-based AirSquared, a manufacturer of specialty scroll compressors and recirculation pumps.

His first impression of Hannover Messe was formed months earlier when fair officials approached him at a U.S. trade event and suggested their technology would be an excellent fit at Hannover’s Hydrogen+Fuel Cells group exhibit.

"It’s a massive show, but the area they specifically were looking at was a trade show in a trade show," Shaffer said. "It was in the energy pavilion and then there was fuel cell area inside energy pavilion. We started talking with them logistically about what is involved with exhibiting."

AirSquared will be back this spring at Hannover Messe 2016, which takes place April 23-27 in Hannover, Germany. While hundreds of U.S. companies are expected to exhibit during the Partner Country year for the United States, AirSquared’s annual journey to Germany is more about building on the success the company has found in exhibiting abroad.

Help for new attendees

The 2016 Partner Country status for the U.S. has created unique opportunities for American manufacturers looking to establish a global presence. The U.S. visibility at Hannover Messe "means additional exposure and prime location for U.S. companies, institutions, and economic development organizations, particularly those exhibiting in the U.S. Pavilions," said Daniel Gaines, senior international trade specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service, a part of the Commerce Department. "It means that manufacturers of any size will stand out prominently in a trade show that attracts more than 200,000 visitors."

At Hannover in 2016, the Commercial Service will include some new services, such as: 

  • Pre-show educational webinars to help companies prepare for the event;
  • Pre-show company promotions to potential overseas partners, helping U.S. exhibitors get maximum exposure to the potential buyers, partners, and investors at the show;
  • On-site executive marketing counseling with commercial experts from U.S. Embassies from across the globe, helping U.S. exhibitors create custom strategies for approaching key global markets; and
  • Post-show follow-up support to make sure U.S. exhibitors know how to take the next step with the new connections they make at the show.

Besides the federal effort, state economic development organizations also will be bringing teams to Hannover. That effort has expanded over the past several years. Around 2005, a handful of state teams were on the floor at Hannover, Gaines said. In 2015, more than 30 states were represented at Hannover, including an appearance from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

But resources are available year-round for companies seeking expansion anywhere in the world. Helping U.S. manufacturers stand out is part of the Commercial Service’s overall mission.

"The U.S. Commercial Service manages more than 100 offices across the country, affording manufacturers the opportunity of having a locally based trade professional to help locate the right resources, programs, and avenues that their companies can leverage to extend their reach and export to more markets overseas." The specific help available can be found at the Commercial Service Website.

Standing out in a crowd

AirSquared received a grant from the state of Colorado to attend its first Hannover Messe. Even with the assistance from both sides of the Atlantic, the challenge still was to make an impression and build partnerships.

"I think every company is a little unique," Shaffer said. "We have a unique technology; there aren’t many companies making a comparable product, and we’re also a small company. Being able to expand our presence overseas is a huge initiative, and we had to figure out the right way to go about it. From that first show, we had great results. Really early on, we knew we’d hit the jackpot."

Now the process for AirSquared is to continue to build on those first relationships formed four years ago. "Everybody seems to go," Shaffer said. "In February, you start e-mailing people that you’re going to be over there, and before you know it, you have a decent number of meetings lined up before you get there. Now we’re meeting face-to-face with people we’ve already dealt with in the past."

While German trade shows differ from most U.S. shows, Shaffer has found that the investment of time and capital has helped AirSquared establish its technology and company 5,000 miles from headquarters.

"The trade shows (in Hannover) tend to be a lot more formal, with a lot higher level of engineers. In the U.S., you get a variety of people attending," Shaffer said. "We found that not only is there more traffic, but you do leave the show with a lot of contacts.

Starting point for expansion

"With a minimal effort—a week out of the year—you can connect with Europe and, really, all over the world. It’s a perfect starting point for people who feel they aren’t doing enough overseas," said Shaffer. "You’re not just going to walk away with new contacts overseas, you’re going to meet people you want to partner with. If any small company doesn’t know how to go about it and thinks product needs to go globally, this is your starting point."

Bob Vavra is content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering.

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Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.