Trade exhibitions a marketing communications tool

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BULAWAYO was in the past week the home of most Zimbabwean businesses and a number of external businesses as they converged at the 55th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

The theme this year was “New Ideas to New Heights,” following on from last year’s theme which was, “Creating Value, Enhancing Growth”.

The trade exhibition came at a time when most Zimbabwean companies were under siege and trying by all means possible to keep above the water.

Growth seems an unlikely phenomenon in this environment. I am not sure what new ideas came out of this one eventful week, but I refuse to be a prophetess of doom and pray that indeed “new” ideas came about for the Zimbabwean industry and hopefully that would take it to new heights.

I read somewhere the other day that when a business is successful, it does best to let the whole world know.

Success in this regard may be the fact that the business is still operating despite whatever challenges that may be evident in the economy.

Trade exhibitions are a form of marketing communications tool. They are held to announce and showcase a company’s talent, product and worth.

Participating in trade exhibitions is part of the promotional activities that a company may undertake. When a company showcases their products they want to be known for their core competencies and they want to be considered as specialists in their field.

I would imagine that for example, many companies make electric cookers, but it is my take that Kango Products would like to be known as the ultimate manufacturer of electric cookers in Zimbabwe.

Many companies make skin moisturisers and lotions, but it is also my take that Datlabs would like to be known as the ultimate Zimbabwean manufacturer of a product in that range like their popular CamphaCare.

I suppose this article would not have been complete without an actual field trip to the ZITF.

My first impression of the showcase was that the administration process for the business visitors was a lot faster and less tedious than last year.

This I am sure was because of the computerisation of the system. In no time I was cleared to enter the showcase. It would also be wise for all exhibitors to ensure that they complete the invitations fully so that their visitors are not delayed at the gate. I give kudos to the ZITF management for this improvement.

My impressions of the South African exhibitors, were that they were serious and generally organised and most of their stands were manned by people who were knowledgeable of their products and could make decisions if need be.

This is a must for the business days of the fair where deals are likely to be clinched.

Instinctively I also visited Hall 3 because of my general interest in the furthering of knowledge in Zimbabwe.

I was pleased by the presence of the vice-chancellor at the National University of Science and Technology stand. I am sure those who interacted with him got firsthand information of the institution from him.

The Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) stand was neatly presented and the women manning the stand stood out in their Zimdef colours.

The general outlook of the people manning the stand contributes to the whole effect a company may hope to obtain from a trade exhibition. I was impressed by the Bolt Africa Sports Management simple, but effective stand design and although I did not quite stop to find out more about them, I think that sport management may in fact, become big business in Zimbabwe.

Independent companies in that field may help improve the running of sporting events in the country. If the management of football is anything to go by, Bolt Africa may have a large market at their fingertips.

My whole view of Hall 3 was that it was rather empty and that most of the space was taken up by the Holiday Inn Eating Area.

Zesa Holdings and its subsidiaries stand reflected the attitude of the personnel manning the stand. It was tired. Last year’s exhibition was way better than this year’s exhibition.

For some reason I felt no motivation to visit Hall 5. There are no prizes for guessing who was housed in Hall 5.

 In my next article, I will explore the effectiveness or lack thereof of trade exhibitions.
Till then keep reading the red publication and remain Brand Savvy.