2014 International Buyer Program Applications Now Being Accepted

October 14, 2012

The 2014 International Buyer Program (IBP) application process is now open. Interested shows have until Dec. 10 to apply. The International Buyer Program is a joint government-industry effort designed to increase U.S. export sales by promoting international attendance at major U.S. industry exhibitions.

Exhibitors always are looking to connect with qualified buyers. If your show has exhibitors who are interested in exporting their goods and connecting with pre-screened buyers from outside the U.S. you might want to take a close look at this program.

“Our core value proposition is our intensive screening process to ensure the buyers we bring are the right fit for the show” said Gary Rand, acting director of the International Buyer Program at the U.S. Commercial Service.

In order for a show to qualify, it must be a U.S.-based trade show and have taken place for at least one year.

The show should be part of a priority industry sector as outlined in the President’s National Export Initiative, and the organizer must have the capacity to support the program.

Last year, the International Buyer Program brought nearly 15,000 prospective buyers to the U.S. and helped generate almost $1 billion in export successes.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has been participating in the International Buyer Program for five years and works closely with the Department of Commerce on other programs.

CEA estimates they have between 2,000-2,500 attendees come to the show through this program, according to association officials.

John T. Kelley, director of International Programs for CEA, said they participate in the program “because of our exhibitors. The program brings in qualified buyers.”

Another show, PACK EXPO International, has been participating in the IBP for more than 20 years. Ryan Oklewicz, global marketing manager at PMMI, said approximately 1,000 registered IBP buyers, distributors, and agents attend their shows in both Chicago and Las Vegas.

Ryan said the association participates in IBP because it “is committed to enhancing the PACK EXPO brand of trade shows and conferences as world-class events for the packaging and processing industry. Thus, we strive to deliver tradeshows that attract the widest range of attendees from both vertical and international markets.”

He added, “The International Buyer Program offered us a cost-effective channel for promoting the PACK EXPO brand to international audiences and has helped facilitate more export opportunities for American companies exhibiting at our shows.”

What words of wisdom does Kelly have to pass along? “If you are interested in bringing qualified foreign delegates to your show, try it,” he said.

Kelly added 80 percent of their membership is small businesses, and IBP is a great opportunity for them to meet with potential buyers and tap into the export advice of the delegate leaders. “The benefits far outweigh the cost,” he added.

PMMI puts a lot of time and effort into developing their international presence.

“PMMI’s Global Marketing Department makes a substantial commitment of time and resources to support U.S. Commercial Service posts with international buyer recruitment and matchmaking,” Ryan said.

He added, “We also place an emphasis on developing close working relationships with Commercial Specialists around the world, which has helped open doors for many of our members and exhibitors beyond the show.”

While Kelly admits CEA probably is not the norm with the large number of foreign buyers they are bringing into their show, he says his group does a lot of work to get those buyers there.

The foreign delegates coming to CES are given free registration for the showfloor and delegate leaders (U.S. Commercial Service Commercial Specialists) are given free hotel rooms (a requirement by the IBP).

CES builds an international commerce center on the showfloor with six meeting rooms, complimentary food and beverage and interpreters.

CEA also hosts a Global Matchmaking and International Reception for delegates to network with other international attendees and select exhibitors. In addition, Kelly and his team create an Export Interest Directory, which outlines exhibitors who are interested in exporting to certain markets.

They also work with their U.S. Commercial Service Commercial Specialists year round to create specific marketing materials and briefings for each different market.

But what if you’re a smaller show that can’t meet some of the requirements to be part of this program?

“We want to encourage everyone to apply,” Rand said. “We are trying to get creative with how we can help shows no matter who they are, but we can’t do that if they don’t apply.”

The IBP launches pilot programs based on what they are seeing through the application process. They have launched IBP Select, a pilot program for shows under 20,000 attendees and under 1,200 exhibitors.

Delegates from only five countries are recruited. The show need only supply hotel rooms for five delegate leaders, half the square footage on the showfloor is required and the fee to participate is cut in half.

“These people (Commercial Specialists from our overseas posts, as well as domestic trade specialists from across the United States) are not bureaucrats; they are very creative people, and they want to work with show organizers to customize the experience for everyone,” Rand said. “Our interest is helping US companies to increase international sales (period).”

What makes the program more successful for a participating show is what they are willing to put into the program to stay competitive. Basically, these highly qualified buyers need a good reason to come to a show in the U.S. over something closer in say Germany. Gary says it’s important show organizers understand what the foreign market is willing to incentivize.

All of the buyers brought in go through a pre-screening process.

“IBP buyer delegates are carefully vetted by our Commercial Specialists,” Rand said. “These Commercial Specialists are from the 70-plus countries in which operate.  They understand the buyer demand of their countries, know the specific products and services these prospective buyers are looking for, and who those people are.”

They must be doing a pretty good job, as more than 60 percent of shows on the 2013 directory are repeat customers.

For more information and to apply for the 2014 program visit the International Buyers Program website at Export.gov/ibp

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