Show What You’ve Got
It’s not too late for US exporters to apply for International Buyer Program B2B match-making at this Fall’s trade shows | by Bill Armbruster, blog anchor.
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, trade shows and trade fairs are excellent venues for reaching potential customers and suppliers. For US exporters, domestic events are likely to be less expensive than overseas shows, as well as less of a hassle. That’s particularly the case for small companies with tight budgets. Depending on the show and the specific industry, they may also attract more prospective customers.
There are hundreds of trade shows in the US, and thousands around the world. Two good sources for relatively comprehensive lists are the Trade Show News Network and the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.
Regardless of your company’s size and products, you have to be selective. The Commerce Department’s International Buyer Program may be a particularly effective way to identify the domestic show that’s right for you. This joint government-business effort enables you to meet pre-screened prospective buyers from around the world all in one place at selected shows. The latest IBP trade show list provides the remaining events this year. They feature the following industries: apparel, printing and graphic arts, renewable energy, food processing and packaging, environmental technology, baking, biotechnology, textile fabrics, films and videos, dental equipment and two that focus on electrical power systems. The list also includes the 26 events chosen by IBP for 2014, starting with the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Criteria for IBP participation include the potential foreign market for US goods and services exhibited at the show, recommendations from US Commercial Service overseas personnel, and US companies’ success at previous exhibitions. “It’s a very competitive process,” said Gary Rand, director of IBP, which is part of the International Trade Administration.
Last year the IBP recruited over 10,800 prospective buyers from international markets, resulting in 3,860 B2B and business-to-government sessions. The largest this year was the Offshore Technology Show in Houston May 6-9, to which it brought 1,300 foreign buyers.
Rand said foreign buyers pay their own way, while IBP collects a fee from show organizers. It uses the fees to offset the costs of bringing in Commercial Service local staff who recruit potential buyers in their country and lead the delegations to the trade show. If they bring 15 or more companies, the show organizer will give them a free hotel room.
Last year IBP brought in 16 overseas representatives to accompany delegations from their markets to the Greater New York Dental Meeting. “It’s very important,” said Dr. Robert Edwab, executive director of the show, which has been an IBP participant since the 1990s.
At the matchmaking meetings, the overseas staff will translate, if necessary. They also provide trade counseling for US companies. “They will tell them ‘here’s what you need to know about our market and how to achieve success’,” Rand told me in a telephone interview. The counseling includes “includes export mechanics,” such as packaging regulations, standards and documentation requirements, he said.
If a company is exhibiting at an IBP trade show, the firm should contact the project officer named on the IBP list for guidance on how to participate in business matchmaking at the show and to determine if they are export-ready. If not, Commerce will help the company learn the basics of exporting. It is not too late to contact IBP for the fall shows.
IBP has a pilot program for a new online business matchmaking software service that connects US companies and foreign buyers, enabling them to contact each other and schedule meetings before the show. “They can search by industry, region and product line,” Rand said.
Besides the foreign buyers in escorted delegations, there are many others recruited by IBP who come by themselves or in small groups.
Edwab, the dental show chief, said he travels overseas extensively looking for foreign buyers and participation in IBP is a big help in this, too. “They open doors for me. They also distribute my brochures so they help bring in attendees and buyers.”
Bill Armbruster, the anchor for the Datamyne Blog has covered shipping and trade for 30 years as a reporter and editor with The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Digest. “I’ll be blogging on headline news and current issues in oceangoing commerce, trying to shed some light on the backstories and, wherever I can, supply some sound advice for shippers.” Write Bill care of [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.
Date posted: July 31, 2013