Inside PACK EXPO’s International Growth Strategy

Not even Hurricane Sandy could stop PACK EXPO International 2012, one of the largest packaging and processing tradeshows in the world this year. From Oct. 28–31, more than 45,300 attendees came out to McCormick Place, with nearly 7,000 of them coming from other countries, to see 1,965 exhibiting companies on 1.1 million net square feet.

This growth in international attendance represents an 8 percent increase, with total attendance rising by 5 percent. Here, EXPO checks in with Jorge Izquierdo (pictured right), vice president of market development for PMMI, the trade association that produces the show, to find out how this event was able to net such big gains from overseas individuals.

What strategies did PACK EXPO use to attract an international audience?

Jorge Izquierdo:
For almost 15 years now, we have invested some of our budget resources in international promotion. Even if it’s a good year or a bad year, we try to be consistent and be present in every market consistently through the years. In terms of this specific event, what we were trying to do was engage with many of the stakeholders we work with. PACK EXPO works with the International Buyers Program and we’ve been working with this program for over 20 years. In the past five to 10 years we have been very successful in getting delegation leaders to promote our show.

SEE ALSO: 5 Tips for Working with the International Buyers Program

It’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of delegation leaders. The Department of Commerce is under significant pressure to take a look at their budget and how they spend their money and it’s getting harder and harder for the delegation leaders as they are taking care of more industries and are making decisions about which shows to support.

We work with them very early in the year and try to make it easy for them to recruit delegations to come to the show. We try to understand the best ways to support them and in the past we have sent printed materials but now we send more electronic materials. We’ve found it to be easier for them and more cost effective for them to distribute.

How do you balance growth?

For countries that we’re trying to develop a stronger presence with [for] the show, we try to get closer to them and try to put out a little more money in terms of advertising. Sometimes we decide to invest and maybe support them with not just the hotel but airfare as well. We try to make sure they know what our shows are about and what potential visitors could find in our show. It comes down to developing a relationship—we’ve been successful in this program because we’re good a developing relationships and helping attendees understand our show, our products and make it easy to work with our show.

What kind of advertising strategy has PACK EXPO undertaken?

You cannot swallow the whole world. You need to slice the world in pieces and start one region at a time—pick one region and concentrate on working with specific countries and develop a relationship with them. Make sure you’re successful in that specific region before taking the next step.

In terms of materials, we do translate to about eight different languages. We promote in industry-specific magazines—in our case its industries that have intensive use of packaging like food, [pharmaceuticals], beverage and personal care. We also develop a relationship with local associations.

In Mexico, for example, we have a very good relationship with local associations and we try to get all of them to work together. Sometimes it’s not as easy, but after a few years it works well. We try to somehow tailor the information to each group—not just the language but for industries also. We try to personalize things a little more and this past year we have selected four or five different vertical markets that we are pursuing. We try fitting them with different countries we’re approaching.

EXPO: Going forward, what countries do you view as the largest growth areas and how do you plan on approaching individuals in these areas?

PACK EXPO has been consistently strong in North America and a significant number of our international visitors come from Canada and Mexico. After that, Latin America has been pretty good for us and we’re looking to grow our attendance from that region. We are putting more attention on Asia and trying to get more attendees from China, India, Indonesia and Korea.

We’re fortunate to have our own office in China and we’re counting on our director in China to help us develop local relationships. In China we’re getting pretty good at doing that—we have a very good relationship with many associations that are helping us organize different groups to attend the show. We’re looking to the same thing in India, Indonesia and Thailand. That’s what we’ve done in the past and it’s given us good results for our U.S. shows.

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