You’re exporting but who are you selling to?

What I’ve learnt from working with companies that are either exporting, or on the cusp of exporting is that the marketing basics are pretty much the same regardless of the country a client is exporting to; same questions but often different answers.

If you’re to succeed at marketing your products overseas then unless your role is restricted to that of ‘product provider’ only, with your distributor assuming complete responsibility for marketing, you must address the marketing basics.

If you don’t, you risk pouring your marketing budget down the plughole with little to show for it. The good news is that a small budget can go a long way if your marketing is focused and targeted.

Start by defining the target audiences for your products in the country you’re exporting to. There’s likely to be strong similarities to the UK but this should be confirmed through research and you’ll need to grasp the phrases and words used to describe your audiences. Whether you plan on appointing an agent/ distributor or establishing a base in the country manned by your team please be certain you know who you’re selling to.                                          

  • Make a VIP list of the people/organisations you want to target. You should be confident you/your distributors, agents etc can reach them. For each group, do you understand their deep and specific underlying needs for your products? What are the initial hooks likely to secure a hearing? Use your reputation gained in the UK plus any relevant awards, sales landmarks, quality accreditations and endorsements to build a compelling story.
  • Where will you find their contact details? You will need to find data sources plus relevant membership and business/consumer associations/buying groups with a need to buy, stock or, recommend your products.
  • Is there a decision making unit for the groups you’re targeting? (More than one person is involved in the decision to buy)
  • Do you understand the decision making process? How do people arrive at the decision to buy, recommend or stock? Start with your UK model and then look at the differences and similarities.
  • Identify influencers; individuals such as bloggers and columnists who don’t make the purchase but exert influence with your purchasers and so drive sales. Also, membership and trade associations. Influencers help you secure a foothold on the strength of their recommendations.
  • What are the barriers to a sale for each group? What’s stopping them buying into the pitch your agents/distributors/representatives will present? Are there dominant competitors?  Are there financial incentives in place/golden handcuffs for stockists to effectively ‘buy’ their loyalty? Can you overcome these?  You may decide to leave the challenging groups until you have a foothold in your new operating territory.

If you are selling via distributors/agents work closely with them to answer these questions. It’s unlikely they’ll have all the answers. Use them as your initial sounding board. Can they signpost you to other resources to ensure your marketing plan is accurate? Talk to the team at EFCIS about gathering local intelligence.

This is such an important subject I will return to it.

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