Greg Seminara, Export Solutions

What works ? Export sales are an important growth driver for many companies. However, there is a clear distinction between those brands which have built vibrant export businesses and brands which have largely failed to gain presence outside their home country. Common advice I give our clients is to think of the requirements for a new brand to enter their home country: ( research, spending, partners etc.) and then apply those same fundamental requirements to their own business plan to the export to a new country while adjusting costs for population.

Listed below are Export Solutions Ten Tips for export success.

1. Conduct a category assessment visit prior to market entry.
Visit the country and spend a day at retail visiting stores that would be likely customers for your brands. Create a template to capture basic information such as competitive product assortment/variants, sizing, pricing, shelf space allocated to the category and merchandising practices. Arrange a “fact finding” visit to local distributors, market contacts, and your countries foreign trade office for insights into common launch strategies, cost to enter, and margins. These store checks can help you estimate the “size of the prize” or you can purchase official category data from Nielsen or Euromonitor. Do your homework !

2. Establish a meaningful USP ( Unique Selling Proposition)
Most markets will not support another “me-too” brand. Meaningful new product innovations race across the globe in record time. The key is to review the competitive intelligence gathered during your market assessment (point 1 above) and sync with your own core competencies. What “news” can you bring to the category ? Innovation, nutritional claims, sizing, pricing, incremental category profits, unique advertising, or “Heavy Spend Plan” all serve as meaningful USP alternatives.

3. Create a well defined plan
This includes all the fundamentals: product assortment, pricing, marketing support, trade channel targets, timeline for key activities, and measures. A collaborative plan reflecting the insights and agreement from your local partner is critical.

4. Extensive Due Diligence to Select the Right Distributor/Partner
The first steps is to establish selection criteria. The choice between looking for the biggest distributor in a market versus a niche specialist is an important decision. Export Solutions maintains an extensive distributor identification process which includes starting with a broad range of candidates ( our database tracks about 45 distributors/country), meet with 3 companies in market with the greatest interest level, check their results in-store for existing brands, and conduct reference checks with current brands and financial organizations. Ultimately, we look for a category specialist, with a solid plan, that is enthusiastic about to representing our product.

5. Find the right person at the distributor to lead your business
Careful attention should be placed at selecting the person who will manage the “day to day” issues on your business at the distributor. Is it the company owner who controls the resources , but has little time ? Or is it an energetic college graduate with great ideas , but less clout ? The key is to select an individual who combines the ability to influence their organization with the passion and creativity to build your business.

6. Invest in Consumer Awareness Activities
Today’s consumer has many choices. Successful brands invest in marketing to gain consumer trial. Sampling works well in virtually every market and naturally advertising is powerful if you can afford it. The trade will be motivated to support your programs if they know that consumers will come to their store looking for your brand. “Best in Class” distributors can create a marketing plan even with a limited budget.

7. Invest in Trade Incentives
There is a cost of doing business in every market. The retail trade is in the business to make a profit and “trade incentives” is an important source of income. The key is to convince your customer regarding the benefits of reinvesting some of this money into in-store activities, reduced prices, or participation in their special offers flier.

8. Strong Focus on Store Level Presence
Retail stores represent the showcases for our brands. Winners dedicate significant focus to achieving in store objectives on assortment, pricing, shelf space/location, and off shelf merchandising. Attention to store level presence is a 365 day per year task, not just a one time only event.

9. Management Oversight from the Brand Owner
It takes two parties working together to create a winning export proposition. The brand owner must be engaged in key issues and visit the market periodically to measure progress versus key initiatives. The “distributor respects what the brand owner inspects.”

10. Establish realistic expectations/measures
Manufacturers that follow points 1-9 above will gain a realistic viewpoint on their brands potential for the market. All brand owners are optimistic and it is okay to set “stretch” objectives, particularly in year 2 or year 3 of a brands life cycle. However, a better strategy may be to plan for modest initial results and be pleasantly surprised when your brand exceeds expectations.