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Insights to Accelerate International Expansion
300 Tips for Export Managers
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One of my favorite Beatles songs
is “We get by with a little help from
our friends.” Export managers build
international businesses through
advice from their network of
colleagues, countrymen, and
distributors. I am grateful for my
export friends that serve as the
inspiration for many of my Export
Express articles.
Export Express has released a “Best
of Ten Tips” compilation resource.
This guide contains more than
300 timeless tips for building your
export business and managing
distributors. More than 400,000
industry professionals have visited
our web site to study our strategies
and suggestions for building brands
in overseas markets. Our reader
feedback suggests that our Ten Tips
columns are appreciated for sharing
practical commercial advice on
common export issues.
Our future success is dependent on
our ability to expand our sales to the
world’s 7.9 billion consumers. Export
Solutions can help!
Greg’s Ten Tips
1. Good news travels fast and bad
news travels slowly
2. If you want to know what’s
really going on, spend a day
visiting stores
3. Pick up the phone and call a friend
or business partner versus email
4. Be positive. Think, “why not?”
5. Results are directly proportionate
to your investment:
Marketing, People, Focus, Time
6. A distributor (or Broker) “respects”
what the Brand owner “inspects”
7. Shipment numbers rarely lie
8. Put it in writing
9. If two people agree on the
principle of a deal, you can usually
work out the financial terms
10. There is more in common with
industry practices across the globe
than differences. Brand owners
everywhere desire more shelf
presence and retailers demand
more discounts. Recognize the
differences, but focus on the
universal requirement for superior
products, marketed at a fair price.
300 Tips for Export Managers
Page 2
How to Win 2022 – Ten Tips
Page 7
How Exporters Build Brands
Page 27
Ten Things That Distributors Like
Page 31
New Country Expansion Prioritization
Page 34
International Expansion
Shoestring Budget
Page 41
New Product Launch:
Ready, Set, Grow – Ten Tips
Page 43
Ten Tips – Common Export Mistakes
Page 52
Ten Tips Translating Export Inquiries into
Incremental Sales
How to Win 2022 – Ten Tips
2022 will be challenging and everyone can benefit from “new
ideas.” Listed below are Export Solutions’ 10 strategies to build
your export business in 2022 and beyond.
Focus 5 Countries
A true measure of export success is relevant market share in large
countries like China, USA, Japan, Mexico or Saudi Arabia, not
selling small quantities to 50 or 100 countries. Each international
manager should select his global “Focus 5” countries and strive to
spend at least fifty percent of travel time in core countries. Regional
managers should adapt the same mantra for gamechanging results
at their top one or two opportunity countries.
China Strategy Renewal
Most brands have learned that China is not a country where
you can appoint a national distributor and visit a few times
a year. E-commerce represents most of industry growth and
up to 50% of sales for imported brands. Many companies
appear at a “10 Year Crossroads.” There is an urgent need to
hire “boots on the ground” in China to execute a multi-channel,
multi-region strategy.
Small Shops – Big Opportunity
Small stores represent 50% of sales or more in many emerging
market countries in Asia, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa.
These stores are particularly relevant for impulse categories such
as beverages and confectionery/snack. Small shops are not a
focus for niche brands or start-ups.
Will e-commerce represent ten percent of sales by 2025?
Twenty percent? Who knows? We can all agree that it will be
bigger. Challenge each distributor to develop an e-commerce
plan. Share learning from your corporate office. Treat Amazon
as another “Global Customer.”
New Channels
My Summer Export Express identified 23 “alternate” channels
that could represent new customers. These channels tend to be
“less demanding” and more open to new brands.
USA – Multi Channel
USA based manufacturers routinely sell to ten channels or more.
Most adopt a matrix model meshing channel specific brokers
for supermarkets and foodservice with direct sales to Walmart,
Costco, and Drug customers. Overseas brand owners should
adopt the same approach to reach all USA channels and regions.
Listing Map
An up-to-date listing map and “white space” plan is the essential
one-page template for every country.
Is the Store a 10?
Can 2022 be the year for focus on improved in-store brand
presence? Brands (& distributors) own the tools and knowledge
to reach these objectives. The critical element is your focus and
execution of a formal shelf drive. Contact us if we can help.
Upgrade Distributor Network
Every company has distributors that are “under-achievers” or that are
no longer a good fit with the brands aspirations. Begin the “upgrade”
process early in the year to impact second half 2022 shipments.
Export Team
How can you redefine roles and responsibilities to obtain more
productivity from your export team? One idea is to appoint one
manager to focus on new country pioneering for a large country
as a special project or “stretch” assignment. Another concept is to
place a junior “company missionary” in a key distributor’s office
for a one year training assignment.Contact Export Solutions for
“new ideas to solve old problems.”
2022 Winning Strategies
Geographic Focus 5 Countries
China Strategy Renewal
Channel Small shops
E Commerce
Alternate Channels
USA-Multi Channel
Sales Execution Listing Map
Is the Store a 10?
Organization Upgrade Distributors
Export Team
Every international manager spends
hours preparing senior management
presentations. What happens when you
get called to see the CEO “right away”
or you see him in the elevator coming
back from lunch? The obvious question
is “how is it going?” Export Solutions
shares our 10 tips to “impress the boss.”
Shipments vs. Annual Budget
The CEO has the corporate number
to hit and wants to know if you will
achieve your fair share. Orders are nice,
but shipments translate to revenue.
Measure progress versus time elapsed
and compare versus similar time period
last year. Publicly traded companies are
concerned with quarterly metrics, while
privately held businesses may focus on
total year budgets. Be specific, be
accurate, and do not appear overly
optimistic. Discuss shipment
performance first before you raise
points regarding market dynamics.
Remedial Plan
Some exporters are blessed with
healthy businesses, tracking ahead
of pace. Most of us will land right
on target. A few are struggling.
Shortfalls happen for a hundred
reasons including currency
fluctuations, competitive activity, and
reduced investment. The key is to have
your remedial plan ready. Do not be
afraid to ask for more spending if you
need help. If management refuses, at
least you have tried to correct the gap
versus expectations.
Core Countries
Focus your update on the top five
countries that drive your business.
This sounds obvious but I have
personally listened to many
enthusiastic success stories about
Latvia, Malta, and Bahamas. Good
news, but the chief wants to know
what is happening in focus countries.
Risk to Plan
CEO’s assessment by the board
depends on accurate guidance on
current performance as well as long
range outlook. Smart executives can
read shipment reports, but want to
identify potential risks to the plan.
Surprises are tough to digest.
Transparency on challenges as
well as upside is appreciated.
What’s Working? What’s Not?
Many companies export to 20, 50, 100
countries or more. Results include a
mix of top performers and laggards.
I endorse the practice of sending a
mid-year, one-page report card to
each distributor. Include a request
for feedback on “what’s working and
what’s not.” Share key findings with
your manager and CEO.
How Can We Double the Business
in Three Years?
The CEO wants your opinion on
accelerated growth options. Leaders
are not content with 5 percent
increases. Doubling the business
may include acquisitions of overseas
category players or construction of
offshore factories. Think big!
Required Investments and Resources
Historically, export is starved for
resources. Which comes first: sales
or investment? Lay out your priorities
for the executive team.Validate export
rationale for more headcount.
Test Updates
Every company should be seeking
new ways to solve old problems.
Update management on new initiatives.
Share positive news as well as tests
that provided learning, but results
behind expectations.
How is the Team?
Export development is a team sport.
Caring CEOs will want to learn how
your group is doing, particularly
in offshore locations. Share your
organizational development plan,
training activities, succession
planning, and status of new hires.
How Can She (or He) Help?
Most CEOs are supportive and
genuinely interested in helping.
Business in the home country may
be mature and international always
provides a pathway to higher growth.
Create your short “wish list.” Invite the
boss to visit your markets or call a key
distributor. Ask for support for your
“pet” project. Always keep your
immediate manager in the loop!
CEO Update: 10 Tips to Impress the Boss
Many supermarkets offer sections
dedicated to products from foreign
countries. The “Homesick” shelf allocates
one meter, mini departments, represented
by iconic niche brands from the USA,
Germany, Italy, UK, Brazil, or Mexico.
Despondent expatriates rush to this
section hoping to find their favorite
candy or “sauce” brand from back home.
Often, this represents a “foot in the door”
and a starting place for your business
development. However, most brands
soon become frustrated with this remote
shelf location and plot strategies to enter
the main fixture to compete side by side
versus local competitors. Read Export
Solutions Ten Tips to gravitate from
“Homesick Shelf to Category Captain.”
1. Analyze the Data
Government census data (and embassies)
can reveal the number of your citizens
in a foreign country. For example, in the
USA there are many Italians and Brits in
New York, Germans in Pennsylvania and
Mexicans in California. Tourism statistics
also supply guidance where to find your
current customer base overseas. Current
sales per capita figures indicate countries
where your brand has traction beyond
your core expatriate base. This analysis
provides you with the first clues on
where to focus your investments.
2. Research Local Preferences
A food scientist or market research
company could study local food
preferences and your product portfolio.
Are there options to incorporate your
brand into traditional recipes? Consider
adapting your core product line to meet
local flavor preferences. Pringles built
exceptional sales and excitement by
launching innovative new flavors such as
Jalapeno, Curry, Grilled Shrimp, Ketchup,
and Pizza.
3. Test “Higher Spend” Marketing Plan
Everyone knows the fundamentals of
brand building: sampling, billboards,
radio, and social media. Usually,
exporters may be hesitant to invest in
advance of sales. However, it may be
“low risk” to pick one small-medium
size country to test a targeted marketing
support plan.
4. Hire a Local Manager
It’s tougher and tougher to manage
exports via remote control from company
headquarters. Smart exporters are
opening offices in regional centers like
Shanghai and Dubai for placement close
to the action. You have a choice to send a
missionary from company headquarters
or a local hire who understands the
language, market, and how to get things
done at store level.
5. Focus on Upscale Supermarkets
Identify the “upscale” supermarket chain
in a country. Their consumer base is likely
more adventurous and boasts higher
purchasing power. Invest to be a category
leader at these high profile customers.
Often, middle income supermarkets look
to these upscale chains for assortment
inspiration. In the USA, think of HEB and
Whole Foods first, not Walmart. In the
UK, look to Waitrose vs. Morrison’s. The
same analogy applies to every market.
6. Manufacture in Country
Eliminating overseas freight charges and
duties may allow you to compete more
effectively on a price basis. Labeling in
the local language may be a plus. A small
factory also establishes you as a member
of the community with employees that
will create goodwill. A manufacturing
site may be complex and expensive, but
co-packers may represent another option.
7. Move to a Bigger Distributor
Frequently, a new brand will align with
a small distributor consolidating brands
from one country. This is a logical and
viable strategy to get started. However,
I’ve witnessed countless cases where the
brand’s aspirations and requirements
outstrip the capabilities of the small
distributor. Brands may consider moving
to a more powerful distributor, with
deeper brand building capabilities.
Warning: be prepared to invest more
with a big distributor or you risk losing
ground as unsupported brands may
get lost in the mix. Export Solutions’
database tracks an average of 85
distributors per country.
8. Sponsor a Sports Team or Charity
Fans everywhere love their teams.
Alignment and support of a local
sports team yields dividends. Pick a
charity that contains a meaningful link
to your product or target consumer.
Many supermarket chains have a
favorite charity providing a route to
collaborate with a trading partner for
a worthwhile cause.
9. Bring Your Team
Retailers are desperate for fact based
consumer insights. Bring your research
and technical experts from headquarters
to visit overseas retailers and distributors.
Let them “wow” them with their category
knowledge. Note: you may need to coach
your experts on appropriate messages as
sometimes foreign buyers don’t care how
you operate in Chicago or London.
10. Create an Anniversary Event
Many brands have been available
in foreign markets for 10, 20, 30 years
or more. Why not design an anniversary
event commemorating “25 years in the
______ Market.” Elements could include
special packages, consumer contest,
public relations, charitable donations,
and a celebratory dinner for your
retail customers.
Ten Tips: From Homesick Shelf to Category Captains
The classic industry question is: “How do you maintain
distributor focus on your company priorities once you leave the
market?” There is no easy answer, but a solution is to encourage
a distributor to “fall in love” with your brand and company.
Falling in love is based upon an attraction to a person and
enjoyment of spending time with them. The same feelings can
apply to a brand. I regularly witness super human efforts by
distributors for small and medium sized brands just because
of “Brand Love.” Listed below are Ten Tips to romance your
distributors to superior results.
1. Master Chef Endorsement
The first step is convince the distributor team to be passionate
consumers of your product and enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
For food products, invite all of the group to lunch at a popular
local restaurant. Pay a well-known chef to prepare a meal
featuring your products. Or cook lunch for them yourself.
For candy and snack brands, provide samples to share with
the distributor’s children’s sports clubs. Provide frequent
and generous samples to all of the distributor team.
2. Fun Sales Meetings
Every distributor has sales meetings for their entire company.
These are usually a repetitive drone of Powerpoint slides. Why
not hire an agency to create a fun presentation module which may
include audience participation, games, or costumes? Or sponsor
a local motivational speaker or training workshop using your
products as the case studies. Break the mold of boring meetings!
3. Provide Great Customer Service
Respond to requests quickly. Ship complete containers to keep
the pipeline filled. Pay all bill-backs promptly.
4. Distributor Awards
Recognize your high performing distributors with an award.
This could be Distributor of the Year or for $1 million in sales
or for 15 years of partnership. Some companies sponsor smaller
awards for key account manager of the year in each market and
retail representative of the year. Publicize the event by awarding
a plaque, hold an awards luncheon, take photos and share a press
release of the celebration.
5. VIP Visit to Corporate Headquarters
Treat your distributors as VIPs at your corporate office. This
trip creates a memorable bonding experience and a chance for
you to serve as a good host. Take the distributor to a product
development lab and organize a meal with your CEO or
executive officers. Make him feel like part of the family.
6. Support Local Events and Charities
Creative distributors drive incremental sales through local
marketing events. Display a willingness to support their ideas
and invest in new programs. Events that sync with the
distributors (or retailers) special charity build substantial
goodwill and appreciation.
7. Annual Incentive Trip
Many companies sponsor trips for distributor executives who
attain their annual sales quota. Mid-size brands source added
focus by sharing the benefits of a good year by inviting achievers
(and spouses?) to trips in resort locations like Hawaii or
international cities such as Rome. Everyone works hard
to qualify and vow to return “year after year.”
8. Holiday Baskets
Send baskets or gift packs to distributor employees that include
your product and other adjacent holiday items. The idea is to
extend your brand’s relationship to your partner’s homes.
9. Distributor Advisory Council
Form a small elite group of distributors to advise your company
on international development. Meet twice a year with access
to your companies senior management. All members of the
Distributor Advisory Council will meet their sales target.
10. Treat Distributors as Your Best Customers
Be nice. Say “thank you” frequently. Send handwritten notes to
people to recognize a nice display or a fixed problem. Have fun
while you work.
Distributors may work with twenty brands or more, each
shouting for attention. Distributors support all their brands, but
there is no magic science to allocate time equally. Naturally, we
all spend more time and effort for the brands and people we like.
What can you do to make your distributors “Fall in Love?”
Ten Tips Getting a Distributor to Love Your Brand
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Exporters envy the massive clout
and impressive results generated by
multinationals such as Nestle & Procter
and Gamble. These powerful brand
builders succeed in emerging markets
by adhering to a well defined new
business development process. Their
approach represents an ideal mix of
global category knowledge with local
execution. Recapped below are key
elements on how multinationals win
in international markets.
Market Research
Multinationals invest in both qualitative
research and syndicated data. Significant
effort is directed to understand local
consumer behavior, shopper insights,
and attitudes to new product concepts.
This information is paired with
syndicated data from providers such as
Nielsen and Euromonitor. This allows
companies to study trends and calibrate
the “size of the prize.”
Innovation & Adaptation
New product ideas sweep the globe
these days. There are too many “me too”
products, offering little differentiation
to global buyers. Multinationals dedicate
technical resources to identify the “next
big thing.” Their point of difference is the
ability to adapt these big ideas to local
tastes and habits. This may be achieved
through a unique marketing approach,
adjustment of a flavor profile, or a distinct
package appropriate for a local market.
Local Production
Manufacturing facilities close to
your consumers supply a tremendous
competitive advantage. Direct benefits are
sourced from the elimination of overseas
logistics costs and duties. This translates
to lower shelf prices and more money to
invest in marketing or higher gross
margins. A plant is usually associated
with scale and creation of a local
subsidiary. These employees and their
families become “brand ambassadors” for
the companies where they work. A factory
presence creates spending and pride in a
community. Factories may be expensive,
but co-packing may be another option.
Close to the Customer
Multinationals typically enjoy special
customer “intimacy.” Their critical mass
and importance to the retailer create
more of a balanced relationship and
partnership. The multinationals local
management may be empowered to make
decisions quickly without needing to
check with an overseas office.
Multifunctional Team Support
All commercial teams have sales people,
but multinationals may offer “on the
ground” customer support in other
critical functions. This includes product
supply, financial, marketing, information
technology, and customer service. It takes
a professional “team” to win in our
business, not just a “super salesman.”
Marketing Investment
Large companies maintain the resources
to invest in consumer marketing and
trade support programs. All brands
allocate dollars to these activities, but
multinationals fund their launches to
include television advertising, social
media and consumer sampling. They
entice retailers with large discounts
and rebates in return for impactful
shelf visibility and massive end of
aisle displays.
Competitive Pricing
Multinationals’ scale allows them to
offer competitive pricing in a market.
Frequently, their pricing strategy for
a new brand will include a structure
at parity versus current players or even
at a savings. This creates a measurable
advantage versus brands entering with
“super premium” pricing and little
marketing support.
Category Expertise
Multinationals frequently serve as
“Category Captains” yielding benefits
and respect from retailers. They are
viewed as important sources of
category trends,insights, and analysis.
A multinational brings knowledge from
adjacent categories or markets that can
be applied to a new product launch.
Think Big
New product launches from multinationals
contain high expectations, focus, and
support levels. Typically, these initiatives
are aimed at creating new brands with
sales measured in the millions. New
product launch plans feature three year
sales targets and investments. Normally,
these brands lose money in year 1, break
even in year 2, and budget positive cash
flow for years 3 and beyond.
Glocal Strategy
International marketers win with
a “Glocal” approach. This involves
leveraging “global” category expertise
and resources and adopting it to a “local”
market. Multinationals win because they
offer critical mass in the country of their
corporate headquarters, as well as
international countries.
How Multinationals Build Brands
1. World Cuisine
Foreign travel and exposure to world cuisine has sparked an
appreciation of food and confectionery products from around
the globe. Today’s consumers enjoy diverse food choices as
they plan their weekly menus. Asians may consider American
or UK brands as ethnic food, just as we consider Thai or Mexican
cuisine as “international.” Successful exporters focus on
traditional products and favorite brands from their home country
that may be considered to unique to citizens of other nations.
What is your products USP (unique selling proposition)?
2. Visit Each Country
Export managers should visit each country at least once. It’s easy
to capture the pulse of a market by visiting stores and meeting
with distributor candidates. Winning requires the combination
of your brand and category expertise matched with your
distributor’s mastery of local industry practices.
3. Complete Homework
Veteran exporters complete fundamental research on category
conditions prior to market entry. This includes size of the
category, competing brands, pricing, and merchandising
standards. Careful consideration should be applied to what
added value your brand contributes to the existing category
dynamics in a new market.
4. Choose the Right Distributor
Selecting the right partner is the third most critical success factor
after creating a meaningful USP and commitment to invest in
brand building activities. Finding the distributor that is a right
fit is a difficult task. Most brands prefer to align with a category
specialist (i.e., confectionery distributor) or a distributor that
specializes in brands from your home country. In every case, look
for a distributor that is passionate about your brand and offers
sufficient scale to achieve your business objectives.
5. Crawl, Walk, Run
Export is not easy and new business development always takes
longer than the optimistic dates we place in our timeline. Start
with listings at upscale supermarkets and global retailers. Create
a success story at a few high profile retailers versus trying to sell
to all accounts during year one.
6. Results: Proportional to Your Investment
Every country maintains a universal requirement to invest in
consumer and trade marketing activities. How much does it cost
to secure shelf presence and merchandising support at the
leading supermarket chain in your home country? Why should it
be any less expensive to enter a foreign country where your
brand is unknown? Your investment level signals to distributors
and retailers your commitment to the market.
7. Premium Pricing
International brands may command as much as a fifty percent
price premium versus local products. Savvy consumers recognize
high quality, foreign products and are willing to pay a slight
premium. Super premium pricing rarely works, as families
hesitate to try a new brand that costs one hundred percent more
than other category options.
8. Guerilla Marketing Activities
Successful distributors are magicians at creating brilliant
programs with minimal investment. Export managers challenge
their partners to develop “outside the box” programs to build
brands. The concept is to establish a culture that rewards
innovative, promotional activity.
9. Leverage Government & Trade Support Organizations
Exports mean jobs and most American and European countries
have established valuable programs and resources to facilitate
exports. Many activities are free or are available at a substantial
discount. For example, in the Confectionery sector, the National
Confectionery Association (USA), German Sweets, and ABICAB
(Sweet Brazil), all provide excellent resources for new and
experienced exporters.
10. Get Your Distributors to Love Your Brand
Experienced Exporters are multi-taskers, able to juggle many
priorities with far fewer resources than multinationals. An
essential skill is to inspire a network of foreign distributors to fall
in love with your brand.This requires you to earn your position
as a preferred supplier by serving as a responsive partner that
supports your brand with product innovation and marketing
investments. Distributors will work harder for people that
recognize their efforts and are fun to be around.
How Exporters Build Brands
Talk to an Expert
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Next Level Sales Management
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to
discuss your business development project.
Have you ever experienced an incredible
first meeting with a distributor? Strong
alignment, good fit, everyone smiling,
timelines agreed. Then, nothing happens!
The export manager may take up to six
months to translate his outlook from
“done deal” to “dead deal.” There are
two reasons why this occurs.
First, distributors are positive,
competitive athletes, always striving
to win new business. However, in some
cases, the distributors wake up after time
to reflect and decide they really weren’t
that interested in the brand after all.
Failure also results when a strong
first personal meeting at a trade show
or distributors office is followed by
a relationship buried in email
communication, with no personal touch.
Below are Export Solutions’ Ten Tips on
converting promising new business leads
into tangible business partnerships.
1. Zoom/Teams – Don’t Depend on Email
Motivated distributors still return phone
calls, but frequently receive up to 200
emails a day, many from existing brand
partners. Top distributors’ business days
are captured by a continuous flow of
meetings with customers, principals,
and their own employees. Best bet is to
call a potential partner or set up Zoom
meetings. Email is okay for routine
correspondence, but too easy to ignore
or delete.
2. Follow Up Immediately & Frequently
Time slips away, as Export Managers
focus on existing businesses and
“problems of the day.” One tip is to
put regular follow up reminders on
your computer calendar.
3. Focus on 10 C’s: Category Review,
Calculation, Cost of Plan, Compliance,
Contract, etc.
Described below are critical elements to
translate a “lead” into shipments.
Category Review: How does your
category look in target country? Category
size, competition,pricing,margins, and
merchandising activity.
Calculation: What is the distributor’s
proposed calculation from your factory
gate to the store shelf? What are standard
costs like duties and taxes? What are
flexible or negotiable like trade discounts
and distributor margin?
Cost of Plan: Each brand needs a plan
to gain market entry. This includes key
account “sell in,”
followed by consumer
and trade promotion
activities. Look at the
distributor’s proposed
plan, as well as several
options with different
price tags.
Compliance: Many
countries feature a
product registration
process and labeling
requirements. In some
countries, this step is
easy with automatic
compliance for a USA
or European brand. Or a
simple solution with a small distributor
applied sticker. In other countries like
Japan or Indonesia, plan on one year or
more to navigate the complex process.
Contract: “Ready, Set, Go” can be delayed
by 3-6 months due to contract negotiations.
Company lawyers demand 20 page
agreements in English that even the
Brits can’t understand. Distributors
prefer two page letters of understanding
or a handshake deal. Do what is right
for your business, but expect delays
and frustration.
4. Request References
A good idea is to quickly request
distributor references from other brands
they handle. Motivated distributors will
send impressive references right away.
Also, have your credit department run
a Dun and Bradstreet or Equifax report
as soon as possible. Many trade show
meetings are with “pretenders” who state
exaggerated claims and are ultimately too
small to handle your brand. Better to
discover this sooner versus later.
5. Move Beyond the Distributor Owner/MD
The distributor owner “writes the
checks,” but frequently serves as a
“bottleneck.” The key is to quickly get
your brand assigned to a “worker” whose
task is to move your project through the
system and produce an order!
6. Establish Realistic Timelines
Sync with category review dates and avoid
holiday periods. Update timelines
frequently. New distributor relationships
always take longer. Plan on six months
from first meeting to first shipment. Be
pleasantly surprised if things move quicker.
7. Distributor Response Time
Signals Interest Level
How often do you check your emails?
Probably every hour. When I work
on distributor search projects for well
known brands like Pringles, Tabasco,
or Barilla, distributor response is
lightening fast. Motivated distributors
will chase you if they are interested
because they are anxious to start selling
your brand!
8. Establish Regular Checkpoint Calls
I suggest every two weeks at a
minimum. Use a common document of
priorities, action steps, and due dates.
9. Visit the Distributor
It’s amazing the amount of progress
that will be made during a meeting
at the distributor’s office. Also, the
distributor will work hard in advance of
your visit as your project moves up the
priority list and they want to guarantee
a favorable impression. A visit to the
distributor’s market signals your
commitment. Beware if the distributor
is reluctant to schedule your visit. Either
he has changed his mind about a
partnership or his office and capabilities
do not match the bold promises made at
the initial trade show meeting.
10. Parallel Path Two Candidates per Country
A favorable first meeting represents an
excellent start. However, there are still
many steps (think 10 C’s in point 3)
before you sign a contract and receive
your first order. Always keep two
candidates in the process, in case your
top choice disappoints. This can be
tough, but represents a better option
than needing to start the entire process
over again.
Ten Tips: Converting Promising Leads to New Partnerships
Every exporter has countries where
their brand performance lags far behind
expectations and market potential. This
appears as a serious issue when the poor
results are in a large strategic country like
the USA or China. The first step to fixing
the situation is to admit that you have
a problem. Too many times, export
managers loyally cling to their plan and
existing distributor with hope that “next
year will be better.” The likelihood is that
sub-par trends will continue without
intervention. Remember, it’s your quota
and job that suffer due to lackluster
results in a country. Listed below are
Export Solutions’ 10 Tips on action
steps for under performing countries.
1. Look in the Mirror
Chances are that your current brand
proposition is wrong for the country. Your
product sales are a reflection on buyer and
consumer response to your product range.
An underqualified partner does not help,
but is usually just part of the problem.
2. Research Consumer Habits
Conduct category research to understand
why consumers in a foreign country do
not appreciate your brand like they
do “back home.” Category habits and
development vary widely, particularly
around food products. Recently, I
confirmed several examples where Asian
consumers demonstrated little interest in
certain Western style foods (although
everyone loves candy and snacks!).
3. Investment Level
Many poor performers suffer the classic
issue of insufficient funds to invest in
marketing and trade programs. There is a
cost of doing business everywhere and the
investment requirements can be huge in a
place like China or the USA. Best bet is to
break down the country into smaller areas
and focus on targeted investments with
high potential, regional retailers where
your brand has a higher probability of
success. Avoid the attraction of large,
national retailers where you realistically
cannot support the business. Don’t expect
miracles without basic investments in
marketing and trade promotion.
4. Establish and Track In Store KPI’s
Many exporters focus primarily on monthly
shipment numbers. Shipments represent
the ultimate scorecard, but we strongly
advocate the implementation of in-store
metrics. This process starts with major
account listing maps,
tracking your SKU
level authorizations
for major customers.
The second step is to
launch and measure
in-store presence
guidelines. How do
you judge a good
store from a bad
store? Ultimately,
shipments are
a reflection of
consumer purchases,
not inventory sitting
in a distributor’s
warehouse. “What’s
measured is treasured.”
5. Spend a Day at Retail With
Your Distributor Executives
We all spend too much time in comfy
meeting rooms sharing PowerPoint
presentations with optimistic plans.
Dedicate time for retail with the
distributor executive team. Visit stores
at random, picking an area on the other
side of town from the distributor’s office.
Create a store check sheet to capture
observations such as shelf space,
promotions, and competitive activity.
Speak to aisle clerks and store managers
to get “street smart” on your product
and category performance.
6. Secure Direct Buyer Feedback
Every distributor should maintain
excellent trade relations with at least one
of his key accounts (if not all!). Schedule
an appointment or a lunch with a friendly
buyer to secure his point of view. Try to
keep the conversation focused around
category dynamics and trends versus just
a request for more trade spending. Buyers
love to serve as “experts” and may
support you if you follow their advice.
7. Distributor Brand Manager
The Distributor Brand Manager serves
as our everyday contact and the conduit
to distributor resources. Problems may
relate to having an experienced brand
manager handling too many companies
or a junior brand manager, lacking the
clout to get things done with the busy
sales team. We all like our Brand
Managers, as they take our calls
and rescue us periodically, However,
sometimes it’s just not working and
you need a change.
8. Share Best Practices – Adjacent Countries
Every distributor will be quick to point
out “How different their country is.”
The reality is that there are more
similarities between countries than
differences. Look at an adjacent country
or one with common retailers and share
lessons learned. This may represent a
category review, presentation approach
or special sales contest. Invite the brand
manager to visit a successful country
or attend a meeting where best practices
are shared.
9. FaceTime in the Trenches
Distributors appreciate export managers
willing to contribute to joint resolution
of problems. Consider sending a
company employee to work for 3-6
months on assignment at the distributor.
Visit quarterly or more frequently.
Schedule bi-weekly update calls. Better
to focus attention on fixing a high
potential country than regular visits
to small countries achieving their
objectives. “Distributor respects what
the principal inspects.”
10. Partner Change
A distributor change is the last resort,
but sometimes partners outgrow each
other and are no longer a “fit.” Export
Solutions’ database tracks an average
of 82 distributors per country, so you
always maintain options. Transition
to a new distributor involves business
disruption and even a temporary decline
in shipments. The good news is that
your new distributor will be motivated,
committed and anxious to make a
positive impression with a fast start.
The key is to manage the process with
dignity and open communication, so
that the terminated distributor is not
surprised by your actions.
Ten Tips: Action Steps for Poor Performing Countries
Export Accelerator
Contact Us for Distributor Search Help in 96 Countries
Greg Seminara • greg@exportsolutions.com
“Spend time Selling to Distributors versus
Searching for Distributors”
Why have Barilla, Pringles, Nature Valley, Starbucks, Duracell,
Nestlé, Tabasco, Pepperidge Farm, and other leaders used
Export Solutions as a distributor search consultant?
Powerful distributor network: owner of industry database
9,200 distributors – 96 countries
Professional 10 step due diligence process
Results! We make Export Managers’ lives easier!
E-commerce now accounts for nine percent of USA omnichannel
sales, up twelve percent in the last year according to Nielsen.
Grocery e-commerce sales arre projected to exceed $130 billion
in 2022. No one can accurately gauge how big e-commerce will
become, but it is safe to predict that it will be much, much bigger
in the next five years. Billion dollar multinationals and scrappy
start-ups are attacking this channel with vigor, widening the
performance gap versus successful national brands. In China
and India, e-commerce accounts for a majority of the sales for
many imported products. Read Export Solutions’ ten tips for
capturing your fair share of the growth in this strategic channel.
1. Conduct E-Commerce Survey for Core Countries
Create a one page template capturing local e-commerce
customers, online grocery trends and current distributor
engagement. Calibrate where each country is on a development
curve. Source best practices from distributors in China, India,
United Kingdom, and the USA where e-commerce maintains
highest acceptance levels.
2. Speak to Millennials
Spend time with young people, learning how they shop
and blaze through digital marketing messages. Learn why
millennials avoid “their mothers brands” and how many rarely
make a “stock up shop” at a neighborhood supermarket. Another
revelation is the trust that they place in online reviews and key
influencer recommendations.
3. Create a Global E-Commerce Strategy
Align with your company’s overall e-commerce strategy.
Establish benchmarks and toolkits to share with your
distributors. Acknowledge the fast pace of development,
allowing flexibility to pivot fast.
4. Distributors: E-Commerce Business Plan
Request each distributor to create a 2022 e-commerce business
plan. Include new distribution targets, marketing plans, and
shipment objectives for e-commerce customers. Challenge
distributors to hire a young person to serve as a dedicated
e-commerce key account manager. Review each distributor’s
e-commerce marketing plan early and often in 2022.
“A distributor respects, what the brand owner inspects.”
5. Learn Online Marketing Tactics
Goodbye end caps and slotting allowances. Hello “pay per
click” and first page search results. Unlimited shelf space exists
in cyberspace, with room for every sku that you (and your
competitors) produce. Face-to-face buyer meetings are replaced
by online marketing menu programs and transparent sales
ranking information. Learn the new rules or you will fail the
e-commerce test.
6. Treat Amazon and Alibaba as Global Customers
Amazon revenue will exceed $500 billion by 2022, including
more than $400 billion sourced from sales of goods. Amazon
will comfortably rank as the world’s number two retailer, far
exceeding sales by Carrefour or Costco. Multinational category
leaders have established customer teams to service Amazon.
Many place their best, young talent against this high growth
customer. Multifunctional team roles may share the same titles
in Finance, Supply Chain and Marketing, but the “work” is much
different. What dedicated resources are assigned to Amazon and
Alibaba today at your company?
7. Consider a Web Shop
Direct to consumer represented a complex route to market in the
past. Today, new brands and leading companies are jumping at
the opportunity to showcase their innovation and share in depth
product knowledge through their own proprietary web shop.
Outsourced supply chain experts exist to provide fulfillment
solutions. Tangible profits may be elusive today, but there is
valuable, inexpensive learning to be gained from pioneering
in this area.
8. Hire an International E-Commerce Expert
Appear as a preferred supplier by your distributors by providing
leadership insights into this new trade channel. Distributors in
emerging markets are hungry for best practices in establishing
e-commerce brand building models. Send your e-commerce
expert to core markets to conduct workshop training sessions.
Your investment in an e-commerce strategy and guru positions
your company as a preferred partner helping to build the
distributor’s entire business.
9. Appoint E-Commerce Distributors – Asia
Selling through the e-commerce channel requires different route
to market capabilities and skill sets than marketing through
brick and mortar supermarkets. Consider appointing a separate
e-commerce distributor in advanced countries like China and
South Korea. A key issue is managing pricing equilibrium
between your conventional distributor and e-commerce partner.
10. Track E-Commerce Results
Establish KPI’s and measure performance at key customers such
as Amazon. Are you getting your fair share of the growth?
E-commerce development is a top 2022 priority for every brand
and distributor. Some may say that e-commerce is evolving
slowly in their country or too complex and unprofitable to
allocate resources. These are the same people whose parents
were probably in the horse and buggy or fax businesses.
Enhanced focus on e-commerce will position you as a leader
(or survivor) for 2025.
Ten Tips: Ex-Selling at E-Commerce
Are you selling more to Ireland, Iceland or
India? To the Bahamas, Baltics, or Brasil?
UAE or United Kingdom? Small countries
offer solid business opportunities, with lower
complexity and investment required. All
companies export development plans should
include a mix of strategic countries like China
and the USA (Europeans) plus revenue
generators with fewer than ten million
people. Listed below are Export Solutions’
ten tips on why small countries deliver
big business.
1. Limited Local Production
Small countries are highly dependent on
food imports. Even multinationals tend to
locate factories in larger hub countries. This
creates the opportunity for exporters to fill
a high percentage of a small countries food
supply requirements.
2. Distributor Model – Primary Route to Market
Most companies partner with distributors
in these countries. Leaders like Nestlé
and Unilever may find it more productive
and efficient to use distributors versus
establishing a local subsidiary. For example, Export Solutions’
distributor database supplies information on 63 distributors
in Panama, 87 in Kuwait, and 78 distributors in Croatia.
3. Value Chain – Level Playing Field
Brands are frequently able to compete on a level playing field in
smaller countries. Most products maintain similar cost structures
with importation fees, distributor margins, and retailer margins.
International brands do not suffer the same type of price gap
problems versus homegrown brands as they encounter in large
countries with local plants.
4. Low Complexity – Ship and Sell
In many cases, you are able to sell existing Made in the USA
or Europacks. Compliance may be achieved with a small,
distributor applied sticker. Many countries in this cluster
do not require a lengthy registration process accepting USA
or European standards.
5. Brand Awareness Exists
Surprise! Some consumers in an adjacent small country will
already be aware of your brand. This could result from cable
TV advertising or visits from their citizens to your country.
Costa Rica, Malta, and the Caribbean represent tourist hubs.
These popular hosts feed seasonal residents from the mainland
and boatloads of visitors hungry for their favorite brands.
6. Reasonable Cost of Entry
Launching a new brand is economical. Retailers are frequently
happy with a “free fill” of the first order versus an excessive
listing fee. Demos in a handful of high profile stores will
create visibility. Distributors appreciate your existing point
of sale materials.
7. Best in Class Distributors
Some of the best distributors of the world are based in small
countries. The reason is that even enormous multinationals
partner with distributors in these regions. This propels the
leading players to top ten suppliers to the retail trade. These
distributors implement the best practice models from companies
like Procter & Gamble and apply them to all the brands in their
portfolio. I witness many examples where a powerful distributor
creates a huge success story for a smaller brand based upon their
marketplace clout.
8. Currency and Freight Impact
Many countries consider the USA dollar or Euro as legal tender.
This reduces the impact of currency fluctuation and perhaps
some financing charges. Small countries that depend on imports
across all industries enjoy frequent freight service. This creates
competitive rates and potentially lower logistics costs.
9. Distributors: Excellent Relationships and Coverage
Everyone knows everyone in these countries. Distributor owners
emerge as respected community leaders. They know how to get
things done. Distributors are forced to be generalists, selling to
all customers across all channels and all regions within a
small geography.
10. International Brands: Affordable Luxury
Consumers take pride in offering their families the best food
treats from overseas. These world class brands may only be
a few cents more expensive versus private label type options
which face similar cost structures.
Export Solutions serves as a distributor search “helper,” with
300+ projects completed for more than 50 companies of all sizes.
Contact us to leverage our distributor database and strong
relationships with distributors in 96 countries.
Ten Tips: Small Countries Deliver Big Business
How do you sign new distributors without traveling and trade
shows? The export community is rushing to virtual trade shows
as a new tool. Leading distributors are already past the early
novelty of online “blind dates.” What are the new rules of
online distributor dating? View Export Solutions’ 10 tips for
a successful “match.”
1. Are You a Good Fit For Each Other?
The process of exporter and distributor linkage is frequently
random, with little thought to pre-screening for prime prospect
candidates. Our Export Passport system classifies exporters
from level one “start-ups” to level ten multinationals.
Distributors range from one star “pioneers” to five star
“champions.” Exporters should focus on Prime Prospect
distributors that represent a good potential fit based upon
their business aspirations and investment level.
2. What Distributors Want to Know
Create a one page, fact based company profile focused on
“what distributors want to know.” Export managers fill
distributor inboxes with offers loaded with information on
product attributes, but fail to address key issues regarding
brand competitiveness for a country. What is your pricing
strategy relative to competition? How much will you invest
in promotion and media? What is a reasonable size of the prize
for the distributor?
3. Brandscaping – Credentials Makeover
Your website is the first place a potential new distributor will
check before confirming a web meeting. Has your site been
updated to reflect Covid 19 realities? Conduct a credentials
makeover of your web site, company catalog, and standard
presentation. Focus on commercial facts such as your market
share, social media campaigns, and launch model versus bland
promises on superior performance and the claim that you export
to 30 countries.
4. First Date – Casual Coffee
Think of your initial web meeting with a distributor as a first
date for a coffee. Do not try to overwhelm the distributor with
facts and PowerPoints. Send presentations, samples, and your
profile in advance. Devote the “first date” to telling your “brand
story” in a personal way. Share relevant local examples while
supplying a rationale why the distributor and his country
represent a good match with your ambitions.
5. Second Date Working Lunch
What will the relationship look like if the brand and distributor
decide to work together? Export manager can share a brief
containing their objectives (size of prize), pricing, investment
model, and marketing strategy. Motivated distributors will design
a business plan and questions. These items should be shared in
advance. The second date should be devoted to talking about
the proposed plan and gaining alignment around key issues.
6. Samples – Essential
A distributor will not buy your product without tasting it. Send
samples in advance. Distributors will be compelled to accept the
virtual meeting at the very least to share local feedback on taste
preference. Include a small gift with your company logo.
7. Online Category Reviews – Local Research
Many top supermarket chains feature e-commerce web shops.
It’s simple to conduct basic overseas category reviews from the
comfort of your home office. This allows you to capture local
category dynamics in advance of your call and validate
distributor performance at leading retailers. Export Solutions’
retailer database tracks more than 2,700 retailers in 96 countries,
with one-click links to retailers web shops as available.
8. YouTube Videos Make You Stand Out
Create a fun 2-3 minute YouTube video. Show your factory,
product range review, and introduce your export team.
Demonstrate your creativity and what an energetic partner you
will be. Balance original content with professional quality.
9. Check Out Their Family
Reference checks are essential with online distributor dating.
Conduct a Google map search to see the distributor’s building.
Check out how many employees they have on Linkedin. See
their depth of product listings on local supermarket web shops.
Check with two or three of their existing suppliers. Run a Dun
and Bradstreet financial check. No company is perfect, but you
must provide extra attention to the due diligence process during
this period of uncertainty.
10. Visit Before the Wedding
Online distributor dating (or Zoomerce) can streamline the
process of new distributor screening. However, nothing replaces
the intimacy of a personal visit to the distributors country. It may
be possible to complete the preliminary “dating” steps online.
However, it may make sense to delay the wedding ceremony
until you can visit the country in person. Divorce is ugly and
costly. As with many couples in love today, it may be better idea
to delay the wedding to enjoy a longer honeymoon. Good luck!
Online Distributor Dating: 2022 Rules
When was the last time you reviewed your distributor contracts?
Fortunately, both brand owners and distributors only dedicate
time to these documents at the start of a relationship or when the
end is near. View our ten tips on handling distributor contracts.
1. Contract, Letter, or Handshake deal?
Most companies maintain a mix of these type of relationships.
This is normal, although most wish to standardize the model.
The rule of thumb is that the “more money you spend, the more
detailed the contract you need.” A simple two page letter of
understanding may be appropriate for a small business or a
handshake commitment in situations where the distributor
“buys and resells.” However, fully supported brand launches
and business management of a global brand usually requires
a detailed contract to protect both parties.
2. Sole Versus Exclusive Distributor
Most distributors demand country exclusivity. This is standard,
but may cause problems if the region is subject to inbound
shipments from global customers, e-commerce, or grey market
traders. A compromise is to offer a contract as the “sole”
distributor, providing protection from the manufacturer
appointing multiple partners in a country.
3. Distributors are Customers
At contract time, some manufacturers fail to remember that
distributors are customers, buying your product and reselling
to all local retailers. Suppliers may forward “one way” contracts
that are biased to terms favoring the manufacturer. Would you
send a contract like that to Kroger, Carrefour, or Tesco? Key is
to strike a reasonable balance favoring commercial sensibilities.
4. E-Commerce Implications
Many distributor contracts were executed before the advent
of e-commerce. Revised agreements may be necessary
incorporating e-commerce service requirements: items,
pricing, inventory, metrics, channel exclusivity.
5. Local Law Dominates
Overseas companies should have their contract reviewed by
a local law firm to guarantee compliance with local regulations.
For example, in Puerto Rico and Belgium, distributor (agent)
protection laws supercede any contract language.
6. Point of Arbitration
Normally, the brand owner automatically assigns his home
country as a point of arbitration for any disputes. In some cases,
both parties select a neutral country like Switzerland. A global
corporate counsel once taught me that ultimately any dispute
will need to be resolved in the distributor’s home country. For
example, a USA company can sue a distributor in a USA court.
It is unlikely that the distributor will hire a USA lawyer or even
show up. The USA court may enter a judgement, but the brand
owner still needs to go to the distributor’s country for enforcement.
7. Notification of Contract Termination
Standard contracts appear for two or three years with provisions
for automatic renewal. Distributors fight for long lead times; a
loss of brand can represent a major disruption. From a brand
owner’s side, would you want a terminated employee working
for you for six months or one year? I prefer three months
notification, but that can also backfire if the distributor resigns
your business.
8. Loss of Major Principal
Sadly, I have witnessed distributor bankruptcies because they
were doing “too well.” A distributor grows the brand to a size
where the manufacturer decides to take the brand back and form
a subsidiary. The distributor scrambles, but sometimes they need
to lay off more people and causes a rapid exit of other brands.
2022 contracts should require distributors to inform you within
10 days of notification (not effective date) of any loss of principal
representing ten percent or more of their business.
9. Global/Regional Customers
Large players like Walmart, Costco, Amazon, and Carrefour can
be difficult to manage. They demand best pricing system wide or
threaten to trans ship from other locations. In some cases, these
retailers may demand to “buy direct.” In this case, you can add
an “indent” clause permitting this practice while compensating
the distributor for local services such as merchandising.
10. Late Payments & Currency Exchange Rate
A distributor that pays late signals financial difficulties. Include
a clause that allows you the option to consider the contract in
default with payment delays beyond 45 days or with frequent
problem payers. The benchmark for calculating currency
exchange rates should be specified in the contract. I have seen
cases where a distributor assigns a five to ten percent benefit in
his favor to protect against the possibility of currency swings.
10 Tips: Distributor Contracts 2022
Need more information? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Everyone Loves Samples – Ten Tips
Do you enjoy free samples? Everyone is delighted to try a new
product. In most cases, feedback is positive and starts the road
to a purchase and a potential customer for life. Every export
manager is proud of their product quality. However, many
companies underinvest in sampling as an essential marketing
tool. Read Export Solutions’ 10 Tips for expanding your
sampling program.
1. Trial/Snack/Travel Size
Do you offer a small size suitable for sampling? Options range
from a specific trial size to a one-use portion of your product.
Many retailers dedicate valuable cashier checkout space or travel
sections for small sizes.
2. Influencer Product Seeding
Digital influencers are critical when targeting the generation
glued to their phones. Stand out to influencers with a hand-
written note and a sample of your best product. Engage with
the influencers after sample delivery and develop a relationship
versus a one-time campaign.
3. Uber Eats & Grubhub
Online food delivery services are expected to record more
than $28 billion in sales in 2021. Companies should adapt
their Foodservice channel strategies to include sample sizes.
The format can be a portion pack condiment, mini desert treat,
or a trial size of a related product. These can be added to a
meal delivery from a high profile restaurant as a gift to their
customers and to strengthen their overall usage of your brand
“back of house.”
4. Co-Promote
Sampling may be expensive, so it’s always good to co-promote
with adjacent products. Partnerships with other brands from
a shared distributor or through a bulk mailing from your
country’s food trade promotion organization represent efficient
options. “Think about the entire plate, not just your product.”
5. Distributor Samples
Distributors serve as your local brand ambassadors. Include
ten cases of samples with every container order. Encourage
the distributor to supply a case of “car stock” to each sales
representative to share with store managers. Donate samples
to employees’ children’s sports teams to build goodwill.
6. Trial Size Shippers
Retailers love these profitable display pieces as they generate
profitable sales revenue versus a free giveaway. Normally, these
special display units contain about 30-50 units and retail for
$1 to $2 per unit with a profit margin of 50%. Shippers can be
efficient, with no listing fees, representing a simple “in and out”
trial generating promotion.
7. Subscription Boxes
Amazon offers more than 400 monthly subscription boxes.
A typical box contains samples of 5-10 products. USA examples
include Nom Nom and Try Treats for international snacks. Delta
airlines supplied me with a tasty sample box for lunch last week.
8. Embassy Sampling
Many companies’ product portfolios represents regional cuisine,
a new taste overseas but highly appreciated by local expats.
Request that your distributor drop off cases of product samples
at your overseas embassy. Sponsor national holiday events for
the expat community. Your product may even be featured at an
ambassador’s dinner!
9. Event Sponsorship
Everyone looks forward to the return of outdoor concerts and
festivals. These fun events can be impactful places to sample
beverages and indulgent products like biscuits, snacks, candy,
and ice cream.
10. Sample Truck
I love the story of a European protein bar manufacturer who
painted a truck with his brand colors. His team drove all around
town distributing samples. The truck arrived at stores, buyers’
offices, and even major trade shows. No surprise that this
manufacturer gained a loyal, youthful following with this
adventurous approach.
Be generous with your samples! Delight potential buyers
and distributors with your wide range of innovative products.
Always include a memorable gift with your company logo.
Remember that no potential new distributor will sign an
agreement with you until their team has tried your product
and given it the “thumbs up.”
Americas Favorite Brands
Executive Board
Export Solutions Smuckers Tabasco
Greg Seminara, CEO Danny Berrios, President Megan Lopez, Vice-President
General Mills Sun-Maid
Eric Saint-Marc Carsten Tietjen
Advisory Board
Bazooka Candy Blue Diamond Bob’s Red Mill
Santiago Ricaurte Dale Tipple Jan Chernus
Bush Beans Campbells Church & Dwight
Dave Bauman Julio Gomez Arun Hiranandani
Ferarra Candy Heartland Idahoan
Daniel Michelena Tom Theobald Ryan Ellis
Johnsonville Sausage Kao USA Keurig Dr. Pepper
Cory Bouck Julie Toole Billy Menendez
Mizkan Reynolds Welch’s
Noel David Chris Corey Marc Rosen
19 Companies | 200+ Top Brands | $80 Billion Combined
View our activities for export managers – www.usafoodexport.com
How much do you pay for a display or special promotion
at your top customer? Retailers from Argentina to Vietnam
capture manufacturers’ promotion money to drive sales and
profits. Brand development and market share are frequently
proportional to investment level. In the world of export, you
must “pay to play.” However, different models exist to fund
trade activities. Leading distributors confirm that they work
with a variety of different structures. “It’s all money” and the
key question remains: under which cost line do you want this
investment to sit in your price calculation?
Manufacturer Funded Promotion Budget
The classic approach is for the brand owner to develop a joint
business promotion plan with the distributor. A spending budget
is developed, funded 100% by the manufacturer. The overseas
distributor pays the local retailer and sends a billback to the
producer, with proof of performance. The rationale for this
practice is that the supplier owns the brand equity and can
change distributors. Distributors are reluctant to invest their
own margin into another companies brand.
Split Fund – “Skin in the Game
In some cases, the brand owner and distributor split the
marketing plan costs, usually “50-50.” A further variation
exists where the brand owner covers the cost of consumer
marketing and the distributor pays for the periodic trade
promotion discounts. The philosophy is that the distributor
will benefit from higher sales and will also be motivated to
execute successful promotions if their own money is invested.
This structure appears most frequently with an existing brand,
with a minimum three year history of shipments. In reality, the
distributor calculates the expected investment and builds it into
his cost structure. A “50-50” shared model will usually not be
accepted with a new brand pioneered for the first time.
Best Price Dead Net
Dead net pricing is the third model. In this scenario, a
manufacturer provides a distributor with his very best
price. The distributor builds in all promotional support and
his margin into his calculation. In this case, the manufacturer
does not receive a constant stream of requests for more
promotion funding. However, the brand may lose control
of their pricing model or be under supported if the distributor
fails to promote at adequate levels.
10% of Sales – $1/Case
Another common model is for a manufacturer to establish a fixed
funding rate per case sold which the distributor invests to build
the brand. Normal funding begins at 10% of case cost, but can
accelerate to 20% or more for a competitive category. Some
manufacturers offer a flat rate per case or amount per container.
As mentioned before, it ultimately converts to a pile of money
to invest in brand building. This approach functions best with
a brand with a current sales history, as percentages don’t mean
much when the brand has zero sales.
Listing Fees
These one time payments are primarily covered by the brand
owner as part of upfront launch costs. Sometimes these fees can
be rolled into introductory promotions, spread out over twelve
months, or paid via free goods. Please check out Export
Solutions’ article Ten Tips: How to Minimize Listing Fee Payments
for more ideas on how to reduce these payments.
Most Effective Promotion Vehicles
Every key account manager should know the best promotion
vehicles to drive incremental sales at their customer. At some
supermarkets, promotional leaflets drive tonnage. At others,
deep discounts (30% +) or displays are winners. Distributor
sales teams are market experts and can source best practices
from their other brands.
Post Promotion Analysis
Tools are available to measure promotion effectiveness. These
evaluate sales lift, boost in baseline consumption, and cost per
incremental case. A good idea is to analyze mutiple scenarios
such as different price points, seasonality, and display support.
Creativity Counts
Many of the best trade promotion success stories involve
field activated promotions. This allows a brand to break
through the clutter of too many “me too” events. The sales
team maintains ownership and enthusiasm to drive support.
Another positive strategy is aligning with a retailer’s favorite
charity to contribute to the community while building your
brand. Manufacturers must avoid the dull routine of repetitive
15% trade promotions. Boring!
Key Issue – Distributor Underspends
Distributors are businesses, aimed at achieving a fair profit, just
like your company. A risk occurs whenever distributors claim
responsibility for managing the trade discount plan for their
country. At times, these trade discounts can be under spent
versus category and brand requirements. For example: when a
distributor says that he will fund four promotions per year, does
that mean at a 10% level or 30% level? Will the distributor funded
promotions be for all channels and retailers or just a few
customers? How do you know?
Compliance and Audit
Most distributor contracts include provisions for audit of trade
promotion payments. Larger suppliers include trade promotion
payment software. Good practices are complex and require piles
of paperwork. A core message is that the “distributor respects
what the manufacturer inspects.”
Export Trade Promotion Funding
Searching for New Distributors?
Export Solutions makes life a little easier for more than 3,000 export managers.
Our time saving distributor database serves as a “helper” for identifying more
than 9,200 qualified, local brand builders in 96 countries.
Select Your Distributors,
Not Let Your Distributors Select You
Local Experts
Distributor Coverage
Asia: 2,030
Europe: 3,139
Latin America: 1,574
Middle East: 937
USA/Canada: 1,464
Category Experts
Distributor Coverage
Beverage: 1,691
Candy/Snack: 2,713
International Food: 3,276
Health & Beauty: 1,800
Natural Food: 837
Country Experts
Distributor Coverage
German Brands: 648
Italian Brands: 1,397
UK Brands: 682
USA Brands: 1,189
Search by Country, Category, or Country of Origin
Coverage: 96 countries and 2,700 retailers
Drug Store
Natural Food
Club, Cash & Carry
Supplying profiles, store counts, formats,
news and info for Top 100 international
retailers plus all overseas branches
Example 1: Who are supermarket
retailers in Canada?
Example 2: How many stores does Loblaws
operate by banner, in Canada?
Search by Retailer NameSearch by Country
Combo Search
Search By Format
Retailer Search Made Simple
Canada Example
Why did you create the retailer database?
Export managers dedicate a lot of time
to researching countries, retailers and
preparing business plans. A standard KPI
measure is tracking product listings for
key customers. I believe that our industry
could benefit from a global retailer
database to instantly locate retailers
and their store counts in 96 countries.
The retailer database is a logical extension
of our leading distributor database which
has helped more than 3,000 companies
build export sales during the last 10 years.
What is your geographic coverage?
96 of top 100 GDP countries worldwide.
This includes most Asian, Middle Eastern,
and European countries. Our database
covers every country in the Americas.
In Africa, we cover South Africa.
What is your format coverage?
Excellent coverage of chain supermarkets,
hypermarkets, clubs, cash and carry, and
convenience formats. Solid initial coverage
of drug stores, natural food stores, and
e-commerce channels. Our database does
not cover DIY/hardware, toy, office,
liquor, or sporting goods channels.
Retailer database: featured info
Profile – Retailers profile and link to their
internet home page.
Formats – Retailer’s stores segmented
by format and banner.
We track supermarkets, hypermarkets,
cash and carry, convenience stores,
discounters, drug stores, natural food
stores, and e-commerce retailers.
News – Latest retailers’ news. In some
cases (Asia), we substitute a link to the
retailer’s latest promotional flyer.
Financial – Many leading retailers are
publicly traded. A link is provided to
their latest financial results. We do not
offer estimated financial information for
privately held or family owned retailers.
How is your coverage of global retailers?
We offer total coverage for top 100 global
retailers. This includes all of their
branches and banners. Searchable!
Use filters to research Walmart, Costco,
Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, Casino presence
by country. Database covers retailer’s
total store outlets as well as a breakout
by banner and format.
What can I use the retailer database info for?
Obtain an instant snapshot of an
average of 24 retailers per country for
96 countries.
Track presence of global retailers like
Walmart, Carrefour, and Metro AG.
Create country specific listing maps
where distributors measure brand
authorization by retailer.
Conduct home office based
international category reviews
and price checks from retailers’
e-commerce sites (not all retailers).
Prepare annual reviews and reports
with up-to-date information on leading
retailers and channels.
The database offers filters allowing you to
search by country, format, or retailer name.
You can also use a combination of filters for
your research.
Can I get a free sample of the retailer database?
Sure! Check www.exportsolutions.com for a
complete profile of United Kingdom retailers.
Do you provide retailer’s annual sales
or market share information?
Accurate annual sales information is
available through the financial link for
publicly traded companies. We do not
provide estimated financial information
for privately held and family owned
retailers. Channel blurring occurs between
supermarket, convenience, e-commerce,
and even natural food operators. We do
not provide market share due to difficulty
to accurately isolate and define channel
market share information, particularly
with so many privately held retailers.
How accurate is the retailer data?
Export Solutions’ retailer database is
updated weekly, so information is highly
accurate. Retailer names, web sites, and
formats rarely change. This makes the
database 99% accurate at the company
level. New stores open every day,
resulting in store counts that may be
95% accurate. We intend to update store
counts on a regular basis.
How much does retailer database access cost?
An annual subscription to the retailer
database is $975. This supplies one year,
unlimited access to more than 2,700
retailers in 96 countries. Special offers
available for our distributor database
customers. Note: special pricing for
government trade organizations.
How do I access the retailer database?
Visit www.exportsolutions.com and click
the retailer database page. You can place
a subscription or individual continent
(i.e., Europe) into a shopping cart.
Register and check out via credit card.
The process takes two minutes and we
automatically send you an invoice.
About Export Solutions
Export Solutions was founded in 2004
and is based in Atlanta, Georgia in the
USA. Export Solutions serves as a leading
provider of business intelligence to the
food and consumer goods industries.
Our distributor database covers 9,200
distributors in 96 countries and has
been used by more than 3,000 clients.
Our Export Express newsletter has a
circulation of 9,900 and is viewed as an
important source of insights, strategies,
and templates for international
development. www.exportsolutions.com.
FAQ’s Retailer Database
All your distributors express enthusiasm
and commitment for your brand. True
passion for your partnership is measured
by what distributors do, not by what they
say. Listed below are ten tips to consider
when measuring Distributor enthusiasm
for your brand.
1. CEO Commitment and Involvement
The CEO steers the distributor ship
and sets the tone for your business
relationship. Best in Class Distributor
CEO’s reach out via phone to touch base
periodically and spend time with you
when you are in town. They keep up
to date on your priorities and key issues
and ensure that his team is delivering
good service and results.
2. Responsiveness to Problems
Urgent situations erupt in every market.
Currency devaluations, product recalls, or
missed budget numbers require immediate
attention. What is the distributor response
time? Does the distributor share your sense
of urgency? How long does it take to get
problems fixed?
3. Customer Introductions
Most distributors maintain good
relationships with leading retailers.
Enthusiastic distributors are happy to
introduce you to the leadership of their
customers. These distributors will use
their personal relationships and “favors”
to benefit your brand.
4. Best People Assigned to Your Brand
The distributor functions as a team.
Every team has superstars and
developing players. How does the
distributor allocate “talent?” Are the
stars working on your business?
5. Web Site Prominence
A Distributor’s web site offers important
clues to distributor professionalism,
services, and core brands. How
prominently is your brand featured on
the distributors web site? Is a case study
using your brand results mentioned?
Is your brand logo listed at the top of
the page or buried at the bottom?
6. Distributor Visits to Your Headquarters
How often does the distributor travel
to your headquarters or factory? Does
the distributor have a relationship with
your CEO, vice president of international,
or other leaders? Many distributors are
interested in visiting companies based
in San Francisco or London, but true
enthusiasm accompanies meetings in
Chicago or Hamburg during the winter!
7. Creative Ideas
Distributors can be magicians at
developing “new ways to solve old
problems.” Good distributors bring
innovative ideas to adapt your plan
and funding budget to the local market.
How often does your distributor apply
their brilliant new idea to your brand?
8. Distributor Awards and References
Successful distributors proudly display
their awards in conference rooms and
lobbies. Is your award visible? I always ask
distributors for references from other brand
owners. Does the distributor use your
name as a reference or request a testimonial
from you on their performance?
9. Love Your Brand
I have written an entire article on
getting a Distributor to Love your
Brand. There are many ways to feel
the love. Does the distributor sales team
wear the shirts with your brand logo or
use the pens that you handed out at the
last sales meeting? Is the distributor
able to secure a customer meeting for
you on one week lead time? Are they
happy to see you arrive or just to see
you depart?
10. Exceed Expectations Everyday
The most enthusiastic distributors
exceed your expectations everyday.
This includes shipment results in excess
of overall market growth and total
organizational support behind your
new product introductions. Enthusiasm
is not measured in words and weeks,
but in actions carried out over many
years by a Best in Class partner.
Ten Tips: Measuring Distributor Enthusiasm for Your Brand
Need a hand? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Distributor Search Helper for:
Can We Help You?
Recent Distributor Search Projects
Asia Europe Middle East Latin America
Australia Germany Israel Argentina
China Ireland Kuwait Brazil
Indonesia Netherlands Qatar Colombia
Japan Nordics Saudi Arabia Costa Rica
Malaysia Spain UAE Ecuador
Philippines United Kingdom North America Mexico
Singapore Africa Canada Panama
South Korea South Africa United States Peru
Call the Export Accelerator!
Contact Greg Seminara at greg@exportsolutions.com
to discuss your business development project.
You can usually spot an export manager in the fast track lane at
airport security with the diamond level frequent flyer card and
bulging passport. Many of us spend half of our business lives on
the road, serving as roving brand ambassadors for the companies
that we represent. Our friends envy this glamorous life, little do
they know how punishing it is to take red-eye flights and eat
mediocre airport food. While this lifestyle appears as normal for
most of us, it makes sense to review some fundamental ideas on
how to obtain the most productivity from our companies’
investment in our business travel.
1. Define Purpose for Each Market Visit
Export Solutions identifies seven management roles for
a market visit:
Doctor: visiting to handle a problem
Architect: design new plan for achieving objectives
Coach: trip to teach distributor about your brand
Babysitter: follow up on key priorities
Gardener: cultivate new business and relationships
Fan: cheer good distributor on to great results
Tourist: we enjoy the country
In reality, a productive visit encompasses parts of all
of the above roles.
2. Schedule: Minimum Six Weeks Lead Time
Organize your visit with six to eight weeks lead time. This
guarantees that all key people will be available during your
visit. It also reminds your distributor that you are coming
soon and there is time to fix problems before your arrival.
3. Agenda and Analysis
Send market visit agenda four
weeks in advance. Review progress
versus key initiatives and annual
objectives. Obtain updated “Listing
Maps,” schematics, pricing, and
merchandising plans. Analyze
syndicated data (Nielsen), shipment
trends, and marketing spending.
What has been achieved since
your last visit?
4. Serve as Category Expert
Distributors appreciate brand owners
that share category expertise. What
are the global and regional trends
for your category? Any product
innovation from your company or
competition? Are there success stories
from other markets or common
retailers that you can share?
5. Store Checks: First Priority
I am a big advocate of checking stores
as soon as I get to the market, before
formal office meetings. This allows
me to capture the rhythm of the
market, category and my own brand
performance in advance of philosophical meetings that may
ignore “Retail Reality.” Request that the retail sales manager
accompany you to secure his “pulse” of the market. Visit stores in
different parts of town. Always use the retailer’s schematic as the
“official” record. Beware of stores that look “too good to be true.”
6. Build Relationships with Entire Team
Frequently our visit is concentrated on meetings with the brand
manager and a 15 minute chat with the distributor CEO. Visit
the distributor’s warehouse at least once per year. Actual
warehouse inventory supplies an accurate snapshot of their
entire business. Schedule time with the finance manager. Better
to get to know him in advance of the inevitable problem. Treat
the administrative team to a casual lunch to say thanks. We know
who keeps the ship running! Invite the Distributor owner or MD
to dinner. The best business insights are obtained after 9:00 pm.
7. Customer Visits
Schedule an annual business review or participate in a new
product launch to serve as a category “expert.” Volunteer to
try to solve problems, but avoid situations where the buyer
tries to extort money from you. Meet with other people at
the retailer beyond your buyer. Most retailers have Marketing,
Merchandising, Internet Sales, and Supply Chain managers
interested in sharing insights with overseas suppliers.
8. Brainstorm New Ideas
Allocate some time to think about new ways to achieve your
business results. Too many times we get in the repetitive rut
of offering the same programs year after year. What ideas have
worked in other markets or for other brands that the distributor
represents? Co-promotion ideas?
Charity tie in? How can we generate
positive social media buzz?
9. Getting a Distributor to Love Your Brand
See page 7 for an article dedicated
to this goal. Each market visit is a
valuable opportunity to cultivate a
powerful relationship. We want the
distributor to maintain our priorities
as “top of mind” after we are dropped
off at the airport to return home.
10. Trip Report Thanks
The best trip reports are the ones
that are written on the plane ride
home when all issues are still fresh.
Say thanks and send a balanced
report of achievements and
opportunities. Remember that all
accomplishments and problems are
a joint responsibility of both the brand
owner and distributor. A detailed
report with clear and measurable next
steps serves as the official benchmark
for your next trip!
See you in the airport!
Ten Tips: Improving Market Visit Productivity
1. Quarterly MBO Meeting
with Distributor Senior Management
One of the most effective tools
for increased focus is to create a
regular process for Distributor senior
management engagement in your
business. The Management By Objective
(MBO) system (or similar approaches)
allows you to meet quarterly on a pre-
planned schedule to review past quarter
performance on key initiatives and firm
up plans and commitment for the new
quarter. Discussions should focus on key
business metrics and account specific
results. Meetings can be held via
teleconference if you can not visit
personally 4 times per year.
2. International Distributor
Network Conference
This can include all your global
distributors or those from a specific
continent/region. Program can be 1-2 days
in length and can include Corporate
Business Review, New Product Roll-Out,
and requirement that each distributor give
a presentation on a success story from their
home market. Meeting location can tie in
with a major trade fair such as SIAL or
FMI to reduce expenses. Alternatively,
the meeting can also be in a resort location
to serve as an incentive. Export Solutions
is available as a conference meeting
speaker to discuss a variety of distributor
optimization strategies and retail trends.
3. Sales Contests
Sales contests bring energy, excitement,
and focus to your brands. Sales contests
should be about six weeks in duration
and offer the opportunity for “everyone”
to win. Prizes can range from cash
incentives to trips to merchandise for
the winners. Sync contest objectives and
measures to your key initiatives for your
peak season or a new product launch.
4. Key Account Business Reviews
It is appropriate to conduct key
account business reviews with each of
the distributor’s top 3-5 accounts once per
year. Meetings should include senior level
management of the retailer. This strategy
requires distributor analysis of the
accounts business and opportunities for
mutual growth. This also provides you
with an avenue to develop a personal
relationship with local customers.
5. Retail Audit
Retail execution is critical to the success
of any brand initiative. An important
element in a new product launch or
preparation for your peak selling season
is the pre-scheduled Retail Audit across
a market. The Manufacturer would bring
2 or 3 people from their company and
match them with distributor personnel
for a day in the field checking retail
conditions. In one day, the 2-3 teams
can see 30-50 stores in the market to judge
the markets “readiness” and progress.
Distributor personnel are competitive and
will work hard to make the market “look
good” for the Retail Audit.
6. Plant Visit
Invite your distributors for a plant
visit and/or a trip to your corporate
headquarters. Distributor can be
introduced to members of your senior
management team. Distributors should
be encouraged to bring a large customer
as well. This type of trip can serve as
a “bonding” experience and create
a renewed sense of commitment to
your business.
7. Bonus Payment
Incentive pay for performance usually
works well with sales teams. Sync
bonus with your key objectives. Reward
performance on achievement of retail
distribution, profitability, as well as sales
volume objectives. Volume based objectives
alone may encourage questionable
shipments that could be diverted.
8. Distributor Sales Meeting Participation
Most distributors schedule monthly or
quarterly meetings for their entire sales
team. This is a primary format for the
distributor to communicate direction and
priorities. Most distributors allow their
manufacturers to make a presentation on
a new item or key sales drive. Supplement
your meeting presentation with a small
gift for all meeting participants such as
a pen, key chain, or calculator with your
company logo.
9. CEO Market Visit
Distributors appreciate a visit from your
CEO or other member of your senior
management team (CFO, VP International
etc.). This gives them the opportunity to
demonstrate their results and share their
input on the markets development. It is
magical to watch certain market issues
get “solved” immediately prior to a senior
management visit!
10. Share Best Practices
Create a process for sharing best practices
and success stories within your global
distributor network. These can be
communicated via a monthly newsletter
or email. Distributors are proud to share
their achievements or innovative new
strategies that they are using to build
their business. Manufacturers may elect
to reward distributors with the “best
success story” each month with a “free
dinner” or other incentive.
Ten Tips Increased Distributor Focus on Your Brands
Export Workshops & Speeches
by Greg Seminara
Export Workshops & Speeches
by Greg Seminara
Export Workshop Overview
On-site and web options available
8 Export Development & Distributor Management Modules
Includes 25 Common Export Problems group work
200+ topics available for tailored workshop
One hour keynote or motivational speech
Contact Greg Seminara for
more details and references:
Buyers: New Product Assessment
High Interest Low Interest
Category Opportunity Large or high growth Declining or niche
Brand Owner
Multinational or proven local.
Category expert
New foreign supplier
or start-up
Something new, supported
by consumer research
“Me too product
Profit Margin
Enhance current
category margin
Equal to or less than
current category margin
Sales Generates incremental sales Cannibalizes existing sales
Marketing Investment Sampling, social media, PR None
Trade Programs Invests in retailer push programs Periodic discounts/rebates
Brand Track Record Successful at other local retailers Unproven in the country
Terms/Conditions Attractive deal structure Typical terms/conditions
Representation Dependable local distributor Small, niche entrepreneur
Retail buyers are challenged to maximize profits and sales from every available inch of shelf space. Every new item accepted must
improve on the performance of the brand currently occupying that space. Buyers are overwhelmed by new product offerings, all with
ambitious promises. Improve your chances of success by incorporating Export Solutions’ 10 point check list on how to excite your
category buyer about your new product.
How to Excite Buyers New Product Checklist
1. Respect For Their Right
to Make a Reasonable Profit
Distributors have profit targets just like
manufacturers do. Distributors measure
total supplier contribution, defined by
sales multiplied by gross margin. How
much value do you receive from your
distributors relative to your contribution
to their profits?
2. Investment in Brand Support
Distributors love companies that
invest in above the line activities
such as television advertising, radio,
social media, print, and sampling.
Distributor volume is proportional
to your investment in brand support
activities. More marketing dollars
usually translates to greater sales
and profits for the distributor.
3. Awards
Most distributors proudly display
their Distributor of the Year awards in
their office lobby or executive conference
room. Recognition can be given for
distributor of the year, or achievement
of $1 million in sales, most improved
store conditions, or ten years of service.
4. Market Visits (But Not Too Often)
Periodic market visits allow you to
share ideas, monitor progress, and
discuss issues. These trips serve as
motivational, relationship building
events, particularly if you can spend
time together “out of the office.”
5. Endorsement of Local Marketing Events
Best in Class partners maintain the ability
to create unique local programs to build
your brand. Voting with your marketing
dollars stimulates the team to deliver and
continue to bring you their best ideas.
6. Trip Contests – Quota Makers Club
Many believe that achieving your annual
target is a job standard. This is true, but
watch distributors ship cases like crazy
when trying to qualify for a trip to a
resort location! Plus, the trip generates
incredible goodwill and all vow to meet
their objective to return “next year.”
7. Market Research
Distributors aspire to appear as category
experts. Access to syndicated data
from Nielsen plus local consumer
research allows them to distinguish
themselves from other vendors armed
with hollow words and broad claims on
a PowerPoint presentation.
8. Invitation to Your Corporate Headquarters
A trip to the USA or Europe is a dream
come true for distributor brand managers
in emerging markets. Treat them like a
VIP, and they will be loyal forever.
9. Lunch for the Support Staff
Order processing, customer service,
and other administrative people form
the hidden backbone of the distributors
team. Buy the group lunch and you can
be a hero for $100-$200. Guess whose
orders will be handled first at the end
of a quarter?
10. Letter of Thanks
Our industry depends on email
too much. How do you communicate
sincere thanks when someone receives
200 emails a day? Send a personal
letter via the post office recognizing a
successful new product launch, creative
promotion,or above and beyond effort.
Extra points provided for a handwritten
note! These letters are treasured forever.
Ten Things That Distributors Like
Talk to an Expert
Find Distributors in 96 Countries
International Strategy Road Map
Fix Problem Markets
Next Level Sales Management
Export Workshops
Motivational Meeting Speaker
Contact Greg Seminara at (001)-404-255-8387 to
discuss your business development project.
1. Unrealistic Expectations
Category growth ranges from 1% to 5%
in most Western countries. So how can
a manufacturer demand a 10% increase
in sales in a mature market? It’s possible
if the brand plans a major increase in
marketing spending. However, normally,
business growth parallels overall
market conditions.
2. Direct Contact With Their Assigned Retailers
Tricky retailers attempt to bypass a
distributor by contacting the brand
owner. Normally, the retailer has his
hand out for more money or wants to
“buy direct.” Be polite, but ask the buyer
to work with the distributor or schedule
a joint meeting for your next visit.
3. Cut Marketing Budgets
Leading distributors depend on joint
business plans, often created up to
one year in advance. Last minute
squeezes, translating to budget cutbacks
sometimes need to happen, but still hurt.
The distributor is left with delivering the
bad news and also hitting the sales target,
even with reduced support.
4. Short Shipments
Everyone loses due to short shipments.
Distributors could be assessed penalties
by retailers. Store level shelf space may
be lost and need to be recaptured. Keep
the pipeline filled, particularly during
peak seasonality.
5. Price Increases
Rising raw material input costs may
require adjustments in list prices. The
reality is that price increases are brutal to
implement in many countries. Eventually,
they are incorporated after months of
stand-off’s. In many cases, distributors
are forced to accept the price increase
from the brand, but are forced to swallow
the increase until they can negotiate with
the retailers.
6. Endless Reporting
Some brands are guilty of a constant
stream of reporting requests that take
time to complete. Ask: Is the report
really necessary? Legitimate requests are
forecasts, shipment results, major retailer
listing maps, price surveys, and new
product launch status updates.
7. Frequent Market Visits
Your partners require time to accomplish
their objectives without constant
oversight. Distributors appreciate short,
productive visits on a quarterly basis.
More frequently for a big company
and less often for a small brand. Get in,
conduct your business and off to the next
country. Week long visits to small markets
represent a distraction.
8. Margin Reductions
Distributors depend on their margin to
cover fixed overheads like logistics and
cost of their sales team. Often, their net
margin is only 3-5% or lower. Margin
reductions or increased costs challenge
their ability to operate a financially
healthy business.
9. Last Minute Requests
End of the year volume pushes and
rush orders are part of the business.
However, everything functions better
when normal lead times are respected.
Separate “must do” demands from
“nice to have” requests.
10. Delayed Response to Local Ideas
Manufacturers encourage distributors
to create unique local approaches to
brand building. Retailer buyers also
call their favorite distributors with short
term promotional opportunities to
participate in a special event. Distributors
need quick decisions on your ability to
support their idea. Few things are more
frustrating for a distributor than a
lengthy wait while their proposal is
debated by numerous levels of your
company management.
Ten Things Distributors Don’t Like
Need a hand? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Everyone loves a trade show.
Where else can you rent a booth
and witness lines of customers
and distributors waiting to see
you to talk about your brands?
Trade shows represent sizable
investments and valuable booth
time can be wasted with non-
productive meetings.
Read our Ten Tips to maximize
your trade show productivity.
1. Create Sign:
Distributors/Customers Wanted
List countries where you are
searching for a distributor or
retailer partner. This serves as
an invitation to distributors from
those countries to stop by. This
strategy also acts as a deterrent
to discourage distributors from
visiting from countries where
you already have a partner or
maintain limited interest.
2. Use Export Solutions Database
to Pre-Screen Distributors
Over 3,000 companies have used our proprietary database
to find qualified distributors. Quickly. A common technique
is for distributors to list the countries where they hope to expand
one month in advance of a major trade show. They then use the
Export Solutions’ database to pre-screen candidates and identify
the five candidates per country with the highest potential.
Then, they email these distributors in advance of the trade fair
to request a meeting. This approach works better than sitting
at your booth with a “hope and wait” strategy to meet
qualified distributors.
3. Create a Template to Recap Capabilities of Potential Distributors
Request that prospective distributors complete the template
in advance of a meeting. Think of the template as a distributor
CV or resume. How long has the distributor candidate been in
business, sales, employees, key brands, length of service for key
brands, and most importantly references from other brand
owners and in country retailers.
4. Prepare a One Page Recap of your Company Credentials
This should include product “beauty shot,” current export
countries, and unique product characteristics. List export
manager contacts and a photo on the back with a space for
notes. Professionally print this on a one glossy page handout.
This will serve as an important reminder for the meeting when
the retailer or distributor returns home with hundreds of
business cards.
5. Participate in Show Sponsored Matchmaking Events
Most trade fairs organize matchmaking events. The formats
can vary, but basically they can arrange meetings with interested
buyers or distributors. As always there is a mix of good meetings
and bad, but the approach is worth consideration.
6. Take Photos of Potential Distributor Candidates
First take a picture of the distributors business card. Then take
a photo of the potential new distributor. After hundreds of short
meetings, this will help you remember the candidate once you
begin serious due diligence after the trade show.
7. Bring at least 500 Business Cards
I am serious. We have all run out of cards at a trade show. Better
yet, bring 1000 business cards.
8. Schedule a Group Event for Current Distributors
This event is an efficient way to launch a new product or
announce “Distributor of the Year.” You must schedule the event
before or after show opening times. Best bet is a breakfast or a
dinner, if you schedule it four months in advance to avoid
conflicts with other events.
9. Get to the Show Early and Leave Late
As a trade show visitor, it is normally much easier to reach senior
decision makers of a supplier before 10:00 am or after 4:00 pm.
They are often less distracted and have more time to spend with
you. Similarly, Brand Owners are always more accessible on
Sunday of a trade show or the last day. Normally, the retail
buyers don’t attend trade shows on the weekends or “last day”
of the trade show.
10. Create a Trade Show Exhibit Planner
Trade Shows post a listing of all exhibitors on their web site
in advance of the show. Many also have a routing software that
will allow you to add exhibitors of interest to your private list and
plot a route based upon your selected exhibitors. Exhibitors that
maximize trade shows schedule most of their meetings in advance.
Ten Tips – Maximizing Trade Show Productivity
Retail stores serve as showcases for our products. This is
the point of sale where inventory is translated to a consumer
purchase. However, many manufacturers spend the bulk of
their energy against securing the headquarter listings, chasing
shipments, while store conditions flounder at the middle of
the priority list.
Increased focus on in-store conditions is critical because it
delivers benefits every single day. Listed below are Export
Solutions’ tips for winning the battle at the retail shelf.
1. Define and Publicize Your Shelf Objectives
The first step is to insure that each member of your sales team
is “crystal clear” on your brands in-store objectives. Create a
shelf conditions standards book, including photos that can be
distributed or shared online. I’ll always remember a store visit
in Cordoba, Argentina when I was a manager for Clorox. The
distributor representative proudly brought me to his “best” store.
The store was not bad, but below objective because our brand
only owned 50% of shelf space versus our 65% market share.
When I mentioned my disappointment, the representative
accurately claimed that “no one had ever shared” this shelf
objective with him before.
2. Create an Objective Mechanism to Evaluate Every Store
How did your brand look in the last store visited? Was it
an “A,B,C, D, E, or an F?” Why? Establishment of a grading
system allows you to provide an objective report card for each
store. Normally, a system of awarding points for share of shelf
space, retail availability, and off-shelf merchandising is simple
to execute.
3. Focus on Basics: Distribution, Availability, Shelf Space,
Shelf Position, and Off-Shelf Merchandising
All authorized brand sizes should be tagged and in stock. Brand
should maintain share of category space equivalent to or greater
than market share and placed next to the targeted competitor.
Incremental points should be awarded for off-shelf displays or
secondary locations. Fair pricing is also important, but normally
tightly controlled by central buying.
4. Establish a Baseline for Store Conditions
Introducing new store conditions tracking metrics can be a
shock to your retail sales team, as existing conditions are likely
far below minimum acceptable standards. The idea is to create
a baseline of performance and measure monthly or quarterly
progress towards objective.
5. A Market Wide Retail Audit Creates an Accurate Benchmark
This requires the participation of 2-4 people (depending on
market size) from your company matched by an equivalent
number of people from your distributor/retail sales team. Each
two person team is committed to spend a full day at retail and
is assigned a certain city or section of town. Teams can usually
visit 10-15 stores per day giving you a broad spectrum of results
across the market. Each store should be measured by the same
criteria. Ideally, the entire group should meet at the end of the
day to share observations and next steps. Audits can be tied into
a major sales drive such as a new item rollout, peak seasonality,
etc. A good distributor will work hard to fix problems in advance
of a previously scheduled market wide retail audit.
6. Sponsor a Retail Sales Contest
This retail contest can be tied to the launch of new retail sales
objectives or a “grading” system. Structure the contest for
maximum number of winners. Reward most improved from
a pre-contest baseline. Contest should be one-two months in
duration to optimize excitement and focus. Get creative with a
theme such as “A Room with a View” with first prize being an
overnight stay at a 5 star hotel room with a view for the sales
representatives stores have the best “view” for your brand.
7. Retailers Schematic/Planogram Serves as the Official Record
Request that each distributor forward the planogram for each
of the 2-4 largest retailers for each market. Reward key account
sales people for implementing changes in the official planogram.
8. Provide at Least One Shelf Objective for Every Month
A monthly objective for your brand or company forces the retail
team to look at your brand on every store visit. The objective
can be oriented against moving your brand to an eye level shelf,
improved shelf space allocation for a particular size/flavor, or
against reduced out of stocks. Track the objective with a question
that can be answered by “yes/no” or a numeric response. This
will allow you to participate with software on handheld retail
reporting devices.
9. Focus Against Accounts With Problems With Retail Execution
My experience tells me that some retailers are better at
maintaining attractive category showcases and in stock conditions.
Other high volume hypermarkets are plagued by frequent “wiped
out” categories. Certain accounts prevent representatives from
touching the shelf due to union policy. Persistent out of stocks
may reflect insufficient shelf space, low warehouse inventory,
or problems with automatic replenishment systems.
10. Visit Stores on Every Trip to the Market
Schedule time to work with the retail sales manager. Your
attention to store conditions will linger after your plane departs.
“Retail is detail” and the “distributor respects what the brand
owner inspects” are well known comments on retail. Send a
signal that you are focused on your retail showcase and watch
your brand presence improve!
Ten Tips – Winning the Battle for Retail Shelf Space
There are 196 countries in the world.
How many is your company selling to?
International expansion to new countries
is a strategic imperative for most
exporters. The challenge is to determine
which countries will deliver the greatest
financial return for your investment of
time and resources. Listed below are
some practical considerations for
determining where to sell next.
Determine Category Size: Data exists
to allow you to capture the size of your
category in target countries. Syndicated
data suppliers such as A.C. Nielsen
and Euromonitor sell category sales
information and trends. Government
agencies track sales for core categories
impacting their local producers. Category
size may be estimated by sourcing the
information from a friendly retailer and
projecting country level sales based upon
that retailer’s market share.
Population: Just One Factor: A logical
conclusion would translate that large
countries like China and India would
represent the greatest opportunity.
Population levels are relevant, but not
the only factor. A classic case study is the
story of Brazil and Puerto Rico. Most USA
based consumer goods manufacturers
sell more product to Puerto Rico, a
commonwealth of 3.3 million people than
to Brazil, a country of 216 million people.
GDP: Follow the Money: Per capita,
gross domestic product (GDP) is an
important consideration. International
exporters are known for marketing
premium, value-added brands. The
higher the countries purchasing power,
the more likely that middle income
citizen’s can afford our brands. This
appears as one reason that European
markets such as Germany, France, Italy,
& the United Kingdom may create a
larger opportunity than countries such
as Pakistan, Indonesia, or Bangladesh
that have far more people.
Growth Rates: Think to the Future:
Export development often represents
an investment for the long term. Your
country prioritization analysis should
look at population and GDP growth
rates. I worked in Saudi Arabia in the
early 90’s when the population was
around 14 million, but growing at 8%.
Today, Saudi Arabia’s population is more
than 36 million. Which countries will be
the largest in 2025 versus 2022?
Proximity to Manufacturing Plants:
Transportation costs contribute one of
the largest line items in your pricing
calculation. Logically, shipping to a
neighboring country is likely to cost
less than shipping half way across to the
world. Citizens of adjacent countries have
probably visited your country and may
have seen your brand or a commercial for
it. Canada occupies the northern border
of the USA and is the single largest export
market for USA consumer goods
manufacturers ( and vice versa).
Extend Current Retailer/Distributor
Partnerships: Global retailers such as
Carrefour, Metro, Walmart, and Tesco
operate in many countries (and continents.)
Asian and Europe feature regional
distributors. Your brand has established
a track record with these leading players.
Your company is already proficient at
working with their operating models.
Leverage these relationships to enter
new markets. Warning: this can be a risky
strategy when you base your plan on a
large global retailer that happens to have
a small presence in your target market.
Examples: Aldi-USA, Whole-Foods UK,
or Walmart-Argentina.
Cost to Enter: There is a cost of doing
business in each market. Markets such as
Italy and Hong Kong maintain notoriously
high cost of entry into the supermarket
channel. Latin American/Asian markets
require investment, but at more modest
levels relative to Europe or the USA.
Market Complexity: How difficult will it
be to enter the market? Certain markets
are consolidated with a few major retailers
and many qualified distributors. Other
markets are complicated, with multiple
trade channels, fragmented retail
environment, and a disparity in usage
profiles for your category. Larger markets
are challenging to enter. However, a
5% market share in a large country may
deliver greater long term dividends than
a 50% market share in a small country.
Competitive Environment – Get Ready
for Battle: Evaluation of the competitive
landscape in your target market is critical.
Does the market represent virgin territory?
Or will you face 2-3 major, multinational
competitors? In competitive markets,
existing market combatants will typically
spend heavily to defend their brand
position to blunt a competitive
introduction. It is likely that you face
competition in every market. However,
it is important to calibrate the existing
competitive environment.
Availability of Enthusiastic Local Partner:
Selection of a qualified, local partner is
another key factor. Strong distributors
and importers exist in every market.
Pro-active contact from a leading
distributor indicates that this market
expert sees potential in your product.
This is favorable and may encourage you
to prioritize this type of market. However,
you must conduct due diligence to insure
that this enthusiastic distributor (that you
meet at a trade fair) maintains the critical
mass and skill set required to succeed in
building your brand.
These factors all play an important role in
determining the “Size of the Prize” in new
markets. Veteran exporters will weigh each
factor to establish the right path forward
for their export development plan.
New Country Expansion Prioritization
Create Your Own Export Library
Looking for a fresh point of view for your
next event or training workshop?
Contact Greg Seminara at
All guides available free at www.exportsolutions.com.
Export Strategy Guide
Distributor Search Guide
Export Handbook
Selling to USA Handbook
Distributor Management Guide
Finance & Logistics
300 Tips for
Export Managers
Idea Guide:
New World New Business
Export Treasure Chest
My Favorite Templates & Forms
People Power
Strong Teams Build Great Brands
New Distributor
Cooperation Model
Export managers rarely think about how much money a
distributor is making from representing their company. Big
mistake! How often do you think about your own salary? How
do you feel when you get a raise? Or no bonus or a reduction of
salary? Most distributors are family owned operations, relying
on net profit margins in the 3-5 percent range. Distributors make
money on scale, always looking to attract companies with
existing sales versus pioneering risky new product ventures.
1. Calculate how much revenue your distributor sources from
representing your company.
A quick estimate can be generated from net sales multiplied
by the distributor margin.
2. What is the work required to build your brand?
How much of the distributor’s resources will you need to achieve
your mutual objectives? Is your brand a tough sale, or growing a
popular item? Dedicated brand manager or shared?
3. How much complexity is involved with your business?
Number of items in your product portfolio? Shelf life?
Temperature control logistics? Highly competitive category
or “niche?” Every day low price or frequent promotions?
Average order size? How much help (pressure!) from
manufacturer? Marketing budget? These inputs directly
impact distributor profitability.
4. Distributor margin is the first place where they generate income!
Distributor executives receive salaries and “owner-operator”
benefits like travel, cars, and jobs for family members. Country
level price calculations are usually based upon the most
expensive customer. A distributor gains income when other
customers do not receive similar discounts and rebates.
5. All distributor margins are not equal!
The key is to examine “what’s included.” Some margins appear
high, but could include periodic trade price promotions. Others
margins may be lower on the surface, but then allocate separate
line item add-ons for logistics, administrative overhead, or
distributor profit margin.
6. Pioneering is extremely difficult!
It may take one year from the time of your first discussion
with a distributor to the time he receives trade payment for his
first shipment. Normally, a distributor must allocate his team
resources for up to a year, with hope for a long term payout. This
is a difficult gamble. Manufacturers must remember this fact, and
understand when distributors refuse to partner with a company
with no existing sales.
7. Marketing investment drives distributor Income.
Funding required consumer and trade marketing investments
stimulates sales. Higher sales generally translates to higher
distributor profit. No investment leads to marginal sales and
lower distributor revenue.
8. Price increases: tough to execute, but pay raise for distributor
Customers are reluctant to accept price increases, because
they hate to raise prices to the consumer. However, currency
fluctuations and raw material prices force manufacturers to take
price increases. Many distributors are very open to a timely,
competitive price increase. Higher invoiced case costs deliver
greater returns at a consistent margin, except if volume suffers.
9. Consider direct talks on margin and compensation
Most employees enjoy an annual performance and salary review.
Many distributors would welcome a review of compensation
trends. This would include sales, resource allocation, currency
fluctuation, trade payment and competitive activity.
10. Open dialogue on alternate financial models
A company with critical mass may operate on an “open book,”
cost plus model with a distributor. A large brand may benefit
from margin rebates when certain volume thresholds are met.
Another approach involves manufacturer funding of a dedicated
“team within a team” at a distributor. For a small brand or new
entry, consider a monthly retainer fee to cover six month start-up
period. Another is an incentive program which rewards the
distributor for achieving volume targets.
11. Helpers are heroes!
Many distributors literally write the check for your invoice
from their own funds. Frequently it is difficult for small-mid size
distributors to dictate payment terms to multinational retailers.
This forces distributors to swallow price increases, extra retailer
fee demands, currency impact, etc. Large brand owners that
serve as caring partners that “help” will be rewarded with a
healthier distributor and more focus on their priorities from
an appreciative distributor.
Ten Tips: Distributors Need to Make Money Too!
Need a hand? Visit www.exportsolutions.com.
Stretching thin marketing budgets is a job
requirement for most Export Managers.
Listed below are “Ten Tips” for brand
building on a “Shoestring Budget.”
1. Tap into Government Export Programs
Many countries sponsor strong trade
organizations that can aid your export
development program. Exports translate
to jobs and most countries have well
established programs to facilitate the
sale of locally produced products. For
example, the USA Foreign Agricultural
Service will co-fund marketing
investments for small-mid size USA food
producers through their MAP programs.
German Sweets and GEFA, UBI France,
ICE (Italy), ICEX (Spain), Austrade
(Australia), and AG Canada serve as
valuable resources for local exporters.
These organizations often sponsor local
“Food Events” at leading supermarkets
in international countries. For example,
Austrade sponsored G’Day USA to
showcase Australian food producers to
USA consumers. These events are highly
publicized and normally feature a
relatively modest participation fee.
2. Leverage Relationships
with Global Retailers
Wal*Mart, Carrefour, Tesco & Costco all
maintain programs to ease the export
process for their current suppliers. This
usually involves direct consolidated
shipments with other local producers,
labeling assistance, and placement in a
special section in the international aisle of
their stores i.e. USA Foods, France Foods,
UK Foods etc. The immediate benefit is
the streamlined route to market without
payment of upfront local marketing fees.
This allows you to “Test the Market” prior
to a traditional market entry with a local
distributor and heavy marketing support.
3. Joint Venture with Local Manufacturer
Another idea is to locate a local player
in your category in a country targeted
for expansion. You may be able to offer
a potential partner innovation in
taste/flavor or packaging to complement
his local expertise. A joint venture or Co-
Branding agreement can produce revenues
without significant start-up funds.
4. Build Marketing Costs
into Distributor Margin
Many manufacturers build an accrual fund
into their distributor margin calculation.
Normally the
funding level
is around 10%
of sales, but
can range from
5 -20% depending
on the category.
This creates a
fund for the
local distributor
to manage. The
accrual fund
is created on
a “pay as you
go” basis, with
fund levels
to shipments. In
this scenario, the
usually provides
a small fixed sum to create a launch
budget prior to initial shipments.
5. Free Goods May Fund Trade Marketing
Free goods may be used to offset the cost
of trade marketing programs, particularly
for established brands. This can be in
form of a 1 free with 10 purchase or
similar type of promotional events.
The benefit is that your budget can be
stretched as your cost of goods produced
is less than the wholesale cost.
6. Private Label
Retailers source quality products for their
private label at the lowest possible price.
This eliminates the need for marketing
investments. However, private label is
difficult if freight expenses are too high.
7. Foodservice Channel
Foodservice/Catering offers a “low
investment” route to market versus
the supermarket channel. Foodservice
usually requires less traditional brand
marketing support. Foodservice operators
look for tailored solutions with rebates
based upon purchase levels. A small
budget for SPIF’s (SPIF- special incentive
fund) can generate purchases from
independent restaurants.
8. Specialty Retailers
Each country has specialty retailers that
serve as alternate channels for your
brands. This could include diverse
customers such as Cost Plus World
Market, Trader Joes, Big Lots or Dollar
Tree in the USA. These retailers maintain
different approaches not dependent
on heavy manufacturer spending. Their
strategy is to offer different brands (or
sizes) versus traditional supermarkets
or mass merchandisers.
9. Co-promotion with other Brands
Retailers generate excitement through
Theme events around a group of
complimentary items or common cause.
This could involve participating in
Barbecue event with other Barbecue
related products: Charcoal, Meat, Picnic
Supplies, Drinks, Pickles etc. Another
example is a retailer promotion
celebrating their anniversary or support
of their favorite Charity (Juvenile
Diabetes etc.). In many countries, leading
distributors sponsor an annual event for
all the brands they represent. Don’t forget
the country specific promotions (G’Day
USA) mentioned earlier. In each case,
manufacturers pay for a portion of the
event as costs are spread out among all
brand participants.
10. “In & Out Packs/Gift Baskets
These special packs can generate
incremental business without investment
in listing fees or shelf space. Examples
could include modular displays, trail
size shippers, or bonus packs with
free product or gift. Gift Baskets are
very popular during the Christmas
Holidays. This is a good vehicle for
“Fine Foods” brands to gain exposure
with gourmet consumers.
International Expansion – Shoestring Budget
Selling more to Bermuda and Bahamas
versus Brazil? More business in Hong
Kong than China? Join the club. The
long road to BRIC success is filled with
dangerous curves and uncertain junc-
tions. “Low hanging fruit” opportunities
in these countries have long disappeared
replaced by a scrum of category
combatants from all corners of the world
wrestling for market share in what could
be small categories for a long time to
come. There are no miracle solutions! Our
ten tips apply to large emerging markets
such as China and Mexico as well as
companies having troubles penetrating
Germany, Japan, Italy or the USA.
1. Apply Fundamental Lessons Learned
from your Home Market
Think about the factors that drove your
success in your home market: Unique
product, Consumer Research, Local
Production, Competitive Pricing,
Marketing Budget, Strong sales team, etc.
The same fundamentals apply to entering
large new markets. I always challenge the
senior management of my clients with the
following Business Case Study: What
would you do if competing Global Brand
“A” from another continent tried to enter
your home market? The response is filled
with aggressive plans to defend the home
turf. My next question is “Don’t you think
that the local competition will react the
same way when you plan to enter their
home market?”
2. Stop Treating Large Countries
as Export Markets
Shipping small quantities of product
thousands of miles and visiting twice
a year will not win in a large market like
Germany, the USA, Mexico, or China.
Large markets need to be treated
strategically, with a separate business
strategy and resource commitment versus
a small export market. In some cases, it is
better to exit a large market if you can not
commit versus potentially harming the
brand image with lackluster shipments
through a subpar effort.
3. Conduct Market Research
Extensive category research is required
in strategic markets. Is your category
developed or evolving? For developed
categories, what unique characteristics
does your brand deliver and how much
do you plan to invest to source share from
existing brands? In new categories, what
does the consumer say about your brand?
Is the taste profile
appreciated, even if it
foreign versus the local
cuisine. Syndicated data
is available which will
help you gauge the “size
of the prize.”
4. Pursue Local Manufacturing
Export programs to large
countries infrequently
generate substantial
businesses. The incremental
overseas freight costs and
duty structures normally
translate to retail prices far higher
than competition produced in country.
Building a factory represents a long term
commitment. Contract packing could
provide a less costly, interim option.
5. Prepare Your Board for
a Long Term Investment
Creating a meaningful new business in a
large country is not a 1-2 year event. More
realistic is a 5-10 year plan depending on
existing acceptance of your category.
Brands and habits and practices take
years to create except in the case of true
innovation. A significant investment in
marketing is mandatory, even in the case
of a true category innovation.
6. Buy a Local Competitor
The quickest way to gain a presence in a
large market is to acquire a local competitor.
Conduct a category review and see which
competitor would be the best “fit” for your
company from a product portfolio and
cultural standpoint. Price is always a
consideration, as you do not want to
overpay for future growth in an emerging
market or pay too much for market share
in a mature market.
7. Don’t Tackle Many Large Countries At Once
Companies multi task. Morning meeting on
Mexico and we’ll attack Russia after lunch.
A better idea is to pick one major country
and plan to focus the teams resources on
winning in that country for the next 1-2
years. This includes deployment of human
resources as well as investment dollars. Get
it right and management will be pleased to
fund a broader expansion. Spread yourself
too thin and you may fail everywhere.
8. Invest in an Expatriate
Companies need a soldier from your head
office on the ground in the country of focus.
This facilitates the transfer of best practices
and company culture to the new country.
The expatriate knows who to call at the
home office to get things done. He can
report the true status of initiatives and has
a long term dedication to the company. Best
bet is to partner the company soldier with
an experienced local player who knows
the local market, culture, customers etc.
Language barriers can present a challenge,
but the benefits far outweigh the issues.
9. Scorecard against In Store Fundamentals
Your sales team must be equipped and
measured against the fundamentals of
securing strong in-store presence at
leading retailers. Too many times, a
team’s progress is judged solely upon
shipment numbers. Another scenario
reflects positive reports regarding chain
headquarter authorizations, but no follow
up execution at store level. Our business
succeeds with a team focused with
winning the battle store by store.
10. Consider a Local Partner
Plans may be fast tracked through a local
partner. Partnerships can take many
forms including a joint venture, licensee,
services contract, or distributor type
relationship. Extensive due diligence is
required as unsuccessful partnerships can
be difficult to exit. Export Solutions has a
thorough nine step process we deploy on
our many partner identification projects.
Lessons learned including alignment
from your partners senior management
to the retail merchandiser, as often the
partners commitment gets diluted
through the supply chain. It’s advisable
to have your own representative “in
house” at the partner to look out for your
company interests. Partner results are
directly proportional to your investment
as even the best sales teams require the
right financial resources to allow them
to obtain optimal performance.
Ten Tips Fixing the Problem: Small Shipments to Big Countries
Exporters love the thrill of creating plans
to conquer new markets. The reality is
that our annual sales quota is dependent
on driving new sales from our existing
markets and distributors. This appears
as a challenge in a low growth country
or mature category, particularly if you
are not blessed with baskets of money to
invest in brand support activities. Listed
below are our ten tips for sourcing new
sales from existing markets.
1. Fill in White Spaces on your Listing Map
Most manufacturers focus their energy
on the total sales number for a country.
The one template I recommend for each
market is a Listing Map. This grid lists top
10 customers in the first column and your
brand SKU assortment in a horizontal
row. Where are the distribution voids?
Which new listings will generate the most
cases? What resources are needed to fill
the white spaces? What is the plan?
2. 10% Challenge
Trade spending may be a wise investment
if it drives profitable, incremental sales.
This is a good time of year to challenge
distributors with the question: “What
type of spend levels would be necessary
to secure a 10% increase in shipments
(consumption) in the next 90 days?.”
Of course, in emerging markets you
may want to challenge the distributor
for a 20-40% increase or higher.
3. Retail Sales Contest
Competitive sales representatives love
contests. Everyone enjoys winning a prize
or supplementing their income. Brand
owners should consider a sales contest
that is tied to “Pay for Performance.”
Measure incremental pallet displays for
volume brands or most creative display
for smaller brands. Sync your competition
with your peak seasonality or a new
product launch. Awards such as iPads or
weekend trips are motivational. Structure
the contest to maximize winners. Create
a theme and “have fun.”
4. Senior Management Visit
Schedule a visit for your company
president or other senior executive to visit
an underperforming market. Arrange for
the visit 2-3 months in advance. You
would be surprised at the serious market
issues that are resolved prior to your
bosses arrival. The executive’s visit is
boosted by new ideas and a commitment
for future performance.
5. Evaluate Your Pricing Model
Pricing drives volume. Most pricing
models were designed at the beginning
of a relationship and rarely revisited
except for the periodic price increase.
Conduct a retail pricing survey. What is
your price gap versus your competition?
What would happen if you adopted an
“every day low price” approach? If you
took a price decline of 10%, would the
incremental volume compensate for
the price reduction?
6. Co-Promotion: Leverage
Distributors Portfolio
Many of the most successful distributors
run quarterly or annual promotional
events featuring all their brands. Normally,
there is a charity tie-in or special theme
overlay. The beauty is that each of the
distributors brands pays only their share
of the event. These Co-Promotion events
turn out to be a big win for the distributor
and each of their brands.
7. Annual Customer Business Review
It’s appropriate for a formal review
of your business at each major customer.
This could be a data intensive review at
a key customer in a developed market
or a “two pager” in an emerging market.
The process is the key. Focusing each
sales representative to analyze their
business results and identify their
largest opportunities adds visibility
to your priorities.
8. Spend Time at Retail
Most market visits program the
export manager from hotel to office
to customer followed by dinn