Making the right in-country contacts is probably one of the first things you consider when you want to enter a new overseas markets. Making those connections can certainly be a major barrier to entry, and many companies rely heavily on international trade shows and trade missions to promote their products to potential buyers and distributors. However, if you rely too heavily on international trade shows to make contacts, you could be wasting a lot of time and money chasing down unfruitful leads.
For most CEOs, the primary sticking point with trade missions should be that there are no concrete statistics showing that trade missions actually increase the amount of trade between countries. This is important to consider when maximizing your return on investment for international business development. In fact, it is just as likely that a rising prevalence of international trade shows and missions are a symptom of increased trade between countries rather than the cause.
This is not to say that businesses do not make contacts that lead to future business deals during trade shows, but you must remember that you are just as likely to walk away with a bunch of “promising” new contacts that in reality can do little to help you establish a foothold.
If you want to increase the odds of breaking into a new market, you must make the right in-country contacts and build a meaningful relationship with them. Needless to say, it is difficult to make that type of connection during a trade mission, especially if you go overseas without someone who knows the dynamics of the target country.
Rather, it is better to be personally introduced to the right in-country contacts by someone they know and trust. Enlisting the services of a seasoned foreign area expert with on-the-ground business experience in the country you want to do business is more productive than trying to make your own appointments during a trade mission and will lead to more business deals.
Besides introducing you to contacts, a foreign area business expert will also know the details of the market and business environment that you cannot find in off the shelf market research reports. An expert can quickly help you determine the needs and concerns of the in-country contacts and identify the best strategies for you to close deals with them.
Moreover, if you are only looking at countries that have trade missions on the schedule, you are missing opportunities in other countries. There is no need to allow the schedule of a trade association or government bureaucracy decide when is the best time for you to seek out in-country contacts. As with most business decisions, timing is key, and making the right contacts at the wrong time is simply not helpful.
If you have an overseas market in your crosshairs, we would enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences with making meaningful contacts at trade shows (or otherwise). Please reach out to us if you would like assistance finding a foreign area business expert in your target country. We are happy to leverage our network to make connections that will help grow American businesses.