Wise exporters, large and small, utilize overseas trade missions to expand their marketing programs and sales strategy.
Here's why they're a good investment for your company:
What Are Trade Missions?
Trade missions are pre-arranged working trips that are conducted by organizations set up to serve the interest of exporters. Organizers include U.S. Department of Commerce offices, state trade offices, industry associations, and public utilities.
How Do Trade Missions Work?
Mission leaders and their support staff provide comprehensive assistance in pre-selected, target-rich markets. Exporters benefit from valuable face-to-face contact with potential customers, representatives and investment partners. The results of a well-executed trade mission are business leads that yield increased sales.
Why Go on Trade Missions?
Trade missions are the biggest bang for your buck. According to Dr. Joe Adams, a long-term successful mission leader for the State of Virginia: “You don’t have to worry about making appointments; you don’t have to worry about getting past secretaries; it is all pre-arranged. All you have to do is get a plane ticket and go.”
In terms of marketing, a well-organized and properly lead trade mission is a great leveraging tool.
What Do Trade Missions Offer?
A well-organized trade mission provides expert service and assistance to include the following activities:
- Qualify potential customers pertinent to your company’s product.
- Identify potential representation partners.
- Provide contact with government and public officials.
- Offer translation as needed.
- Arrange logistics, including local transportation, accommodations, appointments, and meeting facilities.
In many cases, trade missions will enable you to conduct more and better business interviews than you could do on your own. Surprisingly, some trade missions provide the service and assistance free of charge. In some cases, they are even partially subsidized by the organizers. In these cases, all you have to do is purchase your airline ticket, pay for your lodging and simply show up.
How Do You Get the Most out of Trade Missions?
Based on my many years of experience as both a participant and a mission leader, the number one criteria for producing optimum results from a trade mission is to clearly define your expectations for participating on the trip. Be sure to write specific, simple and quantifiable objectives.
The second most important criteria to get the most out of a trade mission is to provide your mission leader with a one-page profile. This should be sent as far in advance as possible. One page is preferred as it can be faxed, emailed and handed out in pre-mission recruiting activity.
The first item of your profile should clearly state a one-paragraph description of your company. The second item should be a paragraph explaining, in lay terminology, your product or service. The third item is an explanation of the type of company and person you need to meet with. The fourth item to include is a brief list of your most important expectations.
This one-page profile makes it easier for the mission leader to understand how to best help you. It will also be a constant reminder to keep you focused and on track before and during your mission.
In summary, a well-organized and clearly defined trade mission can be one of your best marketing and sales tools to help you grow your international business.
This article was first published in May 2002 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.