Getting The Most Out Of Trade Missions
In the business community, several organisations organise trade missions to enable companies seeking to expand their markets and reach, to develop business linkages with other companies and business people from other markets and regions of the world.
These trade missions are organised by Federal Government Ministries and Agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, & Investment, and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Multilateral Institutions such as UNIDO, Bilateral Organisations such as the Nigeria-American Chamber of Commerce, and Business Member Organisations such as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who invite their members to participate in these trade missions to expose them to opportunities in outside markets.
Commercial and Trade sections at the various embassies regularly receive trade missions from their home countries, and organise for business people in these missions to meet and hold business meetings with local business people in the Nigerian business community.
We have found that business men and women, are often not prepared to take full advantage of these opportunities to position their businesses to develop meaningful and profitable business links and relationships with their counterparts from other markets. So in this brief article, we will provide readers with helpful tips to enable you to make the most of your participation in outbound trade missions.
When preparing for a trade mission, take the time to carry out some preliminary research into the market economy of the country you are visiting. Search for specific information on specific businesses or companies in your industry that you may wish to visit or meet. Find out about the place, culture and peoples, to allow your interface during the visit to yield positive results. Good resources for the information you seek are the commercial sections to the embassies of the countries you may be visiting.
If you have access to the Internet, you may source this information on the net through such rich resources as country and industry reports that you may find useful. Country governments also have their own websites where you can elicit even more country specific data.
As a businessperson your purpose for participating in a trade mission may be to: –
- Source equipment materials and other inputs to your production processes
- Investigate the market as a place to sell your products & services
- Source joint venture partners
- Source franchising opportunities
- Source foreign investors etc. etc.
Proper preparation before a trade mission enables you to maximise the opportunity to explore and experience a new market first hand. Therefore, ensure that you have a purpose and a focus for the visit. This will enable you to return home with tangible results.
As mentioned above you will need to carry out some research and obtain information in preparation for your visit. This information can be culled from the sources mentioned above as well as:
- Business and Trade Associations
- Embassies (Commercial Officer)
- Others (USIS, British Council, WTO, World Bank, Doing Business Reports, etc.)
If you already have specific companies you wish to meet, you can verify the status of such businesses through the embassies of the countries to be visited. Prospecting in this way helps you see the market from an informed position.
When armed with the right information, you are able to show your prospective business acquaintance that you know your business. You may wish to make contact prior to the visit, as this helps to get preliminaries out of the way preparatory to a scheduled meeting.
When participating in a trade mission, you must arm yourself with the following marketing tools:-
1. Business Cards
Business cards are one of the most effective networking and marketing tools you can use for your business. When creating a business card, everything from card stock to content should be considered. A business card is a reflection of your business and if poorly designed, people may question the quality of your product or service.
When building your card the following must be taken into consideration:-
- Size and shape
- Card stock
Keep in mind that your business card is meant to advertise your business and can also be used to promote your products and services.
Another important tool is your company brochure or profile. When designing your brochure you must do the following:-
- Clearly define your business
- List your services and products in a very concise manner
- Provide your contact details
- Ensure the design is attractive
3. Samples (If Possible)
This enables the other party whom you have approached to determine the potential of doing business with you.
When you arrive at your destination, arrange to have introductory meetings with prospective clients, customers, vendors, suppliers, investors etc. At these meetings clarify the details of your relationship in terms of:-
- Identifying who the contact persons will be for all parties involved in the transaction
- Exchanging information about one another’s businesses
- Agreeing on the follow up steps to be taken upon return to the country
Do not make any legally binding commitments at this stage.
Upon your return to the country, contact those prospects with whom you met and with whom you intend to do business. Engage the services of professionals to give you the legal, technical, financial and business advise required. Remember to always project a positive image of your business. Always practice good business ethics in your cross border dealings at all times.
In conclusion I wish to stress that the world of international business is fraught with danger for the unprepared businessperson. You are advised to develop a strong relationship with your business association, bank, vendors (especially international vendors) and other advisers.
It is important for the sake of your business to seek expert advice in order to make the best of the wonderful opportunities that international business offers.