As a business owner in an ideal world: You attend a trade mission and walk away with a signed deal. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in an ideal world.
So what’s the real value of attending a trade mission?
Participating in a trade mission fits into the Market Research section of your Export Plan. A trade mission is not your export plan; it is one of the market research activities you will do in the process of determining what your export plan could be.
Attending a trade mission will provide you with:
- A hands-on view of the potential, and the challenges, of exporting to that specific area of the world
- Connections that you can follow up with after the trade mission to continue your market research.
As business advisors, we recommend that our clients who identify “export” as one of their business goals, explore the trade mission options offered by Global Affairs Canada and its Trade Commissioner Service (TCS).
Through the Global Affairs ministry, the federal government has trade commissioners living in many countries around the world. Based on their knowledge of the regional economy and infrastructure of their territory, those trade commissioners can help you:
- Evaluate your potential,
- Identify the risks and challenges you might encounter, and
- Make connections with potential customers or influencers in your industry sector.
Nine women business owners from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia participated in the September 2016 Go For The Greens (GFTG) trade mission to Orlando, Florida. This trade mission was led by the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) team, which is part of the Global Affairs Canada Trade Commissioner Service.
Some of the Canadian women business owners who participated in the most recent GFTG trade mission are already doing business in Florida; others were researching the market. While there, participants got a chance to meet one of the federal government’s trade commissioners in that area, Ximena Pauvif-Machado. Ximena was able to facilitate connections, as well as provide clients with information on the economy, major industries and nuances of the culture.
What did women business owners identify as highlights of Go For The Greens?
“The opportunity to connect with other women business owners outside of my existing network.”
“Matchmaking. To have the opportunity to showcase my brand in front of potential corporate buyers is something I never would have thought possible as a small business.”
As any trade mission delegate will tell you, preparation before a trade mission is key.
“You need to make time for preparation if you want to make the best of the trade mission.”
What preparation is required?
- Practice your Pitch: Be able to succinctly communicate the solutions your business provides and for whom. Be able to identify your current markets and distribution mechanisms, as well as your production capacity.
- Present a professional image: Prepare yourself, your staff and your marketing materials so that they fit with the needs and culture of potential customers at the trade mission.
- Be knowledgeable about the top 5 companies at the trade mission that you would like to connect with: Before the trade mission, research each company by reading through their website and other pertinent information you find about the company on the internet. Know how your business provides a solution for their company and fits into their priorities. Practice answering the questions you think a corporate rep. might ask if you have an opportunity to sit with them at a lunch or if you are chosen for a matchmaker meeting with them.
Those who have identified exporting as a business goal appreciate that it is not just an add-on to their business. A business owner serious about exporting will make exporting research a priority and, based on their research, develop an export plan.