A guide to visiting your new international target market for the first time

After you’ve identified your target market is a great time to go and visit it. Travelling there for a holiday, or if you’ve already done a tonne of research isn’t quite the same. Nothing can compare to a business trip with clear objectives.

Before you embark on your first business trip to your new target market, use this checklist to help make sure you cover as much as possible on your visit, and help give your business the biggest chance for overseas success.

Do some market research

Before taking off, research the consumer market, but also the business environment you’re venturing into. Speak to other Australian businesses who use the same business partners and learn any cultural protocols you should be aware of. It’s generally good practice to get to know your business partners personally before working together, especially in Asia (as this is considered good manners), but this may also help to learn the partner business’ hierarchy of authority.

Of course, you should be mindful of certain gestures and customs, but just like in Australia, some etiquette is subtle, and can only be learned with personal experience. Keep in mind that some Australian gestures, phrases or decorum may take on a different meaning in other cultures or be interpreted a different way.

Once you arrive, take the opportunity to visit local supermarkets or stores, and study their displays and methods of sale such as promotional offers or demonstrations. The way popular products are positioned may give you valuable insight into what your market finds desirable. This may also be a great opportunity to get to know your potential customers – so strike up a conversation.

Conduct some qualitative research and ask potential customers how well the competition satisfies them. By understanding the tastes, preferences and quality expectations of your potential customers, you may be able to identify opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise.

Understand your supply chain

Your supply chain is crucial to the success of your export business, so take the time to review each link in person. This means you may have to meet with the groups involved to make sure they understand your specific business needs. Check for adequate warehousing, especially for perishables, and assess the timing of distribution to end-buyers as well as the condition of your product when they receive it. The success of your product can depend on a strong first impression.

Assess the competition

By this point, you should have a good understanding of who your direct competitors are. So when you visit, it’s your opportunity to evaluate their product first hand. Make sure you examine their price, packaging, marketing, and distribution methods, and use this information to identify where you might have some advantage.

It’s important to remember that a large competitor may initiate promotions, or cut their prices to protect their market position. This is your chance to figure out first-hand what level of advertising you could use to stay competitive, as well as gaining an understanding what promotions your customers will expect.

Identify potential partners

In some destinations, such as the Middle East, it can be difficult to break agreements once they’re in place. That’s why it can be critical to get to know your potential partners very well before you begin your business together. Write a list of the key factors you may need in order to succeed in the market, and assess your potential partner’s ability to meet these needs. It’s also generally good sense to ensure a legal advisor, particularly one familiar with the local rules and regulations, looks over any written agreements prior to you committing to a partnership.

Pick up information from others in the market, and get references from other Australian companies that use your potential partner. Your various business partners – whether they’re agents, distributors or suppliers – can mean the difference between success and failure.

Create a contingency plan

No matter how much research and planning you conduct, there can always be bumps in the road. While you’re there, you could test your business strategy to ensure it’s still viable. Identify potential risks, and assess your ability to overcome unforeseen obstacles.

Export rules and regulations can change from time to time, so you may need to monitor both the Australian export guides, and local government policies and restrictions closely, and have a contingency plan in case your business is impacted.

But remember you’re not alone in this. Breathe easy – if for some reason you need to change or adapt your export strategy, you will have some resources to lean on for support.

Ready to take on the world?

Read our Insights paper on the Australian small businesses that have gone global and begin charting your route there.

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