Guest Blog: 10 Commandments of Export Marketing by Coach Bengo (Part 4)
Understand the Demographics and Geography of the Export Market
I remember that night in Sao Paulo, I felt on top of the world, this was a personal accomplishment, a small boy who grew up in the islands of Trinidad and Tobago now here as an Export Salesperson on the eve of conquering Brazil. As I looked out the window of the hotel room I felt confident, who could have blamed me, I had successfully launched our products across the Caribbean islands and was now ready to take on the continent.
Before I retired to bed I checked my agenda for the following three days and saw the list of appointments in Sao Paulo. It was a good list, interested contacts at companies I had researched in a market with a hugh potential.
The following morning at 8.30am I made my first telephone call, informing my contact of my arrival, asking for directions and assuring him I will be there shortly. Before he could give me directions, he enquired as to my location, – which hotel was I staying at? After relating him the name of the hotel and its location he then replied …”Ooo…well then you have to ask the taxi driver to take you to the local airport and take a plane to….” “There must have been some mistake….I am in Sao Paulo and your address is in Sao Paulo”…”yes you are correct but it will take you a plane ride or 6 hours by car to arrive at my location in Sao Paulo”…Yikkes.
That morning was a humiliating experience. Each of my appointments required that I take a plane ride or a half day by car to arrive at their location. Sao Paulo was a big State!!!!!
How stupid I felt! I had extrapolated my experience in the islands of the Caribbean and made assumptions on this market. Those three days were only sufficient for me to meet and discuss with just one of my appointments.
My story is as embarrassing as it is a monumental mistake. Making blind assumptions about the demographics or geography of an export market is a cardinal mistake. Each market is different. Experiences in one market hardly hold true for another.
It is easy to make false assumptions based on past experience. Instead of quick assumptions an export practitioner should do his/her secondary research. Read up trade bulletins on the market, get accurate demographics numbers, understand the culture and the preferences.
I remember listening to a taxi driver in Suriname telling me that the largest ethnic group in the country is descendants of Japanese and I remained bewildered as to how that could be. I learned two days later that he was saying Javanese but it sounded like Japanese to me. And even that statistic was wrong.
So do your desk homework first. Google every possible question, read all official documents, seek out trade associations help and advice and ask experienced exporters their guidance.