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Export and International Trade Business

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Making Contacts In Export

After a company has identified its most promising markets and devised strategies to enter those markets, the next step is to actually locate a buyer. If that buyer is the end user of a company's product or service, a relatively simple transaction may result. In many cases, however, exporters need an in-country presence through a representative or distributor to reach the eventual buyer. Alternatively, the firm may identify customers through attendance at trade shows, trade missions, direct mail campaigns, and advertising.

Regardless of how the exporter makes contacts and develops sales leads, the exporter faces many questions:

  • Specifically who are potential buyers?
  • What trade shows are the most effective?
  • Which marketing techniques are most successful?

In this chapter exporters will find the means to answer these questions. The marketing techniques described are by no means exhaustive.


Contacts made through business colleagues and associations can often prove invaluable to exporters. A colleague with firsthand experience in an international market may give a personal recommendation for an agent, distributor, or potential buyer. Conversely, the recommendation against the use of a representative for credit or reliability reasons may save the firm a number of problems. Attending export seminars and industry trade shows is an excellent method of networking with business people who have international experience. In addition, trade associations can provide a valuable source of contacts with individuals who may wish to share their experience of identifying and selling to buyers and representatives in foreign markets.

Banks can be another source of assistance in locating overseas representation. The international departments, branches, or correspondent banks of local banks may help locate reputable firms that are qualified and willing to represent exporters. In addition, freight forwarders, freight carriers, airlines, port authorities, and chambers of commerce maintain offices throughout the world. These service firms often have contacts with qualified representatives and can make recommendations to the firm. Foreign embassy and consulate commercial offices may also be able to provide directories and assistance.


A large and varied assortment of magazines covering international markets is available to exporters through publishers. They range from specialized international magazines relating to individual industries such as construction, beverages, and textiles, to worldwide industrial magazines covering many industries. Many consumer publications produced by local-based publishers are also available. Several are produced in national-language editions (Spanish for Latin America, and so on) and also offer "regional buys" for specific export markets of the world. In addition, several business directories published in the United States and England list foreign representatives geographically or by industry specialization.

Publishers frequently supply potential exporters with helpful market information, make specific recommendations for selling in the markets they cover, help advertisers locate sales representation, and render

other services to aid international advertisers. For an extensive list of these international publications see the International Section of Business Publication Rates and Data, a book published by Standard Rate and Data Service, 5201 Old Orchard Road, Smoke, IL 60077. Another publication, The Gale Directory, contains an even more complete list of foreign periodicals, but it provides less detailed information on circulation and rates. These directories may be available at libraries.

Television, radio, and specially produced motion pictures may also be used by a business for promoting products or services, depending on the country. In areas where programs may be seen and heard in public places, television and radio promotions offer one of the few means of bringing an advertising message to great numbers of people. In many countries, particularly in Latin America, various forms of outdoor advertising (billboards, posters, electric signs, and streetcar and bus cards) are widely used to reach the mass audience.

Because of the specialized knowledge required to advertise and promote successfully in foreign markets, firms may find useful the services of an advertising agency with offices or correspondents abroad. Some agencies handle nothing but foreign advertising, and some marketing consultants specialize in the problems peculiar to selling in foreign markets.

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