5 Straight-Forward Tips for Finding Trade Leads
You have a solid manufacturing business, but it can only grow so far in the U.S., so you decide to export your goods. In addition to all the challenges (and rewards) involved in exporting, you will need to find international buyers. How?
How to find buyers for their products is one of the first questions exporters ask themselves when going global. Chasing trade leads can be difficult, especially for smaller companies that do not have the in-house resources to locate reputable overseas partners.
To make it in the global marketplace, exporters need a steady stream of buyers, not just a couple.
There are several things manufacturers can do to find quality export trade leads and convert them into long-term buyers. Following are five ways to find viable prospects.
1. Make and Nurture Connections
Ask around. Someone somewhere knows somebody who knows somebody else who might want to buy and import your product. Some of the best leads are found this way.
Join Trade Groups
Seek out and join local import/export associations, the chamber of commerce, trade-specific organizations and international business groups. Get your name and business card in front of as many trade professionals as you can. Also look for them online, in social media networks and event websites such as Meetup and Eventbrite.
Talk to other manufacturers. You could help each other by exchanging referrals. A manufacturer that exports wood cabinets might be willing to refer his clients to you for the installation hardware.
Attend Trade Shows, Fairs and Expos
Most countries and industries host trade shows, fairs and expositions to showcase their imports and exports. At these events, you can find many leads in one place. Attend those in the U.S. and in the country where you want to export. Figure out where your potential buyers would gather, and go there.
2. Enlist U.S. Embassies and Foreign Agencies
In order to boost their economies, most governments support exporters in their countries, and the U.S. is no different.
Contact the U.S. Department of Commerce and its International Trade Administration. You can obtain free research and information about your target country as well as pre-qualified leads from your trade representative, who can also arrange meetings for you.
Contact U.S. embassies in the country or countries where you want to find trade partners and request a list of companies that could potentially become your buyers. The embassies also offer in-depth industry analyses and manufacturing reports, some of which are available online for free.
Contact foreign embassies and trade agencies for information. Different agencies specialize in different imports, such as industrial machinery, raw materials, electronics, agriculture, etc. Having a foreign representative on your side can help you find the buyers you need.
3. Visit export.gov
Export.gov is the product of a joint effort of 19 U.S. government. The website provides information on a wide range of export topics—from embassy locations to country- and market-specific export guides.
The website has a database of trade leads that contains contract opportunities for U.S. companies selling their products and services overseas. These export opportunities come from several government agencies and non-government organizations, including the following:
- U.S. State Department’s Business Information Database System (BIDS)
- U.S. Federal Government Business Opportunities (FedBizOps)
- U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
- The Millennium Challenge Corporation
- Foreign governments
Country Commercial Guides
The website’s Country Commercial Guides provide data about trade regulations, market conditions, political environment, investment climate and other relevant information for more than 125 countries.
U.S. Commercial Service
A link to the U.S. Commercial Service page shows exporters how to get help locally at more than 100 nationwide and 70 international offices and offers assistance in planning, assessing, promoting and expanding an export business.
4. Pursue Different Leads
Remember your potential buyers come in more than one shape.
Some foreign agencies have buying agents in the U.S. actively looking for suppliers. Contact your local embassy and use the Internet to find them. Browse the country’s import-export website. Make sure you are dealing with an official or accredited representative with the authority to do business on the agency’s behalf.
Dealing with private firms or wholesale distributors instead of government agencies can expedite the process of finding buyers and exporting your goods. Trade groups have lists of reputable foreign distributors, saving you the time—and money—of searching for them yourself.
Foreign wholesalers have middlemen seeking export opportunities on their behalf. These agents are paid on commission, so they are motivated to make a good match.
5. Boost Your Marketing Efforts
Update your website to include information for potential international buyers and translate it into the language of your target country so that it shows up in searches done in that language.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Hire a reputable search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to optimize your website for search engines and help your prospects find it. Hire someone who does not engage in unethical practices such as keyword stuffing or hidden links, which could get your website blacklisted by search engines. You may need another SEO to optimize your website in the language of the country where you want to expand.
List and Directories
Listing your website is as many lists and directories as possible will improve your chances of getting found and ranking higher in search results.
Publish new, informative or educational content to your website regularly to improve its odds of moving up in search results and to provide an added value service to potential and existing buyers.
Consider targeted advertising to boost traffic to your website. Identify your target buyers and the websites they are likely to visit. Test a few ads on those websites and measure the results.
There are companies out there that want to import your products. You just have to find them. Using these tips you can do it, as others have before you. It may be a challenging task, but just think about how much harder it was before the Internet. There—it just got easier.