An extremely important aspect of any business plan is finding customers. No matter how great your product is, you won’t be successful unless you get it in front of a buyer. As networking, face-to-face interaction and relationship building are critically important in international sales, thankfully there are several methods and resources to help you accomplish these tasks.
Joining a trade organization allows you to leverage the knowledge and resources of a larger entity. Being an active participant also provides numerous networking opportunities allowing you to learn from industry peers.
– International Housewares Association
The International Housewares Association (IHA) is committed to maximizing the success of the home products industry on behalf of its membership by:
- Providing a world-class home products marketplace.
- Facilitating global commerce and the buyer-seller interface.
- Increasing consumer awareness and interest in home products.
- Gathering and disseminating essential marketplace intelligence.
- Educating and supporting key constituencies to improve their success.
IHA owns and operates the International Home + Housewares Show, which attracts more than 8,000 international attendees from over 130 countries to Chicago each March. And, throughout the year, IHA, through the International Business Council, offers members several programs and opportunities designed to increase international sales.
– International Business Council
The International Business Council (IBC) is a special interest group of IHA members, dedicated to helping its membership market and sell their products internationally by sharing information, providing networking opportunities and offering programs to assist, support and educate.
The IBC website also contains a members-only section that provides access to many detailed and useful resources under the following categories:
- Key Retail Reports
- Key Distributor Reports
- Country Reports
- Special Reports
- Global Forum Presentations
- International Buyer Lists
Each year, the IBC holds the Global Forum and conducts pavilions and trade missions in various markets. Additional information about these specific opportunities follows later in this article.
Membership to the IBC is free to current IHA members upon completion of an export survey – more information about joining is available on the IBC website.
– U.S. Department of Commerce
The U.S. Department of Commerce, through the U.S. Commercial Service, offers programs and resources to U.S. companies interested in growing international sales. Their website, www.export.gov, offers sections on How to Export, Customized Services, Market Intelligence, Events and Trade Problems. Two of their popular services are:
- International Partner Search, which helps identify prospects based on your needs
- Gold Key Service, which arranges for meetings with interested partners in foreign markets
It’s worth noting that according to their website, “You must be an export-ready U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin or that have at least 51% U.S. content to utilize this service.”
Trade shows are one of the most important and viable methods used to reach buyers. There is simply no better way to meet more people from more countries over a few days than to participate in a trade show.
– International Home + Housewares Show
The International Home + Housewares Show is the leading trade fair in the world for branded homegoods. Taking place in Chicago in March every year, the Show attracts more than 58,000 professionals from over 130 countries. The Show also offers exhibitors access to buyer lists, allowing you to contact buyers before and after the event. The Networking After Dark Reception held during the Show is an opportunity to connect with the global audience in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Additional information about the International Home + Housewares Show is available online.
– Other International Fairs
Other international fairs of importance include:
|Masion & Objet||Paris||January|
|Spring Fair||Birmingham, UK||January|
|Hong Kong Housewares Fair||Hong Kong||April|
|Chinese Export Commodities Fair||Guangzhou||April|
|Masion & Objet||Paris||September|
|Chinese Export Commodities Fair||Guangzhou||October|
A complete listing of trade fairs is available in the Special Reports section of the IBC members-only website. Please note that this list is only available to International Business Council Members – membership to the IBC is free to current IHA members upon completion of an export survey – more information about joining is available on the IBC website.
A pavilion is a collection of companies that exhibit together under a common banner either by being associated with a trade organization, such as IHA, or by country, such as the USA. The advantage is that participating companies don’t need to worry about booth construction and logistical details as this is normally done in advance by the pavilion organizer. This allows the exhibitor to focus on the marketing and sale of their products.
IHA frequently offers turn-key exhibiting opportunities at global trade fairs. To learn more about current pavilion opportunities, visit the IHA website.
Trade events are other activities that allow you to meet buyers in a pre-organized and pre-arranged manner. IHA, through its International Business Council (IBC), offers several opportunities each year that should be considered.
– IBC Global Forum
The IBC Global Forum is a two-to-four-day conference held in either June or September in a varying location in the Americas, with recent events taking place in Miami, Chicago and Mexico City.
The Global Forum brings together international sales managers from housewares companies for education and networking. The educational sessions are led by key retail and distributor buyers who provide pragmatic information about selling into their market and to their company. Networking opportunities are also readily available through group receptions and dinners, as well as through Strategic Networking sessions that are designed to allow participants the opportunity to discuss and find solutions to current problems and issues.
IBC members have access to Global Forum PowerPoint presentations after the event. Membership to IBC is free to current IHA members upon completion of an export survey.
Visit the IBC website for details on membership, future Global Forums and registration links.
– Trade Missions
Trade missions are five-to-10-day structured events taking place throughout the year in a wide variety of countries. Recent events have taken place in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Colombia and the UK.
Meetings, retail tours, receptions, transportation and hotel details are scheduled in advance by IHA, allowing attendees to focus on the marketing and sales process rather than logistical details. Trade missions also allow for extensive networking with other industry participants who share common interests and goals.
Through retailer & distributor meetings and retail tours, participants gain a thorough understanding of key markets and obtain a personal network of key home & housewares retailers and distributors.
Additional information on future trade missions is available on the IBC website. As the number of participants is limited to a maximum of 12 IHA member companies, advanced planning is highly recommended.
– Press Events
Press events are tabletop trade shows that promote a select number of products to both trade and consumer press with the ultimate goal of generating free publicity.
IHA conducts press events throughout the year, with two events held in New York and one event in London. Additional information about participating in an upcoming event is available on the IHA website.
Building a solid network is critically important – it is simply easiest to navigate the intricacies of global sales by relying on a strong peer group. Meeting and becoming friends or close allies with a diverse group of industry colleagues will allow you to tap into their resources that they have been building for many years. It should go without saying that being a friend is a two-way street – you should always be willing to give in order to receive. And often “paying it forward” is a good plan to building solid relationships within any industry.
– International Business Council
The International Business Council was founded on the networking philosophy and has an incredibly friendly and giving membership. Attending the Global Forum, which has specific network building sessions, or participating in a Trade Mission are the best and easiest ways to get started in building a strong network. Not only will you learn from the speakers and meetings, but you also have the opportunity to interact and build relationships with like-minded industry colleagues, who are often willing to offer invaluable advice and direction.
Trade publications have the ability to reach an entire industry segment on a regular basis through their printed magazines or online through their website and newsletters.
Each publication is organized into two main departments: editorial and sales. Building a relationship with editors allows for free editorial coverage – simply sending new product announcements or interesting company developments to the editors is often all it takes to tap into free promotions. Paid advertising is another way to reach numerous buyers in a given market. Highlighting a product, soliciting distributor or buyer interest, or promoting your trade show participation are all valid reasons to advertise.
IHA has a detailed listing of global trade publications by country available on its website. Visit the websites of each publication in your target market to learn more about the PR and advertising opportunities that may be available.
Additionally, IHA members exhibiting at the International Home + Housewares Show can promote their products to trade editors before the Show and onsite in the press room. Additional information on each of these opportunities is available online in the Exhibitor Marketing Kit.