Congratulations, you’re bringing your product into the United States! In America, that’s like lunchtime on your first day at a new school. No one knows you. You know no one. Where are you going to sit?
But just getting to the cafeteria isn’t the goal. Even though you’re here, you must pursue active marketing of your product to build a powerful brand. And then what happens when you feel like you only have today’s lunch money to spend?
The key to building long-term success in your new marketplace is to ensure you’re making smart decisions from the beginning.
Consider these 3 steps to help you do just that:
1) Choose the right importer/distributor.
Creating a strong partnership with your importer/distributor up front is crucial to your product’s long-term success.
Asking a lot of questions can help you make the right choice. Look for one who has complimentary products in their portfolio instead of products in direct competition with yours. Also ask how long they have been with their current clients to discover if longevity is one of their strengths.
Once you’ve found an importer/distributor who is compatible, be prepared to enter into smart negotiations that will set up a strong partnership. Remember, it is much harder to ask for adjustments after the agreement has been made.
2) Have a complete understanding and control of your marketing spend.
Some foreign producers turn over their entire marketing budget to the importer/distributor. Many times the budget is utilized to help their entire portfolio and not utilized to specifically lift your individual product.
Just like spending all your money on desserts at lunchtime will not yield long-term health, an importer/distributor organizing tastings and events for a short-term boost in sales won’t create a sustainable ROI in the medium to long-term. It is vital to target your optimal end consumers in addition to the retailers to maximize your sales and revenue.
You must stay engaged to ensure the marketing dollars are being used to support your overall goals, both long and short term. Staying aware and involved also helps you discover what is working and what isn’t, so adjustments can be made to optimize the marketing effort and spending.
3) Find the budget to build your brand.
Importer/distributors can be great at business-to-business marketing in order to get your product on retailers’ shelves. But foreign producers must remember that if their products don’t ultimately sell to the consumer, then the retailer won’t become a repeat buyer.
If you are not able to build your brand and to make it wanted, desired and recognized by importers/distributors, retailers and ultimately consumers, you can be easily replaced by other brands next year.
Branding is necessary and requires an investment. But don’t get overwhelmed; you can make an impact even with a portion of your “lunch money”. Efforts such as a smart, strong website, targeted media, social media and shopper marketing can all boost your sales — provided every effort has the right strategy and execution to appropriately target each of your audiences.
These steps are just the beginning to getting your foreign product on solid ground in the U.S. Finding the right importer/distributor and staying engaged will keep you relevant in this new cafeteria. Combine that with a strong branding effort and you may soon find yourself head of your class.