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Promoting exports to Europe.

The advent of the remaining single-market regulations of the European Community (EC) by the end of 1992 will simplify many aspects of marketing in Europe. But for practical product promotion purposes, it will be many years before Europe actually becomes a single market. Even the United States has not yet become a homogeneous market.

Consider the following factors, which any serious product promotion effort must take into account.

Cultural and economic differences: Uniform regulations in the EC will not change people's tastes, habits, values, interests or buying power-not for a long time, at least. These vary widely from one European country to another, and even between regions inside some countries. Despite certain trends towards increasing uniformity, such differences will persist in the future. This has at least two important implications for product promotion:

* Since cultural and economic factors largely determine the nature and demand for products, demand for particular products will continue to vary from place to place within Europe. So exporters to Europe will continue to have to choose the best markets within Europe for their individual products.

* Cultural and economic factors also determine what people look for in products, and therefore the specific promotional messages that will be most effective in one European country might not work in another.

Sales and distribution channels: It is true that there are European importers and agents who sell or represent products in several European countries, and their number will no doubt increase. But outside their home countries, and perhaps immediately neighbouring countries, few of them could match the strength of local importers and agents in each European country for promoting the products directly to the industrial users, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. In the larger European countries, such intermediaries often cover only particular regions of their respective countries. So if an exporter relies on a single European importer or agent to reach markets scattered across Europe, he or she will very possibly miss out on some of the best potential markets. (One danger to watch out for is prospective agents or importers who want an exclusive arrangement and claim to be able to sell over a much wider area than they really can.)

If you are an exporter who wishes to establish or strengthen distribution in various European countries, you should probably decide which are your priority national and/or regional markets, and target your promotional activities to importers, agents or distributors in those various markets. Languages:

Differences in national languages are another major promotional factor that will not disappear after 1992. Exporters naturally tend to look for business in markets where they can speak the language, and this is indeed a sensible way to start. But sticking to such markets can eventually result in a failure to penetrate the most promising markets, so it may be necessary to venture into markets where different languages are spoken. In product promotion, this may require producing promotional literature in different languages and hiring interpreters for trade fairs or even sales visits. Historical links:

A great deal of European trade with developing countries is still influenced by relationships dating back to colonial times. French importers tend to be more familiar with the products and producers of francophone countries, British importers with those of anglophone countries, and so on. This is changing, but exporters in developing countries breaking into nontraditional European markets may have to make more of an effort in educating potential agents or buyers about their countries and companies than they would in markets with which their countries have long-established commercial ties.


In practical terms, what does all this mean if you want to promote your products in Europe? There is no single answer. The impact of the above factors on how and where you should promote your products will vary with such considerations as the nature of your product, your export capacity and ambitions, your present export business in Europe, how distribution channels happen to be set up for your product and your overall marketing strategy. If you are selling a basic commodity such as coffee beans, you can ultimately reach markets all over Europe through a few dealers in London or Hamburg without having to promote your product in each country. But if you are marketing manufactured products, you will probably find the trade less centralized. You may need sales promotion in several markets and have to aim at more than one level of the trade in each.

Long-term approach

In Europe as in any export market, one condition for export success is a long-term approach to marketing, including product promotion. Many companies in developing countries make only occasional attempts to sell products in Europe, often by participating in a trade fair on a national stand. They may make some sales, but find that orders are not repeated, or that what seems to be promising business eventually dwindles or simply stops.

The reason so many companies fail in the European market is that they are not committed to a long-term approach. They think only of making immediate sales, rather than building the foundations for a permanent presence in the market. What does a long-term approach involve? It usually includes the following:

* Seeking out and establishing solid relationships with agents or importers who can provide on-going representation and can actively promote sales and service to customers throughout the target market area.

* Maintaining these relationships by regular contact and personal visits.

* Calling on important customers with the representatives.

* Answering all inquiries promptly, and filling orders rapidly.

* Keeping up with market trends and buyers' requirements, and responding to them through product adaptation, for example.

* Establishing a price structure that is competitive and provides incentives to the trade, while of course still being profitable to the exporter, at least over the long run.

* Supporting agents', importers' and distributors' sales promotion efforts through financial contributions, participating in trade fairs, supplying sales literature and so on.

All of this obviously requires exporters to place a high priority on their export business, and on spending money to build and maintain it. By starting small, concentrating at least initially on a limited number of priority markets and then gradually expanding their horizons as their export base grows, even small companies can develop a permanent, significant export business. But the commitment in time and money must be there.

Sales promotion literature

Perhaps the most important tool for promoting products in Europe, as in other export markets, is sales literature, including simple letters. This is especially true for small companies that do not have a lot of money to spend on sales promotion. In some cases the proper use of printed literature or typed letters is enough to win export orders, or at least to increase the chances of obtaining orders through personal selling.

More often, other sales promotion techniques will also be needed, but even then well prepared literature can play an important role in making these techniques more effective.

Sales literature can perform one or more of a variety of functions. These include:

* Introduce or create interest in your company.

* Introduce or create interest in your products.

* Provide a detailed description of your products.

* Explain how to do business with your company. Explain how to use your products.

* Serve as a reference for use by your customers.

* Create or reinforce a favourable image of your company and its products.

* Stimulate inquiries.

* Answer inquiries. Targeting your literature:

Sales literature will be effective only if (1) your target readers have been identified and your specific objectives defined; (2) the literature has been prepared to achieve these objectives; and (3) it is effectively distributed to your target readers. If you do not have specific purposes for producing literature, you should probably save the money and not produce it.

The most important rule for creating effective sales literature is to put yourself in the place of your target readers, the people you want to sell to or influence. This will help you to decide what to say and how to say it, and to plan the appearance and format of your literature.

Business executives in Europe are busy people. They are not likely to spend a lot of time reading long brochures, certainly not unless they have good reason to. If they receive a piece of literature that does not immediately interest them, and if they have to hunt through a long text to find the information they need, they will probably throw it away immediately, without reading it.

This is one reason that sales promotion literature should generally be as brief as possible, and to the point. It should contain the information that really interests the type of target readers you are aiming at, and that encourages them to take the action you want them to take.

Before you start writing your sales literature, ask yourself the following questions. If you do not have the answers, try to ask some target readers.

1. What is your target reader's business? Is that person an importer, an industrial user or a retailer, or are you trying to sell to that person not as a business executive but as a consumer?

All of these types of target readers might be interested in your products, but they would not all need or be interested in the same kind of product information. Their interest in your company will also vary, and in some cases they may not be concerned with your company at all.

2. Is the reader's main interest likely to be in your products, your company or both?

An importer who might purchase from you directly would need a lot of details about both your products and your company, although he or she would not necessarily need all of the details in the first piece of literature that you provide. Industrial users would also want information about your product, and they would want certain details about your company if they were considering buying from you directly. But they might not be interested in company details if they were buying through an importer (this would depend largely on the type of product). Consumers would usually not be interested in your company at all assuming that it is small and unknown, unless, perhaps, a special point was of interest, for example, where the company is located.

3. What would the target reader want to know about your products, and what will most impress that reader?

Is he or she likely to be familiar with the type of product? Does that person need technical specifications, or performance data, or to know how the product is made? Are instructions required on how to use it? Is your product's appearance likely to concern that customer? Its packaging? How important is price?

The kind and amount of product information in which target readers will be interested will vary with their business, and even with their position in their company. It will also depend on the type of product, on how new or unique it is, how it will be used and so on.

4. What would the target reader want to know about your firm?

Is its size or financial position important? Its manufacturing facilities Its production capacity? Its shareholders, licensors or major customers? Its export experience? What about the background of its senior staff, or its training or quality control programmes?

Much of this kind of information would be of interest to those who would represent your company or deal directly with it, and perhaps depend on its reliability. Such information would obviously be less interesting to customers who would purchase indirectly, particularly if their direct supplier (your middleman) was obtaining the same product from several sources.

5. What action do you want the target reader to take?

To place an order, write for more information or visit your stand at a trade fair, for example? Are you aiming for that person to read your literature and take immediate action, or to file it for use in the future?

The answers to these last questions should help you decide not only on the type and amount of information you include, but also on what points you should highlight, and even on the format.

The checklist above covers just about all the company and product information that might be included in a piece of sales promotion literature. A single piece of literature would rarely contain details on all of the points. Getting answers to the questions above will help you to select which information you should include in a particular piece of literature, aimed at a specific group of target readers. Types of sales literature:

For a small company with a very limited product line, a single piece of sales promotion literature may be sufficient. In most cases this should be accompanied by an up-to-date price list. But many companies should really have a variety of pieces, each designed for different functions. The following are the types of literature that a small company would probably find most useful and practical.

The company brochure or leaflet. A simple brochure or leaflet describing the company is very helpful in creating a good initial impression and setting the stage for business talks. Such a publication should, of course, describe the company's products or product lines, but in fairly broad terms. It can be enclosed with letters introducing the company, requesting meetings or inviting people to visit the company's trade fair exhibit, or used in answering inquiries. It can also be used as a handout at trade fairs or on missions and sales calls.

Product leaflets and data sheets. These describe specific products, models or lines. They can be used to solicit sales by mail, answer inquiries, inform sales representatives of new products, hand out at trade fairs and so on. They can also be supplied to agents and importers for distribution to their own customers. Such literature will vary greatly in detail and presentation, depending mainly on the nature of the product.

Catalogues. A catalogue contains a full listing and basic descriptions of a company's products. Catalogues often include prices and illustrations. While they can be very useful, often even essential, sales tools, catalogues can also be complicated to prepare and costly to print and mail.

Instead of producing a full catalogue, many companies find it is more economical and flexible to produce a series of product sheets or leaflets, which can contain more detailed product information and can be distributed individually or in various combinations, as required by the particular situation. They can be enclosed in a printed folder along with a current price list and perhaps a company information sheet or leaflet. Basic company information can also be printed on the folder itself.

Price lists. As already noted, rather than printing prices in product literature, it is often more economical to distribute separate price lists, which can be updated more frequently and cheaply. This also makes it easier to quote different prices to different types of customers or in different markets.

Sales promotion letters. In the broadest sense, every letter that a company sends out is a sales promotion piece, since it is intended to be read and can contribute to an impression of the company. But more specifically, when you send out sales literature, you should usually include a covering letter with it. Think of the letter as an important part of the promotional package. It should be personalized, if possible, and should complement the information in the printed material with a message aimed specifically at the addressee's interests. If your company does not have promotional literature, it becomes more important to send letters that cover the essential information about your company and products. Whether or not you have a word processor, parts of these letters can be standardized, so that the full letter need not be composed each time. Design and production:

European business people are used to sales literature of a high standard, in terms of design, illustrations, printing and paper. Anything of a lesser standard is likely to create negative impressions. So it is worth spending as much money as is needed to obtain the quality appropriate to the particular type of literature.

This does not mean you should be extravagant. Every piece of sales literature does not have to be a highly elaborate production, printed in full colour on luxury paper. Particularly when you are selling ordinary products to the trade or industrial customers, the most important element is the information and how clearly it is presented. A straightforward, simple piece, printed correctly but not elaborately, can do the job. It is better to produce a simple, well printed piece than an elaborate but shoddy one.

Unfortunately, in some countries it is difficult to obtain printing and paper that are up to European commercial standards. Getting good-quality photographs and colour printing can be especially difficult. It may be feasible to have your material printed and even mailed in Europe, perhaps with the assistance of your agent. If the literature is to be used mainly for distribution in Europe, this may actually save on costs.

The writing and design of sales promotion material is a job for specialists. If possible, it should be assigned to a good advertising agency or creative studio, perhaps one in Europe. The techniques of designing sales literature are beyond the scope of this discussion, but the following tips may be helpful.

* Try to standardize the use of your company logo and colour on your letterheads and all sales literature. Use consistent styles of typefaces.

* To the extent possible, stick to the paper sizes of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which are widely used in Europe. The most common is size A4 (210 mm x 297 mm), unfolded or folded.

* Use photographs only if they contribute to the needed information and are of excellent quality. If you cannot get colour photographs printed well in your country, it may be better to send prospects actual photographic prints, neatly mounted and captioned.

* Use short paragraphs; organize the material logically, and indicate each subject with headings.

* If possible, print sales literature in the language of your target readers, and have the translation done in their country. If this is not possible, and you are trying to sell throughout Europe, print your literature in English.

* When you visit or exhibit at trade fairs in Europe, collect examples of the sales literature distributed by European companies and study them. This will give you a better idea of what European customers expect. Distributing sales literature:

No matter how good a piece of sales literature is, it will not help you unless it reaches your target audience. As already noted, literature is often handed directly to such people during sales visits and trade fairs, or enclosed in letters to established contacts or in response to inquiries.

But you may also want to seek new customers or representatives by mailing literature to a wider audience. This can become an expensive and highly wasteful operation unless you have targeted and updated mailing lists.

It is possible to purchase such lists from companies that specialize in this business, but the minimum quantities that must be bought, and hence the cost, may be too high.

You can build up your own mailing lists, using a variety of sources. These could include the following:

* Lists of registered visitors to trade fairs. Some fair organizers will supply these to exhibitors on request.

Your own records of visitors to your trade fair stands and of trade inquiries sent to your company.

* Listings and advertisements in trade fair catalogues.

* Trade directories. Advertisements in trade journals.

* Trade association membership lists.

* Import promotion organizations in your target markets.

* Chambers of commerce in those markets.

* ITC market studies.

* Your own country's trade promotion organization and/or trade information service.

Sales trips

Face-to-face contact is usually the most effective form of selling. Even major industrial buyers like to know with whom they are dealing. Personal contact with buyers or prospective representatives enables exporters to establish confidence and to answer questions about their products and their companies.

This is, of course, a two-way street. Exporters will also want to satisfy themselves about the seriousness and capabilities of their representatives, and to learn as much as they can about their customer's requirements and ways of doing business.

From time to time, exporters or prospective exporters may have the opportunity to travel to Europe as an exhibitor on their country's national stand at a trade fair, or as a member of a trade mission. They should take full advantage of such opportunities by extending the trip to carry out their own sales promotion visits. Even so, a serious export effort will require more than just occasional visits to the market. Since travelling to and within Europe is expensive, trips should be planned carefully.

Below are suggestions for making the most of sales promotion trips to Europe:

1. Establish specific objectives for your visit. You should have specific aims not only for the trip as a whole but also for each market. Your primary objective might be to negotiate sales, find new customers, find an agent, introduce a new line, clear up some problems or find out what is happening in the market. Probably your objectives will include several of these aims. If you are clear on your objectives and put them in order of priority, you will be better able to decide on the types of contacts to make, and the time that you should spend on each.

2. Identify specific prospects or other people you should see, in advance.

You may already have some of these names through previous contacts or from your files or inquiries received. Other sources of names could be import opportunity offices or import promotion offices of the countries you are planning to visit, your country's official commercial representatives in those countries, articles and advertisements in trade journals, trade associations and perhaps even trade directories.

3. Write in advance for appointments, and confirm them. When you write asking for an appointment, explain who you and your company are, and your purpose in visiting. Try to suggest what benefit your host might gain from your visit, and include some company and product literature. You should find out as much as possible about the business of the people you plan to visit. This will not only help you make the most of the visit, but should also help you to write a more convincing letter of introduction.

4. Bring samples along on each visit, if appropriate.

You may have to ship these ahead to each hotel, along with extra sales literature. Also bring a sufficient supply of business cards.

5. Contact in advance your government's commercial office or embassy in each country that you plan to visit, if they exist.

These offices, and perhaps import promotion offices, can often be helpful not only in making suggestions on whom to see, but also in arranging appointments and obtaining interpreters if necessary. Commercial representatives should also be able to give you useful briefings on the local business situation, so plan to visit their offices.

6. Do not try to cover too much territory.

By limiting the number of cities you visit, you have a better chance of spending enough time in each to achieve your objectives. If you try to visit too many cities, you risk spending too little time in each while increasing your expenses, and the whole trip may produce little in the way of results.

7. Allow enough open time for unforeseen meetings.

You may need this time to follow up on your original appointments, and to meet with people you hear about during the course of your trip. In large cities, you should plan on being able to have a maximum of four meetings a day, unless you already know people well enough to be able to schedule luncheon or dinner meetings.

8. Avoid visiting during public and school holidays.

The July to August, Christmas and New Year, and Easter periods are especially bad for arranging appointments in many European countries. School holiday times (when business people often vacation with their families va from count to country, and even within countries such as Germany, so check on local holiday times when planning the trip.

9. Work out your itinerary to economize on costs. A local travel agent may be helpful, but check with airline sales offices as well. Look into special train fares for foreign visitors to Europe. Trains are often cheaper and more convenient than airplanes for travelling within Europe, especially for shorter distances.

10. Take along sufficient funds.

Allowing an average of US$200 a day for living expenses in Europe is far from extravagant. Calculate more if you plan to stay in first-class hotels or to entertain. Carry some U.S. dollar traveller's checks and at least one major credit card (and make sure that your credit line is open).

11. Try to arrange your hotel in advance.

This will enable you to advise your home office and your contacts how to reach you. However, this may not always be possible. If minimizing costs is an important concern, you may wish to stay in budget hotels or rooming houses. These are often difficult to find from your home country, but you can generally count on finding such lodgings through the accommodation desks at almost any large airport or train station in Europe.

12. Check visa and health certificate requirements several weeks in advance of your departure.

13. Consider using public transportation in cities.

Public transportation is good in many European cities. It is often faster, and always cheaper, than taxis. Obtain a local street and public transportation map from the tourist information desk or newsstand when you arrive in each city.

14. Call ahead to re-confirm appointments.

As you progress on your trip, it is a good idea to telephone the contacts in the next city on your schedule, to be sure that they will still be available. This can save a great deal of time.

15. Be punctual for appointments.

In most parts of Europe, business executives expect appointments to be kept, on time. It is a good idea to plan your routes and means of local transport each evening for the following day. If you cannot locate an office or figure out how to reach it, call the day before to find out. Also telephone if you think you are going to be late for an appointment.

16. Write up your notes on each visit as soon as possible.

The best time to do this is immediately after each visit. If this is not possible, write up your notes every evening. Highlight any follow-up actions you have promised or wish to take. Keep all of the business cards you collect in good order; later it can be very helpful to have written the date of each meeting on the cards.

17. Write to your contacts when you return home.

This is not only a matter of courtesy; it may also help progress the business that you have started. In your letters, confirm any agreements you have made and send any information you have promised. If you are unable to provide such information immediately, inform your contact as to when you will send it.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:using product literature and sales trips, part 1
Author:Bendow, Bruce
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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