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How to plan a successful market visit

Everything you need to consider before, during and after a market visit.

Why visit an export market?

Visiting international markets is an important part of building your wine exports.

While much of today’s business is conducted online, successful wine exporters forge strong in-market relationships face-to-face. Overseas markets don’t necessarily have a clear picture of Australian wine and meeting partners in person portrays commitment and gives them confidence.

A visit to the market gives you the opportunity to:

  • Meet with potential partners such as agents and distributors
  • Speak with consumers and retailers
  • Educate customers, distributors, sales teams and other trade – or even media. This might include brand presentations, formal trade tastings or a wine dinner
  • Research buyer behaviours and identify gaps in the market
  • Understand the competitive landscape and price points
  • Gain a better understanding of the culture and how the market conducts business.

There are various types of market visits. Participating in organised trade missions and trade shows are an excellent way to meet key export partners and develop business relationships. But you can also develop your own individual program in order to have private meetings with your key stakeholders and customers. One strategy is to target key influencers throughout the supply chain – importers, distributors, on- and off-premise decision makers – in order to establish relationships and build a cohesive narrative. You may also have a specific objective, such as meeting with a potential partner before entering into an agreement. 

Regardless of your goals, planning ahead is essential to ensuring a positive outcome.

Before take off

  • Define your objectives for the visit and plan accordingly, scheduling all relevant meetings in advance. Outline your expectations and ensure your trade partners understand the purpose of your visit before departing. 
  • Determine the best time to visit. Ask your export partners which times of year suit best. Avoid holidays and busy periods and enquire about annual portfolio tastings or team meetings where it would be beneficial for you to attend. 
  • Book travel and accommodation. And don’t forget to check visa requirements and your passport validity!
  • Prepare your export partner pitch
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the finer details of your business and have the relevant paperwork on hand. 
  • Prepare marketing and training collateral, including business cards and an introductory pitch presentation. Training presentations at General Sales Meetings are a key opportunity to generate awareness and loyalty amongst the people who will be selling your brand. Consider local language versions for all materials. 
  • Ship samples ahead. If you can’t purchase your wine in market, either send ahead to your first appointment or to a conveniently located industry/government office. While you’ll need samples of the ranges you’re planning to sell, consider also sharing museum or back vintage wine to impress trade, show legacy and provide them something that’s otherwise unobtainable. Note that it’s not advisable to send wines to your hotel. Check specific market requirements for this in advance. In the USA, for example, you will likely require a certificate of label approval (COLA) or a COLA waiver. Otherwise, your samples will be rejected by Customs. 
  • Identify the need for an interpreter. This may be necessary for business meetings in some markets. 
  • Identify business, social or cultural etiquette practices you may need to be aware of. 
  • Prepare gifts as needed. It’s customary in many Asian cultures to give small gifts when meeting with international business partners, especially as a show of thanks for their hospitality. Choose something that travels well.

In market and in meetings

  • Maintain a full program. Stay focussed on your business outcomes and make the most of your time, remembering it’s not a holiday. 
  • Confirm all appointments the day prior. 
  • Be punctual, arriving to appointments five to 10 minutes early. In many countries, arriving even a few minutes late is disrespectful and may offend. If you are going to be slightly late, call ahead and explain your situation.
  • Agree on KPIs in importer and distributor meetings, such as sales volume goals, distribution targets and marketing budgets.
  • Educate sales staff. Sales staff will be your brand ambassadors in-market when you return home, so ensure they know your brand story. 
  • Exchange contact details and take photos. This will prove useful when following up leads. In the USA, for example, people often don’t answer their phone unless a contact is saved. 
  • Visit retail and on-premise outlets in order to gain a detailed understanding of the market. Be sure to introduce yourself, present a business card and (if possible) chat with key store staff members.

Post visit

  • Follow up diligently. On top of personalised thank you emails or calls, you also need to address any specific questions or outstanding information requirements. Before you depart, have a strategy for exchanging contact details and following up with an email within hours/days. 
  • Maintain regular contact. The appropriate amount and type of contact will depend on the nature of your relationship and objectives. For existing partners, quarterly business reviews are appropriate. Have clear and transparent conversations around performance, what is and isn’t working and how to better build your brand in market. 
  • Seek legal or professional advice before entering into an agreement. 
  • Draft a report on your visit. What were the costs and benefits? Was it a success? What could you improve on next time? What are the next steps and have you briefed your relevant team members? 

While market visits take time, tact and preparation, being active in market is one of the keys to successful wine exporting. So be proactive and personal about your follow ups and show your partners you’re committed to long-term export growth. 

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.