When it comes to exporting products or making connections in an overseas market, the process can be quite a challenge — especially for a company that has never tried it.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is lending some helping hands to connect manufacturers around the state and region with new markets outside of the U.S. It has organized a series of trade missions to build the contacts and knowledge new exporters need for success.
“There is nothing better than to get companies on the ground in the market that they want to export to so that they can meet with different potential partners,” says Katy Sinnott, vice president of international business development for WEDC. “What we do during a trade mission is every single company has a customized meeting schedule set up to meet their personal objectives.”
WEDC leads four to six trade missions every year to countries such as Argentina, Chile, India, United Arab Emirates, China, Canada and Mexico.
The cost for each trip depends on the destination, and Sinnott says the trips are affordable, since WEDC subsidizes about 75 percent of the costs.
“We cover all of the one-on-one meetings and the only thing the company has to pay for would be hotel and transportation,” Sinnott says. “For example, this year’s trip to Canada will cost a company about $1,800 to go on. All of our trips range from $1,600 to $3,500.”
Regional companies such as Northern Labs, Inc., of Manitowoc have been on several trade missions and say they have played a vital role in growing the business.
“The biggest takeaway from these trips was gaining new partners and distributors and learning more about the market in terms of gaining market knowledge,” says Jim Culea, vice president of sales and marketing for Northern Labs, Inc.
The trade missions are broken down into two industry clusters of energy power and controls and food and beverage.
“There is a need for consumer goods and the manufacturing of consumer goods in these markets,” Sinnott says. “We want to take more of our companies to countries since the popularity of these trips is growing.”
As part of its services, WEDC offers a translator for companies that go on a trade mission to help bridge language barriers.
Sinnott says. “Again these details make up the entire process, which is hard for a company to do only by themselves.”
Culea says he and his team consider these trips important, and setting a goal to accomplish during the trade missions pays off.
“Speaking the local language in some of these countries is a major hurdle to overcome when doing business overseas,” Culea says. “It is much more difficult to do these missions on your own and having assistance from the WEDC really helps launch us into a new territory.”
There is an average of seven to 10 companies participating in each trade mission, and when there are more than 10, WEDC brings in additional help to ensure every company’s goals are met. WEDC always welcomes more companies to join the missions.
“Essentially, the whole point of the trade missions is to actually get the companies there,” Sinnott says. “A lot of companies have traded or done exporting to different countries, but they have actually never gone to them.”
A program called Export Tech is a course WEDC designed to help companies identify the top three countries they would like to export to. Sinnott says the more targeted a company is, the more success they will have from the trade missions.
“It’s important to be targeted and focused on the export process, and not to be an accidental exporter,” Sinnott says. “We are hoping to create as much transparency as possible because that in turn will help companies address their main goals and what they want to achieve at each mission.”