How can we find international distributors for our new product line? We had success with the Charm Opener for U.S. stores, but want to expand.
Distributors provide a critical link with offers of logistical, selling and other services. What is the expertise you need to expand your business internationally? Are you looking for distributors to hold inventory in selected countries or are you prepared to hold inventory in your present facility, with a distributor to present your product to retailers in other countries?
Is market identification something you want your distributor(s) to handle? Never forget that business regulations and practices can be very different from what you are used to domestically. In some countries, the first importer of a product owns the distribution rights in perpetuity, regardless of the distributor's relationship with the manufacturer or patent holder.
Simultaneously look to your customers, trade shows, Internet search and related business groups.
Talk to your customers: individual final consumers, retailers and wholesalers. Are you currently making sales to individual consumers from different countries? If so, perhaps you should initially target these countries. Do any of your domestic retailers, distributors or wholesalers do business overseas or know people who do? If so, which international distributors do they use?
Trade shows: International distributors will, in most cases, be highly visible on the trade show floor and at other industry functions. If you are interested in a particular country or region of the world — look to see if there is a trade show you can attend or find out which companies are attending.
Internet search: In a few short hours on your own, you can quickly develop a working knowledge of the similarities and differences of the international market relative to the domestic, the major players, issues defining the industry and which areas you need to explore further.
Business groups: Joint chambers of commerce (e.g., U.S.-India, Brazil-U.S., etc.) are excellent sources of information.
About the author
Jonathan Seltzer is a marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.