Every business owner confidently stands behind their products or services and they like to promote themselves in this vein. But when it comes to finding buyers, it turns out to be an issue that doesn’t have to do with how good their products are. If the plan is to go global, then things are getting even more complicated because you have to know how to find buyers to export your products or services. I have actually good news to the question.
As we all are aware, digitalization has paved the way for democratization of information since the beginning of the millennium. This encouraged tons of useful platforms to pop up which inevitably brought an abundance and pollution of information along. Even in this info pollution, if you know how to find what you are looking for, you can find any information you need.
In order to find your potential buyers, first you have to know “where” to look for them and I’m going to help you with that.
How You Can Find Buyers To Export Your Products Or Services
There are basically three ways to find your international buyers:
- Offline Methods
- Online Methods
- Third Parties
These are mostly free sources but if you want to go deeper with your research, you’ll have to spend some money.
1- Trade Shows
One of the best methods of contacting potential customers is to meet at certain events like trade shows. Trade shows are crucial in the business world as they bring the genuine sellers and genuine buyers together. They are especially important because the buyers can meet all the potential suppliers in the same place and have the chance to understand which ones are the perfect match for both sides.
If you can express yourself well and leave a good impression with the prospects, you get the chance to negotiate further about pricing, specification, payments etc. and to close the deal right away. Besides, you save serious time and costs as you skip the never ending emailing work that will last for days and sample shipping part.
2 – Export Promotion Council Membership
These organizations are of great help to especially small businesses that haven’t started exporting yet. They provide a full package service to SMEs from international trade courses, custom reports, matchmaking to finding buyers and even promoting them.
Although every country’s council has their own internal operations and policy, they mainly serve the same purpose. You can visit and talk to the specialists about your business goals, and I’m sure you’ll benefit from their services.
3 – Embassies and Consulates
Embassies and consulates have also a role in promoting trade for their exporters. They gather information in the countries they are located and provide exporters with trade intelligence services. It’s possible to have valuable information that you may not reach via online research.
Identify your target markets and get in contact with the embassies of those markets.
4- Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Chambers of commerce and/or industry represent and promote the member companies in the international arena as well as its legal liabilities. These include:
- Organizing webinars, seminars, workshops, roundtable discussions
- Export sales leads
- Training and consultancy services
- Information on business opportunities, government rules and regulations
- Market research, industry reports and trade intelligence reports
- Coordinating members’ participation in trade shows
Although it’s mandatory in all the countries to be a member of a chamber of commerce, business owners are generally unaware that they have the source they need. They think of these chambers as authorities that issue documents like certificate of origin and get membership fee etc.
5- Associations, Unions, Organizations
These entities, as different from chambers of commerce, consist of companies operating in the same industry. As such, their services are more specific and in-depth.
As a member of an association you have access to their database; what’s more, they promote you on their websites. When buyers visit the website of the association in question, they will find your name on the list.
6- Government Sources
Export is obviously of big importance for governments and to facilitate exporting they use every means available.
Related ministries -“Ministry of Economy”, “Ministry of Trade” or “Ministry of finance” etc.- found bodies to support local businesses to go global. Such bodies work in coordination with other entities like associations, chambers of commerce and industry, councils and the like.
1 – Trade Show Websites
Trade shows (trade fairs, trade exhibitions) are a good source of finding your potential customers. They share their exhibitors’ information before the fair starts in order to show you what companies are participating in their organizations.
The reason why they expose their list is to prove that they are a prestigious organization because the prestigious companies in the list are exhibiting their products in OUR FAIR.
Secondly they want to invite buyers to their trade show from all around the world and convince them they will find the best suppliers. To do that, they have to give proof. In this case that proof is the list. No organization wants their halls to be empty.
As all the sellers are at the same time a buyer, this is a great opportunity for your business.
2 – Search Engines
Search engines could be a life saver for deepening your research. Their algorithms are continually updated in order to show you the best links. Today there are other good search engines than just Google although it’s the most popular one. These are:
The more your queries are , the more information you come up with. Always enter your queries in different keywords to have different results.
For example, if you are a company selling walnuts, then you should look for “importers”, “wholesalers”, “processed food factories”, “supermarkets” as your potential buyers.
“Walnut buyer”, “walnut importer”, “walnut import company”, “Nuts Company”, “Dried Fruits and Nuts”, “Dried Fruit and Nut Wholesaler”, “dried fruits and nuts importer”, “importer of walnuts”, “importer of dried fruits and nuts”, “importer of nuts”, “dried fruit and nut companies in [country]”, “Wholesaler of Nuts in [country]” could be your keywords. Do the same search with the language of the target country.
After you are done with the basic query, continue with advanced search by entering specific location and language.
3 – B2B Marketplaces
Online B2B marketplaces are helpful to both sellers and buyers. It’s mostly free for sellers to register their companies in basic plan which is enough for a potential buyer to find a seller with company name and location. These platforms gather “buy leads” from around the world and share them with premium members.
Considering that the sellers are also buyers of the related materials in their production, you can collect the companies and search their names in search engines. Not to mention the fact that, with premium membership you’ll access all the information in no time.
I added the most popular B2B marketplaces on the resources page. You can add your company for free and wait for the buyers to contact you.
4 – Social Media
The impact of social media in our daily and business life is incontrovertible. Every individual and business have their profiles and pages in these platforms. As such, they have become the second biggest online search tools after google and the others.
Businesses that don’t have a website have their social media pages and promote their businesses through these channels. It’s mostly because they have user friendly interfaces and they interact more efficiently with customers; and they do it for free.
First thing is to make a search simply by entering the keywords in the search bar and filter with the profile type (business, community, pages, companies).
Secondly, use hashtags (#readywear #jeans #denim #textile #trousers #menswear #womenswear #pants #clothes) relevant to your business and don’t ignore the recommendations. When you click on the profiles, the other ones that are relevant will appear.
5 – Trade Directories
Like B2B marketplaces, there are trade directories that index companies in categories. While some of them are region/country or industry specific websites, most of these directories appeal to all industries from around the world.
Registering your company to the relevant directories, you increase the chance of being found by buyers besides finding them.
Find the most commonly used directories on the resources page
6 – Import Export Data
This could be the moment that you find out your buyer and the amount of the commodity information is out there. Yes, it’s true and it’s legal. Some countries, if not all, have transparent policy in trade transactions and you can easily find who is selling to whom at what price.
One example of the trade data websites is uktradeinfo.com which is managed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). UK Trade Info publishes detailed UK trade statistics data collected by HMRC. The good part is that, access is totally free. Although it doesn’t give much data about the prices, you have the buyer and seller information which is great.
7 – Maps
In order to reveal their whereabouts easily, businesses create a business profile on Google Maps at no charge. This way, they appear on the maps when people enter queries with the true keywords.
This feature has two big advantages:
1- When planning a business trip to the area in question, it’s highly possible to find other companies in the same sector. Call them and try to get an appointment. You happen to hit lots of birds with one stone.
2- After you finish the first step, head to the street view feature. Click on the street view and take your time to scout around the neighborhood looking at the signboards. You’ll be amazed at how many other companies which are not found online you will see. Zoom in the signboards and get the website or phone numbers written on. This is especially great if the location is an industrial zone.
Last but not least; always remember that whenever you are on a business trip, pin the location and make a quick search on the map in case there are similar businesses around.
8 – Local Directories
Since the beginning of the digitalization age local business directories have always been there. Who doesn’t know Yelp, Foursquare and Yellow Pages? Yellow pages in particular, exist in almost every country.
As local businesses want to get found by online searches, they submit their name and contact information to such directories which means another good opportunity for you to find your prospects.
All you have to do is search for the local business directories of the target market in the first place.
9 – Patent and Trademark Websites
When it comes to searching for potential buyer patent and trademark data portals remain below the radar of researchers, but it’s a huge source of concrete information.
Such trademark database portals as United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) let you search for trademarks. Entering queries with various keywords, you’ll come up with a list of companies showing what trademarks they own. As you are interested in the names of the companies, you just get them right away.
If you want to save time and energy from a long research work and to get quick results, you can hire overseas agents, local professionals or buy lists from market research companies.
From all these we understand that it’s not about if the information exists, it’s about knowing how to reach it.
Second lesson we have to get is that, we shouldn’t focus on only our production but everything that impacts the growth of our business; and improving ourselves intellectually is on the top of the list.
Be enthusiastic about daily learning!