Ask the Experts: How to Get the Most from a Trade Mission?

5 min read
Ask the experts: How to get the most from a trade mission?

Trade Missions are an international trip by Government offices, trade organisations (such as Chambers of Commerce) and businesses, organised for the purpose of exploring international business opportunities. They are an important component of a country’s global market action plan, to position the country’s business for export success in foreign markets. They bring opportunities for opening doors, providing on-the-ground support, new business-to business contacts, as well as the information and tools for all exporters, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

If you’re looking at going further afield with your business opportunities and organising travel for a trade mission, then you may not know where to start with the process, nor how to get the most out of your visit.

We sat down with Northern Powerhouse Export Champion Richard Paxman, Chief Executive Officer, Paxman Coolers Ltd along with International Trade Advisers from the Department of International Trade, Duncan Slater and Sharon Stathers to get inside knowledge on how to get the most out of your trade mission visit, along with some of their personal experiences with international/trade mission travel.

1.Why would an individual participate in a Trade Mission, what benefits can a delegate expect to gain?

RP: Historically we have found the key benefits of Trade Missions to be support in market from sector specialist advisors, sector specific peer to peer networking, and financial support to enable participation.

2. How to do you prepare effectively for a Trade Mission?

RP: As a team we ensure we have prearranged meetings scheduled with existing contacts across the region or market and then enhance that activity with proactive investment in PR coverage (both online & traditional) to ensure we maximise our exposure to any potential new partners or customers. We also research carefully the areas we are targeting for development.

3. What pieces of best practice would you recommend for attending a Trade Mission?

RP: Plan well in advance and be proactive about engaging with any scheduled networking/meetings on offer. It’s always surprising what can come out of discussions that start as seemingly unfocused, with positive introductions coming from unexpected sources.

4. Any mistakes you have made before, during or after a trade mission & how did you resolve?

RP: The classic is having been too busy to plan as well as needed. Be quick off the mark as soon as you arrive in market and engage the teams on the ground to help you maximise your visit ensuring you get as much know-how as you can from their contacts.

5. 3 Top Tips for a flawless Trade Mission?

  • Plan ahead
  • Network positively (even if you are tired and networked out)
  • Approach every conversation with an open mind.

International Trade Advisers, Duncan Slater and Sharon Stathers gave their take on Trade Missions:

1.What common queries/issues do you come across when organising trade missions?

SS: Delegates have questions on many things from the dress code (which can vary from market to market) to questions on taking samples, as well as travel arrangements. 

DS: Most questions we get asked are logistical such as where to be and at what time. As International Trade Advisors we provide guidance documents with every mission to give delegates a full itinerary, as well as useful information about the business culture, local information and important contact details should anything go wrong.

2.What is the best trade mission you have experienced?

DS: As an ITA, the first Netherlands mission I arranged was via ferry from Hull. This was a great success and we are now running this mission for the 5th time. Before that, as a businessperson travelling to South East Asia in the mid 80’s, I saw some of the most dynamic economies in the world in the very early days.

3. What common mistakes do delegates make when on a trade mission?

DS: A common mistake is thinking that just by visiting you have achieved something, and that by visiting you will automatically get orders.  Following up with leads and contacts is essential to complete an order.

SS: Delegates can sometimes expect to return with an order in their hand. Chances are, an order will not be written at the trade show or during the trade mission, the visit is merely the start of the process to receiving an order. The trade mission can introduce contacts, increase market and opportunity awareness all of which works towards securing an order.

4. What is the scariest thing you have experienced whilst on a trade mission?

DS: After months of preparation, we hope the delegates will enjoy their trip! But it’s also scary when some of the group switch off and are not aware of some of the riskier situations, for instance in traffic when cars drive on the wrong side of the road and bicycles are all over the place! We want all delegates to be safe when travelling, so its importance to pay attention when the differences in travel/attitudes to road safety are reduced.

SS: Rough ferry crossing and air turbulence, samples being delayed / lost by a courier and a delegate being ill or going AWOL!

5. Where is your favourite place to visit in the world?

DS: If I told you that everyone would go and that’d spoil it! But most people will tell you I’m a bit of a Dutchphile and there’s a particular restaurant in Arnhem I enjoy.

6. What do you enjoy most about trade missions?

DS: From having an embryo of an idea to standing in a doorway watching 60 plus people 100% engaged who would never have got together otherwise.  Then receiving the feedback and over time starting to hear the success stories.  If participants remember that a meeting today, doesn’t mean an order tomorrow, it’s just the start of the whole “journey”.

Thanks to our guest contributors for some fantastic insights and best practices into Trade Missions.