Your business conducts import or export activities. Are you looking for customers or business partners abroad? There are several options.
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Finding customers or business partnersThere are several ways to get in touch with potential customers and business partners. It may help to compose a profile before you start looking, asking yourself questions like: Do I want a partner who invests money?, What type of skills should my partner possess?, and Do I want to do business with a large or a small company?
- Check the landeninformatie (country information, in Dutch), and get specific tips for finding customers and business partners.
- Get information from agents or contacts of colleagues operating in the same sector.
- Seek advice from advisors at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
- Get in touch with the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). They offer, among other things, access to a database of business partners, carrying profiles of thousands of companies from some 60 countries. You can also fill out your own profile.
- Register with the International Business Platform (IBP). They offer matchmaking facilities, a billboard, and specialist advice. The IBP is an initiative of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK).
- Visit international trade shows (see f.i. http://www.auma.de/en/Messedatenbank/Seiten/Default.aspx or http://www.expodatabase.com/) and get in touch with potential customers. The Enterprise Europe Network organizes matchmaking events at international trade shows.
- Take part in a trade mission (in Dutch).
- International organisations like the EU or WMF are often looking for suppliers; find out if you might offer your services.
- Ask the foreign network (buitenlandnetwerk, in Dutch) for support. The network can help you find your feet in international trade, investments, research, and collaboration.
- Make use of the services provided by the Centre for Improvement of Import from developing countries. The Centre connects businesses from developing countries with potential European business partners.
Collaboration with a distributor or trade agentRather than finding your own customers, you can collaborate with a distributor or an agent. If you collaborate with a distributor, he is the only party you deal with. The distributor buys your products, markets them and sells them on. You run less risk and don’t have to spend much time marketing your products. The possible disadvantages are that you have no direct link to your customers, and that you won’t get to know the market in the export country as well as you might wish. If you collaborate with an agent, you are the one to sell your products to your customers. The agent helps you find customers and is involved in marketing activities for a fee (or commission, usually a percentage of the profit). This means that you have direct contact with your customers, but you run a higher risk.
Be aware of cultural differencesBe aware of cultural differences between your country of origin and your import/export country. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency landeninformatie (in Dutch) lists the chief do’s and don’ts per country.
Set up a foreign branch
Another option is setting up a foreign branch of your company. This will simplify matters greatly: you won’t have to make special arrangements for deliveries and payments of your products. But it will take up more of your time, naturally. It will also mean higher costs.