Buyer Visits & Marketing Missions

The most common places to meet a buyer are at a trade show, when your buyer visits you in your showroom or workshop, or when you visit your buyer in their offices.   The internet (email and websites) is an excellent communication tool but it does not replace making personal contact with a buyer.  Buyer visits to your workshop and showroom yield the highest sales results of any marketing activity but are also the least frequent.  Visiting your buyer in their offices is another sales activity that solidifies your relationship and is especially instructive about their business, products and needs.

Buyer Visits (your buyer visiting you)

The most successful marketing activity is when your buyer visits you and spends time in your showroom and workshops.  When a buyer invests the time and money to make a visit it usually means they are serious about working with you and want to place orders or develop new product lines during their visit.  It is common for you to meet a buyer at a trade show and then have them come visit you after you have sent them catalogues, samples and proven yourself.

To make buyer visits productive, you can set up a showroom of your products.  You may have an existing showroom or you may select a room in your workshop or even rent a room in a hotel or business center.   Select a wide range of products within your buyers’ interests and display them in an organized, attractive way.  This is the most efficient way to show your buyers your production capabilities and available designs.

Buyers are usually interested in visiting local museums, craft markets and specialty retail stores to get inspiration for products and ideas.  They may want to also visit your workshops and the workshops of artisans to see what other materials and techniques are available or just to get a sense of the production conditions.  When a buyer visits you it is a great time to meet with shipping companies to negotiate rates and work on any special packaging and labeling needs of your buyer.  This is an opportunity for you to educate your buyer on how your company works and any specific needs you have to better serve them.

Sales Visits (you visiting your buyer)

Paying a visit to your customer in their office is a sales activity used less frequently than all others.  Visiting your customer can be educational by allowing you a chance to see their business in action, how their warehouse works, considerations to make when packaging and paperwork, and also getting to meet other staff who are not regularly at trade shows or making buying trips.  Visiting your customer impresses upon them how serious you are about working with them.  If you encounter problems with you buyer, a visit in person to your buyer can sometimes help find solutions that email, phone or fax cannot.  If you are traveling near the location of your customer for another purpose, it is always professional and courteous, and can often boost your reputation, by visiting them.

There is no equation for what combination of marketing activities work best for selling.  This will depend on your company and your customers.  The following is an example of how a cooperative used a variety of methods for cultivating relationships with four wholesale buyers.

CASE STUDY

A Peruvian women’s cooperative specializing in knit alpaca and hand-made paper products initially exhibited at the New York International Gift Show with the idea that they would sell directly to retail stores. Instead, they attracted the interest of four wholesale companies who do custom product development in knits and paper. Now, the woman responsible for export sales regularly attends the New York Gift Show rather than exhibit at it. Their four wholesale customers all exhibit at the N.Y. gift show. She meets with buyers, bringing them a backpack full of new samples, new swatches, sketches of new design ideas. They discuss new product development, negotiate orders and work out any communication issues that they have had over the past 6 months.  She attends the N.Y. gift show every 6 months. During each trip to New York, she tries to stay a few days after the show in order to visit one of their customers in their own offices which helps her better understand the needs of that customer. Of their four customers, two of them make annual trips to Peru to develop products and plan purchase orders.  For the moment, these four customers provide the cooperative with a steady volume of orders. When the time comes that they need to cultivate a new customer, they will probably consider exhibiting in the N.Y. or other trade show again.

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