If you want to stay in the import/export game, you had better be in it for the right reasons: to get and keep customers worldwide.
Without customers, there is no business. Without business, there is no importing or exporting. Never forget who's driving the deal. You can explain to the customer all you like about your company policy and why things are the way they are when it comes to pricing, packaging, product design or anything else, but if the customer doesn't like what he or she hears, there's no deal. If the price is too high, there's no deal. If product quality is insufficient, there's no deal. If you can't show them a market, there's no deal. If they don't see value, there's no deal. The customer dictates what you will provide, not you, not your company policy, not the economy, not Congress. So pay attention to your customers. They know what they need and what they want. Do your best to make it happen for them.
You won your customer over with the first sale. If you don't follow up with ongoing service, you may lose her future business. Whether you lose a customer a block away or 12,000 miles away, she is still a lost customer — something you cannot afford. Don't think of customer service as a sprint during which you go all out before dropping in exhaustion. It's a marathon without a finish line. So if you want to keep your customer on your team, begin your relationship all over again after the sale!
Here’s how you do it. Let’s say you just shipped 40,000 coffee filters to a customer in Portugal. Payment has been secured and you did your part to produce the product on time and exactly to the customer’s specifications. Now it’s a wait and see proposition. You wait until the customer receives the merchandise and see how fast he or she sells it in Portugal. Typically what matters most to exporters is how fast a customer (importer) re-orders!
But stop right there. In between the placement of the first order and receipt of it by your customer, you have at least two dozen opportunities to be in touch with your customer. How? By asking questions such as: How can we best serve you before you receive our merchandise? Once you clear goods, what’s your first market entry strategy on our line? Do you need collateral material to support the marketing of our product line? If so, what language? Do you want us to develop any videos to show how the product is used? How many people will be working on developing our line in Portugal? If you send us their names and email addresses, we will create a Google+ circle to ensure we keep them up-to-date on marketing efforts, including newsletters. All these questions can be asked via email or by a telephone call or a Skype conversation.
The point of staying in close contact with your customer is to show you care about the success of your product in their market and value the relationship. After all, you have an investment in the desired outcome. Should the product not sell in the intended market, you’ll have to look for a brand new customer, and that costs time and money. Your goal is to treat your overseas customer like a king or a queen, creating a profitable, lifelong partnership. Even more importantly, keeping in constant contact with your customer ensures that if there are any bumps along the road, you can smooth them out quickly and with minimal fuss. This is the only route to making customers your No. 1 priority.Photo courtesy: stock.xchng