To showcase the particulars of what can be involved in such a process, we talked with Wild Prairie Soap to discuss their specific experience of attending Cosme Tokyo 2019 and their initial forays into the Japanese market.
EEDC: What value do you find in attending export missions?
WPS: On the whole, as with the previous export mission (to Japan in Fall 2018), you kind of just have to go and do it to sink your teeth in and understand the market better. I would not have understood the market if I hadn’t done the previous export mission where we did retail tours, focus groups, cultural learning, business practice learning, and so much more.
A lot of my perception has changed now after I’ve been to Japan – for example, I had perceived the Japanese market to be all about natural products, and they are to some extent, but they are not at the same level of desire and understanding as, say, North America, UK, Europe, Australia. There is definitely room for growth there, but had I gone into the market just completely thinking the consumers would be all for natural products, I would have been wrong. That is a huge misconception.
What was your experience attending Cosme Tokyo like?
This tradeshow was the best way to get in front of the most number of people and to share our brand. Without the show it would have been impossible to do so at that level. There is value to doing these types of show in that the valuable exposure gives you more credibility for buyers. So doing the show was instrumental for us. There was no way we would have found a distributor otherwise.
The show made it clear to us how you do business in Japan as well, providing us with some regulatory information, useful tips on Japan business relationships, and how you have to relationship build and put in time and effort (for example, we realized that despite initial efforts, you might not get a deal until 2-3 years later).
Have you seen any wins or results from the trip?
We have now recently secured a two year exclusive contract with a large distributor whom we met at Cosme Tokyo 2019, and who has since placed orders for our products. We hope to continue to build this relationship and gain larger orders down the line and during our contract time frame. We will be participating in Cosme Tokyo 2020 again.
What were some difficulties or lessons learned from your experience?
One learning is that, although I have traveled a lot for work in Canada, travelling overseas is different because the time difference is tough to deal with. You have to adjust yourself and be ready to communicate with people back home. You’re working overtime essentially, because even though you’re away, you still have to deal with things/business back home.
Additionally, coming back from the trade mission, there is still a lot of follow up and back and forth communication you have to do with the contacts and people you met during the trip. So when you’re back, you work your regular hours for your business AND then communicate with the say distributor at 3am, because that’s when they’re up and they’re sending you important emails that you have to respond to. It’s hard work. You feel like you’re constantly working.
It takes some adjustments and you have to change your way of working. But I like travelling for work. It is definitely a perk.