TOY EXPORT SALES – THE FORMULA FOR PROGRESS
If you analyse the global toy industry, once you get past the top few toy companies, who tend to have subsidiaries in any market/region worth the effort, you find an industry whereby the vast majority toy sales are made on a domestic/export split. In other words, toy companies will tend to be very well established with leading toy retailers in their home market, but then will tend to work with distributors in other countries.
If there was a formula for successful toy export business it would be something like this:
Time/Persistence x Legwork x Quality of product x Quality and depth of relationships x Selling ability/focus
Normally, it takes time to establish a full network of distributors. There are so many companies, brands and products to choose from that even if you have something really good, it will take years to establish a full global distribution network. The number one failure factor I have seen having consulted with many companies on how to grow their international sales is false expectations and budgeting of the likely rate of progress. It doesn’t usually work very quickly. OK, you may be able to find a handful of examples where something went global quite quickly, but for every globally distributed product that did it quickly there are at least 1,000 which did it typically i.e. slowly, in fact, a 3 to 5 year build is typical.
At the time of writing, we have helped companies create new distribution arrangements into the following countries: USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, UK, Eire, Benelux, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South Africa, HK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea – oh, and in case we forget – Liechtenstein! There are probably others we forgot, but in all these cases, the prevailing trend was TIME, it took time! Maybe around 5% of these markets were entered within 1 or 2 meetings as there was such an obvious fit between the two companies & the products were an obvious opportunity. But for 95% of the markets/projects, it took multiple meetings, and took longer than any of us expected/wanted!
The second factor which goes along with time is ‘leg work’ or ‘grind’, call it what you will – doing all the shows, taking a few more meetings than the other guy, following up just one more time on that unanswered call/email etc.
Clearly you also need a good product, but that should go without saying. To have any chance of competing in a world with millions of individual toy products, you had better have something that compares well – the two golden questions to ask in development of products is this: a). why should any distributor/retailer put this product on the shelf/online store vs all the thousands they get to choose from and b). why would a consumer choose ot buy your product over the millions of others they could choose from?
Clearly the capability of the sales person and their focus on the business is a key factor, although if you speak to the most successful sales people they will usually tell you there is no real secret, just hard work and persistence, but these factors develop quality relationships which in the end becomes a major factor in success. If you don’t have those relationships yet, you can always use the services of consultants and/or reps to try to get to more markets more quickly. Over time, that is the only accelerating factor we have seen work time and time again, although that is to be expected as that is a key type of project we work on!
As we get towards the start of toy fair season, everybody is looking for a good 2019, and a quick fix to sales for the next cycle, but it’s normally good to remember that we’re (most of us) in this game for the long run, and the relationships and distribution networks you build today should still be there for tomorrow if you nurture them and manage them properly. So sometimes we mistake quick progress with success, when actually the real success element is long term sustainability – and this takes time to build!
We recently launched a new brand and product management service. Our small team of highly qualified, experienced toy people are now working with toy companies on a project basis to support them where they need flexible resources. Part of this service is outsourced Export Sales Management. If you need help to boost your export sales, you can find out more here: http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/services/