A region of 600 million people, 20 countries, a huge rainforest, the driest place in the world and the home of the longest mountain range on Earth (above-ground, for those of you interested in the sub-sea world), Latin America can be challenging. Add to that the current political crisis in Brazil and Venezuela (by no means similar in any way), El Niño/La Niña, the decline in the price of commodities (the region’s main exports) and you’re in for a ride.
We’ve covered many issues regarding exporting to Latin America here, including how to find distributors, safety concerns, using your “Made in Britain” marque and many more. We’ve covered countries such as Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. But today I’d like to share with you just five little secrets that could save you a headache or two, and that can hopefully help you when exporting to Latin America…
1- Reconsider time
First of all, remember that doing business in Latin America is slow. Very slow. Everything takes a lot more than you’d have thought. Budget this into your planning.
But also, reconsider time in a more philosophical way (bear with me): I discovered this year that here in Latin America people are mainly “polychronic”. Time is not linear to most people here, like it might be to you in the UK. I recommend you read this – for your business’ success and your mental sanity!
2- Come fly with me
Over years of market research and recruiting distributors for our clients, there is nothing better, believe me, than saying to people “We are coming over next month, would you like to have a chat about representing us/working with us/etc?”. Remember what I mentioned about time not being “linear” here? If you are not an urgent priority, people will put you back, they need to be interested in your company but they also need to know they have to make a decision NOW. The best way to push them is with a concrete deadline, otherwise they are very likely to delay decision-making for a very long time… And if you come over, send the big guns…
3- What’s up?
If you follow my blog you’ll know that I’ve got a theory that Latin Americans are allergic to emails. That might explain why they never replied to your 15 emails after that trade show where they seemed to be so interested… You’ve tried Skype with no luck and no-one picks up that phone, or no-one’s ever in. So what do you do? Easy: use WhatsApp. Try it, you won’t regret it.
4- Put together a Dream Team
Don’t go solo. Look at your resources. Have you got a (brilliant) translator you trust for Latin America (Spanish and Portuguese)? An awesome freight forwarded? A customs specialist? Do you know customs brokers in these markets? How about lawyers and/or notary publics if you need to register products/have IP issues/etc? Someone who understands export financing? It doesn’t mean you’ll need everyone all the time but have a short chat with them about Latin America and get them on-board early on. What experience do they have in this region? What problems do they see repeatedly that you could avoid?
5- And one final secret…
I am not a big fan of Facebook at all. But if you want to check out company websites in Latin America, many just won’t exist or will be totally out of date. Check them out on Facebook, the amount of information you can extract from there is amazing. And they’ll probably be up to date, too. Many companies, big and small, use them in the way most of us in the UK use a website. And they’re great for contacting people, too, or for finding out who they are, which will make it a lot easier when you call reception – and if they give you their number, make sure they’re quickly on your WhatsApp contacts!
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