How to approach food importers? What do they want from a producer who is contacting them? We asked and they answered

6 min read
Food Importers
6 min read

We started a conversation with food importers from around the world and learned about their requirements and preferences, as well as their do-s and don`t-s when it comes to being approached.

Did you ever wanted to expand to new markets, but wondered which food importers to contact, what`s the best way and time to approach them and what are they looking for in a partner or product?  Read on for an insightful article about connecting to the right importers for your export business, based on direct feedback from importers in the food industry themselves, and learn how to maximize your sales potential.

Where to find importers?

To get started you will need a time-saving source of information like the BestFoodImporters database, which includes accurate, complex details about more than 25.000 importers and distributors from around the world as well as a continuous flow of leads, to keep you focused on what`s important, contacting buyers.

To get started, check out the documentation section after you log in and see exactly how the platform works and how to use it at its full potential. Use the filters and the search options to locate specific importers and products or brands, in a specific area, depending on your business needs, add notes, mark favourites or export data to your CRM for further data management.

How to identify what importers to approach?

After gaining access to a wide database of potential buyers, it is now time to start the selection process and narrow down the list of potential buyers to those importers that are compatible with your business offer and requirements.

Things to consider when you look at a food importer`s profile are the area they are located and where they operate, their company size and financial potential as well as the niche they operate in or any particularities and requirements they have and fit your offer: types of products, brands, price points, eco-friendly certifications, etc.

What do importers look for in a partner or product?

In a similar vein, food importers shortlist their potential partners according to their needs and look for food products that they think would be fit for their portfolio. The feedback we received from importers themselves highlight that clear(meaning average English language skills to break through language barriers), professional(the right tone) and fast communication is a top-quality among having market knowledge. For importers like Comblanc International and Wikimusculos, long-term commitment is also a very important decisional factor before shaking hands with a supplier.

When it comes to products, food importers say they narrow down their selection by looking at criteria like good quality, competitive prices, good taste, availability in production, shipment reliability, reputation, safety regulations, or environmental credentials. For Shelton`s Coffee, the reputation and the environmental credentials of the offering is very important decision-maker when dealing with new suppliers while for Ail Ail Ail, reliability in terms of shipments, and availability in production is what makes it right.

How to initiate contact with an importer?

To initiate contact with an importer, there are many communication channels to choose from, be it email, phone, social media channels, website contact forms, (word of mouth) recommendations or attending trade fairs around the world. Similarly, we found out that food importers make use of all these channels, each importer using at least one or two, most times email, phone and social media, according to their preferences and business needs. Ail Ail Ail says it is more time-efficient for them to be contacted by email rather than by phone, as they usually deal with lots of commercial requests. At the same time, Comblanc International is a fan of trade fairs around the world, Shelton`s Coffee make use of recommendations, while Wikimusculos prefers to be contacted through WhatsApp or Telegram.

Nevertheless, start with a cold email(or phone) and a follow-up, as these methods remain the most professional, easy and fast ways to reach out to your potential buyers.

Before getting started, it is important to settle who is the recipient and when it is the right time to approach him. In this case, the person in charge of purchasing is the most valid contact. It is also recommended to check for common social media connections that can introduce you to your recipient. This way, familiarity will increase the chances of engagement as you end up warming up your prospect instead of selling from day one.

How to prep before making contact with an importer?

Prior to any contact, put yourself in your recipient`s shoes and anticipate what questions and answers they might have when they open your email. It is important to settle some common aspects that importers usually require from their suppliers:

  • The production capacity and the consistency in product availability;
  • Samples availability and delivery;
  • The company size, location, number of employees and financial power;
  • Company`s pricing structure;
  • Company`s reputation, history, performance;
  • Previous and current partners as well as markets they export to;
  • Marketing materials, product catalogues, brochures available;
  • Up to date website and social media channels.

Knowing your business and what you sell by hand will help you craft a unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the competition and catches the attention of the importers you have business chemistry with.

Check out the image, history, reputation and portfolio of the importer you are reaching out to and check for opportunities to add value and come forward with a profitable offer.

Importers look for:

  • Products from a certain category that are not yet covered or not covered enough;
  • Unique products that could spice up their portfolio;
  • To increase the volume of a product/brand that already works well.

How to craft the perfect email proposal?

As a stranger reaching out to an importer, the first impression is a win or a deal-breaker, especially since food importers receive lots of emails daily. Like the majority of importers, Comblanc International doesn`t pay attention to generic emails while for Shelton`s Coffee, a demanding/inappropriate tone of voice, is what makes them skip a proposal from a food exporter.

In terms of content, an efficient email won`t get through without structured content that clearly delivers a message.

  • Introduce yourself and the reason you reached out (try to say something memorable or catchy that grabs the attention of the recipient);
  • Tell something that shows your recipient that you have researched his company and you are not just another generic email;
  • Shortly describe your company and activity;
  • State a clear value proposition;
  • Include a clear Call To Action;
  • Make yourself easy to be found by leaving your contact details and your logo in the email signature.

In terms of technicality, your email should be structured, compact, responsive to both desktop and mobile and visually pleasing, with a maximum of two links. Additionally, be attentive to deliverability health and data protection laws that vary from country to country. For a complete, step by step guide on how to craft the ideal cold email, a follow-up as well as email templates, check out his article.

The takeaway

Knowing which importers are the right ones for your business, what’s the best way to approach them, and what they look for in a business partner are important questions that left unanswered are deal-breakers that suffocate the sales potential of any business in the long run. Fortunately, with the right source of leads that lets you focus on what matters, a solid marketing plan and consistent execution, you can efficiently reach your goals.

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