Trade shows and trade missions

How to prepare for a trade mission

What you’ll learn

  • what a trade mission is and who it's for
  • the pros and cons of attending
  • what you need to do to prepare for success

What is a trade mission?

A trade mission is an organised visit to a country or region by a group of companies, usually set up by a government department, trade federation or similar organisation. They tend to be sector-specific and are aimed at building trade relationships between the countries and businesses involved.

Most missions are a busy and varied programme of meetings, site visits, and networking socials with various local organisations. These can range from local businesses, distributors, and professional services to government departments, regional trade bodies and local consular staff.

Pros

  • More access to trade experts
  • Better access to places, organisations, and people
  • Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and networking

Cons

  • Cost and time input for your business
  • Generally for high export potential businesses
  • Some parts of the trip may not be relevant

Prepare for success

Most attendees of trade missions are from larger businesses with high export potential. It’s often hard for SMEs to get invited. So if you’re not quite ready to join an official mission or not invited, you may want to set up your own tour of a potential market.

Trade missions are a lot of effort for everyone involved. For a successful trip, prepare well before you go and be flexible with your plans while you’re there.

Be clear on what you want to achieve

Do your research before you go, and be very clear on what you want to get out of the trip. It’s also a good idea to find out who else is on the trip and introduce yourself before you go.

Trade missions are perfect for laying the groundwork for business deals. They’re a good way to introduce yourself to the local business community and understand how to do business in that region – but it’s rare that you’ll return with a big order.

Your aim is to understand how your business will fit into that market. Do you need to adapt your product? How do the distribution networks operate?

Get your pitch in place

While you’re away you’ll be meeting lots of busy people and you’ll want your business to stand out from the crowd. Have a clear elevator pitch prepared well in advance so you can make the most of every interaction.

Make sure any materials you take with you are reproduced in the local language. And have a process in place for how you’re going to follow up on any leads.

Understand the culture

All cultures have their own ways of doing things and you don’t want to spoil your trip with social mishaps. Be aware of all the dos and don’ts of business in that region, particularly how to greet people, exchange business details and socialise. 

Be flexible

With such a busy and varied programme of events, it’s almost certain that some things will change. Meetings can get cancelled at the last minute, or expected opportunities may not materialise.

Have some ‘plan B’ options ready, so that if any gaps appear in the schedule you can fill them usefully and still make the most of your time away.

Find trade missions for your sector and market on the Department for Business and Trade’s events listing.

A big part of a trade mission is what happens in between the organised events and meetings. The contacts and peer-to-peer learning you get from others on a trip are invaluable.

International trade adviser

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