This article is the first chapter of my book about the food market in Russia, and now I would like to publish it openly for everyone, because I still receive dozens of letters a week with such a request.
When I decided to write this book “Your first 50 right steps to enter the Russian food market”, I did not know which step was best to write it first. Therefore, I decided that I would write the first step only after I completed all the 50. It took me 3 months to write these 50 steps.
I published them step by step, communicated with people involved in food industry from 243 countries of the world and got their feedback. Now I know exactly what step should be the first. It will be about the most common mistakes of all foreign companies.
How does a usual email from your sales manager begin when he/she writes to your potential buyer in Russia?
Your first letter: Dear Sir, my name is …. Our company produces dried vegetables (for example). We are interested in cooperating with you. See our price list attached.
Answer from Russia: Dear Sir, we do not buy dried vegetables, we are an ice cream manufacturer.
Answer from your company: Ok, if you have some friends or any contacts of buyers that need our products, please let me know.
End of correspondence. You will never get an answer again.
If you are a business owner, and your export or development manager says that he has started sending emails with cooperation proposals to Russia, ask him/her to show the correspondence. If his/her replies are the same as I cited in the example, forget about working with Russia or change the manager. Such work is useless and will not bring any results.
After living all my life in Russia, working in food industry for over 16 years as a top manager, and having experience in more than 10 food business, I do have a lot of different friends and acquaintances. Even if I do not know someone personally, I have many friends and I can easily make contacts through them. But why do you think they want to buy your products? Only because I introduced you to them? This is not a reason to change a supplier in Russia.
You are not the first one who wants to supply to Russia. There are dozens and hundreds of companies that already sell products like yours on the Russian market and they have their regular customers. Russians appreciate these personal and business relationships with their suppliers. Price is not always the main thing.
You are a new company on the Russian market, nobody knows you, your company has no reputation in Russia. There are no reviews of your products. No one knows about the good qualities of your products and, most importantly, no one knows in what way your products are better than the ones Russian companies are buying now.
In order to find good buyers or partners in Russia, a foreign company needs from 2 to 6 months of work with a least one month for information preparation. You cannot “go into the battle” without preparation. You will lose. You cannot “go into the battle” without intelligence. You will lose. You cannot “go into the battle” with unprepared soldiers. You will lose.
For many years I have been repeatedly launching new Russian food products on the Russian market. Therefore, I know exactly how long it takes to find good and decent buyers. It is very important to have good buyers who order a lot, pay on time and, most importantly, are interested in the development of your food products in Russia.
The main problem and the main reason for the mistakes of foreign companies on the Russian food market is their overconfidence. They do not want to learn and understand the rules and business practices of the Russian food market.
As a rule, foreign companies that are interested in entering the Russian market have already achieved a lot in their own home country and they are supplying to neighboring countries. The Russian market is the next stage in their development. So, most of them are confident that the methods they used to develop their business in their own country will work in Russia too. I am afraid, I have to inform you, but they will not.
Russian business laws and customs can be incomprehensible for foreigners. But if you want to develop your business in Russia, you must follow these customs. All business processes are built on them. Many foreign companies simply do not know how work in Russia. I quite often get these comments from foreign companies: “We will no longer visit exhibitions in Russian, they do not provide results”. Or “You must have millions of dollars to enter the Russian market”. Or “You must have personal connections and only through these connections can you enter the Russian market”.
I have to say all that is nonsense. However, I do know stories when people invested millions of dollars, did not get anything on the Russian food market and left with nothing. That happened because they did not know the right way.
Of course, personal connections will help a lot, but in the 21st century a new food product is evaluated by analyzing available information about this product in the media, the Internet, social networks, the company’s website. In order to enter the Russian food market with your products, you should not wait for the miracle that someone will recommend your products and you will immediately get 1,000 orders. As the founder of modern Singapore Lee Kuan Yew said, when you do not know how to do it right, always use logic and common sense.
In today’s world, this means that if you want to enter the Russian food market, use all the available tools – marketing, promotions, tastings, participation in exhibitions, etc. But use them in a right way.
Business Adviser on the Russian Food Market
I hope you will be interested in my other posts:Backward