It may seem as simple as to just perform a Google search to find distributors in a new territory or country in which you are interested in selling and that might get you a few obvious targets, but you might not even scratch the surface. Let’s look at some of the barriers to finding distributors and some best practices. Here are some barriers:
What do you Google when looking for an educational distributor? They can be hard to search for and find with a simple keyword search. Sometimes it takes more digging than typing in “K-12” or “School library distributor”.
If you speak English and want to market in Brazil, Googling “K-12 distributors” might not return many quality results. Furthermore, in other countries, even the owner or CEO of a distributor who sells ELT solutions might not speak English.
Finding specialty distributors
If you have a niche product or service, you might be best served by a distributor who specializes in a specific aspect of education. This could range from ELT to SEN. These distributors might be hard to find.
Finding the right person at a distributor
Who makes new product or service partnership decisions? Who are the internal champions? At some companies this might be the head of sales, at others it might be the owner, and yet at others, it might be the procurement team. There is not a one size fits all title.
Different countries have different school year calendars and some countries even have two school year calendars. If you present new materials to distributors during their busy promotional time you likely will not get their full attention and negotiations, if they even begin, can drag on for months.
You can have the best product in the world, but if you price it in a foreign way it just will not sell. For instance, in some countries, parents buy all books and subscriptions for their kids at school, and the school does not pay per classroom. Or, you may charge too much or too little for a different market, a product might sell for $10 in your home country but they can only pay $4 in another or they might view $10 as cheap and not perceive value in it so you will have to increase the price. Try to have some flexibility in your pricing.
Here are the some of best practices that I have come to the conclusion actually work:
Find out when their school year calendar is and if some private schools are on a different calendar. Look up what other products are in the market that competes with yours, who sells them, and, if you can find it, what the price is. This can help guide you to when they have time to look at new products and how you should price your product in the market.
Join interest groups that pertain to your products and services or the region you are looking to find distributors. Follow thought leaders in these regions or specialties. I invest in an upgraded LinkedIn account and find it very useful for researching and building my network. I also connect with business partners and colleagues I trust, you never know when you will run into them again. As a bonus, if you have 2nd degree connections with people they are more likely to connect and engage with you if you reach out.
Finally, post content relevant to your audience, engage with them by commenting on their posts and suggesting meetings at conferences or if you will travel to their region.
Educational and Industry events
Attend or exhibit at them if you can. Many distributors who sell to teachers and schools attend educational conferences as sponsors and exhibitors. If you cannot attend, you can still usually research who exhibited and see if there are any distributors you can reach out to. This is particularly useful when you have a niche product and can attend a specialty conference and, as a bonus, you can see what your competition is doing!
Look for associations related to your products or service in the country where you want to find distributors. Perhaps a reading association or dyslexia association serves that market. Do they have any sponsors or associate members? Many times distributors will pay for associate memberships and sponsorships for these associations.
Ask existing partners
Do you have a distributor or reseller in another region who is doing well with your product? It might be worthwhile to ask them if they have any suggestions for distributors in other countries. People like to help people and especially like to feel valued, this shows your distributor or reseller that you trust them and value their opinion.
Distributors are busy and they might not open your email, take your phone call, or accept your LinkedIn connection. Or maybe they accept your LinkedIn connection but do not engage. It is up to you to find a way to engage with them. It might be that they are too busy or maybe they are not confident in their English abilities.
I learned the above-mentioned barriers through my own experiences and, frankly, failures, but I did not let them stop me. These best practices are ones that I have personally used for nearly two decades of partnering with international distributors. While my partner consultants and I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of relationships with educational distributors, resellers, and thought leaders globally, the market is not static and I must continue to develop new relationships and partnerships to better serve my clients so I still do all of these things!
If you got this far in reading my blog, is it worth an exploratory call to discuss how I can help you find distributors?
With pricing and plans to meet most budgets and goals, I work with large and small print and digital PK-12 solutions providers and children’s media companies. I can help you develop an international business development strategy and implement it.