The most effective overseas distribution partners will have substantial experience in your product/technology arena. Distributors who know your customer base will be able to introduce and market your product more effectively than those who are less familiar with the market. And distributors who carry products that are complimentary to or, in some cases, competitive with yours are generally a good fit:
- Select several distribution partners per country or geographical region. Multiple partners will ensure adequate coverage and penetrate the market more quickly than a single partner, and you will minimize the risks inherent to relying on one distributor.
- Consider incorporating a mix of distribution partners to gain market coverage in overseas markets. This mix could include niche, broadline, and regional distribution partners as well as systems integrators and VARS.
- Avoid exclusivity contracts. You do not want to get locked into a distribution relationship, especially since overseas distribution agreements are sometimes difficult to terminate.
- Have your distribution partners evaluate/test your product before launching it in foreign markets. This will ensure that you have identified specific issues related to packaging, pricing, and technical adaptations, since you will want to make the appropriate changes before the product launch.
- Immediately eliminate any foreign distribution partners who are not performing. Managing international partners is time consuming and costly, so it is necessary to incorporate an exit clause into the partner agreement and to terminate non-productive partners.
- Verify that your partner has a superior technical support organization. Since your partner’s organization will provide the first level of product support, their technical “know-how” is crucial to your success in the particular market.
- Request that your partner complete a business and launch plan for your product. This plan should identify how your partner’s organization intends to launch your product in their country, if any local adaptations are required to successfully market the product and what quarterly revenues you can expect for the first year of distribution.