This article is the second official update to my book Your First 50 Right Steps to Enter the Russian Food Market . The other day I was working on an order from a European food company. As usual, at the beginning I developed a strategy and step by step tactics for entering the Russian food market, then I had all their marketing materials website translated into the Russian language and finally I created a proposal and a cover letter for their products in the Russian language.
When all the main things were ready to start introducing my client’s food products to potential partners in Russia, I started to create a list of these potential buyers. A representative of my client’s company told me that they had such a list since they had already bought several databases. I was glad that we could immediately start contacting potential buyers, but I got extremely disappointed when I saw these purchased databases.
The first database consisted of more than 4,000 contacts of food companies in Russia. They paid about 4 Euros for this database. The second database of 10,000 contacts cost less than 9 Euros. The third database had 25,000 contacts and cost 23 euros.
All these databases were just useless junk. I had to start making my own database of 300 real and relevant potential partners.
Why you should not buy a database of potential clients on the Internet.
Let us see why databases that you can easily buy on the Internet are absolute garbage and why all these ready-made databases are full of trash.
1. All these databases were in Russian. I do not think can easily read Russian, that is why my website has a Russian version and an English one.
2. These databases contain a name of a company (in Russian), its phone number (in Russia), and a contact person details, but it is not clear what position this person in the company and if he/she can make decisions as a top manager. Sometimes you can also find the name of an accountant.
3. Only about 20% of companies from such databases had emails.
4. There were no websites.
5. It was not indicated what kind of food products a company is engaged in. It is also possible that those food companies do not work with food at all.
6. It was not indicated what kind of company it was (a manufacturer, a distributor or a wholesaler).
7. It was not indicated from which city or region each company was. Russia is a huge country and it has 9 time zones. If in one part of Russia people wake up, in another part of Russia people finish their work and go home.
8. And of course, Internet database companies were not ranked according to the criteria of how much their profile fitted the profile of my client.
9. The price of 4 Euros for 4,000 contacts of some companies does no longer sound like a good price.
All you can do with contacts from these databases is to call each company to try to talk to them about your food product and find out their websites and emails. Do not forget that you will need to do all this in the Russian language. People usually do not speak English or other foreign languages in Russia.
So, is it a good database? I think you have already realized that there is no value in such purchases. Such databases can be used only to send spam in case their email addresses are valid. There is no guarantee for that since you cannot check those emails before buying a database.
Of course, to start any sales you need a list of potential customers or a good database. It saves time, it gives you a general understanding of who your future potential customers are, it helps to plan future sales and proper marketing. It does not matter is you plan to enter the food market in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, or other CIS country. As we say it in Russia, “good commanders win a war before it begins, simply by proper preparation”.
So, what can we do if we want to enter the food markets of Russia and the CIS and we understand that we need a database and a list of potential clients?
How to create a database of potential clients.
If you plan to enter new markets and promote your products to get new profits, it is better to spend money on good preparation and order a database customized for you.
I can give you some advice that will help you avoid making mistakes or losing money on the food markets of Russia and the CIS. As we say in Russia, money saved is money earned.
1. To begin with, order a database of only 50 companies. It is not necessary to have 1,000 or 100,000 potential clients to find the right ones. You just need 50 companies that will interested in your products and convert into your future buyers. Start communicating regularly with these companies so that these 50 companies become your friends and business colleagues.
2. Order a database from a company that specializes in the same business as you do – construction, equipment, cosmetics, clothing, agro, food, etc. Only an expert who understands your industry and your business can choose the right companies for your database. In other words, do not order databases from general market research firms that promise to service any industry.
3. When ordering creation of a database, be sure to indicate what additional data must be indicated for each entry. For example, the size of a company, reputation, reviews, etc.
4. I recommend that each entry in your database has the following: name of the company, city, website, email, phone, CEO name.
5. Name of the CEO is very important. You can read about it in a separate article about business etiquette in Russia and the CIS. In any company in Russia and the CIS, CEO is the person who takes decisions on purchasing new things since he/she is is responsible for the overall strategy of the company, the budget and the money of owners and shareholders.
6. I also recommend that your contractor checks all emails in the database for validity and gives you a guarantee that all these emails are in order. You should ask the contractor to replace all non-valid emails with new ones. An email will be your first contact with a potential client in Russia and the CIS, so if you messages do not get delivered, you might lose a good client.
7. I also recommend that your contractor writes at least a small note about each company with the most important facts about this company. This will help you a lot in further negotiations. You will look like an interested business partner that has studied available information on his potential clients rather than like another seller. Undoubtedly, such approach will earn you sympathy and professional respect.
8. The database should be created in English or your own language. Good companies that create high-quality databases provide such translations for free.
How to work with a database of potential clients.
In the conclusion, I will say a little bit about how to work further with your database. Unfortunately, most sales managers are not able to work correctly with such databases. The same mistakes are made by both my Russian clients and foreign ones.
Here is a simple step-by-step instruction for working with such a database while sending emails with your commercial offers.
1. It is necessarily to send emails every week. If you send only one email once, you will not get any results.
2. It is better to make sure that your potential clients receive your emails at 7-8 in the morning (Here you can use the time zone of different cities indicated in the databases). Hundreds of spam emails are received daily, so if you do not want your email to be lost in spam, you should send it in the morning. Use delayed sending option of your email service for this.
3. Each email must be addressed personally to the company’s CEO.
4. Address the CEO with a name and a patronymic, which is customary in Russia and the CIS
5. Do not send anything on Fridays. On Fridays, people in Russian do not make serious decisions.
6. Be sure that every week when you send a new email, it contains new information: a new promotion, a new discount, a new offer. Your potential clients should see that your emails are not spam, but useful information about constantly changing situation.
7. After you send an email, I highly recommend that you call this company to confirm that your email has been received. You should protect yourself from getting into a spam folder and you should show that you care about future cooperation.
I hope my advice will help you avoid standard mistakes while working with databases of potential clients in Russia and the CIS. Thank you for reading to the end.
Business Adviser on the Russian Food Market