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Trade Routes: Global Threat or International Opportunity?

By: Michael Wynne
Posted: May 4, 2007

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We live in an era of changing times and changing customers; but if you don’t pay enough attention to how they are changing, then how can you cater to their evolving needs and preferences? And if you can’t satisfy your customers’ evolving needs and preferences, how can you keep them?

Communication is the key to customer retention. How often do you communicate with your customers? Or more to the point: How often do you actually converse with them? Conversing is different from communicating with questionnaires and other research tools; conversing is personal. Conversations allow, even encourage, the exchange of views, ideas, opinions and personal information. You find out things about others, and they about you. These exchanges are the elements of customer intimacy, which is your best defense against competitors, regardless of where they come from.

On a recent business trip to San José, Costa Rica, where I was speaking at a packaging convention, I had a delightful conversation over lunch with an old and very wise friend, Leopoldo Barrionuevo. We talked about the importance of communicating with customers, and Leopoldo said something that really got my attention: “When we converse, we convert.” How true! Exchanges during conversation help create interdependency with our customers, and interdependency is the key to long-term relationships. By conversing with your customers, you convert them from customers into friends. By converting customers into friends, you defend your business from that person who is working 24/7 to take them away from you.

International Market Opportunities
Ninety-five percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S. Their needs are growing and, in many countries, so is their disposable income. Most U.S. markets are mature, crowded and slow growing. The fastest growing cosmetics markets are overseas, and it is not that difficult to carve out a share of them for your business.

The idea is to pick the best foreign markets for your products and services. By best, I mean the most suitable—where your products and services will sell well, and generate a worthwhile profit.