The Road To Mexico

  • I have worked in International Sales for nearly 14 years and have dealt with over 20 different markets during that time. I have special memories of each of them, but I’d like to dedicate my first ever blog to amazing Mexico.

How it started

In February 2012 I found myself at an Open Day organised by the Department for International Trade (then called UK Trade & Investment), which aimed to promote Latin America as a wonderful basket of exporting opportunities. I was shocked to learn that Britain only supplied less than 1% of Latin American global imports. So much room for growth!

I had recently received an interesting lead for a Mexican distributor (the largest in the market) and thought it would be a good idea to attend an event that may help us successfully win this client by giving us a further insight on the market. There were specialist trade advisors for many of the region’s countries and we managed to get a 1 to 1 session with the one for Mexico, who told us that UKTI was organising a Trade Mission there with a focus on food and drink. Perfect!

Less than a month later I was sitting on a plane with a group of 10 hopeful British exporters, including Ella’s Kitchen, en route to Mexico City.

Mexico is GREAT!

The trade mission provided us with amazing opportunities to carry out market research as it included a tour of key Mexican supermarkets in various formats. We were able to see for ourselves the competition we may face and how the products could fit into the market. One of the things that struck me the most was the sheer size of their fresh food counters. I had never seen anything like it in Europe or Australasia. This was good news for our business as we specialised in fresh food display.

UKTI also arranged seminars for the participants, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of doing business in Mexico, as well as other invaluable information about the market.

While in Mexico City, I had personally also managed to arrange a meeting with the prospective distributor lead, as well as with their direct competition. After presenting our brand and its unique selling points, they both wanted to carry it exclusively, so there was some strategic thinking to be done!

In the last 3 days of the mission, we travelled to beautiful Guadalajara to exhibit our products at an industry-related Trade Fair called ANTAD. This was the first exhibition I had been to where the supermarkets themselves had a stand for their Purchasing teams and you could get an appointment to pitch your products to the right buyer. I could then invite them to see our products in person at the UKTI stand, where they were featured along with another 5 British brands. It was a small stand so I had had to carefully select key equipment pieces that would fit in my suitcase and that would showcase the brand as best as possible in the limited space available. We actually received a lot of interest at the show, but also learned that many of these supermarkets preferred to work with local distributors as they were not necessarily prepared or set up for importing directly from abroad.

Back home

On my return to the UK and following a meeting with the management team, we decided to appoint one of the customers I had met as our preferred distributor for the Hospitality sector. This was based on a carefully drawn Client Profile and the Marketing Plan proposed by this distributor, which involved their commitment to give us presence in their catalogue, website, 7 showrooms around the country and in forthcoming trade shows, as well as hold stock.

We followed up by agreeing to send representative samples for each of their showrooms with their first order. I went back to Mexico in August that year to support the distributor’s stand at the Abastur hospitality show and provide a sales training session for the whole team. I also took the opportunity to follow up with some of the supermarket leads from the ANTAD show.

We managed to sign up some of those supermarket chains by providing customised fresh counter display concepts for them, which was one of our unique service offers. While we still did not have a distributor focused on the retail side of the business, we supplied one of those chains directly as they had import capabilities. Our appointed distributor helped us with the supply to the others.

Not all was plain sailing, it took various trips to their different offices and a couple of years before we managed to get the distributor to finalise the product selection and keep decent stocks. However, through one-off projects, our sales in Mexico reached £25,000 by the end of 2012, over GBP 100,000 in 2013 and continued a consistent growth patterns during the years that followed. Our products reached the likes of Starbucks Mexico, major local hotel groups such as Camino Real and Grupo Posadas and supermarket chains Comercial Mexicana and Chedraui – and our success story was featured in the UKTI website.

The people

My Mexican market entry journey left me with lots of wonderful memories; they were of course made by the people (and not the traffic)!

  • Delicious dinner at Dulce Patria and visit to the Teotihuacán pyramids with the members of the 2012 UK Trade Mission.

  • Going from one sales rep’s car to another and again 5 times a day for the duration of every trip. This is what happens when your distributor has 50 reps all keen to take you to see an important client. You really want this to happen to you!

  • Meeting tens of chefs and seeing how amazing food comes to life.

  • I made friends! One of my favourites, probably the hardest working sales rep I have met and an absolute fan of great product design, Rocio Paz, and of course, the day she reversed along a motorway because she missed the slip road and we couldn’t miss the meeting! Rocio and I are still in touch and even send each other progress pictures of our children.

And there are so many others!

The takeaway

When we came across this opportunity in 2012, the company I was working for had been exporting for over 10 years, yet I cannot stress how helpful it was to have the support of an organisation to penetrate this emerging market. We utilised the help of the government via the Department for International Trade and their sector specific trade mission was a major influence in the rapid growth of our export sales in Mexico. There are also a number of private organisations such as Bolst Global with vast experience and with eyes on many markets, who are working hard to provide businesses with strategic export planning, market entry and other services which can make global success an attainable objective.

This may have started nearly 10 years ago, but there was never a better time than the present, where we are yet to see when and how travel will be normalised and with Brexit looming, to enlist the help of those who can get your exporting dreams started in the less-obvious markets.

Providing a unique set of products of British design, being prepared to tailor-make solutions and of course meticulous account management (including relationship building, strategic planning and regular reviewing), were also key to our success in this market.

Of course, it helped that I spoke the language and was born not far from Mexico; so I would say to any company “never hesitate to match your account managers to markets that are close to their heart!”

Buena suerte a todos,

> Lili Roqueta

Lili Roqueta has nearly 14 years’ experience in export sales, backed by a Diploma in International Trade and proven success in the development of new export markets, via strategic planning and the building of outstanding customer relationships. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Lili is currently seeking her next export sales role. If you would like to speak with her then you can contact her via her LinkedIn profile here.

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