Regardless of whether you're building an international business from day one or looking to expand your venture after successfully conquering the local market, entering new countries is always a daunting task. Getting to know the new market, its customers, and how they do business takes time and money. Therefore, any support for a company at this stage is valuable.
The Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) has its own support program for companies looking to export their products. The program is called Promotion of International Competitiveness (PIC), and it offers several activities to help entrepreneurs test their new target market, find their first customers, establish partnerships, and more.
Activities PIC can financially support include:
- attendance of industry events, exhibitions, and tradeshows;
- participation in trade missions;
- participation in seminars and workshops;
- expert consultations;
- adaptation of products/services to foreign markets;
- development of marketing materials, websites, and market research studies for target markets;
- and more.
Participation in industry events and conferences, as well as trade missions organized by LIAA are among the most popular support activities companies apply for. And rightly so – it's a direct and efficient way to access potential clients and partners in the target market.
At the same time, it's crucial to analyze all the available options and choose the support that's truly relevant to your business. So, here are three questions to answer before you apply for PIC support, whether that's for event attendance or a trade mission.
1: Will your product be competitive in the chosen market?
"The company must research to understand whether their product would even be competitive in the chosen country," suggests LIAA Foreign Trade Promotion Department representative.
Does a similar product already exist in the chosen market? If so, what makes yours better? In other words, what's its competitive advantage?
Once you've done the market research and know there's a niche for your product, you can apply for PIC support by LIAA. That said, the representative stresses that participation in a conference or trade mission is not always what companies should start with.
"There are many other ways to test a new market – you can launch an online store, try paid ad campaigns that target the specific country, or start approaching potential partners by email or via LinkedIn," LIAA representative explains. These activities will help you test the waters before making the plunge.
2: Should you attend a conference or go on a trade mission?
Conferences and trade missions are very different things, so understanding what you're sighing up for is crucial.
Conferences gather a particular industry's ecosystem players in one place, where they can arrange meetings with each other, exhibit and present their products and solutions, as well as attend expert keynotes and panel discussions.
Trade missions, on the other hand, tend to be more formal and organized by agencies of national or provincial governments, such as LIAA. The aim is to help businesses explore opportunities in the chosen market by setting up meetings with potential partners that the company has selected beforehand.
If conferences are better for networking and building a database of potentially valuable contacts in the future, trade missions can help you make fewer but more targeted connections. At the same time, it's not really about quantity vs. quality – if you're well prepared, both options can open doors to valuable partnerships and business opportunities.
3: Should you participate in a conference with a stand or as a general attendee?
Now, if you have decided to attend a conference with the support of the PIC program by LIAA, the next step is to understand what type of participation would be most suitable for your business.
The PIC program support activities include participation with an individual or joint stand or involvement as a general attendee. Which option to go for depends on your goals during the conference.
Stands can be great for showcasing your products or services, as well as generating brand awareness and new customer leads. Your own stand is an excellent meeting point and a place for uninterrupted business talks, but the challenge may be to actually get your potential customers and partners to stop by.
When attending the conference as an attendee, you can be more flexible, and in some cases, that can improve your chances of meeting the people you want. A general conference pass is also enough if you're going to a conference to mainly gain new knowledge and inspiration from the talks on the stage.
Event attendance and trade missions backed by the LIAA PIC program are some of the most common support activities that companies apply for. Depending on what action you apply for, the support intensity can vary from up to 80%-100%.
That said, the representative of the LIAA Foreign Trade Promotion Department stresses that, for the costs to be reimbursed, it's required that all documents are submitted no longer than three months after the activity. Missed deadlines are one of the most common mistakes companies make when applying for PIC support by LIAA. That results in unexpected expenses and wasted opportunities.
So, to sum up:
Know what support you're applying for and whether that's actually what your business needs right now. And once you've used PIC support, follow the deadlines when it comes to document submissions.