Do Not Follow, Make Them Follow


Recently, as I was giving lectures in Korea on distribution in North America, I met many people who earnestly wanted to go abroad. Perhaps their greatest goal was to enter the North American market, which is currently the world’s largest market and trend leader. As a matter of fact, during consultations, I found that many companies have already made many attempts to advance into North America, but most of them have failed. They may have started out on their own at first with vague expectations, perhaps receiving aid from government agencies, but it would not have been easy to see actual results. I have already seen many turn to China or Southeast Asia, where there are relatively fewer entry barriers.

I occasionally comment on the Korean culture of moving quickly and rushing. They have a tendency to try to sell new products before even testing out their survival probability in the market. So, the majority of companies skip over market research and instead prioritize marketing, certifications, and patents. Of course, you need certifications to ensure a smooth exporting process and you need patents to protect your products and business. However, after going through so much time and money, what good is it if the product does not make sales? I have also seen many companies in this fast-paced world miss the trends because they wasted all their time and money on patents. This is all due to a lack of information in the new markets.

There are limitations in the way to go abroad. Many companies participate in international exhibitions, dozens of times a year, in order to meet potential buyers. They put their efforts into exhibiting products in their booths to sell them through product promotion. Although there may be buyers who attend exhibitions to buy products, most of them attend to learn new trends and meet existing partners. It would be wonderful to meet buyers for the first time and build a relationship from there, but it is rare to make a transaction at first encounter. If you try to force a sale, you will only increase objection to the product rather than build trust with others. So, instead of pushing products to buyers, is there a way for them to seek it out first?


It is good practice to contemplate what goes first. You must seriously think about long-term sales: is it a priority to make immediate sales or to build long-term brand awareness and build market shares through continuous customer management? You must know what message you are sending to buyers when you simply try to force sales.

Even if you are fortunate enough to connect with a large business, the problem of how to approach them still exists. In reality, the most popular way for many companies entering the North American market is to connect with large distributors who can deliver large quantities at low prices. In this way, they aim to make a profit from the difference of selling larger quantities at lowered prices. However, it is difficult to trade in the same position as large retailers. There are already a number of different options for large companies that already have numerous distribution channels. Companies that want delivery are lined up in droves. Therefore, it is impossible to make a business with a “parties A and B” type of relationship.

Do not follow. Make them follow.

What would it be like to get rid of the relationship of parties A and B? Until now, things were on the side of party B, but now it will be an equal business relationship. It is no longer the goal of delivering value to the product, but to have them seek us. If you can get the attention and satisfaction of consumers by raising product awareness through marketing, that will soon become the value of the product, and that will make the brand. While there are many similar products in the world, the price and sales volume are determined by the brand value, if there is value, large companies will contact you first. Only then will the products be acknowledged at their proper value and have transactions made in an equal relationship.


Rome wasn’t built in a day. By having the proper process, in the beginning, not being too hasty, and building trust in your customers first, going into the North American market, which may have been your largest goal, will not be so difficult.