ECRM & Apex-Brasil: Helping Brazilian Suppliers Enter the U.S. Market  1/20/2020

Apex-Brasil's Fernando Spohr presenting at ECRM's Trade Partner Organization Symposium

Among ECRM’s international business development efforts is our outreach and education of trade partner organizations, or TPOs, whose members are looking to do business in the U.S. We work closely with these organizations to help connect their supplier-members with retailers at our category-based programs.

Apex-Brasil is an example of one of our TPO partners, and it works to promote Brazilian products and services abroad, and to attract foreign investment to strategic sectors of the Brazilian economy. We’ve partnered with Apex-Brasil for the past several years, and its supplier-members who have participated in ECRM Programs have seen more than $122 million in U.S. retail business during that time.

At ECRM’s recent Trade Partner Organization Symposium in Chicago, dozens of representatives of agencies representing businesses in other countries gathered to learn about doing business with U.S. retailers during this day-long event, which included presentations from market research company IRI as well as major retailers and marketing service providers.

Fernando Spohr, Operations Manager - North America for Apex-Brasil, gave a presentation on how the organization works with ECRM to connect its supplier-members with U.S. retailers via its category-specific programs, as well as the success it’s members have seen from this relationship. Below is an interview with Fernando by ECRM VP of Content Joseph Tarnowski, with some takeaways from his presentation.

ECRM: Please give an overview of what Apex-Brasil is and does.

Fernando Spohr: Apex-Brasil is the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, and we work on promoting exports out of Brazil and the internationalization of Brazilian companies. We also seek to attract foreign direct investment into Brazil. One of the many things that we do is try to find opportunities and generate business for Brazilian companies overseas. I'm based in our office in Miami, which we oversees the U.S., Canada and Mexico. ECRM is one of the many initiatives that we do here in the U.S.

We’ve been working with ECRM for the past five years, and we're now entering our sixth year in 2020. We see this relationship as a great platform for the Brazilian companies to do business in the U.S., because the of the cost benefit of participating in one of these programs, where you have direct contact with buyers and networking opportunities that you usually wouldn't get in a traditional trade show. In coming to one of the ECRM programs, you're going to be able generate some business, and most importantly I think it's also a great learning opportunity about what it takes to be successful in the U.S. market.

ECRM: I know of one Apex-Brasil supplier-member in particular that used our platform specifically to learn how to rebrand for the U.S. market, and saw reat results from it.

Spohr: Exactly. Typically, participants are Brazilian companies that are ready to come to the market. But sometimes we, through our selection process, discuss what the companies seek to accomplish through participation. One company was ready to invest, but they wanted to attend for a particular learning purpose. So we accepted their participation and they came to get feedback from buyers about their product and branding, and learn what they would need to change to address the U.S. market. And after two years they came back to a program with a refreshed brand aimed at the U.S. market and now they're generating some business because of all the changes that they implemented based on those buyers' insights (click here to read more about this supplier).

ECRM: How does the ECRM and Apex-Brasil relationship work? 

Spohr: We are the ones that actually pay for the Brazilian companies to participate in ECRM programs. And those companies then pay us a percentage of the total cost depending on how much they export, so the less to export the less money we spend. So that helps them a lot in terms of the cost of actually participating.

ECRM: And what kind of returns have they seen from participating in ECRM programs?

Spohr: Apex-Brasil invested a little bit more than $1 million throughout these five years, which compared to a traditional trade show, it's much less. For $1 million you probably could do two trade shows. During these five years we did more than 50 ECRM programs and generated more than $100 million in business for the companies, so you cannot beat that. And besides the business generated, they also learn how to improve their business -- not just for the U.S. market, but also to be more competitive even in the domestic market in Brazil. They learn what the competition is doing, what the buyers and the market here is asking for. 

ECRM: Right. And you're learning not just from the educational sessions, but from the buyer meetings as well. You'll have anywhere from 50 to upwards of 80 meetings with buyers, and each time, not only are you pitching them products, but you're learning, you're picking a retailer's brains and learning from them. Plus, there's a lot of networking functions that provide additional opportunities of learning, both from buyers but also from other manufacturers.

Spohr: Exactly. They may be competitors in Brazil, but here they are pretty much learning from each other here. And that's part of what we do as well. We try to teach them a little bit about what they need to do, how they can improve and we encourage them to establish new contacts and do some networking during these events. So that's an opportunity that you won't get anywhere else. After the sessions, after the meetings, we have all the networking functions during which you can exchange information and make the buyer try to remember you so that you can come back to him or her later on. 

ECRM: Another thing ECRM does that’s different from a traditional trade show is work hand-in-hand with suppliers to prep them for our programs to make sure that they get the most from their experience. And then we're on site, in force, to help them with anything they may need while they're here at the session. It’s a very high touch environment where you're not just getting a booth and then are left alone to fend for yourself.

Spohr: Yes. And this communication is going on all the time. Prior to the actual sessions, we are in constant touch with ECRM team, as well as with the specific contacts for each program. We participate in the conversations before each session to prep and after each session to recap, both with our supplier members and with ECRM. So it's not something that we pay for it and just show up. We're involved with our supplier partners and ECRM is a big part of that. We all work closely together so they can get the most out of each program.


If you are a trade partner organization, email me to learn how we can help your supplier enter the U.S. market:


Eric Savitch

SVP of International Business Development

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