Don’t Overlook the B-to-B Market in Canada
Hailing from Toronto, I enjoy keeping a close eye on my homeland. Each summer I return for my annual family vacation. When I do, I always check the B-to-B direct marketing pulse of the country.
That said, I begin by asking you to look in your customer file to see how much business you’re doing in Canada. When you look, don’t forget also to look at Burlington, Vt., Buffalo, N.Y., and Bellingham, Wash., three border cities heavily influenced by Canadian purchases. (Many Canadian businesses have delivery/mail pick-up and drop-off services in those areas.)
In recent years, the Canadian dollar has strengthened (currently, it’s virtually equal to the U.S. dollar), giving Canadian customers more purchasing power in the U.S. This has helped boost sales to Canada. But you’d be wise to remember that the No. 1 reason Canadians buy in the U.S. is because they can’t get the product in Canada. A country or market with one-tenth the population, by definition, has fewer product choices.
There’s just not the depth and breadth of product offering in Canada as there is in the U.S. This is particularly true in product categories such as maintenance, repair and operating supplies, safety products, industrial supplies, and any specialty product line, including lab supplies, furniture, etc. What’s more, even if a product is available, it’s not usually available in the sizes, shapes, colors and/or versions available in the U.S. Of course, when “you can’t buy it in Canada,” price is less of a factor.
Also working in favor of U.S. B-to-B catalogers is the fact that shipping parcels across the border has become nearly seamless. These details can be outsourced to two or three specialized service bureaus. Getting the right mailing list also is easy. Check out this Web site, www.cstonecanada.com, which can help you size and scope the market for your offer, as well as handle all list/database-related matters.
When it comes to B-to-B pricing, you don’t need to convert to Canadian dollars in your catalog or mail piece. Canadian businesses are quite comfortable buying in U.S. currency and computing the landed Canadian price. Your online and toll-free service line also can help Canadian customers get product information, tech support and after-sale service, same as any U.S.-based customer.
I recommend you check your customer file to see what you’re selling to Canadians today. If you see potential, do an assessment of the Canadian market. You’ll find a relatively easy opportunity provided you have sales there currently.
Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence Inc., a strategic consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at www.b2bdmi.com or (954) 566-4451.