Big Picture Report: October 2020
Bernadette Wiltz, SUSTA
If you look up the definition of “association”, it reads: a group of people organized for a joint purpose. The strength of the Southern United States Trade Association is that we are a group of committed people and focused entities that are bound together under the goal of supporting southern exporters.
Looking back at the 2019 marketing year return on investment for SUSTA companies – for every $1 companies invested in SUSTA’s promotional programs, more than $41 in sales were realized on average – I thought it would be worth taking a look “under the hood” to show all the moving parts that help support our SUSTA companies’ export success.
There is a tremendous amount of collaborative work that goes on, all designed to help you make that sale and get that product placed in a new export market. Companies who carry out their export marketing plans through SUSTA can rest assured on one key fact: that they have a dedicated and skilled team working on their behalf every step of the way.
First, there are the professionals at USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). They lead the way in everything from exploring new trade agreements, assessing markets and identifying opportunities for new market development. SUSTA works in close collaboration with FAS, including the trade show office, to hone the schedule of export promotion events. Then, of course, there is the SUSTA staff here in New Orleans, and also our network of in-country foreign market consultants who provide feedback on the local export markets.
Next, the State Departments of Agriculture, who best know their companies, products and commodities, collaborate with their colleagues in other Southern States, and with SUSTA. We work together to come up with a targeted and unique strategy that provides the greatest benefits to the companies in our programs.
Over the years these strategies have targeted new regions and new products.Most recently, for example, strategies for the Latin American and Caribbean region have been refreshed. Additionally, we added numerous efforts to support the growing craft brewery, winery and distillery sector across the SUSTA region. Those efforts are paying dividends.Another successful new focus in 2019 was the addition of an event for Southern yellow pine logs, a major export from many of our states. Looking forward to 2021, we are adding activities in Peru – a fast growing market for U.S. food products.
If there was a silver lining to the COVID disruptions of SUSTA’s programs, it was that it forced us all to collaborate in new ways. We have been constantly developing new approaches to virtual marketing, from virtual trade missions to virtual trade shows. While these events were forced on us all, there no doubt will be lessons learned that will help direct SUSTA’s programs into the future.
One example was the virtual product and market consultations. Our in-house outreach team worked with our State Departments of Agriculture, FAS, and our in-market representatives to educate companies through product assessments and market briefings. SUSTA provides market education to more than 1,000 companies per year; the virtual consultations have been yet another way we do that.
Moving forward, by 2021 we will have an export readiness training program online for new-to-export companies.
Indeed, SUSTA’s support to our exporting companies is a collaborative effort, and an on-going process involving USDA, the State Departments of Agriculture, our consultants and staff – and you! Together, we are SUSTA!