In 2018 Italian exports to Germany amounted to more than 55 billion euros. Germany has been – for many years – our largest export market, followed by France and the US. The numbers, however, must not deceive: those who approach this market for the first time must work very hard before finding a place within it ! Time and investment must be taken into account. Germany is indeed a big market but it is also a very, very competitive one. It’s a bit like deciding to participate in the Formula 1 championship: you need to invest many resources to be able to have a competitive car and team, only to then be up against the best opponents in the world (alas…as Team Mercedes teaches).

Anyone who sells machines or semi-finished products and who looks for potential customers is faced with companies that are, on average, larger and more structured than the average Italian ones. Companies that, having already outsourced production, have developed considerable purchasing skills. The Einkaufsabteilung (Purchasing Department) literally splits hairs when they ask you for a quote. The purchasing role in a company has even become a specialization in German technical schools –

Those who sell consumer goods, on the other hand, are faced with a distribution network made up of very large companies, both on and offline. A whole other level compared to Italy. Here, too, we will have to deal with elite purchasing professionals who know the market and their competitors perfectly. If, on the other hand, the chosen path is to find an agent who can introduce the company and its products to these large retailers, he, too, will assess us very carefully before adding another brand to his existing portfolio.

Faced with such a highly structured and competitive market, using the we’ll-start-to-sell-something-and-gradually-grow approach is not practical nor recommended. Continuing with the Formula 1 metaphor we can say that when one enters the “German circuit” there is no room for low-powered cars. When you get on the track you have to run full throttle right from the first lap !

I have been working with the German market since 1984 and I can say that the Germans love Italy. “Bella Italia” is their frequent expression. So our small- and medium-sized companies certainly have an advantage over those from other countries. But this is not enough if you do not study the market and the competitors and if you do not come with a clear and realistic strategy. Customers, agents and distributors will evaluate our product with more interest if they see that the company they are dealing with has studied the market and has drawn up an entry plan.

I talk about these issues in my book EXPORTING 7 STEPS a guide for small businesses that want to sell abroad (also available as an e-book).

I addressed these topics in my post 2018 PROMISES WELL, BUT WITHOUT A STRATEGY…