If you are planning to export to Austria, there is literally no distribution model that is not suitable. Whether via e-commerce, a distribution partner, a subsidiary, a representative office or your own sales representative with a link to the Swiss parent company - everything is possible. Which model you choose depends on your strategy and on what kind of product you are offering, what sales channels and what financial and personnel resources you have, and whether you want to use Austria as a test market or carve out a long-term market niche. There are any number of ways for entering the Austrian market. Among other things, this multitude of possibilities can be explained by the geographical proximity of Austria and Switzerland. Depending on the product and industry, the market can be served directly from Switzerland, especially Vorarlberg and Tyrol. However, if, for example, an extensive customer service is required, it might make sense to set up an office in Austria. If you have a very specific product, it is worthwhile financing your own sales staff and dispensing with an Austrian channel partner.
Local presence or not?
A local presence makes sense if a company has been in the market for some time and wants to grow. Often the distribution partner’s sales model will be out of date within 15 to 20 years. In order to be able to continue to grow, the company would then have to establish its own sales department in Austria. However, a local presence is particularly useful in view of the value of relations with Austria. They are regarded as the key to a company’s long-term success. Local representation makes it easier to establish and maintain relationships.
Finding the right business partner
If companies decide to set up their international business in Austria, personal contacts help in the search for the right business partner. Due to Switzerland’s proximity to Austria, the likelihood of already knowing someone there is greater than in more distant markets. Although this network of contacts is effective in Austria and often enables companies to find the most suitable partner, it always makes sense to examine alternatives. If the requirements are complex - e.g. maintenance, installation, on-site service, 24-hour availability - a personal network may not be enough. For this reason, Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) supports Swiss companies in their in-depth search for business partners.
Do’s and don’ts in business relationships
As in every country, there are certain things that should be respected or avoided in Austria.
- Initially, always address a new contact with their title, even in e-mails or letters. You will usually end up on first-name terms quickly, but the title is important at the beginning, as it is still considered a sign of respect in Austria.
- Cultivate relationships on a personal and professional level. The value and importance of relationships are more pronounced in Austria than in Switzerland
- Meet people and talk to them. It makes no difference whether this takes place over a coffee or at social events. Networking not only creates interesting contacts, but also ideas and opportunities for developing business activities.
- Get recommendations from Austrian contacts. Recommendations are real door openers in Austria.
- Not replying to invitations. No-one will expect an extravagant meal. But meeting for a coffee and a chat - and not just about business - is important.
- Addressing a new contact without using their title.
- A lack of a sense of humor. It helps to praise the skiing results of the Austrian team again and again. Moreover, the subject is a great way to break the ice.