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Innovating trade missions and market visits

TRADE MISSIONS HAVE COME A LONG WAY since the mediaeval merchant Marco Polo travelled the Silk Road to open up trade between Europe and the Orient.  Over quarter of a century, he recorded his experiences and published his insights.  More recently, trade advisors have experimented with new approaches to broaden the impact of their own export initiatives, even incorporating elements of adventure.  Is it time to freshen up yours?

Co-financed by the European Union, Contented led an innovation programme to explore creative approaches to develop international markets, blending elements of study visits and online communities of interest to embed responsibility, participatory and organisational learning to sustain relationships beyond the event.  The programme was noted by EU evaluators for best practice and the company has continued to support research and innovation around trade missions, trade shows and conferences.

Making missions more valuable

TRADE MISSIONS, EXHIBITIONS AND market study events, both inbound and abroad, are a great way to introduce priority clients to key industry players and to develop relationships and ideas.

Cultural and business expos, like Expo Abu Dhabi 2020, can last months, conveying the innovation and vibrancy of business, culture and science.

Governments’ primary aim is generally to grow export sales and inward investment. Large corporations, like Santander bank, run private trade missions to add value to their premium clients, leveraging contacts through their network of local branches around the world.

Innovating trade missions

Trade advisors around the world are experimenting with new approaches to broaden the impact of their programmes.  In How Trade Missions Work, Dutch researcher Nikolai Oudalov identifies a number of innovations and unmet opportunities: seeking strategic partnerships, organizing trade missions on neutral ground, joint trade missions and follow-up support.

The Challenges

Yet, even with everything paid for, it can be difficult to convince company representatives to invest time to participate.   Local government officials worry that voters will consider their participation merely social and a waste of taxpayers’ money.   One corporate trade advisor we’ve worked with says: “Our institution has run some excellent missions, such as to north America, Central Europe, and China for the automotive value chain.  Even though we’ve lined up meeting with buyers, we still struggle to get companies on board.”

Another challenge is delivering follow-up support and evaluation, which is often rudimentary.  “Commercial diplomats often do not have the resources to actively monitor the activities that companies undertake after trade missions and follow their progress,” Oudalov reports.


Our innovative physical and digital spaces can help differentiate your offer and add value to your attendees.

Our Service

Our role is to enhance the experience by designing and managing compelling preparation, in-market and follow-up activities, physically and online.

Our activities generate and promote delegates’ insights, helping convert them to action and innovation beyond the event.

We achieve this by creating and supporting digital and physical spaces. To enhance relationships, delegates develop and share their story through communities of interest, before, during and after the event.

Our track record

Managing market study tours is not new to us. Contented delivered an innovative programme for the European Union from 2011-2016 alongside cultural events and trade shows across six countries in Europe.

There, we worked with multi-disciplined delegations of SMEs, research institutions and local authorities, to a small number of companies from an industry sector. The EU noted Contented for our good practice, and supporting collaboration, learning and development. We’ve specialised in transport, energy, cultural and smart city markets.

As an SME in our own right, we have also attended many large scale, high profile events of different governments across multiple sectors and markets.

A key challenge is to guarantee consistent quality across a complex network of stakeholders, ensuring every single aspect showcases the best of the country and delegates.

We’ve become used to working with forensic project management and logistical planning to deliver seamless activities.

We developed bespoke systems and project management tools to deliver, continuously improve and report against six concurrent events lasting two weeks.

in-market with three months preparation and follow-up, working with multiple commercial and public sector stakeholders.

We’ve developed a creative framework to generate and promote insights. This has been recognised by professional institution ILM. Our processes are certified to ISO9001:2015.

Virtual trade missions employ video conferencing technology to help potential exporters prepare for foreign markets without having to leave home. and get to know experts and potential overseas buyers by working with them collaboratively.


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