LEF network to China: ambitious plan of developing export from Central Baltic to China

Almost 5 years ago, ambitious partners from Latvia, Estonia and Finland decided to work together for the aim to support Central Baltic regional enterprises from wood sector to develop export to China. On 2018 unpredictable journey started under the project name “LEF network to China” and finished on 2022.

During the project, there were different traditional export support activities planned for the companies. Unfortunately, Covid-19 pandemic changed a lot. Despite that, the project management team continued their work – online and remotely and had to think non-traditional ways to enter the market. Covid-19 left an impact on huge export ambitions but nevertheless project and 19 unique wood sector companies got great experiences and raise their competitiveness in export development to China.

What was achieved and done? Before Covid-19, project prepared companies via export support trainings and marketing consultations for entering the market.  From the beginning, it was obvious that Chinese business culture needs personal approach and physical meetings, therefore some study tours and meetings in China were managed to organize. After Covid wave, these activities weren’t possible and team had to think of another approach – how to be physically represented and in contact but without travelling to China. It was clear that it’s not sufficient for the companies only to have export trainings, market research and couple of online meetings.

If people couldn’t travel, then the project team had an idea to open a showroom in China, as physical objects can travel. We needed partners from China to maximize the potential of achieving results and therefore we got a personal sales agent for the last year of the project. Sales agent’s responsibility was to open up the market for LEF project companies and conduct meetings between the companies, as the project team and companies couldn’t travel. Thanks to the sales agent and showroom, project managed to participate physically also at the exhibitions and held couple physical events-conferences.

Building and Construction Exhibition 2021 Shanghai_LEF Network stand_Anna Feng LEF sales manager
Building and Construction Exhibition 2021 in Shanghai. Anna Feng (LEF sales manager) at LEF Network stand. Photo: LEF Network to China

At the end of the project, sales agent even got an offer from one of the Chinese governmental organizations to build a small LEF village to China, to be even more presented on the market with LEF project companies technology and other Central Baltic possibilities. Unfortunately, this offer needed another funds and investments to get started.

Without a doubt, LEF Network to China project was full of experiences how or how not to enter the market. We learned that online meetings and our efforts in Chinese social media do not give the expected leads. But from the other hand, physical meetings and “being there” can offer skyrocket possibilities.

LEF showroom opening ceremony at Changzhou showroom area
LEF showroom opening ceremony at Changzhou showroom area. Photo: LEF Network to China

Activities and results:

market research, export support training, marketing consultations, export catalogue, study trips, social media marketing, online B2B meetings, participation at conferences-seminars, sales agent in China, showroom in China, participation in Expo with joint stand, organizing conference-seminar, cooperation agreements between companies and Chinese government.

Project provided support for at least 82 unique wood sector companies from the Central Baltic region – Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Please find more information about the project and it’s results: http://www.lefnetworkchina.eu/ and in Chinese: https://lefnetworkchina.taomuwang.com/

Project management team members:

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Leading organization), Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Satakunta University of Applied Science, Estonian Woodhouse Association, Latvian Wood Construction Cluster.

The project team highly appreciate presented trust by Interreg Central Baltic program, which co-financed the project.