Marketing Consulting Services in Europe

Due Date: 2:00 pm, EST on day, November 18, 2022

PURPOSE A. The purpose of this Request for Proposal (RFP) is to solicit sealed proposals to establish a contract with one Offeror through competitive negotiation for an in-country (in-region) consultant to assist with marketing and promotional activities for Virginia-produced products in Europe for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia. II.

BACKGROUND A. VDACS helps Virginia companies develop profitable export opportunities throughout the world for products including, but not limited to, agricultural commodities, processed foods and beverages, seafood and aquaculture products, and forest products. Agricultural products are critical to Virginia’s economy; the annual value of Virginia’s agricultural exports exceeds $4 billion. These exports help support jobs related to farming, transportation, and other service sectors in the Commonwealth. B. Using staff based in Virginia and the utilization of in-country consultants in various markets, VDACS can maintain daily contact with buyers and gather trade leads for Virginia produced products. VDACS’ Office of International Marketing (OIM) also works together with numerous USDA Cooperators with offices around the world. C. The current contract for these services with Andrew Brown and Associates will expire on November 30, 2022. The marketing services were based on a daily rate fee, only when services were requested, but this contract will establish a monthly marketing fee for the services, as stated on the Attachment A. III.

STATEMENT OF NEEDS A. GENERAL: 1. VDACS is seeking an in-country consultant to assist with marketing and promotional activities in Europe. For the purposes of this RFP, the region of Europe is defined to include the United Kingdom of Great Britain and all 27-EU member countries. VDACS’ preference is that the Awarded Offeror be a marketing firm rather than a self-employed individual. The Awarded Offeror shall work with assigned VDACS marketing personnel. Offerors should specify the countries of Europe where they possess relevant capabilities and experience to perform the services.

2. VDACS seeks an in-country consultant in Europe to build trade relationships, determine the challenges with importing selected Virginia-produced food and agricultural products, and increase the awareness and interest in the procurement of Virginia-produced food and agricultural products. 

3. VDACS marketing staff work with many U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperators, such as SUSTA, the American Hardwood Export Council, the US Grains Council, and others. These organizations are a valuable resource to VDACS as a source of market intelligence and foreign contacts. Additionally, in some cases, Cooperator funds are available for VDACS to use for export promotion activities to assist Virginia companies directly.

4. Europe is an important growth market for Virginia agricultural and forestry products. VDACS has been active in that market for more than twenty-five (25) years. The purpose of the Awarded Offeror is to build upon the work that VDACS has already done in Europe and to secure new export business for Virginia companies. The ultimate success of this contract will be measured in new sales for Virginia businesses. The Awarded Offeror will work closely with VDACS staff, based in Virginia, to prioritize the products and segment the European market to ensure the best possible chance for sales. A secondary purpose of the Awarded Offeror’s work will be to keep VDACS and Virginia agricultural and forestry exporters well informed of tariff and non-tariff barriers that impact the competitiveness of Virginia exports, as well as the overall market conditions in Europe. Strategies will be developed jointly to address trade issues and economic conditions.

5. The Awarded Offeror shall provide recommendations and strategies for improving the competitiveness of Virginia exports in Europe. Special projects (trade shows, trade missions, in-store promotions, trade servicing, digital and social media marketing, etc.) may require extended travel or additional work hours in each week.

6. The Awarded Offeror is expected to be in and reside in the region of representation. If the Awarded Offeror’s primary point of contact plans to spend more than thirty (30) consecutive days outside of the home market, he or she must notify VDACS in advance and provide an explanation as to who will be serving as the primary point of contact during the absence.

B. ASSISTANCE TO VIRGINIA COMPANIES: A key responsibility of the Awarded Offeror in Europe will be helping Virginia companies export their products to Europe by providing local market assistance. Many of these companies are small or medium-sized in nature, thus they need significant attention and assistance. The associated services that will be required of the Awarded Offeror may include but are not limited to:

1. Assisting Virginia exporters in contacting potential European importers, distributors, and retailers by developing matchmaking opportunities, providing interpretation and translation services, as necessary. Services may also be used for developing and delivering promotional material, correspondence, and for meetings, trade shows, and escorting foreign buyer missions in Virginia;

2. Assisting with travel for Virginia agribusiness exporters to Europe including arranging meeting and developing itineraries for VDACS and Virginia companies traveling to Europe, making hotel arrangements, and arranging transportation details; 

3. Maintaining on-going contact with foreign buyers, including buyer selections and escorting buyer missions to Virginia;

4. Advising and assisting with distribution that includes finding importers, warehousing, and other distribution facilities and partners;

5. Advising on import ingredient restrictions, labeling regulations and other relevant regulations in Europe;

6. Reviewing market reports and other sources of information on the European market that will lead to better market intelligence and understanding of export opportunities for Virginia produced products. Information should include issues of trade policies and changing Page | 5 economic conditions to provide VDACS with the most salient information;

7. Corresponding directly with Virginia companies to keep trade leads active and obtaining necessary information. In all cases, VDACS should be made aware of this contact through being copied on the correspondence;

8. Advising on obtaining payment for export transactions;

9. Advising on marketing and public relations activities for Virginia-produced products.

10. Maintaining web sites, links, social networks, and other web-based media developed by the Awarded Offeror on behalf of VDACS.

C. TRADE SERVICING: The responsibilities of the Awarded Offeror in carrying out trade servicing include, but are not limited to:

1. Visiting with potential importers, distributors, retailers, and food service companies and food ingredient buyers, and developing lists of these companies that are the most reputable, experienced, and in the best position to purchase Virginia-produced products; 

2. Developing and maintaining a database of potential European importers and buyers, their contact information, and their product interests;

3. Liaising with Foreign Agricultural Service Posts on a regular basis;

4. Informing VDACS of market development opportunities that arise throughout the year and activities that should be included in our marketing plans for the next year;

5. Traveling to the United States for meetings with VDACS personnel and clients when requested;

6. Generating and following up on trade leads after an event;

7. Following up with key buyers from trade missions and other special projects;

8. Ascertaining problems which may be inhibiting export sales;

9. Obtaining evaluations or participant feedback following each activity;

10. Tracking sales and other performance measures resulting from all events;

11. Assisting, on an ongoing basis, in generating export success stories; and

12. Providing information regarding trade servicing in the weekly report that outlines the trade servicing completed and any results achieved.

D. MARKET RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND PROMOTION: The responsibilities of the Awarded Offeror in carrying out market research, development, and promotion include, but will not be limited to:

 1. Undertaking industry and/or sector studies as requested;

2. Identifying and recommending promotional opportunities in the food service, food retail, and food ingredient sectors of the market;

3. Developing and assisting with implementation of promotional activities within the guidelines specified by VDACS, including negotiating promotional terms, assisting with in-store merchandising and display, digital and social media marketing, and developing promotional concepts and materials; 

4. Developing and executing a digital marketing strategy with the guidance of VDACS staff for Virginia agricultural and forestry industries, products and/or companies;

5. Submitting a report on each activity and providing any required evaluation results; and

6. Performing other specific consulting work as requested by VDACS.

E. TRADE SHOWS: The Awarded Offeror will notify VDACS and Virginia companies of the best opportunities to exhibit at trade shows in Europe, providing them with the information and support they need to be an effective exhibitor at these events. In addition, the Awarded Offeror should provide value for exhibitors by focusing efforts on maximizing their potential for developing leads, securing an importer/distributor, and realizing sales from the show. Ultimately, by being adequately prepared to do business at the show, companies make the best possible use of the trade show environment and improve their chances for achieving new sales. Trade shows and activity dates will be determined after award and on an on-going basis in conjunction with VDACS OIM staff.

The types of services considered for each trade show should include, but are not limited to:

1. Identifying and providing details on food trade shows in the European market to include the number of exhibitors, key buyers attending, and recommendations on which shows to exhibit;

2. Conducting pre-show product research regarding pricing, import regulation, and competitor analysis;

3. Conducting Pre-show conference calls with all exhibitors to brief them on promotional opportunities, special instructions, buyer meeting schedules, and general Q&A.

4. Targeting invitations to qualified buyers for exhibitor booths, providing buyer-seller instructions, and setting up pre-arranged appointments for each exhibitor;

5. Providing basic exhibitor material for buyers on each company exhibiting and their product information;

6. Providing technical support at the show, to include on-site show assistance by in-market representatives;

7. Possessing In-house ability, or the ability to contract with designers locally, or abroad, to design creative for tradeshow booths, advertisements, promotional collateral, digital and social assets.

8. Ability to purchase or obtain contact lists and databases as necessary when targeting a new market or attempting to target a wide audience with marketing communique, eblasts, and pre/post-trade show emails.

9. Ability to leverage local partner and co-op social media channels to sponsor postings, host promotions, or host sweepstakes in support of VA agriculture products in local markets.

10. Ability to support trade show initiatives by pre- and post-show customer communication efforts.

11. Providing in-market briefings and local industry tours, as appropriate;

12. Qualifying exhibitors’ leads from the show, and conducting due diligence, if necessary; and 13. Conducting follow-up correspondence with key buyers after the show.

F. VIRTUAL TRADE MISSION: The Awarded Offeror should provide the best matchmaking opportunities for Virginia companies with European buyers by organizing virtual trade missions as follows:

1. Identify key contacts in the market to participate in virtual meetings with Virginia companies; 2. Create invitations and invite key buyers;

3. Schedule virtual meetings for Virginia products/companies with buyers;

4. Work with VDACS staff to coordinate and facilitate virtual meeting and shipping of sample products to buyers as needed;

5. Work with VDACS staff to prepare an agenda for each Virginia company and European buyer.

G. INBOUND TRADE MISSIONS: The Awarded Offeror should provide the best opportunities for Virginia companies with key European buyers by providing matchmaking one-on-one meetings during inbound trade missions which:

1. Identify key contacts in the market to travel to the U.S. for one-on-one meetings with Virginia companies;

2. Create invitations, and invite key buyers; 

3. Schedule one-on-one meetings for each buyer with Virginia companies;

4. Work with VDACS to identify and secure a location for the one-on-one meetings;

5. Work with VDACS to organize and coordinate all logistics for the one-on-one meetings;

6. Organize and coordinate market tours in each location; 

7. Prepare an agenda for each Virginia company to meet key European buyers.

H. OUTBOUND TRADE MISSIONS: The Awarded Offeror should provide the best opportunities for Virginia companies with key European buyers by providing matchmaking one-on-one meetings during outbound trade missions which:

1. Identify key contacts in the market for one-on-one meetings with Virginia companies in the European market;

2. Schedule one-on-one meetings for each buyer with Virginia companies;

3. Work with VDACS to identify and secure a location for the one-on-one meetings;

4. Work with VDACS to organize and coordinate all logistics outbound trade missions and one-onone meetings;

5. Organize and coordinate market tours in each location; and

6. Prepare an agenda for each Virginia company to meet key European buyers.

I. DELIVERABLES: The Awarded Offeror should provide the following deliverables and services:

1. Annual marketing plan for your region, which includes activities from live events, advertising PR, digital content and social media opportunities. Conduct market research to provide insights to trade shows and missions, including identification of Virginia companies most suited to each.

2. Trip or activity reports when requested by VDACS, should include: a. Purpose of travel and a summary; b. Itinerary of meetings and/or work accomplished; c. Observations, conclusions, and recommendations; d. A list of contacts and/or business cards received as a part of working under this contract, and e. Expense report in VDACS’ Excel format, with original receipts.

3. Documentation of the following annual targets: a. 50 documented sales/marketing presentations to relevant companies across Europe; b. 5 or more buyer meetings, per each exhibiting Virginia company participating at a minimum of two trade shows per year in the country/region. c. 1 organized trade mission to Europe with Virginia exporters; d. 1 reverse trade mission in Virginia for importers from Europe; e.

4. documented new sales accounts for Virginia exports; and f. 1 virtual trade event, buyer introduction, webinar or similar.

g. Minimum of 3 stories in the media because of your work. h. social media calendar identifying relevant stories for the target market and crafting content and posts for various social media channels. 4. The Awarded Offeror will be responsible for planning, promoting, and managing the above trade activities under VDACS’ European initiative.

5. Submit market contact databases quarterly to show lead growth, and after market activity.

6. Submit post-event case studies capturing objectives, actions, photos, and KPIs (attendance, impressions, generated sales, lead generation, and other) to track event success.

7. In-house, or ability to contract a PR specialist to engage media outlets, arrange interviews, product reviews, and content creation with media partners.

8. Develop in partnership with VDACS and VA companies a social media event calendar where posts and content will be generated and rolled out within market via advertising and partnership opportunities.

9. Weekly activity summary reports to VDACS with information that may be included in VDACS’ Marketing Division Weekly Report

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