Can I Sell My Products and Services…Abroad?

By Kay Carrico | November 5, 2011

You researched the domestic market before starting your business. It may not have been all that difficult. You might have had a good feel for the business, knew what your potential customers would need or want, what you could realistically charge. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t spend hours researching as anyone should do who is starting a business. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t need a business plan ever evolving as situations change. But you had the “home team” advantage. You didn’t start from the beginning. After all, you have picked up a lot of information over the course of your life having been born in the U.S. or having lived several years of your life here.

So, your business plan has proved to be a good tool — a roadmap essential to your building a successful business domestically. Maybe you sell regionally or throughout the U.S. and now you are thinking of expanding your business to international markets. Good thought since exporting can even out sales and cash flow.

But before spending too much time and money on research, there are a few things to contemplate before you begin your Export Business Plan.

1. Know your domestic business, your domestic customer, and your products or services very well. If you are unsure (and some people are) about what is good about your product or service how can you sell these features to a foreign customer? And there may be something that needs to be improved. If so, improve it whether it is product or process. If you don’t, things could easily fall apart when you expand to foreign markets. It will not be a wasted effort even if you do decide maintain and grow your business here in the U.S. Better products and processes can help you do just that.

2. You are getting serious inquiries from your website and trade shows. Your competitors, which are no longer just U.S. competitors, are exporting so, why not you? If these inquiries are coming for all over the globe, look for the areas where there are the most similarities to your product, your way of doing business, etc. While it is tempting to put your efforts into investigating in a faraway exotic land (You’re thinking, “Great! We can make our business trips a vacation, too!”) it is not a good idea to start with the most difficult markets first. It will be a learning experience, yes, but one that you can ill afford in time and money. There will be enough differences in a similar market to keep you on your toes. If you come from up North in the U.S. like I do, you might think that Canadians are just like Americans. But are they? While most of Canada is English speaking, French is also an official language in Canada. Labels and printed materials have to be in both languages. And the label background has to be a certain color and spacing is different there. Small differences, but differences nonetheless. Verbiage and colors of labels are different there than they are here…a costly mistake if you don’t know about it.

3. What about pricing? If you are selling on small margins in domestic markets, can you add the costs of shipping and packaging, to name a few, and still be competitive and earn a profit? And what about duties, when you add that cost? And what about non-tariff barriers like quotas, regulations and licenses. They may not be insurmountable, but they are barriers issues that you want to know about well before the order is placed and your product goes out the door.

Want to hear more and meet women, and men, who know how to do business internationally?

Want to rub elbows with the honorary consuls from Germany, Japan and Azerbaijan, to name a few?

Want to learn about what New Mexico products are being exported and are being given away as door prizes?

Then attend NAWBO’s (National Association of Women Business Owners):

Go Global with NAWBO

Celebrating Cultural Diversity in Albuquerque
November 16, 2011
Embassy Suites
For more information and to register, go to NAWBO.

Click here for free exporting tips from the SBA.

About the Author


Kay Carrico

Kay Carrico is an international business consultant specializing in insurance products to diminish risk and alternative financing when traditional sources are not an option. She founded her company, In-Compasse, in 2005, to provide export consulting and training in an easy-to-access and affordable way.

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