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Thinking about going global?

Jun 21, 2010

I am interested in the possibility of selling my product internationally but I am not sure how to get started.  What would be some good first steps?   Susan,  Cheyenne.


The first step to expanding into the global market is to assess your overall organization and the products you wish to export.  The following checklist can help you as begin this  process: 

  • Quality of your product. For a greater chance of success abroad, your product should be special and of high quality. It is hard to sell cheap merchandise abroad, especially if they can produce your kind of products more cheaply. 
  • Flexibility and change in mindset. Selling internationally means catering to the needs and tastes of people whose cultures and tastes are different than yours.  Are you comfortable making adjustments as needed? 
  • Language barriers. You may need to have the capability to translate brochures and product manuals into foreign languages - don't just trust an online resource to do this accurately. You have to be specific providing instructions and could be liable if you make errors in providing the appropriate operating data. 
  • Product acceptability. What works in your local market may not work for other markets. Sometimes, you may need to revise your product to suit the climate and/or setting of your new market. If you intend to sell electronic products, for example, you need to make sure that they are suitable for electrical current differentiations that may exist. 
  • Product names. Check if your logo contains characters that may not be considered acceptable or if your company name needs to be modified.  Some names may have unfavorable meanings or connotations in other countries. 
  • Level of commitment. Management commitment is crucial.  Clarify your commitment to this process and your reasons for exporting. It can take many months before you make a single initial shipment. 
  • Organizational structure.  Do your research.  Know the mechanisms needed to seek out buyers and importers for your products. Do you need to address multinational legal compliance issues(labeling, packaging, product safety and liability laws, etc.)?  Or should you consider hiring an export management company to help you gain instant access to a particular foreign market.
  • Additional costs. Know your financial situation.  Expect that there will be some additional operating funds needed.  There may be costs for product modifications and extra production costs, possible licensing or permitting as well as communication costs and marketing - and that is just a sample.
  • Pricing. An important consideration is whether you can sell at a competitive price abroad. Price differentials that are acceptable in the domestic market may not hold true in other countries. Carefully consider the foreign exchange market and its volatility.
  • Level of competition. Analyze the chosen market to determine who your competitors are. If a number of exporters are providing the same product to the same market it could be a good indication of the demand for your business.
Anya Petersen-Frey

Category: International

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