Target the best countries for the product or service you offer
58% of companies or personal corporations that export things from the United States only do so to one country. That's a shame when there's a whole world of opportunity out there. Find the best markets by doing your research. Look at the local regulations, the strength of currency (a bad exchange rate with the dollar makes it more expensive for you to do business there). Compare the business culture to the one at home. Exporting to the United Kingdom, for example, may be more efficient and cost-effective than exporting to Nigeria because the business culture is similar.
When Bell Performance seeks out new opportunities internationally, we assess the local markets for aftermarket fuel additives in this manner. This has led to new opportunities for Mix-I-Go and Dee-Zol that weren't present twenty or thirty years ago. You can have the same successes in your field as well. Bell's international distributors typically follow some or all of these considerations as they build their local markets.
How to Start
Start to put together a plan and strategy for start-up and establishing a market for your product. In many countries, getting connected with a key local distributor may be the best strategy since they would already have an established business and supply chain in place. Plus, in some areas of the world such as the Middle East, it's prohibitively difficult to do business there without being represented by a local agent.
Consider Fulfillment Center/Warehouse
Depending on what kind of business you're considering, you could run into the expense and hassle of answering how to put together and store a complex product from way over here in the USA. This is when forming a relationship with a fulfillment center in your country of choice can be more cost-effective A company out of Europe expanded their operations into the USA with lower start-up costs by using a fulfillment center instead of renting a warehouse and hiring staff.
A fulfillment center handles the import of product containers, inventories, ships product to wholesale distributors, retail outlets and will also handle single orders to a customer from your website. Many fulfillment centers use a Contact Resource Management (CRM) system for tracking orders and financial reports, helping them (and you) stay on top of things.
Other Questions to consider
In business, there are always more unanswered questions than one expects at the start:
Do you have a product that is presently being sold successfully?
Do you have the commitment, goals, plans and a start-up strategy?
Do you have sufficient financial resources for your start-up costs & first year operations?
Does your product meet packaging, ingredients & foreign import regulations? This one is very important because many countries are going toward what is called a GHS system (Global Harmonization). This places regulations on the complexity of the safety and shipping information associated with whatever you're selling. Be sure you have some resources to help you stay on top of that.
Will training and support be required for start-up? Who will fill that position?
Helpful Resources for Going Global
The great thing about the Internet is how much relevant and useful information you can find at the click of a mouse. If you're looking at expanding your business horizons beyond our borders, consider these helpful free resources:
http://www.commerce.gov - the national Chamber of Commerce
http://www.sba.gov - the official Small Business Association web headquarters
http://www.alibaba.com - for sourcing products to sell or finding international markets for your product)
There are plenty of resources and parties waiting out there to help you. Bell Performance itself has worked with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce offices in Miami, Prague and Warsaw, Poland to expand our global business opportunities as a company. Bell Performance exports to over 16 countries and is presently establishing additional markets in Europe and Asia.
This post was published on January 10, 2013 and was updated on October 13, 2014.