In the past it would be too costly for a small business to survive global markets, but as various technologies, professional website design, and the internet become more affordable, it's becoming easier and easier for the little guy to compete. As the trend towards 'going global' grows, so does my business. I have the pleasure of guiding these enthusiastic new players through the global game procedures.
As The Import Export Coach, during my training workshops I'm often asked "How can I test my new product or market idea before deciding to fully commit my resources and finances to the project?"
Of course, I always recommend thorough research before jumping into any international agreement - there are no small deals when "Going Global" - players are ready to buy and sell in bulk. The more research you do, the more you minimize the risks.
It's like a see-saw; when your planning and research increase, your risks go down, and when your planning and research fall, your risk rises, as seen in this diagram:
However, it's not going to hurt your business to start making some contacts and begin the communication process with key players in that market. Below are some tips on how to quickly find valuable global prospects.
For exporting products and services to other countries, contact your country's consulate or embassy in the foreign market that you're trying to enter. Trade Commissioners are placed in those foreign countries specifically to help companies like yours export products there. They collect market data and have access to directories of potential buyers for specific industries. Embassies are placed in the capital of a country, while consulates are placed in strategic economic areas.
The only trick is getting them to respond to your inquiry. Keep in mind that they need some kind of "hard-copy" of your request to place in their files. While many will accept inquiries via email, some still require a faxed letter. It must be on your company letterhead and specific information is required.
Whether by fax or email, I suggest you include the following:
Company contact information.
Product Description - Be as specific as possible, for example do not generalize by saying giftware, instead say: decorative, hand painted, carved wood Christmas ornaments.
Request a list of potential buyers.
Request recommendations for market entry strategies. This will make a big difference in how you approach the foreign market. For example, will you use a major distributor, individual agent, or trading house, what tradeshows and promotional events should you attend, etc.
If you follow the suggested guidelines and have a professional approach, you should have no problem getting a response.
Similarly, for importing products and services from other countries, contact foreign consulates and embassies located in your city. Just like our country has trade offices around the world, foreign countries have placed their embassies and consulates here to study our markets.
The foreign Trade Commissioners in these offices are placed here to help manufacturers from their own country. They offer Export Directories of their homeland's products and suppliers. In some cases, they may offer lists of buyers for certain industries. Again, proper communication is essential for gaining their assistance.
Go Online - There are thousands of trade lead sites on the internet. Use sites that offer quick access and easy maneuvering. Make contact only with companies with whom you're truly interested in their products. If you're just starting out, trade items that are "easy" with minimal trade barriers, for example gift and consumer items. And most of all be careful that you don't get caught up in a wild goose chase...
You may have been mislead that large commodity items will bring in the most profit and multitudes of money. If you're just starting, think again. The companies involved in the international distribution of large commodities, in most industries, are all aware of each other. In other words they already know who the major buyers and sellers are, and quite frankly, don't need our help.
In addition, if someone is getting you to do a lot of leg work without paying you, perhaps they are just tying to find out information about a competitor, or using you to make a trade with a well known buyer/seller in your country who will not deal with them directly for some reason, and you will end up with nothing.
Or perhaps there are regulations and quotas involved that they want someone else to take the heat for when the goods are shipped into their country. If you don't know what you're doing, international trade can be a very costly venture.
But you can do it! Just start with products that have less risk attached to them.
Look on trade lead sites for unique products offered at competitive prices that are in demand in your market (import) or desired destination market (export). Reputable suppliers should offer samples of smaller items and full color info on others. Visit our website for an excellent list of trade lead and international trade sites www.ImportExportCoach.com
Contact other non-competing companies from your region that have attempted to "Go Global". Perhaps you sell custom designed windows and you've heard that a door manufacturer in your town has secured a contract with an Asian buyer. Go ahead - give them a call. They'll probably be glad to share their stories with you.
Go on Government subsidized trade missions. Check with your government for programs and subsidized missions to foreign markets that meet the needs of your company.
About the Author: Jennifer Henczel is a Business Trainer and International Trade Consultant known as The Import Export Coach. Her award winning website has helped thousands of entrepreneurs around the world start an import export venture and grow their business.
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