Boosting Your Business With Foreign Exports
Have you considered expanding your business’s market reach by exporting your products to other countries? Exporting goods can help you tap into emerging markets and avoid the drop in profits that often comes when the U.S. economy staggers.
Many small businesses are crossing borders: According to a new survey [PDF] from the National Small Business Association, 64 percent of U.S.-based small businesses surveyed have sold goods or services abroad — a 12 percent jump from the 2010 survey results.
Here are three tips for exploring new, foreign markets.
1. Leverage the benefits of large online marketplaces. Online marketplaces such as eBay and Sell on Amazon enable small merchants to reach global audiences of millions: In fact, according to eBay’s recent report [PDF] for the "Commerce 3.0" project, an astonishing 97 percent of its commercial sellers have sold to buyers in other countries. Selling through a recognized online platform builds trust between buyer and seller, simplifies payment processing, and holds each party accountable for completing the transaction. Ebay uses a Global Shipping Center to simplify the customs and shipping process for sellers; check out its guidelines here.
2. Seek help from the Small Business Administration. If your goal is to develop a market for your products in specific countries, the federal government can provide you with support in launching your international sales career. There are 19 U.S. Export Assistance Centers throughout the United States — plan a visit to your regional center for free consultation with SBA representatives regarding your exporting plans. The SBA also provides free access to a network of trade specialists, hosts a directory of paid consultants (who can help you dive deeper into your plans), and offers many other online resources.
3. Research your target markets carefully and make sure you’re meeting their needs. If you’re making a deliberate play to focus your business strategy around selling in specific foreign countries, spend time there. Learn everything you can about the culture and how you can encourage shoppers there to buy from you. For instance, BayRu, a Chicago company founded by Russian emigrants, acts as a middleman to sell goods from Amazon and eBay to consumers in Russia. To facilitate transactions, the company repackages all products to ensure they’ll safely make the trip; uses native Russian speakers to confirm all phone orders; and, because credit card penetration is low in Russia, BayRu works with a national network of in-person payment points where customers can pay for their orders. These strategies have helped the company grow dramatically: It anticipates bringing in $75 million in revenues this year.
Kathryn Hawkins is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.