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How to Become an Export Business Success

By Roger S. Cohen

Exporting your firm's products or services can provide you a valuable opportunity for growth. It takes a special approach, however, to successfully access foreign markets.

Let's look at several of the basic steps in becoming an export business success:

  • Research your market.
    Learn about your competitors, their products and prices.

  • Know the customers.
    How can you customize your products to meet foreign customers' needs?

  • Understand the concept of "many markets."
    Every market has different demands.

  • Know the market's style requirements.
    Some customers don't mind premium prices, as long as quality is also superior.

  • Learn the sales system and master the distribution network.
    Find the right sales and distribution channels. Be careful about requests for "exclusive rights."

  • Don't expect your foreign customers to understand English.
    Be ready to translate your packages, instructions, and manuals.

  • Learn to write clear communications.
    Make messages, letters, faxes and emails clear, concise and accurate.

  • Visit the market.
    Learn first hand! See your products in use. Collect competitors' samples.

  • Visit prospects.
    Urge your distributor or representative to set up three or four appointments each day for you with prospective customers.

  • Be responsive and responsible.
    Answer questions promptly.
    Offer prices and delivery terms you can meet.

  • Provide for local service.
    Fix or replace products. Foreign customers don't want a cash credit.

  • Arrange for export financing.
    You'll have new needs for working capital, letters of credit, wire transfers and currency exchange. You might want to utilize the US SBA's Guaranteed Export Working Capital Loan Program or the Ex-Im Bank's guaranteed loan program, and arrange for foreign receivables insurance.

  • Obtain receivables insurance.
    Assure that you are paid by your overseas customers, without the need for a letter of credit.

  • Discuss the business with a reputable freight forwarder.
    You'll need assistance with shipping.

  • Don't try too much at the beginning!
    Start with a bit of your product line, in a well-defined geographic territory.

If you master each one of these steps, you'll be ahead of the game, and have a better chance to be successful.

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