If you have a small or medium-sized business, you may be searching for ways to expand your reach and find success in foreign markets.
At first, scaling globally may sound like a challenge, but exporting your products is easier than you think. Not to mention, there are tons of benefits that you can take advantage of to properly execute the transition. In fact, It's estimated that about 96% of the world's possible consumers are located outside of the U.S. Plus, small and medium-sized businesses (less than 500 employees) make up 98% of nearly 300,000 exporting businesses in the country.
With that in mind, becoming an exporter is entirely possible with the right resources. If you're curious as to how you can take your business to the next level, here is a complete guide you can follow to start exporting products right away:
Is Your Business Export Ready?
Before you start making any big decisions, you have to ask yourself if your business is ready to start exporting.
Essentially, a business that's ready to seek exporting opportunities is one that has all of its ducks in a row. This means that you have the following platforms set up to start generating a consumer base and promoting products:
• A registered domain name and website
• A business license and business plan
• A blog and social media profiles
Your primary mode of communication between you and your customers around the world is your website, so it's crucial to choose a name that's memorable, along with a hosting service that's easy to use.
Once you get your website up and running, you need to ensure that you have all the proper business licenses, export licenses, and a strategic plan in place to show lenders and investors how you aim to generate revenue. In some cases, becoming an exporter may not be financially viable if your sales are modest or the costs to ship globally are too high. In any case, seeking the help of a financial advisor may also be a good choice to gauge your market readiness and ability to scale.
Lastly, a blog and social media profiles give you a consistent, global presence for consumers to connect with. Writing articles about the benefits of your products, crafting social posts and copy to invite users to get involved, and providing an active voice that brings identity to your business is a great way to make an impact before launching your export services.
Choose the Right Products and Find Your Market
Now that you have your business in order, your next step is to choose the right products to export and the right market to sell them in.
Keep in mind, you can't provide a variety of products to everyone. The world is too vast and has tons of competitors that most likely meet the demands of consumers from the smallest necessities to the largest desires. However, you can choose a product that you're passionate about and you think may perform well overseas. That being said, stick to a product you believe in and build your business around making it a success.
With the right product at the helm of your strategy, it's time to do some market research and see what pain point you can solve in a certain part of the world. At first, this may sound like a daunting task, but there are several resources you can use to pinpoint where your products can succeed.
For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau of Foreign Trade oversees all of the reporting for import/export statistics, and you can easily read their reports to get a sense of how global industries are performing based on your product category. For additional resources to check out, you may want to explore data and analytics from...
• The Department of Commerce International Trade Administration
• The World Bank
• Global EDGE
• The U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC)
• The SBA Office of International Trade
From any of these entities, you can find valuable information to give yourself a leg up against competitors. In addition, the Small Business Administration (SBA) partners with many training and development centers, financial instructors and lenders, and federal programs to help you stay compliant and execute a successful market entry with foreign buyers.
Finding Suppliers and Shipping Products
So you've done your homework and now you're ready to start moving products outside the U.S. However, you need to find good suppliers and transporters to get your inventory in motion.
According to industry professionals, the best suppliers are...
• Thomas Register
• Global Sources
Within these suppliers, you can gain access to a network of manufacturers, transporters, buyers, and wholesalers, so it's worth reaching out to these international trade platforms in order to streamline the process. If you're in need of additional resources, you can check out this online wholesale trade directory or even contact the U.S. Embassy of the country you wish to export to and see what opportunities might be available.
After you nail down a supplier, your next move is to start shipping products to your customers. To do this, you'll want to hire a global frieght forwarder who can transport your products from a factory to another warehouse or point-of-sale location where consumers can make purchases and get their items delivered.
When deciding on what freight forwarder to choose, make sure that they can provide you with the following services:
• Handles all shipping arrangements
• Processes and provides all necessary documentation
• Make insurance arrangements upon your request
• Handles any licensing and permits
• Complies with all restrictions and regulations per country
• Meets your quotas and offers reliable service
Since you're new to the exporting game, it's crucial to find a transporter that makes your life easier and teaches you along the way. If you're a small business, even working with a U.S.-based service like FedEx and UPS is a great way to ship internationally. Not to mention, these two companies pride themselves in working with small businesses to achieve big goals, so you already have lots of support to become successful.
Keep Innovating and Support Your Customers
There are tons of moving parts to keep track of when it comes to launching a successful exporting business, but despite the challenges, your main goal is to keep innovating and reaching new customers.
As you develop your exporting strategy, you'll learn what works best for your products and what customers respond to in terms of your supply chain and overall management. If you start getting complaints that products are late on deliveries or damaged, then you can mitigate issues accordingly and seek solutions.
More than ever, you want to ensure that your customers are supported at all times, so always be available online to give excellent customer service and show the world that your products are ready to make a difference.