Plan for Export from the Get-Go

Exporting products and services to other countries can be a daunting idea. Normally, you wouldn’t even consider exporting until being well established in your own domestic market. With so many things to consider, exporting can be a demanding form of business growth that often leaves business owners feeling overwhelmed. Imagine preparing your business for export from the start. Plan your product or service development taking the global market into account. Doesn’t that sound easier?

There are steps you can take to prepare your business for future exporting. Beyond strategizing how you will get to the export stage, there are ways to get your company ready to tackle export markets once you reach that level.

To start, determine if there is potential demand outside your domestic market. Can your offerings even be packaged and shipped abroad? Conducting extensive market research and reviewing the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada’s (DFATD) Export Controls Handbook, will help you determine if it is feasible to sell your products or services abroad.

If your company does have export potential, you need to start setting some goals. Think about where you want your business to be in five to ten years. Do you envision exporting in the future? Is it compatible with your personal as well as your business goals? Do you have the time and resources to commit to exporting? You will also need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Exporting can increase your sales and expand your global market share, but it can also drive up your costs, paperwork and time commitment.

Learn from experience

Learning from others who are already exporting will help prepare you to start an export-friendly business. Many people are willing to share their successes; tips on what worked and what didn’t; and what they wish they had done differently. Meeting with industry connections and associations can be instrumental in helping your business grow.

Plan your finances

Exporting will increase your costs. You may need to spend extra time and money on market research, travel and product launches. Building on-the-ground contacts in foreign markets may also be important. This may involve attending new trade shows, translation fees for marketing materials and dinners with key contacts. Be sure to factor these costs into your business plan and determine a proper pricing strategy.

Prepare for demand

Demand may be slow during the early stages of exporting. However, once you start getting market traction, you need to ensure that you can keep up with the demand for your products or services. You will need a strategy for making sure that you can satisfy demand in a timely way.

Research cultural barriers

Researching cultural differences can get you off to the right start. For example, a winery lost thousands of dollars’ worth of product because their red label was politically incorrect in Japan. Mistakes can be expensive and damage your company’s brand. Had the winery been prepared from the beginning, they could have had a label that would appeal to customers in all their export markets.

It’s a lot to think about, but being prepared is the name of the game when it comes to exporting. With everything in business, it’s best to look as far out as you can and as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

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