Exporting might be the missing ingredient you need to take your business to the next level.
(article continues below)
But make a mistake and your magic ingredient might lead to a recipe for disaster. In a competitive global marketplace, the key to success is knowing what the mistakes are before you make them.
Although exporting is an achievable goal for small businesses, it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Success requires business owners to carefully navigate a minefield of pitfalls in territory that is quite literally foreign to them. You can do it - but to do it right, you'll need learn what works and what doesn't long before you get your products anywhere near a shipping dock.
Here are just some of the things other business owners have done wrong in exporting:
Lacked a coherent international marketing plan
In some ways, selling your products abroad isn't all that different from selling them at home. Your products won't find their way off the shelves unless you've taken the time to put together a marketing plan geared toward the consumers you are trying to reach. This gets trickier when you're dealing with a foreign customer base, but it needs to be done nonetheless.
Relied on inadequate partnerships
In the rush to take their products global, some businesses hurry through the process of choosing overseas partners. They pay the price later when their fledgling export business becomes a tangled mess of distribution headaches, marketing breakdowns, and shady transactions. Before you begin exporting, take as much time as you need to be assured that your partners are reliable and capable of delivering what they promise.
Demonstrated low commitment to exporting
If you are looking to turn a quick profit, you won't find it in exporting. Building relationships with international partners and customers takes time. When business lags, some owners waver in their commitment and sit idly by as their exporting business goes down the tube. Don't make the same mistake. Instead, be prepared to commit to the long haul.
Neglected export customers in favor of domestic customers
Once you begin exporting, it's important to treat your international and domestic customers with the same level of focus and support. It's tempting to favor your domestic customers a little more since (in the back of your mind) they are still the bread and butter customer base you can rely on if your foreign ventures go badly. However, if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure internationally because your overseas customers will be missing out on the service that has made your company a success at home.
Failed to modify products & methods to accommodate foreign regulations and preferences
Too often, newbie exporters neglect to thoroughly translate their products and practices into the language of their target market. To be successful, you need to do modify your packaging in a way that is appealing to foreign customers, even if it means completely redesigning your domestic approach. Also, make sure that the way you do business is both culturally acceptable and legally compliant in your foreign market.