Exporting opens the door to a new world of opportunities in small business.
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However, exporting success can be elusive, even for the most resilient entrepreneurs. To better your chances, you need to plan ahead and properly prepare your products before they hit the shelves overseas.
The process of product preparation for exporting may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. All it takes is the ability to see your product through the eyes of a foreign consumer. If you can do that, the rest is just common sense.
Engineering & Redesign
Many first-time exporters mistakenly believe that the only modifications they'll need to make to their products are superficial ones. In reality, exporting may necessitate fundamental changes in a product before it is ready to be sold abroad. For example, foreign electrical standards are much different than electrical standards in the U.S. If you fail to account for the electrical standard in your target market, your product will be unusable or (worse yet) even dangerous.
Something else you may need to consider is whether your product is engineered in the metric system. Outside of the U.S., the metric system is standard, and unless your product is engineered accordingly, it may not integrate with other products.
Labeling & Packaging
Language and culture present another challenge in preparing your product for export. As a small business owner, you already know that what's on the outside of the package is just as important as the product inside. Regardless of where the product was manufactured, foreign consumers want to see packaging that is appealing to them and labeled in their own language.
Carefully examine your label for cultural references (e.g. a U.S. flag) that play well at home, but fall flat overseas. Then consult your foreign partners to learn how your label can be altered to be more attractive to a foreign customer base. You should also rely on your foreign partners for help in translating package language, weights, and measures to accommodate your export market.
Installation & Warranties
One last area that needs to be addressed is the packaging that goes inside the box. Installation instructions are worthless unless they can be easily understood by the consumer. You're going to need help with this since installation instructions require technical language that usually doesn't translate well between languages. To minimize the confusion, you may want to consider preassembling certain elements before shipping.
Likewise, warranty information can be a source of confusion for foreign customers. Make sure your warranty is clearly stated in the customer's language and take the necessary measures to handle claims when they arise.
The good news is that you can use a strong warranty as a way to break into a new market as long as the customer is able to understand the scope of the warranty and how to contact the company when problems occur.