Exporting Guidance

Small Business Exporting

How well will your products do in foreign markets? If you export them as is, you may be in for a rude awakening. When you start exporting, there's a lot to figure out.

The global marketplace offers an exciting array of opportunities for your small business. But to be successful, you need to prepare your business for the leap into the global arena.

Preparing Products for Export

You not only need to prepare an international distribution network and marketing plan, but also the products themselves because the assumptions you've made in the U.S. market won't necessarily be valid in other countries.

To get you started, here are some questions that beg to be asked when preparing your product for global expansion.

Does the product meet a market need in the other country?

The very first question that needs to be asked is whether or not your product meets a need in the country in which you plan to sell it. A product may sell like hotcakes in the U.S., but fail miserably abroad simply because it meets a market need that is specific to the U.S.

In some cases, the product may meet a market need in regions of the target country, but not the entire country as a whole. For example, if your product requires electricity there may be a demand for it in urban areas, but not rural ones because electricity is not readily available in many underdeveloped countries.

Can the product be altered to increase market demand abroad?

Don't lose hope if you discover that demand for your product abroad does not exist at the same level as it does in the U.S. Often, your product can be altered to make it more appealing to the global marketplace. Some modifications might not be cost effective enough to make them worth your while. Then again, an inexpensive and simple remedy might be enough to broaden your product's appeal to an acceptable level.

Are there foreign regulations governing the sale of your product abroad?

Don't assume that the regulations governing the sale and distribution of your product in the U.S. will be the same when you take your product abroad. Chances are they won't be. The time to research applicable laws and regulations is now - before you invest precious time and resources in a product that can't legally be sold in your target market.

How should the product be packaged?

Likewise, you'll need to do some advance research regarding the packaging of your product. Colors, designs, and packaging methods common in the U.S. don't necessarily translate in a foreign market. Consult with your international partners or conduct field research to learn what packaging is best for your product.

How will you provide product service and warranty options?

One last item to consider is what happens after foreign consumers buy your product. Will you offer the same product service and warranty options to foreign buyers as you do for the buyers who have purchased your product in the U.S.? If so, how do you plan to deliver those services? Regardless of how you decide to answer these questions, just make sure you are prepared to deliver on the promises you make to buyers before you begin selling your product globally.

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