Any business can export products or services but the process can be complex and challenging and success is far from guaranteed. Yet, when it is approached with careful deliberation, exporting can be a rewarding growth strategy for any business. Here are ten key steps to take your export efforts from start to success:
1. Make the commitment.
Whether you own a sole proprietorship offering consulting services or manage a 1500-person manufacturing facility, exporting offers you opportunities for growth, increased sales and diversified markets. But a marketable product or service is only the beginning.
Exporting takes time and effort. It also takes resources and a strong commitment to compete beyond your current borders. If you are focused and have assessed your readiness to enter the global marketplace, you are ready for the next step. The Export Diagnostic from Team Canada Inc. (available online) is designed to help exporters assess their strengths, weaknesses, objectives and possible strategies as they explore opportunities in foreign markets. It also helps exporters identify their priorities as they prepare to export.
2. Plan, plan, plan.
The secret to export success is preparation and a carefully researched plan. This is your source of direction as you embark on your journey into foreign markets. An export plan helps you to act – rather than react – to the challenges and risks encountered in international business. And in addition to helping you implement your export strategy, it can help you obtain financial assistance, investors or other strategic partners required to make your export venture a success.
An export plan comprises many elements – a description of your company, its market and industry, and your business objectives; information on your products or services; an analysis of the target market and industry, including trends and forecasts; an examination of the competition and their strengths and weaknesses in contrast to your own; international marketing strategies, including customer profiling and the development of sales and distribution channels; employment and training issues; financial requirements and forecasts; and much more.
3. Conduct research to find the right market.
Thorough market research helps you make sound export marketing decisions by giving you a clear picture of the economic, political and cultural factors that affect your ability to sell your product or service. Ultimately, market research saves you time, money and effort by reducing your exposure to unknowns.
There are two main types of market research. Secondary market research consists of information collection from published sources (books, newspapers, market reports, studies, and periodicals) and the Internet. For example, the Exporters section of the Canada Border Services Agency website is one of the best sources of secondary information for exporters. It serves as a one-stop shop, linking to all major Canadian market information web sites. Researchers will find trade statistics, market and industry information, even potential partners and trade leads. Secondary research helps you fine-tune your information needs.
Primary market research helps you fill in the critical gaps through direct contact with key experts, customers or other sources of information. Primary research frequently involves personal contact techniques such as interviews and consultations and is best attempted after you have familiarized yourself with the potential market through your secondary research efforts. Contacting a Canadian Trade Commissioner at an embassy or consulate is an example of effective primary research.
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