Exporting for Small Business Owners

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Have you ever considered exporting to grow your business? For many small business owners, exporting seems too complicated, mysterious or costly, but exporting is often even easier than selling your product or service domestically.

It all starts somewhere. Sometimes growth is organic, and sometimes you must go out and make your way in the market. I think of a Wisconsin-based producer of barbecue seasonings that started by distributing their products to grocery stores where margins were small before realizing that placing their products next to high-end barbecue grills in the hardware store not only increased their margin but also increased their brand image. Now that same producer is riding the trend of U.S. barbecue in foreign markets.

If I can leave you with one key takeaway, plan! Do you want to penetrate a new market? Are you looking for long-term market growth? Are you seeking an outlet for surplus production? For example, many firms view the foreign market as a secondary market and consequently have lower expectations regarding market share and sales volume. Pricing decisions are naturally affected by these perceptions. I believe many of you are considering entering foreign markets to capitalize on an opportunity to sell your product and realize a higher margin on a sale than you would through the domestic markets. In this case, the foreign market is not a secondary market, and your expectations should be higher than in a static domestic market.

Keys to your exporting success are straightforward:

  • Take interest in global events, right down to the weather, when researching how your foreign market will dictate your success.
  • Commit to your own success. Many entrepreneurs will tell you that the early times are tough, and expenses can be daunting, but the rewards will outweigh the expenses in the long run.
  • Stay focused. Decide what is most important and determine how to reach those goals.
  • Provide a quality product or service. Make your customer want to buy more! Be your own influencer! Build your brand! When a distributor or customer “believes” in your brand, the sales will come easy.
  • Be willing to adapt your product. Realize when change is needed and commit to making the best change possible.
  • Have a long-term outlook. 95% of consumers reside outside of the U.S.
  • Invest in education and training. Keep current with technology and updates changes in your market and industry.
  • Use local resources such as the SBDC and the many trade-focused resources here in Wisconsin.

These keys to export success are common amongst many small Wisconsin-based businesses who went on to becoming worldwide recognized brands.

The Small Business Development Center and the Go Global Initiative are here to help you build your export market plan as well as provide resources and education for successful international trade.