So, you’ve decided to export. Perhaps you’ve been exporting for years, responding to inquiries from your website or establishing distribution channels around the world. Maybe you’re starting to enter global markets and still learning the process. When you have a business to run, how do you make time to focus your attention on exporting? Despite wishful thinking, you can’t make more time but what you can do is make better use of the time you do have now.
For some businesses, the arrival of summer may bring a slower pace when employees and customers take off for family vacations and fewer orders come in the door (paid vacation time is mandatory in the European Union and many people take off in August). But regardless of when your business experiences a slower pace, there is never a better time than now to look for ways to fill in knowledge gaps or shore up your export strategy. Taking that initiative can separate you from the competition.
Here are three things you can do right now to think globally and get ahead (or stay ahead).
Gain An Advantage with Market Research
You know your product and you may know where your market opportunities lie, but there could be countries you’re not considering that offer great potential. Consider carving time out of your schedule to do market research. The U.S. Commercial Service produces Country Commercial Guides for every country you can do business in. The guides are updated annually and include a wealth of information on topics such as, cultural business etiquette, sectors of opportunity and regulatory information.
Another great market research tool is the U.S. Commercial Service RAISE Program, which is coordinated through the Rural Export Center. Offering customized market research, there are three reports to choose from, including a worldwide matrix, which ranks the countries of the world based on criteria you set. An in-depth single country report and a potential partner list round out the market report offerings. West Virginia companies receive a discount through the West Virginia Department of Economic Development and receive two reports for $200. More than 15 West Virginia companies have taken advantage of this market research and found the information to be invaluable to the development of their export strategy. Read more about their experiences here.
Prioritize Your Export Compliance
Regardless of the size of your export sale or the destination, you are still required to perform due diligence on your buyer. If you already have an export compliance program in place, when was the last time you performed an internal audit of your process? If you can’t recall, or the answer is never, then it’s time to do one. You can also hire an independent company to perform an audit, which is recommended if you regularly sell to foreign militaries, export dual use items or are required to have an export license. Not sure if you need an export license? Learn more here.
If you are new to exporting and don’t have an export compliance program in place, developing one should be a priority. A robust export compliance program protects your company from falling victim to bad actors. It also keeps you in good standing with the federal government. To get started on your company’s export compliance plan, check out this previous Trade Talk blog. If you need assistance, reach out to a West Virginia Department of Economic Development International Trade Manager.
Improve Your Foreign Language Skills
A lot of business around the world is conducted in English, but being able to communicate in your customer’s native language goes a long way in developing your relationship. Even learning a few phrases shows a commitment to a long term relationship with your foreign partner. For example, if your company is targeting Latin America, learn a few Spanish phrases. Your efforts will be appreciated and it may help you close a sale. And for those conversations that are technical in nature or require more than a basic knowledge of your customer’s language, consider using the KUDO language platform to host a virtual meeting with live, simultaneous interpretation. The West Virginia Department of Economic Development has purchased a subscription to the service for West Virginia small businesses to use.
We Can Help You Improve Your Exports
Regardless of how you spend your time, keeping your exports in the forefront of your thoughts helps you capitalize on an important revenue stream because 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. If you’re not proactively exporting, you may be missing out on crucial sales opportunities.
Need help finding qualified international business partners, developing your international marketing strategy or identifying markets where your products and services have potential? We are here to help! Contact one of our trade managers today to learn more about export assistance for your company.
By Caitlin Ashley-Lizarraga
Manager, International Trade
Caitlin works with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s Export Promotion Program. She helps introduce the world to the hidden gem of West Virginia one export at a time.