Any business should not necessarily be restricted to its own domestic market.
There are many more customers for your goods and services, franchise business and even your intellectual property than you might think, even if it might feel daunting and a little frightening to operate away from a familiar environment.
Assess your potential for export
The decision to enter foreign markets implies a long-haul commitment with financial and operational consequences and it is likely to have an impact on the course of your business, for the better we all hope.
But taking the opportunity to reach a larger customer base doesn’t need to be a guess work.
Begin by assessing your ability to export. Good preparation is very important because to achieve success in exporting you will need to build a lasting presence in your target country.
The export diagnosis questionnaire is a tool that allows you to measure the strengths and weaknesses of your business through a simple checklist and helps evaluate your readiness for developing internationally.
You can download your complimentary self-assessment checklist from www.mariebexportlink.com.
Choose your target markets carefully
Starting an export business may present itself as a strategic solution — such as the need to sell more (and faster) due to surplus production or seasonal stock.
It can also be an opportunistic move — taking advantage of an enquiry for your goods or services.
In this case, beyond the initial phase, there is an enhanced need to adopt a more diligent approach to selecting markets you would like to do business in.
Selecting similar markets
You would be wise to select markets that offer a fairly familiar business environment.
These are limited in number and are usually safer but are likely to be mature, stagnating markets. Because of this, you are likely to encounter a similar level of competition. New Zealand is a good example.
Markets with the high potential for growth
Consider whether your company is specialised in niche technology, your domestic market is too narrow for a fair return on investment or may require fast, seasonal, higher volume sales.
In such scenarios, markets with high level of similarities do not always offer the best business opportunities.
It makes sense to identify countries that have greater potential for growth. Needless to say, these markets are likely to be riskier and require stronger commitment.
Know your markets
Regardless, of what market you would choose, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with the target country. Business ethics and culture vary hugely from one country to another even within the same region.
Visit relevant international fairs, go on a discovery tour of the country, find out about supply chains and the market players in your industry, identify your competitors, seek advice from government bodies and chambers of commerce and industries, seek assistance from international market specialists.
An inexpensive option is the DIY method, using readily available international communication tools such as the internet. Of course, this option only helps if you know where to start and what to do.
Conduct market research
Conducting comprehensive market research employing a specialised organisation may be useful to larger businesses with dedicated financial resources.
By targeting the country, the right entry strategy and the adequate consumer segments you can decide where to allocate your resources.
However, this type of research is expensive and the cost is not always justified for smaller players.
See strategic advice
For many smaller, B2B professionals offer specialised advice and accompaniment.
Never underestimate the value that can be gained from assistance in international negotiations, handling of international sales and contracts, selecting reliable distributors, sales agents or representatives are important to make sure that your brand, image and reputation are not damaged and to minimise the risk and the cost of doing business in a foreign environment.
Marjane Beaugeois has 15 years experience in international market development in Europe, South East Asia and the Middle East. Marjane has held international sales management positions within leading multinationals in Western and Northern Europe and the Middle East. She has a double degree in Science and International Business and a Masters in Commercial Project Management. Marjane is based in Melbourne.