11/20/2012 8:03:00 AM Small businesses can succeed in international markets
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by Joe Van Bourgondien SCORE Counselor
Question: I have built my business into a successful enterprise and believe I could expand this internationally, but I’m not sure of the best way to proceed. Does SCORE have some advice that will help me move into an international market?
Answer: More small businesses are finding that the next market opportunity may well be overseas. Two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is outside the United States, along with 96 percent of consumers. Doing business overseas can provide a measure of insulation against fluctuations in domestic markets and enhance your overall competitiveness. Thousands of U.S. small businesses are already exporting their products and services to other countries. So by thinking globally, and doing proper research to make informed decisions you business can take advantage of expanding international markets.
Bill Cairns, president of international business development consultant BCM Group, www.bcmgroup.net, says small businesses are well-suited to join the global marketplace. “They are more flexible to adapt to market demands, and to different regional and cultural needs,” Cairns says, adding that close relationships are as important as in the US. “A small business is better able to cultivate that kind of relationship than a large company.”
For Arizona’s small businesses it is fortunate that we have a US Commercial Service Senior International Trade Specialist, Kristian Richardson, located in Phoenix. “There are many strategies to consider when entering international markets,” says Richardson, “Ninety-five percent of the world’s population and 78 percent of global GDP lies beyond the borders of the U.S., so it’s important to know how to reach your customer. Richardson suggests that anyone planning on entering the international market asks: Is your company’s website optimized to target overseas buyers? Are you able to successfully manage the life cycle of your domestic distribution partners (if not, you are unlikely to succeed in international markets)? Are you able to commit money, managers, and proven marketing ideas to “going international”? “Also, says Richardson, “finding the right partner to do business with, then supporting him/her, is tantamount to success in global business.”
The first steps a business should take to begin the process,” relays Richardson, “is to formulate an international sales and marketing plan that includes a well thought-out budget. Then contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to make a one-on-one appointment. A US Commercial Service Trade Specialist will be assigned to your company to help you succeed in going international.” He suggests that anyone planning international expansion consider attending one of the myriad of training opportunities focused on going global offered by your local, state and federal international trade partners.
“Think big, advises Richardson. “However, don’t try to conquer the whole world at once. Select a few best prospect markets and work to build strong relationships in those markets first. There will always be lessons to be learned when doing business abroad, so selecting markets that are similar to the US in terms of legal system, language and business culture can ease your transition to the global marketplace.”
Richardson’s primary mission is to help Arizona-based small and medium-sized U.S. companies create and sustain jobs through increased exports. Richardson conducts classes and guides small businesses through the maze of international commerce. The office is located at 2828 N. Central Avenue, Suite 800 Phoenix. Contact information Kristian Richardson by phone at (602) 254-2907, or email him at Kristian.Richardson@trade.gov. Additional information is available at www.export.gov/arizona
You should also rely on your SCORE counselor. SCORE, with its nationwide resources, can be a great asset and help you avoid missteps as you move from a domestic to an international enterprise.