Even in the best of times, marketing a product internationally is a major undertaking. Just exporting a single product to one other country can take months of research. The devil is in the details, and the details aren't even in English. Still, if you've sold all the products you're going to in this country, it might be time to think internationally.
Fortunately for would-be exporters, the Department of Commerce has set up a Website to promote and facilitate the export of American goods and services. While the DOC Website STAT-USA (www.stat-usa.gov) is best known for its "State of the Nation" section on domestic American statistics, it's also home to the DOC 's international trade Website. Officially named GLOBUS & NTDB, for Global Business Opportunities and National Trade Data Bank, the site offers over 40,000 trade-related documents online, many of which could be very useful to the right businesses.
The amount of information available from GLOBUS & NTDB is vast, and in some ways hard to navigate, but it can help you create and execute a viable marketing plan if you go about it systematically.
A Basic Guide to Exporting is a good place to begin for anyone who's never had a course in international marketing. It's just one of over a hundred book-length publications featured in the International Trade Library section of the GLOBUS & NTDB Website. The book's sixteen chapters provide a comprehensive study of international marketing, and how to look at exporting as a "process."
Breaking Into the Trade Game: Small Business Guide to Exporting applies the principles of A Basic Guide to Exporting to the small business. This publication is about the actual tactics involved in international marketing, and as such, it includes a 40 page business plan template that will serve as a solid reality check for any business with export aspirations.
A Business Guide to Federal Export Assistance describes the various programs a business might seek aid from. The variety of federal export assistance available is somewhat surprising, and also somewhat obscure.
Bankable Deals: A Small Business Guide to Trade Finance explores how a business can acquire funding for export operations, and most importantly, how to make sure that it's properly paid. Funding sources covered include both government and private, and sometimes a combination of both.
Once a general idea of the export process is understood, it's time to begin market research. The GLOBUS & NTDB site features a vast array of data that can help you determine the most appropriate international markets to target. The publication The STAT-USA/Internet Companion to International Business explains how to use the site for this kind of market research. It's available in book format for $20.00, or as a downloadable Acrobat file on the site, free to paid subscribers
Once you've decided on one or more foreign markets to target, it's time to consult the many country-specific reports available on GLOBUS & NTDB. There are a variety of kinds of these reports available, but the following seem the most useful.
First it's a good idea to check the National Trade Estimates Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. The publication is actually a collection of reports, and one is available for most US trading partners. To quote the DOC "These reports provide an inventory of trade barriers affecting goods, services, investment, and intellectual property rights of major U.S. trading partners. They analyze import policies, tariffs, licensing, standards, import substitution, export subsidies and intellectual property rights protection."
Trade barrier reports are particularly useful because a country's trade obstacles are frequently related to particular categories of products, rather than to all products imported to that country. Sometimes certain products simply cannot be exported to certain countries. It's usually better to know about obstacles sooner than later.
Country Commercial Guides are some of the DOC's most popular items, and for good reason. Each CCG describes the current market conditions in that country, and how the business and political conditions will affect exporting goods and services to that country.
Country Commercial Guides frequently exceed 100 pages in length, and are available for over 100 countries. Priced at $20.00 each, or free to STAT-USA as downloads.
Internal Business Practices is a collection of reports that provide a detailed look at the business practices of over 117 countries. Quoting the DOC, "For each country, the Guide reviews issues concerning: foreign corporations, agents and distributors, joint ventures, import duties and restrictions, documentation requirements, commercial policies (free-trade zones, exchange controls, etc.), intellectual property rights, taxation, regulatory agencies, and foreign investment. The Guide is organized by region, and within each region by country." No other publication of the DOC describes the technical details of actually importing to a specific country as the Internal Business Practices reports.
The International Trade Contacts document provides detailed contact information for a number of countries. Contact information includes both government and commercial sources (including trade directories).
At this point, if you have read and used the NTDB documents mentioned, you should have a reasonably reliable international marketing plan worked out. What you need now is sales leads, and this is where GLOBUS comes in. Through a combination of public and private sources, GLOBUS features five categories of daily business opportunity bulletins from around the planet.
For instance, one of the daily bulletins might mention a city in Mexico that had just opened bidding on the construction of a water purification system, another might mention that a third world airline had just purchased two new Brazilian turbo-props and would be needing aftermarket items for them.
All things considered, the information available from GLOBUS & NTDB is probably well worth the investment. The STAT-USA online fee for single designated user accounts is $175 for a year, or $75 quarterly. As an alternative, NTDB CD's can be purchased by the month or year. Single CD's, which feature the entire International Trade Library, including over 100 books, all Country Commercial Guides, and all International Business Practices, sell for $65.00. Many reports can be downloaded individually from the STAT-USA Newstand section (CCG's are $20.00).
It will still take a lot of effort to plan and execute a successful international marketing plan, but by using GLOBUS & NTDB the time-consuming task of tracking down the information needed to accomplish it will be greatly reduced. For the cost, it would be hard to ask for more.
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