Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to go global. Now how do you get started?

First, determine your company’s export readiness by taking this nine question quiz created by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The website calculates your readiness score and provides additional resource links to help overcome any corporate weaknesses.

Next, develop a plan. Stanley Pfrang, Market Development Director – India, the Middle East and Africa, WEDC, and Jen Pino-Gallagher, Bureau Director, International Market Development, DATCP, shared a seven step plan at a program I recently attended.

  1. Proactively develop a plan. Some companies reactively dive into the international market after receiving a product or service inquiry from overseas. A better strategy is to first think through planning steps two-seven to help avoid costly missteps.
  2. Conduct market research. Is there a need or demand for your product or service? Is market expansion feasible? Who are your competitors? What financial and legal paperwork is required? Do your current customers also operate in global markets? If so, what can you learn from them about opportunities and potential pitfalls?
  3. Entering new markets. Who can help you distribute your product? Do you need storage space? Will you need a manufacturing partner located in your target destination?
  4. Logistics. How important is your delivery speed? The decision will help you select transportation carriers and/or delivery routes.
  5. Payments. Determine what currency you will accept. Will you sell in U.S. dollars and/or foreign currency? Will you offer a discount if payment is received in U.S. dollars? Will you accept letters of credit? Will you require a down payment before production begins on goods or services?
  6. Visit the market before entering it. How do your competitors operate? How will your customers use your products or services as compared to those of your competitor? Trade shows are a good, inexpensive resource to help you see market potentials and downsides.
  7. Resources. Explore state and federal government online resources. Join an industry association knowledgeable about international trade. Talk to customers and maybe even competitors to learn from their mistakes and wise decisions.

After sharing the seven step plan, Pfrang, Pino-Gallagher and other program panelists offered additional tips.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about companies interested in your product. How long have they been in business? Obtain customer and vendor references. A face-to-face meeting to establish a relationship before doing business is best and can be done using Skype or a similar internet connection if necessary.

When seeking a trade consultant, hire a native of the foreign market you wish to enter because she will better understand the market needs and difficulties. At a minimum, hire someone with English as his second language.

Never automatically dismiss a lead that comes your way. Always explore the possibilities. It may lead to big things.

Be ruthlessly conservative in planning when internally strategizing your approach to new markets and opportunities that arise. Remember to include the impact on staff resources, time zone differences and product distribution methods.

Read Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands, a book that provides insights into business culture and customs in many different international markets. Lastly, always remember the primary goal of marketing.

So now it’s your turn to share advice. What resources do you use? What wisdom have you developed through experience? I’d love to hear from you. You can leave your comments below or you can reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook.

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