Companies seeking to expand their customer base should consider broadening their search area – not just regionally or nationally, but beyond the U.S. border.
Distributors and manufacturers at last month's Power Transmission Distributors Association Industry Summit in Orlando, FL, heard some attractive statistics about shipping products to foreign countries, especially to hot markets like Brazil and Africa.
Just 1 percent of U.S. small businesses export, even though it's estimated that 95 percent of a company's potential customer base is international, said Mindi Hertzog, foreign service officer and international trade specialist for the U.S. Export Assistance Office in Orlando, FL.
Hertzog, who spoke during the summit's "Accidentally Global" workshop, said U.S. businesses already generate $2.3 trillion worth of exports each year, but American businesses can capture additional global market share as the economies and populations of foreign nations expand.
"If more companies export, we could increase that number, and we could increase jobs here at home," she said.
The numbers make it clear why you should export – for financial growth and market penetration – but Hertzog said distributors and manufacturers must ask three vital questions before taking the plunge and going global:
- Am I ready to export?
- How do I prepare to export?
- What resources are available?
Selling goods to international customers can be daunting, with considerations that include a dedicated management team, the success of the product in the U.S., production capacity, financial resources, insurance costs and a reliable shipping partner
But with the proper due diligence, Hertzog said, it could be a worthwhile investment."Ninety-five percent of your customers, whether you're a manufacturer or a distributor, are outside the U.S." she said. "They may be in Canada, they may be in the U.A.E., they may be in Brazil. Not being able to hit those customers, you're missing out on some great opportunities. So I would say it's worth it to learn everything you can about how to export properly."
The topic came up throughout the conference, and even economist Alan Beaulieu, during the closing keynote, touched on exports as a growth area for companies – with one country in particular as a popular target.
"Why aren't you doing business in Mexico?" Beaulieu asked. "That's where it (economic growth) is going to be happening."
Read more on international opportunities in Global Markets Are Not Just for Large Companies Anymore.