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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Anya Petersen-Frey, WSBDC regional director
"I am interested in the possibility of selling my product internationally but I am not sure how to get started. What would be some good first steps?" Susan, Cheyenne
The first step to expanding into the global market is to assess overall organization and the products that will be exported. The following checklist can help the small business owner begin the process:
-- Quality of the product. For a greater chance of success abroad, the product should be special and of high quality. It is hard to sell cheap merchandise abroad, especially if they can produce a local owner's kind of products more cheaply.
-- Flexibility and change in mindset. Selling internationally means catering to the needs and tastes of people whose cultures and tastes are different than yours. Are you comfortable making adjustments as needed?
-- Language barriers. The owner needs the capability to translate brochures and product manuals into foreign languages -- do not just trust an online resource to do this accurately. A business owner needs to be specific in providing instructions and could be liable if errors in providing the appropriate operating data.
-- Product acceptability. What works in a certain local market may not work for others. Sometimes the owner may need to revise the product to suit the climate or setting of the new market. If the small business owner intends to sell electronic products, for example, make sure that the products are suitable for electrical current differentiations that may exist.
-- Product names. Check if a logo contains characters that may not be considered acceptable or if the company name needs to be modified. Some names may have unfavorable meanings or connotations in other countries.
-- Level of commitment. Management commitment is crucial. Clarify commitment to this process and reasons for exporting. It can take many months before an owner makes a single initial shipment.
-- Organizational structure. Research is valuable. Know the mechanisms needed to seek out buyers and importers for your products. Do you need to address multinational legal compliance issues (labeling, packaging, product safety, liability laws, etc.)? Or should you consider hiring an export management company to help gain instant access to a particular foreign market.
-- Additional costs. Know your financial situation. Expect that there will be some additional operating funds needed. Costs for product modifications and extra production costs, possible licensing or permitting as well as communication costs and marketing may be needed. And that is just a sample.
-- Pricing. An important consideration is whether an owner can sell at a competitive price abroad. Price differentials that are acceptable in the domestic market may not hold true in other countries. Carefully consider the foreign exchange market and its volatility.
-- Level of competition. Analyze the chosen market to determine who competitors are. If a number of exporters are providing the same product in the same market could be a good indication of the demand for your business.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail email@example.com or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.