When looking to grow a business, expanding into global markets should be on your list of strategies to consider. In fact, an overwhelming majority (92%) of U.S. small and middle market enterprises who do business globally see international markets as a significant growth opportunity, according to the 2017 American Express Grow Global Survey. While it may seem intimidating to begin exporting your products or services, there are many benefits, even beyond a financial boost to your bottom line. Global diversification can help boost your company’s valuation, make your company more resilient, and create a competitive edge domestically.
Not sure where to get started? Thanks to the Internet, there is a good chance your company already has an international reach whether or not you planned for it. Your website probably has enough general company information for interested customers to reach out to you. Similar to a domestic business inquiry, interested international customers might start to reach out through your website’s online form or send an email to your company.
Choosing to explore global business opportunities might seem daunting, but there are many resources available and some strategic best practices to help alleviate some of the challenges. Here are two places to start your journey if you are interested in starting to sell your products/services globally.
Tap Existing Exporting Resources
If you are starting to attract international customers and not sure what to do next, look into free resources from places such as government agencies and trade organizations.
- Government agencies offer assistance to companies on their international business journey. Many of the federal government’s resources fall under the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), which is broken into two groups:
- The U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEACs) offices, which are domestic branch offices in most major U.S. cities that directly provide export advice.
- The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS), which offers on-the-ground market development services in many countries around the world.
The Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade offers assistance and support to small business international trade development and works in cooperation with other government agencies. Some of their programs include:
- The SBA’s $18 million program to support export growth of America’s small businesses is provided at the State level through a program called the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP).
- Additionally some Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) can provide guidance to help businesses overcome barriers to selling in international markets.
- Many state governments offer localized support. Each state offers different services when it comes to export assistance. To become familiar with the details of your state’s international trade programs, visit the gov website and click on your home state to learn what products/services are being exported, what countries are buying your products/services and what programs you could take advantage of to help you grow your global business.
- Another free resource for businesses looking to sell internationally is the American Express Grow Globalprogram which offers digital how-to guides and live events to connect small and mid-sized business owners with industry experts and ITA representatives.
Explore International Government Contracts
In addition to existing resources, another potential exporting starting point may be international government contracts. It may come as a surprise that not all U.S. federal contracts are performed domestically. In fact, many agencies, such as the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and Departments of Defense regularly utilize contracts that are executed globally. Whether you are already a successful government contractor or new to the process, this can be a great strategy to start selling your products and services abroad.
Expanding globally via international federal contracts can also help minimize common exporting risks. Some of these common exporting concerns include working with various methods of payment, selling in different currencies and navigating potential language barriers with buyers or other business leaders abroad. International contracts offer a chance for U.S. companies to do business globally with the security and backing of the U.S. government while also gaining valuable experience working in a foreign market.
There’s a world of customers out there – Start selling!
The great news is that there are multiple routes you can consider once you’re ready to take your business international. Take advantage of existing resources (many of which are free) and think about starting your exporting journey with government contracts. In today’s global economy, taking your business abroad can help open new growth opportunities for your business.