5 Steps to Exporting Internationally

Establishing your product in a foreign market takes more than just international postage. Export management firm Tradewinds Global’s president Kevin Kraft offers these steps to exporting.

December, 2008


Whether it’s in-house or out-sourced, commit someone to developing the company’s export market. “There has to be someone clearly defined, following a clear [path] and strategizing for the export market,” says Kevin Kraft, whose company received an Export Achievement Certificate from the U.S. Department of Commerce in October 2008. Developing export markets takes time; success does not happen overnight. Also consider product alterations for foreign markets. “A lot of products require slight modifications, maybe just labeling or packaging, or maybe it’s an electrical product and needs completely different electrical configurations,” Kraft says.


Internet and agency resources,  many of them free, include market research, competitor analysis and matchmaking services between distributors and manufacturers. “Basically, for all the questions you have on the size of the market and how distribution happens, there are industry associations and government agencies that will teach you everything you need to know,” Kraft says. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center provides research from nearly every market in the world. If your company does not have the time to research, consider hiring an outside consultant.


“You can’t do the whole world at once,” Kraft says. New exporters might choose English-speaking locales like the United Kingdom or New Zealand because they don’t have to change things such as their Web site and packaging. With Hawaii’s high number of Japanese visitors, branching out and developing a market in Japan isn’t much of a stretch. Visit the country to which you plan to sell. By visiting stores and talking to people, you’ll see if there is a demand for your product. If you can’t go, ask around. Hawaii offers access to people from all over Asia. “If you can’t find someone who knows about the Japanese market, you aren’t doing a very good job of meeting people,” he says.


Have a plan for when and where you will be selling and how much your product will cost. Consider how much time and money you are willing to invest on developing an export market. Stay within your reach. Also, trade shows and government-subsidized trade missions can display your product in an effective way.


Execute your plan by figuring out who your customer is, whether it’s a wholesaler, a distributor or direct. Keep in mind the flow and finances of your business. “Part of the strategy is integrating the whole picture,” Kraft says. Keep in mind that other departments, like shipping and accounting, need to be synced to regulate cash flow and get your product out. “It’s very different than selling to a neighborhood store or somewhere on the Mainland,” Kraft says.

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