There may come a time in your business when selling internationally sounds like a good idea. Start by asking yourself this question:
"Would my time, energy, and money be better spent closer to home, increasing sales with existing clients, introducing new products or product lines, or finding new distribution channels to sell through as compared with learning how to sell in foreign markets?"
IT MAY SEEM OBVIOUS, BUT JUST IN CASE, HERE ARE THE NEGATIVES ASPECTS THAT YOU WILL FACE:
Product design and color may need to change
Packaging will almost certainly need to change, including offering multiple languages
Shipping some products to other countries involves logistics, expense, legal, and documentation issues that often differ by country.
Language issues dealing with your customers and their staff.
Managing salespeople will be far more expensive than locally.
Local manufacturers will have a huge advantage over you.
If you are successful, local manufacturers will copy you.
Of course, there is one huge benefit, too. And this is usually the allure. There are billions of folks in all those other markets.
The world continues to shrink and dealing internationally has never been easier. On the other hand, it is still very hard compared to selling in your home market.
Commonly the least expensive way to test new markets is to meet with potential importers, wholesalers, or large retailers at a trade show. This might happen by chance or you might set up those appointments in advance. It is often much easier to make this kind of appointment than to get the buyer to accept your phone call just for an opening discussion.
A second method is to call friends who are already exporting to a market you desire to sell and ask for referrals.
You might also consider setting up a trip to the new territory that coincides with a local or regional trade show. You might either walk that show or actually exhibit in the show. You will commonly need interpreters in your booth if you decide to show.
While you are checking out the territory, you will want to review all the issues noted above: product changes, packaging, language, etc. But there’s one more that you may find challenging. Many countries have very different distribution stages than you may be used to. It is possible to find as many as six layers.
You might have an importer, master distributor, distributor, jobber, retailer, the consumer. Some of these traditional setups are almost impossible to circumvent. There also may or may not be sales agencies. You may need to send someone from your home, office or even pay someone in the region to work your product line full-time.
Of course, you can skip all of this to some extent by selling direct to consumers through Amazon. Even then, you may want to learn enough about the marketplace to understand that things like your product color or brand name might make it unsellable in some markets.
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