BY NANCY DAHLBERG
In Florida, 60,000 Florida companies are exporting $55 billion in goods and services overseas. Small businesses account for 66 percent of all those exports. The exporting process may seem daunting but if you have a product or service with a proven track record in the domestic market, you may be already planning on international expansion.
Once you have determined exporting is right for you, you can tap a number of resources to help you research markets and defray your costs of doing business overseas.
So where do you start as an exporter?
“Exporting requires more time and capital and the Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College (FSBDC at IRSC) wants to help the region’s potential exporters mitigate risks and increase their potential for success. The FSBDC at IRSC will assist a business in narrowing their focus to one or two markets initially and will help the business in acquiring and reviewing qualitative and quantitative data,” said Emily McHugh, international trade specialist at the FSBDC at IRSC. “In the Florida SBDC Network, we are fortunate to have so many international trade resources. That’s what sets our program apart.”
IT STARTS WITH RESEARCH
To begin the research, look at trade flows — “A potential exporter will want to see where their product or service is in most demand. ‘The “Made in the U.S.A.’ brand is valuable and meaningful to a lot of countries. Our International Trade program, here at IRSC, reviews U.S. origin trade data to analyze trends,” McHugh said.
FSBDC at IRSC clients have access to IBISWorld, which uses economic, demographic and government data to help identify business operating risks and opportunities across 1,300+ industries. Each industry report includes detailed performance data and analysis on the market, supply chain information, forecasts, analysis of external drivers, major player market strategies, and industry profit and costs benchmarks.
Euromonitor is another great resource available to FSBDC at IRSC clients. These include reports on the industry, country and consumer behavior. Euromonitor allows the client to get a comprehensive picture of who’s buying the product, how they are using it, trends, what the competition looks like, and the purchasing behavior of those countries.
McHugh says data is the critical component. The data must support a strong market and buying power — if research cannot demonstrate a strong market then that market is not worth pursuing.
For sales leads, SBDC can filter a list from Dunn & Bradstreet databases, which includes contact information. McHugh also recommends accessing ReferenceUSA, which SBDC also makes available to clients.
GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND
McHugh recommends using Google’s Market Finder tool. Using key words related to your product or service, you can pull the number of monthly searches per country for people looking for those key words. It also gives you the ad words recommended bid price. This tool is a good indicator for demand and will also assist in identifying potential competition.
Once a potential exporter has narrowed down their target markets, translate the keywords into the language of the market for further searches on Google and on country-specific e-commerce sites, such as Amazon.com/uk for instance, and Alibaba. Pro tip: Use the images category for a Google search. You can quickly see a lot of information about where this product is being sold.
THE EXPORT MARKETING PLAN
Now it’s time to develop an exporting strategy. Florida SBDC Network partners with Enterprise Florida and the Department of Commerce to bring small business owners Export Marketing Plans.
“We use the expertise of our international trade consultants (including experts at the FSBDC at IRSC) to research international market opportunities, identify those international market opportunities and develop a strategic plan on how to enter the highest probability markets,” said Michael Myhre, CEO of Florida SBDC Network, at the small business conference produced by the Jim Morin Institute and Florida SBDC. “It is a fantastic service. The small business only pays $500 for it and the rest of the cost (about $4,500) is picked up by Enterprise Florida and Florida SBDC. If I told you that if you could grow your revenues by 20 percent, would you invest $500? Check it out.”
If your business meets the qualifications, you will meet with an international trade specialist to conduct a confidential, in-depth business assessment, McHugh explained. The consultant will spend about 90 days and prepare and provide your company with a comprehensive, customized Export Marketing Plan. Every Export Marketing Plan includes an action plan.
McHugh said. “Once we present our clients with the Export Marketing Plan we continue to engage and support their efforts to assist them in deploying the plan.
MORE GRANTS AVAILABLE
Here are some grants available for Florida exporters, underwritten by Enterprise Florida:
Target Sector Trade Show Grant: For qualifying companies, this grant will reimburse a percentage of booth costs (from 75% to 100% of costs for up to $10,000) for overseas trade shows.
Gold Key Reimbursement Grant: This grant subsidizes the small business’s cost of meeting with pre-screened and pre-qualified buyers, agents, importers and representatives during Enterprise Florida trade missions.
Website Localization Grant: An $8,000 grant to assist in customizing your website to target foreign markets.
International Registration Grant: This one helps small businesses offset the costs of obtaining international product registrations, certifications or markings that may be required to do business overseas.
For more information on the international trade program at the FSBDC at IRSC and how you can potentially increase you company’s revenue call 772-462-7631 or contact Emily McHugh at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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