Q: To Ask The Expert,
I want to expand my business in the market to which I currently export. What would you suggest that I do to increase exposure?
A: From Laurel,
Good to hear! You must be receiving an excellent return-on-your-export-investment to ask such a question. Presumably, you have already estimated the market potential of your product line. And I hope you know whether it is homogeneous or not. For example, there are three main languages -- German, French and Italian -- in tiny Switzerland. You must factor this diversification in when considering export expansion models.
There are a number of steps you can take to further expand and increase exposure. Here are eight:
1. Review your distributorship agreement to make sure you are not legally bound to have only one representative in the overseas market to which you are exporting. This is based on the assumption that you are expanding your market coverage with an existing product line.
2. Determine whether local practices or regulations limit the use of a single distributor. There are numerous advantages to single distribution -- from lower-cost shipping to more cost-effective advertising and marketing to greater clout in the marketplace. You need to think this through before you begin to expand.
3. Communicate with your agent or distributor by letting him or her know that you are eager to expand to other parts of the country. This should take place after you pre-clear Points 1 and 2. Ask if they are interested in representing your company in a new geographic area -- provided they have done a good job up until now -- and find out if they are willing and able to take on this new responsibility. If not, then request a referral to someone who might be. Agents and distributors network constantly. Attend the same trade shows and belong to the same trade associations.
4. Contact the chambers of commerce in the country where you wish to expand. Explain your market position and highlight where you plan to go next and why. Ask for help. That's why they are there.
5. Contact your local trade association and request membership lists of its counterpart groups overseas. See if one matches up to yours. Contact the members on the list to see if they are interested in working with you.
6. Contact a binational group that brings together expatriates and Americans for joint action or through interests in several areas -- political, cultural, business or linguistic. In most foreign
countries, binational chambers of commerce play a far more important role in the local business community than they do in the United States. Membership is considered a sense of pride. They can help you meet foreign companies interested in making contact with potential U.S. business partners.
7. Exhibit at a trade show in the country where you wish to expand. Check with local chambers of commerce, your trade association or your distributor. They should be able to provide you a listing of show dates related to your industry.
8. Set up a warehouse in the overseas market. As your business develops, you should consider setting up a warehouse in the market, stocked with goods to be sold by a salaried staff. This will ensure you have total control over your product and customer base.
By taking advantage of these tips, you can gain greater access to the area you are currently exporting to, increase sales and look for new representation.
Good luck and let us know what happens.
Additional: It can't hurt to check this out too.