Three Keys to Consider Before Exporting

Exporting may sound like territory only reserved for large companies with equally large budgets (or, for you Seinfeld fans, one of Art Vandelay’s occupations). The truth is that armed the right knowledge and business strategy, your business can export successfully—and with less competition than you might imagine.

Roughly one percent of American small businesses export, and nearly 60 percent of them ship goods to only one country. With such a large market relatively untapped by small businesses, the world is your oyster.

If you’ve always been wondering where you can find practical information on exporting, we’ve identified three areas to consider before making a splash in international waters.

1. You’re not afraid of paperwork. Many entrepreneurs dismiss exporting because they’ve heard countless horror stories about the paperwork involved with international shipping, customs offices and payments.

Unfortunately, the naysayers are right. Exporting can be difficult, especially during your foray into the new venture. But remember that old saying that nothing good comes easy.

You’ll need to familiarize yourself with a dozen or more export documents covering everything from invoicing to bills of lading through licenses and a plethora of certificates. The SBA, Department of Commerce and other federal agencies provide samples and explanations of the most common exporting documents at—a great resource as you research the ins and outs of exporting.

2. The market research indicates you’ve (probably) struck gold. Obtaining reliable market research showing where your product will be a hit is priceless to entrepreneurs, particularly when you’re trying to penetrate foreign markets.

Because you’re considering areas that aren’t easily within your reach, you’ll want to start by reading secondary market research (information from reports and similar published sources). You can access more than 100,000 secondary market research articles through the U.S. Commercial Service’s Market Research Library.

Once you’ve identified markets that seem like viable options, it’s time to start primary market research (information from experts, customers and others in the target market). If you’re itching to travel, now’s the time to book your flight to the most promising market. But if you’d rather not fly thousands of miles to discover the market is a bust, get in touch with the local embassy’s exporting contact. The International U.S. Commercial Services Offices offer important contact points as you dive into the market.

3. Your business can adapt to international marketing. What helps sell your product in the States might be a colossal dud in other parts of the world. Different cultures respond to different forms of marketing.

Through’s International Sales and Marketing section, you can capitalize on resources covering the export marketing gamut, including:

· information and counseling

· strategy and planning

· advertising and promotional events

· market entry and expansion

If your business seems ready for exporting, entering the market will demand significant time in both strategy development and tactical execution. But with the potential for a new revenue stream that isn’t tied to the vagaries of America’s and your local economy, exporting could be a game-changer.

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