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Trade Routes: Learning to Swim in the Global Market

Michael Wynne

A scientist separated an aquarium into two halves by placing a glass partition in the middle. In one half, he placed a number of small fish. In the other, he placed a large predator fish.

Within seconds, the predator spotted the little fish and dashed after them. Swimming at full speed, the predator smacked right into the glass partition. Stunned, it hesitated and hovered in one place for a few seconds. Recovering from the blow, the predator lunged forward again. Once more, it smashed into the glass partition.

In a near frenzy, the predator assaulted the invisible barrier time and again. Finally, reality sank in and it gave up. After a while, the predator swam around its half of the tank ignoring the fish at the other end.

A few hours later, the scientist removed the glass partition. The predator continued to swim around its half of the aquarium, and never once attempted to cross to the other side. It would have starved to death in the midst of plenty had the scientist not returned it to another tank where it was fed regularly.

This story has several morals:

  1. Circumstances change.
  2. You can starve in the midst of plenty.
  3. Obstacles rarely are permanent, but not trying to move them can make them immovable.
  4. Your mind is the only limit to the size of your market.

Are you starving for business growth in the midst of plenty? Today, the biggest fish tank of them all is the global market. It is virtually without limit, filled with opportunities swimming around waiting to be gobbled up. The question is: “Gobbled up by whom?”

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.” Time continues to prove him right. If your company has an exceptional product or service, sooner or later it will become known beyond the domestic market. In time, you are bound to receive inquiries from potential buyers in other countries.

Most American companies, however, are not geared up for international business. The first time an inquiry or an order from an overseas client shows up, they often don’t know how to proceed. As a client of mine says, “It’s like trying to date a mermaid. She’s in the water and you’re on land. What do you do?” The answer is easy: “Learn to swim.”

So let’s talk about learning to swim in the global market.

An inquiry from any market, whether domestic or international, indicates business potential. In today’s fiercely competitive business world, you can’t afford to ignore any potential market, and here are five reasons why:

  1. A recent survey of CEOs around the world indicates that they consider growth as the greatest challenge to their companies. Today, very few companies can achieve significant growth just by staying within their national markets.
  2. Most of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies get more than 50% of their revenues from overseas markets.
  3. In today’s borderless world, there are no longer local markets. Expect foreign competition no matter where you are or how small your business may be.
  4. 95% of the world’s population lives outside the United States, and that 95% includes foreign business people who are working 24/7 to get a piece of your market.

So, as the saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense.” A little paranoia is healthy. Don’t wait for foreign competition to show up on your doorstep, because it’s already there.

Get going! Start planning your international business growth now. Pick one product or service, and look around to find a foreign market where it might do well. Don’t know how? Simple — get on the Internet.

If you have a Web site, you’re already global because people can access your information from anywhere in the world. Beyond that, you can do a lot of market research on the Internet. Once you’ve identified a potential market, the next thing to do is to contact a specific target prospect in that country. The easiest way is to send an e-mail indicating your interest in doing business with the prospect.

If that doesn’t elicit a response, phone the prospect. Ask to speak with the CEO, president or owner. You’ll be amazed at how many times you will get through to the person you’ve targeted. Have a list of questions ready to make the most of the contact and get the kind of information you need. Build a relationship based on the call and nurture it.

Is it really that easy? No, nothing worthwhile ever is. But the important thing is to get started. Of course, it will most likely take more work. On the other hand, you probably didn’t get your first domestic client without some effort either.

I’m not saying you’re going to get international business without a learning curve. But, on the other hand, we learn by doing. If you don’t try you won’t learn. And if you don’t learn how to swim in the global market, you will never get any business there. But it is a start because it is ACTION, and that’s what you need to get going.

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