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Trade Routes: Global Threat or International Opportunity?

By: Michael Wynne
Posted: May 4, 2007

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What does it take to grow your business internationally in today’s global market? The standard advice is Think global, but act local. At the local level, however, there are no recipes, no formulas, no one-size-fits-all solutions guaranteed to bring success to your international business efforts. There are some steps, however, that do lead to better results.

1.    First, define what it is that you have to offer. Please notice that I did not say “define the product you have to offer.” What you have to offer is the sum of your product, services, benefits, pricing, appeal, brand and your potential for solving an existing problem, need and desire.

2.    Next, develop a profile of the ideal market for what you have to offer. It is much easier to find what you are looking for by defining it first. Make a list of the qualities you would like to find in the markets that best serve your needs. For example, ease of entry might be a key factor; you want a country that doesn’t penalize foreign products with heavy taxes and restrictive customs regulations. Other criteria might be strong local demand, lack of competition, higher levels of income, storage facilities, dependable transportation, etc.
Create a matrix chart listing potential countries on the top horizontal line and criteria on the left vertical line. Then, on a scale of lowest (1) to highest (10), rate each criterion for each country. Add up the points for each country and you will have the beginnings of a clear ranking order.

3.    Do your homework before choosing markets. Every situation in every market in every country is different. Beware of assumptions and generalizations; they can be very misleading when deciding which countries offer the best potential for your specific products and services.

Try to gather as much information as possible about the specific country or countries you wish to explore before you make any decisions. The U.S. Department of Commerce offers a wide variety of very helpful international business services, many of them for free. They can help identify appropriate markets and show you how best to enter them.