Are you thinking about selling your products or services overseas, but aren’t sure how to go about it? I recently had a chance to speak with Ed Marsh, Export Advisor for American Express, about this very subject. He cleared up a few of the myths about exporting products and services, which I’m very happy to share with you here today.
The Facts About International Business
Ed Marsh may be an export advisor and expert for American Express, but he gained much of his knowledge on the subject matter from first-hand experience, having conducted business internationally for years. His primary suggestion for entrepreneurs? Don’t try to do this on your own.
Marsh suggests heading straight over to export.gov first. You can connect with someone at the U.S. Department of Commerce who has actual experience working internationally. You’ll also probably find someone who worked in a similar field as your own.
There are also resources available at the national, state, local, and private level to help you out. But your goal should be to partner with someone familiar with exporting and who can coach you through the process. If you can do that, there are some pretty awesome benefits waiting for you.
As Marsh explained, there’s the obvious opportunity to grow your business’s revenue. There is also market diversification which can protect you from financial downturns in any one given market. Then there is the employee piece to consider. “In a tight labor market where it’s hard to find and retain great people, many employees value being part of a company that’s globally engaged.”
“In a tight labor market where it’s hard to find and retain great people, many employees value being part of a company that’s globally engaged.
But international business isn’t for everyone. For businesses that are still in the early stages, entrepreneurs are likely still struggling to keep up on managing domestic orders. If that’s the case for you, Marsh advises to hold off for now and focus on scaling here first. You can then expand (and reap those benefits) when you’re ready.
For more smart international business insights from Ed Marsh, listen to our interview here.
3 Myths About Exporting Products and Services
Here are three myths about exporting products and services that Marsh wants all business owners to know about:
Myth 1: Population Size Dictates Market Size
In the early 2000s, he took his limited international business experience and opened a company in India. At the time, he “believed if you’re going to go international, then you have to go to a market with millions of people.” And since it seemed as though the majority of people were sending business to China, he opted for another sizable market that he believed had potential: India.
“I believed if you’re going to go international, then you have to go to a market with millions of people.”
According to Marsh, larger markets aren’t always the ideal target audience for businesses as they tend to be emerging markets, which introduce way too many complexities into the process.
His advice? “The easiest way to start is to market to another market that’s similar to your own [like Canada].”
“The easiest way to start is to market to another market that’s similar to your own [like Canada].”
Myth 2: Payment Isn’t Guaranteed
Marsh says that one of the most common concerns he hears is that exporting isn’t safe and business owners fear not getting paid. As he explained, however, “the reality is it’s very easy to get paid using a variety of different vehicles.”
“The reality is it’s very easy to get paid using a variety of different vehicles.”
His advice? Visit the American Express Open Forum. Grow Global has a vast number of resources that’ll show you how to get paid, where to find advisors, and much more.
Myth 3: International Business Means International Travel
There’s a general apprehension by business owners about conducting international business because of the travel aspect. When you’re working 60+ hours a week and struggling to get a handle on everything going on right here, right now, travel seems out of the question.
“Use [your website’s] data to make an informed decision on which market to go after.”
His advice? “Use [your website’s] data to make an informed decision on which market to go after.” You’ll then be able to tell which markets present legitimate opportunities for your business. And once you identify them, there’s no need to travel right away. Marsh suggests doing it in incremental steps, so you can someday work up to traveling and, possibly, opening an office there.
“Take a lower risk, lower cost approach to it in the meantime.”