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Over the past two decades, international business relationships have exploded and will continue to do so over the next two. In addition, more North American companies are doing business, and creating business, all over the globe. If your small business is thinking about making this step outside the U.S., there are several important factors to consider:
1. Know your target market. Select the market based on demand for your product. Is there an actual need now? Ask customers, partners, and even competitors.
2. Know your competition. Who are your competitors in the U.S. and do they already sell in the foreign country your interested in entering? If so, ask yourself several key questions. For example: Are they local? How established are the businesses and are they more or less sophisticated than your offering(s)? And what’s the value proposition of the competition?
3. Worth the extra effort? Do you need to conform to special laws or standards? Does your product have export restrictions? Are you ready to manage currency fluctuations? Does your product require specially trained technical support? Do you need to translate and localize documentation of the product?
4. Partner vs. employees. Should you market the product directly or through a channel? Using your own sales force gives more control over sales efforts and presence in the country. Unless you are physically onsite, however, you don’t have as much control over daily activities, which can sometimes pose a whole new set of difficulties.
5. Choosing a partner. After you contact potential partners, find out who they represent, how many products, how many sales reps they have, annual volume, etc. Also be sure to find out what they feel the market for your product might be and if they have the needed technical-support people.
Managing director, Latin America Practice
Sage Creek Partners
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