5 Things Every Small Business Needs to Know about Exporting

Updated: Feb 22, 2019


Exporting overseas can be daunting for small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Many SMEs want to reach new customers but turn down exporting opportunities due to common challenges, such as high cost, inadequate knowledge of the market, or simply not knowing where to start.

According to U.S. Census Bureau, SMEs have made up 97% of U.S. exports from 2006 to 2013. As technology continues to advance, so does globalization. Many export resources can be found online and experts are just a phone call or email away. To get you started, we’ve put together five important things small businesses should know about exporting.

1. How to Find the Right the Market

It’s a big world out there. Searching for the right market for your product will take time. However, this process could reward you in the end. It’s important to take the time to research and narrow down a list of potential markets. Dig into that market’s culture. You may be surprised at how many cultural similarities you can find.

Use your resources online such as the U.S. Census Global Market Finder and participate in events around your area. Attend international trade events to speak with market experts. They can offer insight on specific markets and industries you are seeking to enter.

2. Your Product

After narrowing down your list, discover what is in demand. You’ve already researched cultural similarities. Now it’s time to find specifics to your industry.

Finding similarities between your product and what is in demand is just as important as finding the differences that make your product unique. You may have a variety of products that you want to sell abroad, but only a few may sell in a foreign market.

Sometimes you’ll have to alter your product or packaging to appeal to international customers. People are more likely to purchase a product that is familiar to them. Take the time to research and ask for help from local trade resources.

3. Finding a Foreign Buyer

Make sure your buyer is legitimate. There are resources available to help ensure your buyer is who they say they are. The U.S. Commercial Services offers “International Company Profile” to conduct due diligence and background checks on potential foreign partners, as well as ordering an international company report to verify their legitimacy and financial information.

A great way to get in front of international buyers is to attend domestic and international tradeshows. Buyers are there to find your product. International trade organizations will help you find export resources abroad and set up business matchmaking meetings with foreign buyers.

The CalAsian Chamber hosts trade missions every year, so small businesses can explore new markets and participate in international trade shows.