Don’t we all want to do more worldwide business? After all, if you have access to the Internet, you have the potential to reach more than two billion Internet users who can all become potential customers. What are you waiting for? It only takes five must-haves to get started.
1. You must have a product or a service to offer
What gives you the most pleasure as a businessperson? There are three viable reasons for choosing a product or service to export: you know it will sell, you like it or, as in the case of a service export, you are good at whatever it is you are offering: Design, global business consulting, branding, PR and so forth.
My theory is to start with a product that you know will sell—if not everywhere, at least somewhere. At the very least, start with a product that you would buy. Think iPhone, the new Lady Gaga CD, or a pair of Nikes. You can’t make an international sale happen without something remarkable to offer that can be produced or offered in volume.
2. You must have a customer
You can have the best product on the planet or intellectual capital that can launch the next space shuttle, but without a customer, there is no international business. So to make an international sale happen, go get yourself a customer—and that’s before renting that little office space a couple of blocks away. Having paying customers is what pays your rent, salary and expenses. Don’t be caught in a bind where you have fixed expenses and no revenue. Secure a customer and don’t be extravagant with anything until you start getting paid, and not just by a single customer but by several different customers over many months to ensure the business model is working and money is flowing into your bank on a regular basis.
Can customers be found? Sure. Look around within your industry, communicate through social networking sites, attend local trade shows that attract international visitors, visit online governmental resources, like The Gold Key Matching Service, and read international newspapers for stories that relate to your business. Contact people who are quoted in the articles to get a conversation going. You never know where your next customer might be found.
3. You must have a way to get paid
Would you ever give away your intellectual capital or an entire shipment of goods for nothing? I certainly hope not. Yet the funny thing is that one of the single greatest reasons for not exporting is worrying about not getting paid. What that should tell you is that many folks don’t know how to secure payment on an international transaction, or even if they think they do, they are still fearful because a customer is not five miles away but 12,000 miles away. In the case of the latter, it’s mighty hard to knock on a door and demand payment, making collecting funds quite challenging.
There are two solutions to that problem:
1. Never sell on open account—meaning you bill the customer and they pay you later
2. Work closely with your banker to guarantee a form of payment that minimizes risks, ensures you get paid, and satisfies both parties in the transaction
The best payment deal is the one that makes the international sale happen.
4. You must have a way to transport the product or service offering to your customer
You’ve created a product or service offering, located a hungry customer and figured out how to establish a secure and economical payment method. Now you are ready to move your product or service offering. Hurray! Many business owners don’t make it this far. They either give up or just can’t make a go with one of the first three gotta-haves.
To transport your goods, call on UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Why not? Don’t assume because they are big they don’t service the small. These companies are reputable and have been around forever, taking good care of the needs of small businesses interested in moving goods to and from foreign countries.
To transport your service offering, depending on what you are dispatching, you can use FilesDIRECT, Google Docs, or YouSendIt. For purely intellectual communications (brainstorming or consultations), try Skype, Free Conference, ooVoo , e-mail or the good old-fashioned telephone.
5. You must have heart
Okay, it’s a little odd to get all mushy at the end here. But I want to emphasize that our wired world creates a social system that instantly puts us in touch with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Of course, even as you make these rapid connections, you’ll be planning how to make them last. You’ll be working hard at getting to know your customers and giving them every chance to get to know you.
Communicate with and educate your customers constantly, but keep your message simple—you want them for life. To achieve that, sensitivity in your dealings is all the more precious in our age of high technology. You must have heart to develop trusting customer relationships that lead to one international sale after another.