In today’s global, interconnected economy, it’s no surprise that there are major sales opportunities abroad for U.S. businesses. Nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside of the U.S., and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. Small businesses can take advantage of the benefits of exporting to recover from the pandemic. Get out ahead by following these steps and developing your own export plan.
- Talk to the experts. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has experts ready to help you get your export plan off the ground. U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) specialize in assisting small and medium-sized businesses to enter and succeed in the global marketplace. Local SBA resource partners, including Small Business Development Centers and SCORE, can also help you establish an international sales strategy. Finally, the International Trade Hotline is designed to help U.S. small businesses facing barriers in accessing international markets or seeking referrals to the SBA and U.S. trade government programs. You can reach the hotline toll-free at 855-722-4877 or via email at email@example.com.
- Identify your market. Now that you have a team to turn to, the next step is to identify your target market. You should consider aiming for countries where trade agreements exist, since they provide a more certain and predictable environment for small businesses. Trade agreements can also make your products more cost-competitive. The SBA’s Office of International Trade is your first point of contact for trade-related resources and referrals to other government agencies that can provide valuable small business trade information. Many government resources that can help you research where to target global growth, including the U.S. Census Bureau’s Global Market Finder and the International Trade Administration’s Market Diversification Tool.
- Find customers. The SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) can help fund your efforts to find customers abroad. STEP provides grants to U.S. states and territories to help small businesses go international. Funding is offered to small businesses that are new to exporting or to experienced exporters seeking to expand into new markets. Examples of eligible uses of funds include in-person and virtual trade shows and missions, services to support foreign market entry (e.g., market research), website optimization for global sales, and the design of marketing materials. Find out if your state or territory is participating in STEP here.
- Finance your exports. Banks sometimes view loans for exporters as risky. That’s why the SBA has created programs to provide lenders with up to a 90 percent guaranty on export loans, making it easier for you to get funding for things like day-to-day operations, advance orders with suppliers, and refinancing existing debts. These loans include export express loans, export working capital loans, and international trade loans. A list of participating lenders is available here.
- Tune in to webinars. As part of World Trade Month, SBA’s Office of International Trade and partners are hosting a series of webinars to help small businesses grow international sales. These included:
Learn more about exporting – including logistics best practices, information about trade laws and regulations, and the latest tools and resources for exporters – on our website. You can also tune in to the International Sales - YouTube channel to see how the SBA can help you grow your business into the export arena.