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Selling Internationally; Quick Guide to Exporting

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Selling Internationally; Quick Guide to Exporting

By JamieD
Published: May 18, 2009 Updated: February 28, 2014

The Internet has helped many small businesses sell their products overseas. Selling internationally provides numerous opportunities to expand your business, however exporting requires you to become familiar with a new set of laws and regulations that affect your business. There are many resources available to help businesses navigate the international environment of exporting.

Choosing to Export
Expanding your business to sell products abroad can be very rewarding but is also very risky. If your product has had domestic success, that is a good indicator that you may be ready to break into foreign markets. Business.usa.gov/Export has a checklist intended to help businesses evaluate their readiness to export.
Another good starting place would be Business.usa.gov/Export's Basic Guide to Exporting. This guide uses a step-by-step approach to take beginning exporters through the process of planning, preparing, and following through with selling abroad. Business.gov's Get Started in Exporting guide provides a comprehensive list of resources and services to help small business start up their exporting operation, including information on required licenses.

Marketing Plan
One important aspect of making a successful entry into international business is to do thorough market research. Business.usa.gov/Export has resources that help businesses understand their potential in a given market and that market's business practices before making any decisions. Country and Industry Webinars detail new market and industry information from experts to help new businesses obtain succeed and existing businesses reach their full potential. In addition to these online tools, trade events are great ways to meet potential international clients and network your product for increased sales. The business sector of the U.S. Department of State has international market resources such as trade policies and restrictions, country commercial guides, and operational guides to help Americans before doing business overseas.

It is important to have the financial resources necessary to dedicate to international selling. Businesses should not underestimate these costs and she be prepared to spend as much money selling internationally as domestic. Many government agencies have programs to help finance selling overseas.
The Export-Import Bank of the United States has a division dedicated to helping small business exporters get started. This interactive export guide provides information for businesses that are trying to establish themselves in the export market.
The Small Business Administration's Export Express program gives quick responses for exporters and lenders eligible to obtain SBA backed financing for loans and lines of credit up $250,000. Through this program, and other international trade financing efforts, SBA aims to help small businesses develop and expand export markets through the financing of different development activities. For agricultural exports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides Export Credit Guarantee Programs that aim to maintain and increase sales of U.S. exports.

While market research can tell companies what products can be sold and where, preparing to export products takes knowledge of legal requirements and regulations. As the foreign affairs agency of the Federal government, the U.S. Department of State is an important resource for businesses operating abroad. Their Office of Commercial and Business Affairs (CBA) coordinates trade and investment issues that support U.S. firms doing business overseas. CBA has useful information on operational issues such as export controls and acts as an advocate for American businesses by opening markets, leveling playing fields, protecting intellectual property, and resolving disputes through collaboration with the State Department. The Treasury Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control provides information on sanctions regulations and lists entities that U.S. businesses are prohibited from engaging with. The State Department's page of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions is a good resource for businesses to consult official resources in the country that they'll be operating in. They can provide specific information for laws and customs that apply to foreign markets.

Business Travel
While traveling overseas, you should be careful to comply with restrictions and regulations of conducting business in another country. Business travel often requires additional preparation to tourist purposes including business-related visas. The State Department's Business Visa Center has detailed information on requirements and the processes of business related international travel.
When doing business overseas, you should check for an American Chamber of Commerce in the country(ies) where you plan to have a presence. Although not all countries have American Chambers, many do and they are set up to provide information and assistance to U.S. firms seeking to do business in their territory.

Export Advice and Trade Assistance
The U.S. Commercial Service promotes trade through the International Trade Administration. They help U.S. businesses by promoting trade and investments, strengthening industry competitiveness, and ensuring fair trade. For specific export and industry questions, contact a specialist from the U.S. Commercial Service.
The U.S. Export Assistance Centers, located in major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S., provide small and medium-sized businesses with local, personalized export assistance by professionals from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations.

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