Archive for the 'Trade' Category

Three new reasons to expand your market horizons

More than ever, 21st century small businesses have reasons and resources to expand opportunities beyond local markets, including international trade, and specifically exporting. Yet even though 97% of all U.S. exporters are small companies, only a fraction of that sector are exporters.

But there’s good news that should cause the number of small exporters to increase. The convergence of new technology, a global “new economy” culture more inclusive of small businesses, and believe it or not, help from the government, are making it easier for small firms to expand their market reach. But easier doesn’t mean effortless, inexpensive or justified, which are three of the key factors of any export strategy.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities of creating a trade strategy by getting help with those three factors, with emphasis on help from the government.

Effort
For a long time, exporting was the domain of those large firms that could afford to have international professionals on payroll or contract. The education and prospecting process alone was daunting enough to dampen the ardor of even the most determined prospective small exporter, let alone the actual execution of doing business abroad.

But today, it’s hard to imagine something with so much potential being as easy as walking into one of the 100+ U.S. Commercial Service offices (a Department of Commerce division) around the U.S. and asking them to help you begin the education and prospecting process. They have the staff, information and resources to get you started, and will help you along your export strategy journey. And any associated costs are minimal.

Expense
It wasn’t so long ago that someone had to physically travel to foreign markets, establish relationships with agents and customers, and then demonstrate the goods in-country. For most small businesses, those steps were financially prohibitive.

Today, that same Commercial Service office will help you find foreign prospects, coordinate introductions and demonstrations, and bring the parties together in the early stages of a relationship without prohibitive expense. It’s all done by video conference meetings in the Commercial Service office, between you and a prospect they likely helped you find. So by the time you make a significant investment, it will be spent a lot closer to fulfilling a sale. And you’ll consider any associated fees a bargain.

Justification
How do you justify developing an international strategy? Why spend time and resources trying to sell your stuff on the other side of the planet when customers are right next door? Consider these reasons:

  • More than 96% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.
  • This year millions of Earthlings will have a smartphone for the first time who’ve never before been on the Internet or owned a computer. Don’t wait until some of them find you online to begin your international export preparation.
  • There are many examples of small businesses that minimized a downturn in the U.S. economy because their international strategy took up the slack.

New technology, new attitudes, new resources, and yes, help from the government, are bringing the world closer to your business’s door step. But you have to make the effort to meet the world halfway. Take your first step here: www.export.gov.

Write this on a rock … Education, expense, justification – check, check and check.

Video: Sometimes barter is better for your small business

In this week's video I explain how barter could help your small business grow.

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Identifying your small business global prospects

In case you haven’t heard, the seven billionth Earthling was born recently.

For the global marketplace, seven billion prospects are exciting. But for growing American small businesses, 96% of those folks live outside the U.S.

Once, small business growth meant expanding to the next county. But in the 21st century, shifts in technologies and demographics have made expanding outside America’s four-walls increasingly compelling. But it has also produced three elemental global business questions: Who are my prospects, how do I connect with them and how do I get paid? Let’s focus on the “Who” first, with these global stats from National Geographic” (January 2011), plus my editorializing.

  • Nineteen percent of Earthlings are Chinese, 17% are Indian and 4% are American. By 2030, the first two will invert.
  • By gender, males barely edge out females: 1.01 to 1.0. But my demographic experts report wide swings in median age among countries, which must factor in any export strategy.
  • In a historical shift, just over half of Earthlings are now urbanites. Remember, city folk use different stuff than their country cousins.
  • Here are global workplace profiles: 40% of us work in services, 38% in agriculture and 22% in industry. This means different things to different industries, but it means something to all businesses.
  • English is the international language of business, but is the first language of only 5% of global prospects. When doing business outside the U.S., be culturally sensitive and patient with the translation process.
  • Breaking news: 82% of your global prospects are literate. If you can read and write you can improve your life, which explains the growth of the middle class in emerging markets. A growing global middle class means more affluent consumers.
  • Computers are luxuries for most Earthlings. But cell phone usage is exploding across the globe and billions who never owned a PC, or used the Internet, will soon do both with a smart phone. Two words, Benjamin: global mobile.

Even though India and China are much in the news, American small businesses should consider export opportunities in our own hemisphere first, especially where trade agreements are in place, like Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Chile.

In the next article we’ll address the other two elemental questions: How to connect with global prospects and how to get paid.

Consider business growth outside of America’s four walls.

I have an extensive library of interviews with many exporting experts on SmallBusinessAdvocate.com. Click here to listen or download any that look interesting.

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What I liked about Obama’s State of the Union Speech

During President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union speech he identified a number of issues that I give him high marks for. Here is my list:

Tax incentives for new hires:  The president proposed tax credits for new hiring by businesses. This is a great idea, but it’s about a year late so he needs to get this passed right away.

Free trade:  He included the need for more free trade agreements, including the one with Columbia that has been stuck in Congress for years.  He’ll have to fight forces in his own party to get this done.

Energy:  I give President Obama a high-five for proposing more nuclear power in America’s future, plus more drilling for our sovereign oil and gas deposits.  Again, he’ll have to deal with his own folks to make this happen.

Iran:  Mr Obama fired a shot across the bow of Iran; I have already predicted he would get a chance to make good on this stance in 2010.  If I’m right, we won’t have to wait long to see if Obama has the stones to back-up his rhetoric with action.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about all of these issues.  Take a few minutes to listen and let me know what you thought about this speech. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Developing your small business exporting plan

Here’s an interesting fact: If you’re an American small business owner, 95% of your prospects live outside the U.S. Of course, there was a time when that stat meant little to most small firms. But in the 21st century, the Internet brings the world to your virtual doorstep.
Yes, if you sell something online to a customer in another country, that counts as exporting.  And Internet sales is a great way to develop a crawl-walk-run exporting strategy.  But when you’re ready to start thinking more in bulk and less in onesies, you’ll be happy to learn that there are organizations that are standing by to make full-fledged exporting almost as easy for a small business as selling on eBay.
Recently, Doug Barry joined me on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to discuss how to develop and execute a comprehensive exporting plan with help from the government organizations, including prospecting, execution and the financial elements (like you getting paid). Doug is Director of Marketing and Communications for the U.S. Commercial Service, the global business solutions unit of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. He is also a very important member of my Brain Trust.
Take a few minutes to listen to this conversation and let us know what we can do to help you execute your exporting plans. Listen Live! Download, Too!

John Naisbitt and Doris Naisbitt on China’s Megatrends

Almost 30 years ago, the world was introduced to the research and prophecies of John Naisbitt, when he published his landmark book, Megatrends. I read Megatrends around 1984 and it helped me see that the world I was comfortable in wasn’t going to be the reality of my future. Not too many days have gone by since then without my seeing marketplace evidence of John’s enduring cardinal prophecy, which states: the more high tech humans create the more high touch we will require.

Over the years, I have applied this guidepost in my business and have used “high-tech/high-touch” as an effective metaphor – always with attribution – in the written and spoken products I have produced. So it was with great excitement that I had the opportunity to interview John a few years back on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. And recently, I had the honor of helping John and his wife, Doris, launch their new book, China’s Megatrends. They’ve spent the past several years studying the Asian universe and most recently have focused on this region’s 800lb gorilla, which we talk about during this interview.

Should the world fear or embrace China’s emergence? What about China’s legacy of communism? Will China make the rules others will follow? What are the chinks in China’s socio-economic armor? These are some of the topics John, Doris and I discuss. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from these two important voices about how global business will be conducted. And please be sure to leave your own thoughts, which I will make sure John and Doris see.

Here is my recent interview with John and Doris Naisbitt:  Listen Live! Download, Too!

Here is my 2006 interview with John Naisbitt:  Listen Live! Download, Too!




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