Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ideas for an entrepreneur


Ideas gleaned to facilitate export by fledgling enterpreneur
Exporting success can be elusive, even for the most resilient entrepreneurs. To better your chances, you need to plan ahead and properly prepare your products before they hit the shelves overseas. The process of product preparation for exporting may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. All it takes is the ability to see your product through the eyes of a foreign consumer. If you can do that, the rest is just common sense.

Engineering & Redesign: Many first-time exporters mistakenly believe that the only modifications they'll need to make to their products are superficial ones. In reality, exporting may necessitate fundamental changes in a product before it is ready to be sold abroad. For example, foreign electrical standards are much different than electrical standards in the BD If you fail to account for the electrical standard in your target market, your product will be unusable or (worse yet) even dangerous.

Something else you may need to consider is whether your product is engineered in the metric system. Outside of the BD, the metric system is standard, and unless your product is engineered accordingly, it may not integrate with other products.

Labelling & Packaging

Language and culture present another challenge in preparing your product for export. As a small business owner, you already know that what's on the outside of the package is just as important as the product inside. Regardless of where the product was manufactured, foreign consumers want to see packaging that is appealing to them and labelled in their own language.

Carefully examine your label for cultural references (e.g. a BD flag) that play well at home, but fall flat overseas. Then consult your foreign partners to learn how your label can be altered to be more attractive to a foreign customer base. You should also rely on your foreign partners for help in translating package language, weights, and measures to accommodate your export market.

Installation & Warranties

One last area that needs to be addressed is the packaging that goes inside the box. Installation instructions are worthless unless they can be easily understood by the consumer. You're going to need help with this since installation instructions require technical language that usually doesn't translate well between languages. To minimize the confusion, you may want to consider preassembling certain elements before shipping.

Likewise, warranty information can be a source of confusion for foreign customers. Make sure your warranty is clearly stated in the customer's language and take the necessary measures to handle claims when they arise.

The good news is that you can use a strong warranty as a way to break into a new market as long as the customer is able to understand the scope of the warranty and how to contact the company when problems occur.

Shipping Products Abroad
For new exporters, international shipping can be a challenge. Your best bet for successful exporting? Find a freight forwarder who has been there, done that.

As a new exporter, you have a lot to do before your products make it into the hands of international customers.
Things like product preparation and distribution were more difficult than you thought they would be, so shipping should be a no-brainer in comparison, right?

Maybe... and maybe not. For the uninitiated, the international shipping process can be a minefield of potential pitfalls and setbacks. The more you know, the easier it will be to send your products overseas. For starters, you need to know that shipping can be broken down into four primary areas of concern:

Packing - Your products will change hands several times throughout the exporting process. It's important to make sure they are adequately packed to arrive at their destination safe and undamaged.
Labeling - Proper labeling ensures that your merchandise is handled properly and gets where it is going in a timely manner.
Documentation - The export process requires certain documents to accompany your shipment as it travels from the BD to its ultimate destination in a foreign country. Some documents will be required by the BD and some will be required by the country that will import your products.
Insurance - By insuring the merchandise you ship, you are protecting your investment against damage, loss, theft, and even delay.
To ease the burden, many exporters rely on freight forwarders to meet their shipping needs.

Freight forwarders are agents who assist exporters in moving cargo to an overseas destination. They specialize in knowing foreign importing requirements, BD exporting requirements, and shipping processes. They are also highly knowledgeable about the substantial documentation that accompanies international shipping.

One of the advantages of using a freight forwarder is that they regularly advise exporters on every aspect of shipping, saving you time and money.

You can expect your freight forwarder to provide a detailed estimate of anticipated costs like freight costs, port charges, consular fees, costs of special documentation, insurance costs, and their handling fees. Additionally, the freight forwarder will recommend packing methods that are cost effective and ensure your products make it to their destination in one piece. They will even make the necessary arrangements to set aside space on the vessel that will carry your cargo abroad.

But a freight forwarder's service doesn't stop when your products leave the dock. They are also a valuable resource for helping exporters navigate inland transportation routes after your products are unloaded at a foreign port. The best part about using a freight forwarder is that their assistance comes at no cost to the exporter. Sure, they receive a fee for their services. But since it is a legitimate export expense, it is common for their fee to be calculated into product pricing and passed along to the customer. Given the expertise and value freight forwarders provide, most businesses continue to use their services even after they have become seasoned exporters. It is possible to replicate their services in-house, but unless your exporting business grows considerably, doing it yourself will probably not be the most efficient use of your time and resources.



Tapping Foreign Markets


Small Business Export Strategies
Is your small business tapping into foreign markets? There are over 6 billion consumers out there in the global marketplace. If you are only selling domestically, you are missing out on a big business opportunity. This article, one of over 750 articles for entrepreneurs on our site, offers helpful advice on tapping into foreign markets.

The idea of selling in the global marketplace sounds good to most small business owners. However, unlike their corporate peers, most small businesses don’t have the resources to devote an entire department to the task of penetrating foreign markets. In their frustration, these small business owners abandon the notion of selling their goods abroad simply because they don’t believe they have the ability to tap foreign markets.To some degree, they’re right. Small businesses don’t have as many resources to devote to tapping foreign markets as large corporations. But the good news is that you don’t need a foreign marketing department to sell your products internationally. No matter how big your company is, penetrating markets outside the U.S. can be a relatively simple transition – if you know how to leverage the right resources.

Finding Foreign Markets

Your first step will be to identify potential foreign markets for your products. Surprisingly, one of the best sources of information about foreign markets is the U.S. government. Much of what you’ll need to know is available on the internet at the U.S. Government Export Portal at www.export.gov. Here you’ll find industry and country specific market research as well as information about preparing your business for exports, international partner listings, shipping requirements, tariffs, and exporting basics.

Foreign governments are another good source of information about foreign markets. While it’s doubtful that a foreign embassy will have the information you need at their fingertips, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Assess Market Response

Once you’ve identified a foreign market, your next step will be to assess how the market will respond to your product. One way to do this is by participating in government sponsored trade events and/or trade missions. These events and missions are set up by the government for the sole purpose of connecting U.S. businesses with potential foreign trading partners. For a very small expense, these opportunities will help you network with global partners and give you the ability to determine how well your products will be received internationally.

Develop a Sales & Marketing Strategy

At least initially, the most effective way to sell your products abroad will not be to sell them directly to consumers. Instead, you’ll want to target businesses and other intermediaries who are better equipped to market and sell your products in a foreign market. One way to accomplish this is by creating strategic alliances with foreign business partners. For example, if you produce footwear the best strategy might not be to open a shoe store in Australia, but rather to create an alliance with an Australian shoe store that is willing to sell your shoes. The benefit is that the Australian store is already equipped to market your shoes in the Australian marketplace. If you have difficulty locating foreign partners on your own, another option is to engage the services of a commissioned broker or export Management Company to help you market your product. Brokers take a commission, but their experience in marketing U.S. products internationally may make it worth the investment.


How to Export

Customs Considerations
Before you say bon voyage to the goods you are exporting or import goods from another country, be sure you understand how international customs will affect the shipment. In today's global economy, even small businesses are getting involved in selling and shipping products internationally. Overseas selling provides small business owners a wealth of new opportunities, but delivering products to consumers overseas can provide additional challenges to overcome. In addition to the added costs of long-distance international shipping, considerations such as foreign customs clearinghouses must be taken into account when deciding to send your product around the world as opposed to around the corner. You will find in your international shipping endeavours that when you ship a package overseas, you are required to fill out a customs declaration stating the contents and declared value of the package contents.

Customs clearinghouses are set up in every country to monitor the flow of all goods entering the country from a foreign nation. This allows government officials to keep track of potentially hazardous materials coming across the border as well as to monitor the flow of international trade. Additionally, this allows for international officials in the destination country to properly gauge the taxes to be assessed to the receiving party.

When shipping to North American countries, due to NAFTA legislation, the receiving party may be eligible for customs duty reimbursement. However, in all other foreign trade transactions, the buyer of goods purchased outside his or her own country is required to pay customs duties on incoming products.

Depending on the destination country and the value of items received, these taxes can be quite a significant amount. At times, shippers may be tempted to underestimate the value of a package's contents for the benefit of their customer, but this is an illegal practice and is not encouraged.

Aside from the special taxes administered by the customs clearinghouse, the package may be held at the facility for inspection and will add to the time in transit. Depending on the declared value of the shipment in question, customs inspectors may elect for a full examination in order to ascertain the true value for taxation purposes. In many cases, this is done to verify that contraband is not entering the country illegally and to provide the greatest amount of compensation possible to the applicable government's department of taxation and revenue.

Customs declaration can be tedious and time consuming, and foreign customers must be made aware that there will most likely be added time in transit for this type of transaction and that they will be responsible for the payment of all duties and related fees.

As long as buyer and seller both understand the customs and taxation implications, international transactions can certainly prove to be mutually beneficial.

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For a small business with limited resources, it can seem like an impossible task. Luckily, you've got a lot of options to choose from, and some them might be just across town.
Selling to Domestic Buyers Who Export. The easiest way to begin building an international sales network is to sell your products to domestic buyers who will then export them abroad. From your company's perspective, these transactions are the same as selling your products to any other domestic buyer because the buyer - not you - assumes all risks and handles all of the exporting details. The downside is that the buyer also makes all the decisions about how and where your products are sold.It might sound like this approach doesn't accomplish much in the way of building a foreign sales network. However, for a small business taking its first steps in exporting, it's a great, low-risk way to introduce your products to an international market.

Exporting Through Intermediaries

If you are looking for a way to maintain more control over how your products are exported, then exporting through an intermediary might be a better option than selling your product to a domestic exporter. Intermediary firms specialize in connecting domestic businesses with international buyers, and they have the contacts and expertise to prove it.In addition to leveraging an intermediary's expertise, this method keeps you more intimately involved in the export process. You retain much of the decision-making and you learn a lot about exporting along the way.

Direct Exporting

Direct exporting is by far the most complicated and riskiest method for building an international sales network since you will be required to handle every aspect of the export process, including the promotion and distribution of your product abroad. For many businesses, this requires internal restructuring and a level of expertise they may or may not possess. A common method for exporting products overseas is to employ the services of a foreign distributor. Distributors are foreign companies who purchase products from exporters and then resell them within their own country. They also provide service and support for your products, eliminating the need for you to create your own mechanisms for foreign consumers. If you prefer, you can also sell directly to foreign retailers. To do this, you will need to establish a network of foreign sales representatives, much like you do when you sell your products at home. Newcomers to exporting rarely start building an international sales network through direct exporting. Instead, they build their network in stages, beginning with the use of intermediaries and gradually processing to direct exporting as they gain knowledge and adapt their organization. To help better your chance of success, take the time to carefully map a strategy to create a foreign sales network that is suited to your goals, capacity, and experience.

Exporting Paperwork Requirements

Exporting Paperwork Requirements
Exporting documents can be confusing. Certificates of origin? Export packing lists? We offer simple explanations for those of you who are new to exporting. You’ve done the research and made the necessary preparations to begin exporting your product overseas. All that's left to do now is drive it down the shipping dock and say bon voyage, right? Not so fast. There's still one more mountain to climb before your merchandise hits foreign shelves: Exporting Paperwork. The amount of paperwork exporting requires can be dizzying. If you haven't done it before, you'll need to tap into the experience of a seasoned exporter for guidance. Here are just some of the important documents you'll need to complete. Commercial Invoice - The commercial invoice contains a description of the products being shipped. It is used by both the exporter and the importer to provide proof of ownership and to secure payment.
Export License - Most exports don't require the completion of an additional license since they are automatically shipped under a general export license that doesn't require you to fill out anything. However, under certain conditions, you may need to obtain a "validated" license. Check with the U.S. Department of Commerce to find out whether or not this applies to your situation.
Shipper's Export Document (SED) - This is a big one. The SED gives the Census Bureau the ability to monitor the kinds of products that are being exported and requires an official categorization of the merchandise being shipped.
Certificate of Origin - This document states the shipments country of origin and can be used to receive a lower tariff rate if a special arrangement exists between the two nations.
Export Packing List - This is a detailed document itemizing the materials being shipped, weights and measurements (net, legal, tare, & gross), and type of packaging. A copy of the packing list needs to be affixed in waterproof plastic to the outside of the package.
Insurance Certificate - If you are insuring the products being shipped, you'll need to fill out a form describing the amount of coverage.
Inspection Certificate - Some countries require inspections for imported goods and require the completion on an inspection certificate before the goods can enter the country.
Shipper's Instructions - Exporters are required to provide their freight forwarders with detailed instructions about the movement of the goods once they are unloaded in the importing country. The more detail you provide, the more likely it is that your goods will get where they are going faster. Your freight forwarder should be able to provide you with a standard form.
Inland Bill of Lading - The Inland Bill of Lading records the movement of your goods from their original shipping point to their inland destination.
Dock Receipts - Dock receipts are used to record the transfer of responsibility from domestic to international carriers.
Bill of Lading/Air Waybill - These important forms give evidence of title for the goods being shipped and detail the international carrier's responsibilities in transporting your products.
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Common Mistakes Made By Exporters
These common mistakes made by exporters should be avoided at all costs. With all the effort you are putting into exporting, you don't want to fail because you overlooked these simple exporting tips.Exporting might be the missing ingredient you need to take your business to the next level. But make a mistake and your magic ingredient might lead to a recipe for disaster. In a competitive global marketplace, the key to success is knowing what the mistakes are before you make them.

Although exporting is an achievable goal for small businesses, it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Success requires business owners to carefully navigate a minefield of pitfalls in territory that is quite literally foreign to them. You can do it - but to do it right, you'll need learn what works and what doesn't long before you get your products anywhere near a shipping dock.Here are just some of the things other business owners have done wrong in exporting: Lacked a coherent international marketing planIn some ways, selling your products abroad isn't all that different from selling them at home. Your products won't find their way off the shelves unless you've taken the time to put together a marketing plan geared toward the consumers you are trying to reach. This gets trickier when you're dealing with a foreign customer base, but it needs to be done nonetheless.
Relied on inadequate partnerships
In the rush to take their products global, some businesses hurry through the process of choosing overseas partners. They pay the price later when their fledgling export business becomes a tangled mess of distribution headaches, marketing breakdowns, and shady transactions. Before you begin exporting, take as much time as you need to be assured that your partners are reliable and capable of delivering what they promise.

Demonstrated low commitment to exporting
If you are looking to turn a quick profit, you won't find it in exporting. Building relationships with international partners and customers takes time. When business lags, some owners waver in their commitment and sit idly by as their exporting business goes down the tube. Don't make the same mistake. Instead, be prepared to commit to the long haul.
Neglected export customers in favor of domestic customers
Once you begin exporting, it's important to treat your international and domestic customers with the same level of focus and support. It's tempting to favor your domestic customers a little more since (in the back of your mind) they are still the bread and butter customer base you can rely on if your foreign ventures go badly. However, if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure internationally because your overseas customers will be missing out on the service that has made your company a success at home.

Failed to modify products & methods to accommodate foreign regulations and preferences

Too often, newbie exporters neglect to thoroughly translate their products and practices into the language of their target market. To be successful, you need to do modify your packaging in a way that is appealing to foreign customers, even if it means completely redesigning your domestic approach. Also, make sure that the way you do business is both culturally acceptable and legally compliant in your foreign market.

Possessing the right information upfront gives you the ability to peer into the future and more accurately predict possible outcomes for your latest ventures abroad. Acquiring the right information is simple and straightforward - if you know where to look. Having trudged through years of bureaucracy and regulations, a lot of small business owners have adopted the mindset that government is more of a hindrance than a help. But when it comes to exporting, you need to get that idea out of your head. The government is very interested in helping small businesses sell their goods and services abroad, and they have established several resources to help you research the potential of international markets for your products. For information about links and resources for foreign market analysis, visit the government website at www.export.gov. There, you will find country-specific data that you will need throughout the process. Generally, however, the process itself should look something like this:

Step 1: Find Potential Export Markets

A good market search begins by looking at trade statistics to determine the countries and geographic areas that are most likely to import the products you sell. The key is to find a handful (5-10) of the fastest growing markets, taking into account their historical performance over the past several years. Along the way, you should factor in other market research information such as tariffs, market openness, distribution infrastructure and similar variables that directly affect profitability. You should also keep an eye out for smaller, emerging markets where you may encounter fewer competitors. Your goal is to narrow your search to 3-5 markets that hold the most promise for success. You probably won't export to all of them, but at least you will have a solid group of prospects to choose from.

Step 2: Assess Targeted Export Markets

After you have identified some promising foreign markets, the next step is to conduct a thorough investigation of their competitive, demographic, and economic trends. Before you commit to a market, you'll want to know who you'll be competing against as well as any quirky cultural trends that would put your product at a disadvantage.

Learn as much as you can about foreign trade barriers including tariffs and fees. On the flip side, you should also look into existing U.S. trade incentives designed to make it easier for you to export to your target countries. With the information you learn, determine the level at which you'll need to price your product to remain profitable and decide whether or not your price is still competitive.

Step 3: Test Export Demand

The critical test in analyzing a foreign market occurs by testing the demand for your product overseas. You don't need to begin shipping products abroad to do this. There are several resources at your disposal to connect you with foreign partners who will work with you to assess the viability of your product in their market.

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But unless you find a way to sell your products to foreign customers, your efforts will just be a big waste of time. If you are a small business with limited resources, the internet might be the most important international sales resource in your company.
The internet has proven itself to be a valuable tool in selling to a domestic customer base. Its capacity to manage information and establish contacts have revolutionized the selling process, giving small businesses the ability to compete with larger companies. When it comes to selling internationally, the internet's power is increased exponentially. Using online tools, even a beginning exporter can promote its products abroad with minimal effort. The primary online tools for selling internationally are a quality website and the ability to communicate electronically. As your exporting business grows, you can add other features such as online marketing campaigns, search engine maximization, and online cataloging & ordering.

But for now, you can leverage basic internet functions to jumpstart your sales abroad. Here's how:

Build Confidence in Your Company

A high-quality website goes a long way toward building confidence in your company and its products. Unlike domestic customers, foreign customers find it difficult to verify your company's credibility through traditional methods. Your website may be the only opportunity you have to convince foreign customers that your business is capable of delivering a quality product.

Provide Information About Your Products

Likewise, your website might be the only avenue foreign customers have to learn more about your products. To be effective, you might need to modify your current website to provide more detailed information about the products you are exporting. Another option might be to design a new webpage tailored to foreign customers. The international page can be accessed via a link on the main site, making it easy to find.

Research Potential Clients

The internet is a great way for customers and clients to learn about your company and products. But it's also a great way for your company to scout out potential clients who may be interested in the products you export. Start by searching for retail outlets that specialize in selling products similar to yours. Retailers are always looking for new merchandise and your product might be a perfect fit. Along the way, you can also expand your search to include distributorships and other foreign agents who can help place your product on store shelves.

Receive and Respond to Inquiries

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the internet in international selling is its ability to directly connect you with foreign customers and clients. Customers can make inquiries about your products and receive a quick response without the hassle of an international phone call.

You can invite inquiries by providing your e-mail address and contact information on your international website and product packaging. However, by providing an e-mail address, you are making an implicit commitment to respond to inquiries on a timely basis. If you aren't able to respond to inquiries within 24 hours, then don't invite e-mail inquiries because chances are long delays will only harm your sales efforts.

ABIDJAN, 4 September 2007 (IRIN) - Diabetes patients in Cote d’Ivoire are appealing for help, as a lack of insulin in the country’s public pharmacies has put the medicine out of reach for most, adding to the burden diabetics already face in fighting their disease in one of the poorest countries in the world. “The situation has become so critical,” said Jonas Yao, vice president of the national association of diabetics. “People are going to die.” The national stock of insulin ran out in March, making the medicine available only at more than double the price at private pharmacies,. Diabetes patients said the lack of affordable insulin is just one example of the government’s failure to help care for people with the disease. Health experts say chronic illnesses like diabetes, despite their heavy human and socioeconomic toll, tend to lose out in competing for scarce resources with communicable diseases like tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Diabetes patients in Cote d’Ivoire say they are frustrated about a general disregard for diabetes in comparison to other more visible illnesses. “People neglect diabetes because it is not contagious like HIV,” said Hortense Nouama, treasurer of the national association diabetics. Pointing to national programmes that provide treatment at little to no cost for HIV/AIDS patients, she said, “I would be better off with HIV. I could get my medicines for a couple of dollars.” In Cote d’Ivoire a supply of insulin available in public pharmacies for about 3,500 CFA francs (US$7.25) costs 17,000 CFA francs (US$35) in the private pharmacies, Yao said.

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