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What you need to know about positioning your business for expansion
November 5, 2021

By Shannon Courtney

As an entrepreneur, you may find yourself at the point where you ask, “What are the steps to take my company to the next level in the global marketplace?” Often, young entrepreneurs will have the skills, knowledge, and branding strategies down but are not sure of the resources needed to position their business for expansion to export to new markets and reach new audiences.

According to Lucius Riccio, a professor at Columbia Business School, international trade and distribution have highlighted a “time when the smallest companies can compete with the largest ones — sometimes with the advantage of being more nimble and quicker to seize opportunities.” For example, international trade is equally alluring to business-to-consumer or business-to-business companies.

Developing a concise international distribution and networking strategy is a great step for increased sales, stronger partnership opportunities and better brand visibility. The YLAI Network offers key insights into positioning your business for expansion to help emerging entrepreneurs across the Americas.

Obtaining export counseling to develop an international distribution plan

A critical mistake business owners make when expanding their business and trade internationally is not utilizing export counseling or legal professionals to structure export and distribution operations to ensure longevity. You want to be knowledgeable about all aspects of transactions, recordkeeping systems and necessary legal documentation to negotiate with desired partners effectively before, during and after the partnership.

However, do not immediately start working with the first partner that comes along. Vet intended partners thoroughly to give yourself an edge regarding distribution margins and revenue percentages in the negotiation process. When transporting products internationally, make sure you have a reliable logistics partner who is cost-effective and covers an extensive global network.

Understand the needs of your new audience

Expansion to new international communities is a learning experience. You cannot expect to succeed knowing just the basics, such as the country’s business capital. To increase economic success and reduce market failure when encountering a new market with unique demographics, you must conduct market research by familiarizing yourself with distributor opinions and ad content or conduct a survey with end customers. Get some more tips and tricks for market research and defining your audience in this YLAI Workbook.

It is crucial to reflect on the characteristics of the market. For example, consider and document your findings on the language, culture, business formalities, trends and needs of the community in the new market. Make sure to consider cultural differences and customs that may influence your branding, packaging and labeling to reach the needs of the market. You could research and ask experts in this market demographic the following questions: Are specific colors and color schemes attractive, meaningful in some way, or potentially offensive? What local dialect is necessary to understand for labeling or product descriptions? What is the importance of name brands and what name brands hold loyalty in the region?

Utilize online commerce and trade resources from experts

There are plenty of free digital resources to help global entrepreneurs cultivate their companies’ global growth and protect their assets.

The U.S. International Trade Administration has access to Global Trade Data and information on tools for public use on prominent databases from international organizations such as the United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and World Trade Organization. They also have a Market Diversification Tool to “help identify potential new export markets using your current trade patterns. Based on the products you export and the markets you currently export to, the tool uses an algorithm to rank potential markets you may want to consider as future export markets,” according to their website.

The U.S. government’s “Export Solutions” page provides trade resources for your international business on topics such as clarifying your product or finding your traffic rate. They also offer information on researching foreign markets and counseling on how to export at the beginner level. 

It is important for you, as an entrepreneur, to protect your intellectual property when working with global distributors and manufacturers. STOPfakes.gov provides toolkits on protecting your intellectual property abroad and basic guidelines on your rights and how to combat counterfeit products.