Many companies thinking of exporting their products or services outside Québec have found that this is a lot easier said than done. How do you determine the best markets? Where can you find a trusted partner to work with abroad? How can you adapt your communications to the new culture? Before embarking on this adventure – which, despite the perils, can be very rewarding – it is wise to consider the following three steps.
1. Have a solid export plan in place
This plan is essential for any entrepreneur who is looking to export products or services, as it provides a foundation and a guide from which to move forward. Too often, business leaders have the plan in their heads and struggle to put it on paper. Writing it down is crucial, however, since it allows you to get an overall view and dive more deeply into each aspect of your project in a structured way.
The first thing to include in your export plan is a market research study. This study helps the company determine which country has the most potential – and it may not always be the one you had in mind! In fact, many companies target the United States simply because of its proximity. The export plan should also include an analysis of international competition so your company will know how to stand out from the crowd. Another pillar of this document is your strategic plan: this part deals with questions about how you plan to enter foreign markets (direct export, franchises or points of sale, etc.), subcontracting abroad, possible partnerships in these new countries, etc. Finally, your export plan must also include a tactical plan, which concerns marketing, adaptation to foreign languages and local preferences, logistics, customs and much more.
2. Decide on the best method of representation abroad
A second important step in the export process is to choose an international representative. What options are available? How can you take advantage of those options? In many cases, entrepreneurs partner with an agent or distributor, depending on which method they consider to be best for their business to achieve foreign sales. Agents are normally remunerated by commission. The best way to choose a good agent is to hold interviews. You can ask candidates for references, and find out whether they have in-depth knowledge of the product and the competition, as well as get a sense of whether they seem credible when they discuss the market.
If your company decides to go with a distributor, which is normally paid by discount, there are also several points to cover to validate your selection. Among other things, you need to evaluate the size of the distributor, its sales volume, territory, product range (does it offer competing products?), type and condition of equipment and warehouses, its marketing initiatives and the quality of its after-sales service.
3. Implement a digital strategy
Today more than ever, companies need to pay strict attention to their digital communications. In fact, many export processes depend exclusively on digital expertise – it is very rare these days for companies to open outlets abroad from the outset. Most companies that export their offer do so through a digital strategy, preferably set up with the help of experts in the field. Once you identify a target audience, digital tools now make it possible to reach those customers in a very precise and efficient way. You may need to use the services of a digital strategist to communicate properly according to the Web platform and get the most out of SEO techniques, Facebook ads and other such tools.
Need a helping hand to build your export plan, choose a foreign representative or think about your digital strategy? Feel free to contact us at PME MTL!
This article was written in collaboration with Julio Sequeira, Director of Market Development at PME MTL Centre-Ouest.