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1.8.2014 Marko Luoma, Co-founder & MD, Xport
Quite often the Finnish small and medium sized companies hesitate starting their export sales. They often think export as overwhelming and expensive to start and the management don’t have enough time to dedicate to export operations. Below I’ve summarised two new theories that might make exporting seem less intimidating.
Lean Exporting is a 6 Step theory of how to sell abroad with minimal upfront investments. The methodology was published as 'The Entrepreneurs' guide to: Lean Exporting' by Maria Cristina Hernandez, founder of Managed Strategies.
1. Select your market
Consider any previous ‘passive’ overseas sales; small quantities bought from another country, or larger orders shipped domestically and then shipped out by a 3rd Party. Also, think about purchasing Market Research to back-up your experiences.
2. Create a list of target sales channels
Now to decide your preferred route to market. Direct to a Buyer or final sales channel will give you a larger profit margin and control over the final destination of the product. You will also be able to engage with your purchasers but it will require more work and cost for importing and logistics.
If you choose to work with a Distributor or Importer, you will lose some control over the market distribution, and you will need to account for the Distributors margins, but you are paying for their contacts, logistics and knowledge of the local market & business culture.
3. Validate the target list
This is where you start making calls to your target companies to identify the correct contact details.
4. Solicit & identify interest
The traditional selling starts now, cold calling and the fishing e-mail; sending a little product info to illustrate your products. Also consider using LinkedIn to warm-up this process a little; research your customer, be active in relevant LinkedIn groups, maybe communicate to your target contact.
The likely response will vary depending on your target; Distributor, Buyer etc. but ensure that you follow-up on the original communication until you get a response. If there are no positive replies, maybe now is time to rethink your target market.
5. Understand your export pricing
It is vital to understand your pricing structure. How does your production cost + shipping + import duty affect your product’s market price? Can you compete in the market while generating revenue and profit through the supply chain?
6. Close the sale
Finally, arrange a face-to-face meeting with your Buyer where you can reach agreement on pricing, distribution and payment terms.
Go Global in 5 Steps
A lot has been said about Finland’s low online sales. The challenge is high postage costs compared to many other countries, meaning online sales are not cost effective. Companies do see the value but can’t compete online. ‘How to Go Global in Five Steps’ written by Emma Jones, Entrpreneur, Author & Founder of Enterprise Nation, summarises the principles how to start export sales in five steps using online sales.
1. Market research
Check to see if you have international traffic on your website e.g. Google Analytics
2. Make sales
Use internet sales to assess market demand by selling on powerful international platforms, such as eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, Ozon.ru, Rakuten.co.jp. Amazon and eBay have programs that allow you to utilise their infrastructure to supply multiple overseas countries. This should be supported with your own e-commerce sales, which may be able to supply countries that the others don’t.
3. Promote your products
Get yourself and your products known and talked about by contacting influential bloggers, and news outlets that your customers might follow. Support this by building up your social media profiles, and be active on social media. You can also use marketing and sales tools on the shopping platforms to drive sales - remember, strong sales will affect the websites algorithms, driving additional customers to your product - it’s a virtuous circle!
4. Sort the practicalities
Next it’s time to organise the right logistics partner for your products, and to understand and complete the export documentation. Depending how you use them, the larger platforms might allow you to access their distribution infrastructure. This also applies to processing payments, but you might consider setting up a separate online payment account e.g. PayPal
5. Go local
If you really want to reach out to a specific market, then it needs to be in their own language. Look at getting a local language version of your website created, and ensure it is kept updated - an out-of-date, unmaintained website is not the way to cultivate customers. You might also consider renting a virtual office to give you a local ‘feel’.
With the online platforms having local language content is a prerequisite, so if you create localised content to use on there, you can use it on your own site too. They will often provide customer support in the local language as well.
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