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International Trade Leads;
Networking on a Global Scale

by Elizabeth H. Cottrell, staff writer and editor

 

WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS?

The power of technology, the speed of travel, the clarity and low cost of communications, the means for rapid currency conversion, and automated translation options have all contributed to a global market that is—for the first time in the history of commerce—easily accessible for small entrepreneurs as well as large corporations. While the number of American businesses sending their goods and services overseas has tripled since 1990, two thirds of that volume has come from companies with fewer than 20 employees. The Internet, especially, provides the perfect vehicle for the marketing and sale of information products and services, which can be purchased and downloaded with no packaging, shipping, or delivery costs at all.

A key reason to consider exporting is the potential for increasing sales and profits and reducing your dependence on domestic markets. Depending on your line of work, the development of an international business can offset a lack of demand for seasonal products in the U.S. and lower your per-unit fixed costs. There may be tax advantages or currency exchange rate advantages as well.

WHAT ABOUT THE LANGUAGE BARRIER?

Exporters who ship products overseas or who buy products and materials overseas may have unique challenges that require not only translators, but also someone to guide them in understanding local cultures and regional or national laws and regulations unique to the country in which they are trading. While many of the resources listed below will offer assistance for these kinds of businesses, the focus of this report is for home-based business owners who, for the most part, are operating from their desktop computer and their telephone.

With the proliferation of free or low-cost translation services, the language barrier has become a minimal challenge for many small international businesses. Most home business entrepreneurs, for instance, are involved with information products that can be sold seamlessly throughout the world. If they are affiliates of a larger company (such as a network-marketing company), their parent company has usually already made provisions for international commerce and translation capability. Outsourcing could be considered if multilingual order taking or fulfillment is needed. An article called “Breaking the Language Barrier” in the April IAHBE MoneyPak (Cottrell) provides a much more detailed discussion of translation options and considerations for home-business entrepreneurs.

MARKETING YOUR WEBSITE GLOBALLY: INTERNATIONAL SEARCH ENGINES

Just as in local markets, search engines often play a vital role in international commerce. Entrepreneurs whose primary storefront is their Website will benefit greatly from listing themselves on international search engines to increase exposure to global markets.

The top international search engines, as compiled by The Search Engine Watch are:

  • Alltheweb—www.alltheweb.com
  • Altavista—www.altavista.com
  • Excite—www.excite.com
  • Google—www.google.com
  • Infoseek—www.infoseek.com
  • Looksmart—www.looksmart.com
  • NorthernLight—www.northernlight.com
  • Yahoo—www.yahoo.com

For a European focused search engine:

www.euroseek.net/. Established in 1996, Euroseek.com fast became one of the largest search portals in Europe. It offers search services on the Internet in more than 30 languages and as many as 40 different countries. Euroseek has also offered free e-mail, news, weather, and classified ads. Euroseek features search filters for language and geographic regions, including all European countries.

For alphabetical lists of search engines in foreign countries:

  • www.allsearchengines.com/foreign.html
  • www.bizforms.com/search.htm

For a small listing of French, Spanish, and Hungarian Search Engines:

  • www.searchengines.net/language.htm

Country-Specific Foreign Search Engine Submission Software

  • www.international-search-engine-submission.com/

Global Positioning Submitter is a country-specific foreign search engine submission software package. Developed to target search engines in a specific country, thereby facilitating the promotion of Websites in a geographical area based on target market preferences. It contains a list of 900 free submission foreign search engines.

International Search Engine Marketing

  • www.international-search-engine-marketing.com/, Free consultation. Specializes in international marketing and international search engine placement.

Companies offering localization services as listed in the second section of this report will also offer international search engine listing and management.

CREATIVE OPTIONS TO TRADITIONAL EXPORTING

Businesses with a product or service that might appeal to consumers in other countries may want to look for outlets for their product overseas or try to market directly to overseas consumers. Other options, however, might include licensing manufacturing rights to their product to a foreign company or setting up a foreign manufacturing joint venture or some other strategic alliance.

Licensing is a contractual agreement through which you give a foreign company the right to manufacture and/or distribute your product or service. It offers a small business many advantages, such as rapid entry into foreign markets and low capital requirements to establish manufacturing operations abroad. “Returns are usually realized more quickly than for manufacturing ventures.” (USBA and AT&T) The main disadvantages of licensing involve some loss of control. Appropriate patents, trademarks and copyrights are essential. To obtain patent protection under the Paris Convention, patents should be filed with the appropriate foreign government within one year of U.S. filing. Patent laws and regulations vary from one country to the next, so businesses should consult a competent international patent and trademark attorney.

  • Off-shore production is a variation on licensing. It involves either setting up your own offshore facility or subcontracting the manufacturing of your product to an assembly operator in a part of the world where you feel there is a market.
     
  • Piggyback exporting is the term applied when you allow another company that already has an export distribution system to sell your company’s product. This can provide you with immediate access to foreign markets without the need for your own logistical planning. It can be a permanent arrangement or just a stepping stone to test the market before determining to launch your own exporting plan.
     
  • Indirect exporting is a hybrid method that involves the use of an intermediary to help you find a market for your product or service. The use of export agents, export management companies, export trading companies, and export trading company cooperatives are all variations of indirect exporting and are discussed in detail in the USBA/AT&T report listed in the Sources For This Article section at the end of this article.

WHERE TO FIND INTERNATIONAL TRADE INFORMATION AND LEADS

Businesses looking for international trade information and leads should always begin by exploring the resources offered by their own country’s government or their own industry’s commercial trade organizations. While many of the resources included in this article are for U.S. government resources, they also provide a wealth of valuable information for ALL regions of the world and may usually be used by non-U.S. entrepreneurs as well as U.S. citizens.

In addition, trade shows and trade journals are an effective source for finding leads or intermediaries to help you.

If you know the region or country in which you wish to do business, that area’s government(s) will often have departments whose mission is to encourage foreign investment or commerce. For international entrepreneurs seeking to learn about export potential in the United States, the U.S. Commerce Department also offers U.S. commercial information by state at www.buyusa.com/cgi-bin/db2www.exe/mkt_research/mkt_research.d2w/input##. Once you click the state you’re interested in, you will see National Industry Reports, U.S. State information, U.S. City and County Information, Trade Events, and much more.

The USBA/AT&T report referenced below at www.bizoffice.com/library/files/trad26.txt is an excellent and far-ranging document that provides very specific information on international trade. It includes not only trade terms/vocabulary and worksheets to help you determine if you should be involved with international trade but it also gives complete contact information--and pricing where applicable—for many publications, periodicals, offices, and organizations that offer trade assistance. There is a complete list of SBDC International Trade Centers as well as state-by-state and worldwide country listings for U.S. Department of Commerce offices.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE ORGANIZATIONS (A select listing):

  • Alibaba.com—This is an excellent place to start in your search for international trade leads. Headquartered in Hong Kong, it is “the world's largest marketplace for global trade and is the leading provider of online marketing services for importers and exporters." Alibaba.com is the number one destination for buyers and sellers to find trade opportunities and promote their businesses online.

    The organization includes over 1.6 million registered members from more than 216 countries and was named "Best of the Web: B2B" by Forbes magazine and selected as the most popular B2B (business-to-business) Website by readers of the Far Eastern Economic Review.

    Visitors to Alibaba's Websites may browse company information and trade leads by 27 industry categories and 700 product subcategories, ranging from textiles to electronics. Alibaba.com operates three interlinked Websites:
    • Alibaba International (www.alibaba.com)—an English language site for the international trade community with members from over 216 countries.
       
    • Alibaba China (www.china.alibaba.com)—China's largest marketplace for domestic trade. Alibaba China uses simplified Chinese characters to meet the needs of businesspeople in mainland China.
       
    • Alibaba Japan (japan.alibaba.com)—a Japanese language site facilitating the export and import business between Japan and China.
       
  • American Association of Exporters and Importers, www.aaei.org/—Since 1921, AAEI “has been the national voice of American business in support of fair and open trade among nations.” Its Related Links tab offers an extensive list of important resource links for international trade.
     
  • Federation of International Trade Associations, www.fita.org/index.html—This Website has links to over 5,000 international trade-related Websites. Their Trade Leads links takes you to a comprehensive list of exchanges, international business directories, networks, search engines, and other trade lead resources. This site includes country-specific links as well as industry-specific links.
     
  • FITA/Alibaba.com Marketplace, www.fita.alibaba.com—This Website is the result of a partnership between FITA and Alibaba.com. It is another effort by these two leaders in international trade to provide resources and information.
     
  • The National Association of Export Companies (NEXCO), www.nexco.org/—The mission of NEXCO is “to provide the international trade community with a dynamic forum for networking, business solutions, and advocacy.” It works in partnership with the World Trade Centers Association. Its Website’s Web Resources tab offers a searchable database of over 4,000 links to international trade sites.
     
  • The World Trade Centers Association, iserve.wtca.org/—This organization links about 300 trade centers in about 100 nations with a goal of promoting international commerce. Besides information on special articles and events, this Website offers a database searchable by geographic region.
     
  • State Chambers of Commerce can be found through the United States Chamber of Commerce Website, www.uschamber.com.

U.S. GOVERNMENT RESOURCES:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), www.ita.doc.gov/—
    The Trade Information Center tab will take you to a wealth of resources that include: “Answers to your export questions,” “Country information,” “Export Programs Guide,” “Tariff and tax information,” Export resources,” “Trade offices nationwide,” “ Trade events,” and “Industry information.” The ITA offices typically include country experts, industry experts, and domestic and overseas commercial officers.

     
  • U.S. Department of Commerce’s BuyUSA Website, www.buyusa.gov—This is an important resource for both U.S. exporters and importers. If you end up at a Website in a foreign language, look for the language link in the upper right hand corner to see if your language is listed. Choose a country or region of interest for detailed information and resources.
     
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, www.usda.gov/—Use this site if your product involves plants or animals.
     
  • U.S. Small Business Association’s Office of International Trade, www.sba.gov/oit/—
    Committed to supporting all U.S. small businesses, this site provides links to information on trade opportunities, trade development, trade financing, and trade policy.

Whether you are seriously interested in pursuing overseas markets for your product or service or you just want to begin learning about the options and intricacies of international trade, the resources in this report will provide valuable assistance.

SOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE

Cottrell1, Elizabeth H. “Breaking the Language Barrier: Translation Services And Resources For International Entrepreneurs.” IAHBE (International Association of Home Business Entrepreneurs) MoneyPak for Subscribers, www.iahbe.org, April, 2003.

Cottrell2, Elizabeth H. “Export Basics: How to Find Overseas Markets for Your Product or Service.” IAHBE (International Association of Home Business Entrepreneurs) MoneyPak for Subscribers, www.iahbe.org, March, 2003.

U.S. Small Business Administration and AT&T. “Breaking Into The Trade Game: A Small Business Guide.” www.bizoffice.com/library/files/trad26.txt

RESOURCES FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE

European Buyers and Suppliers, www.imex.com/europages/europages.html. Search by product type or by company name.

Export.Gov Newsletter, www.export.gov/subscribe.html. U.S. Government export portal helps exporters for domestic and international trade.

Export-Import Bank of the United States, www.exim.gov/. This bank is heavily involved in the financing of many export and import businesses. Their Website offers information about countries as well as educational seminars and products that they offer.

Globalspeak.Com, www.globalspeak.com/. Interactive Internet TV And Webcasts For International Trade And Business. See the future of international business with globalspeak.com, the world channel of commerce, interactive internet television and Webcasts for export, trade and business professionals.

Information for exporters of U.S. goods and services, www.buyusa.gov/home/index.php?page=3. Choose an office Website from this list of countries. To find an Export Assistance Center nearest you, see the list of U.S. Offices.

Internet International Business Exchange—Tools for the Global Entrepreneur, www.imex.com/

Longini, Peter. “Export Basics Boot Camp.” Pittsburgh Technology Council Website: www.imakenews.com/techyvent/e_article000045912.cfm

New exporter services: Australia, www.austrade.gov.au/generic_template/0,1053,ContentGroup%253Dexportready,00.html. Austrade and Trade Start offer a package of free services designed to assist small- and medium-sized Australian companies develop their businesses overseas and make their first export sale.

U.S. Government Export Portal” www.export.gov/

U.S. Department of Commerce. “Personal Trade Assistant.” www.buyusa.com/cgi-bin/db2www.exe/trade_assistance/prep_intl_trade.d2w/input

U.S. Small Business Administration. “Cautions for New Exporters”
www.sba.gov/oit/textonly/export/12mistktxt.html

U.S. Small Business Administration. “Is Exporting for You?” www.sba.gov/oit/textonly/export/IsExforYoutxt.html

U.S. Small Business Administration. “New-to-Export Small Business” www.sba.gov/oit/textonly/export/index.html

 

© 2003 Elizabeth H. Cottrell. All rights reserved worldwide.

Article by Elizabeth H. Cottrell, staff writer and editor for the IAHBE. Elizabeth is a home-based entrepreneur, freelance technical writer, and owner of Riverwood Technologies, a desktop publishing company in Maurertown, Virginia.

 



 

 


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