Networking on a Global Scale
by Elizabeth H. Cottrell, staff
writer and editor
WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER INTERNATIONAL
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
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
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:
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:
For a small listing of French,
Spanish, and Hungarian Search Engines:
Country-Specific Foreign Search Engine
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
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
CREATIVE OPTIONS TO TRADITIONAL
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- State Chambers of Commerce can be
found through the United States Chamber of Commerce
U.S. GOVERNMENT RESOURCES:
- U.S. Department of Commerce’s
International Trade Administration (ITA),
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
- 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
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
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.
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:
New exporter services: Australia,
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”
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”
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
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