Increased cooperation with foreign trading partners and economic growth recovery in Asia, Latin America and Europe create bountiful opportunities in world markets. The lifting of trade impediments underscores the need to consider export potential and international competition as an integral part of today's strategic business planning in the 21st Century.

In dollar terms, California is the largest exporting state in the United States, followed by Texas, New York and Michigan. Its top export markets are Japan, Mexico and Canada, with Taiwan a distant forth. Currently, the United States is the largest trading country in the world, but Europe and Asia are only a few years behind and gaining momentum. Technology, communication and the free-flow of capital globally are creating an increasingly borderless world market.

Today's hot items in international commerce are high-tech products, including computer, internet, genetic and military technology, products representing American culture and brand-name recognition (i.e.: Levi's and Disney), pharmaceuticals and medical products to name a few. In almost any area where American ingenuity excels, a receptive market awaits overseas.

Many national U.S. corporations have successfully launched bold ventures into overseas markets. Those who cling to a traditional "Ameri-centric" mindset risk missing international opportunities and stand a good chance of being blindsided at home by foreign competitors. However, U.S. companies that are embarking on global marketing arena can make some grand mistakes as well. The most important lesson learned by international trade pioneers is to test the water before diving in.

Success in marketing overseas lies in the details. Extensive research, planning and preparation are needed to custom tailor the company's sales approach to a foreign country's standards and business practices. Critical variables include: country specific governmental regulations, environmental, legal or tariff requirements, industry structure and standards, competitive climate and especially significant, the local customs. Sub-economies within a country as well as geographical constraints must also be considered. (When next-day delivery is an absolutely necessity, a county or region where expedited mail arrives eight days later is obviously not the right market.) Because the economic and political climate is more volatile overseas, national and regional stability, including currency exchange, requires careful scrutiny and constant monitoring.

Another expressly atypical American requisite for conducting business internationally is patience - long-term patience. Many American corporations are run by their stock prices; shareholders expect a certain level of return for their investment. A three to five-year perspective for market development overseas is a prerequisite for financial success. American firms that withdraw from a foreign market will find far higher future barriers to re-entry.

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