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There are many opportunities to develop new businesses to pursue, regardless of size. Even if you are a small, home-based business, the beauty of using the web to do international business is that no one will ever know you could be in front of a computer in your spare room!

The ease of going global

Entering the international marketplace might seem daunting, but it’s really not all that scary. Selling your products or services internationally can actually be easier than you may think and the rewards reaped can be well worth it, including:

  • Expanding your sales
  • Enhancing your bottom line
  • Developing new and meaningful business relationships in different cultures

Here are some tips to help you navigate your way successfully.

1. Do your homework

This includes researching your target market and potential customers, which you can do through:

  • The internet
  • Trade publications and associations
  • Government departments

Starting with the U.S. market is often a logical first step. In addition to its close proximity and similar language and culture, it’s Canada’s largest trading partner.

2. Take advantage of available resources

Using the trade commissioner to help set up meetings in new markets can give you instant credibility.
This is a free service that helps Canadian companies with the following:

  • Prepare for international markets
  • Assess market potential
  • Find qualified contacts
  • Troubleshoot

3. Network

Maximize your potential for success by expanding your contacts and building relationships. For example:

  • Attend international trade shows
  • Participate in trade missions
  • Become active in your industry association
  • Join trade organizations

4. Find a mentor

Better yet, find more than one mentor. Seek out owners of businesses who have lots of exporting experience. There are a number of mentoring programs across Canada specifically designed to help new entrepreneurs grow their businesses, like exporting as a growth strategy.

5. Develop an international profile

Become an authority in your industry by:

  • Writing magazine articles
  • Giving speeches
  • Developing an industry guidebook

Attend and offer to speak at international conferences. Work your niche if you have one, and keep your name in people’s minds by sending out a regular e-newsletter with valuable information that helps your target market and showcases your expertise.

6. Build your cross-cultural knowledge

Be aware of cultural differences and become knowledgeable about how business is done in other countries. When they see you’ve educated yourself, they’ll respect you.

7. Market wisely

You don’t have to spend huge dollars on big advertising campaigns to raise your overseas profile. Targeted, well-planned communications can be very effective using:

  • Local publications
  • Chamber of Commerce publications
  • Web marketing

8. Use the internet

The internet is a great equalizer because people don’t know if you’re working from your basement or a downtown office. And using the web to do business globally, particularly after you have established face-to-face contact, reduces the amount of international travel needed.

9. Focus on your business

Your values may be a barrier in some cultures, but try to be understanding and don’t impose your values. Just be prepared and try to take things with a fair bit of humour.

10. Be patient

It may take some time between your initial decision to export and your first signed contract, so have perseverance and patience.

Many cultures want to build personal relationships with the people with whom they do business. Relationship building is one of the most fulfilling and fun parts of exporting.

There is quite literally a world of opportunity that awaits you in the global marketplace, something that too few entrepreneurs are pursuing. But, if you do your homework and tap into the many resources available to assist, you’ll be ready to take the leap.