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Weigh up the pros and cons

If you decide to travel down the path of international trade, you certainly won’t be alone. According to Government of Canada research, in 2009, a total of 86% of Canadian exporters were small businesses.

In that same year, small businesses were responsible for $68 billion (or 25%) of the total value of products exported from Canada.

Going global isn’t something to take lightly. There’s a commitment involved, so make sure you understand all of the ramifications of that strategy. To help you weigh up the pros and cons, here are a few reasons why you may consider joining the ranks of Canada’s exporters.

1. Reduce dependency on our economy

Part of business success is reducing risk. Relying too heavily on one customer or one country’s marketplace can be risky, because you’re at the whim of the economic health of your buyer. If they feel some pain, chances are you will, too.

Spreading your business activities across multiple buyers and marketplaces should reduce your exposure to potential downturns associated with any one source of revenue.

2. Offset seasonal sales cycles

If you sell lawn furniture in Canada, your business probably makes its money in April, May and June when customers prepare their backyards, balconies, and patios for warmer weather.

While you certainly want to focus on domestic sales during those key Canadian months, why not serve other countries during other months? For example, springtime in Australia starts in September.

3. Technology makes it easier

Social media in particular is opening new opportunities for small businesses to go global. Using popular platforms, such as Twitter, you can:

  • Broadcast messages
  • Share expertise targeted to particular topics, companies, people, countries, industries or trends

Tweeting about the high quality of your patio furniture may just grab the attention of a furniture distributor in South America or Europe.

4. Consider translating your site into foreign languages

Your website can also help you get more business from different parts of the world.Set up an option for visitors to buy directly from your website or to submit a question. Or, get your website translated into several languages to help foreigners buy from you. Be careful to understand any legal issues associated with selling directly into a foreign country.

5. Start with one country

You may decide that these reasons and others make it a great time to go global. Start with a plan to take your business to another country so you can minimize mistakes and expenses.

Learn from the experiences of other international small businesses by participating in online forums. And always engage professional counsel to understand the legal and trade implications of your actions.