Steps for Exporting
Below are eight basic steps to follow to begin exporting your product internationally. If you are unsure about any information mentioned here or have more specific questions, please visit the FAQ page or contact us.
Step 1: Take the Export Readiness Assessment
The U.S. Commercial Service has developed a helpful questionnaire to determine whether or not your company is ready to export. The Arkansas DEC has modified and personalized this questionnaire and it is available below. It will provide a useful assessment of whether your company is ready to export, and it will also guide you through each question to determine what you can do to improve your export readiness. Whether you are just interested in exporting or you are seriously considering taking the next steps to sell internationally, your company should begin by honestly answering this assessment.
If you're more of a visual learner, check out this video.
Step 2: Develop Your Export Plan
If your company is considering exporting, first it must develop a clear export plan. This is perhaps the most important step, as it will guide you through the rest of your export processes. Export planning starts with developing a broad consensus among company management to gain agreement on goals, objectives, capabilities, and constraints. An export plan serves three main purposes (1) it indicates a clear commitment to exporting, (2) it ensures that everyone in the company is on the same page regarding exports, and (3) it serves as a performance measurement tool to evaluate your progress and success. When completed, your export plan should answer these questions:
1. Which products are selected for export development, and what modifications, if any, must be made to adapt them for overseas markets?
2. Is an export license needed?
3. Which countries are targeted for sales development?
4. In each country, what are the basic customer profiles, and what marketing and distribution channels should be used to reach customers?
5. What special challenges pertain to each market (for example, competition, cultural differences, and import and export controls), and what strategy will be used to address them?
6. How will your product’s export sales price be determined?
7. What specific operational steps must be taken and when?
8. What will be the time frame for implementing each element of the plan?
9. What personnel and company resources will be dedicated to exporting?
10. What will be the cost in time and money for each element?
11. How will results be evaluated and used to modify the plan?
An outline for an export plan is provided here. For more information on developing an export plan, check out the video below, courtesy of the International Trade Administration.
Step 3: Identify Your Target Market
Next, you must determine to which markets you will be exporting your product. Identifying profitable markets can be one of the most challenging, time-consuming, and costly steps in the export process. There are several key recommendations to help this process go as smoothly as possible: (1) identify your product’s Harmonized Code/Schedule B Number – this will make market research much easier, (2) conduct thorough market research using online tools and contacts at the Arkansas DEC and the U.S. Commercial Service, (3) we recommend starting your exporting in just one market; avoid choosing too many markets or geographically separate markets until you have already reached a comfortable level of export success. As always, for more information, resources, and market research assistance contact the Arkansas DEC.
Step 4: Prepare for Your Market
After you have determined what markets you will be exporting to, you must now begin determining how you will exporting to these markets. Each country has its own unique set of considerations that your company must research and be ready for as it moves through the exporting process. You should be aware of tariff rates and import fees, trade barriers, regulations, and licenses of the country or countries you are trying to export into. This will again require more market research and staying current on trade relations between the U.S. and your potential export country or countries. The Arkansas DEC can assist you with this information and provide the knowledge and resources needed to prepare your business to export to a market in another country.
Step 5: Sell to Your Market
Now that you have prepared yourself to export to your target market, you need to consider how to price, distribute, promote, and advertise your product in this market. This often requires travel to your target market country and participation in trade shows. We strongly suggest that you establish relationships with businesses, distributors, and individuals outside of the U.S., which will require knowledge of local cultures, customs, and courtesies. Again, this requires substantial research and knowledge that the Arkansas DEC, along with the U.S. Commercial Service can assist you with.
Step 6: Conduct Business Online - E-Commerce
More and more business is being done over the internet. This is especially true for international business transactions where the target market is thousands of miles and several time zones away. Your business must have a sound e-business strategy in order to reduce costs, increase productivity, produce sales, and ultimately succeed in exporting your products. If your company does not already have a website, it should begin to develop one; doing so will increase how easily consumers can access your products and could boost both domestic and international business sales. If your company already has a website, there are several things that you can do to enhance your website to prepare it for customers outside of America. This may include dealing with transactions and pricing in currencies besides the dollar as well as translating portions of your website to different languages. For examples of successful Arkansas exporter websites, click here and here. To receive more help with your website, contact the Arkansas DEC.
Step 7: Getting Paid
At this point, you have found a customer in your target market who wants your products and is willing to pay for them. So how to you go about actually getting paid? There is always a degree of uncertainty that goes along with international transactions that occur thousands of miles apart. Your goal is to be paid in full and on time for your exports, so being meticulous and cautious about who you ship your products to, and what method of payment you use, is very important. Good exporters extend credit cautiously, and only to customers and distributors that they have vetted and trust. Even so, there are several different methods of payment that you must carefully consider, including (1) an open account – the exporter ships the products before being paid, (2) cash in advance – the exporter gets paid before shipping, or (3) a letter of credit – the exporter and customer set up payment terms through a third-party bank. Due to the associated costs, this option is typically for transactions over $50,000. For additional information on vetting international buyers, what methods of payment to use, and how to ensure you are always paid on time and in full, contact the Arkansas DEC.
Step 8: Getting Logistical Support
Exporting requires you to have a way to transport your products from here to there, and doing so requires knowledge of what documentation, packaging, labeling, and shipping information you need to ship overseas. Documentation requirements for shipping vary across product types and are unique to each country. The same is true of packaging and labeling; depending on your product, the importing country may have special packaging and labeling requirements that must be fulfilled in order for your shipment to enter into the country. Additionally, you may want to contact a local freight forwarder to figure out how to best transport your products. For help through this process, the Arkansas DEC is always available, as well as the U.S. Commercial Service.
Congratulations! If you have completed Steps 1-8 on this list then you are well on your way to successfully exporting your products around the world! However, we understand that this process can be a little tricky and confusing at points. If you get hung up on any step, the Arkansas DEC is here to assist you. All you have to do is ask.