5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 62
Foreign Government Buying Agents
Small businesses may wish to consider contracting opportunities with foreign government(s) as a
way to enter the exporting market. Foreign government agencies or quasi-governmental agencies
are often responsible for procurement. In some instances, countries require an in-country agent to
access these procurement opportunities.
This type of scenario can represent signiﬁcant export potential for U.S. companies, particularly in
markets where U.S. technology and know-how are valued. Foreign country commercial attachés in
the United States can provide you with the appropriate in-country procurement ofﬁce. Contact the
U.S. embassy of your target market to locate these attachés.
If you produce consumer goods, you may be able to sell directly to a foreign retailer. In this instance,
you could either:
• Hire a sales representative to call on retailers in target markets,
• Introduce your products to retailers through direct-mail campaigns,
• Show your products at a trade show, or
• Advertise your products in a catalog.
The direct marketing approach will save commission fees and travel expenses, but may not be
as effective. You may wish to combine trips to your target markets with exploratory visits to retailers;
such face-to-face meetings will reinforce your direct marketing efforts.
Learn more about export marketing strategies at export.gov.
Direct Sales to End-Users
Your product line will determine whether direct sales to the end-user are a viable option. A
manufacturer of medical equipment, for example, may be able to sell directly to hospitals. Other
major end-users include foreign governments, schools, businesses and individual consumers.
Take advantage of your industry’s trade shows, associations and publications. These can serve as
invaluable resources for identifying and pursuing industry opportunities.
In addition, consider these resources for seeking out industry-speciﬁc information:
• U.S. Commercial Service’s Matchmaking Page
• SBDCs On-line international trade platform, connecting buyers and sellers
• International Trade Administration’s International Buyer Program
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 63
Identifying Customers Within Your
Once you have your product/service, target markets and marketing strategy identiﬁed, your next
step will be to identify potential companies, agents and/or distributors. By identifying who they are,
you can move toward determining how best to reach and engage them.
Identifying Customers Within Your Chosen Markets
You will likely ﬁnd that reaching potential overseas buyers entails many of the same techniques/
strategies as seeking out domestic ones. Consider a combination of the following actions.
Advertise in Periodicals
For example, an ad placed in a trade journal or in DOC’s Commercial News USA (CNUSA) can be a
low-cost method for testing market interest and often yields inquiries from abroad. It has proven to
be a most effective vehicle for selling products overseas and is available both in print and online.
• The printed version of CNUSA is a monthly export catalog-magazine promoting U.S. products and
services to a quarter of a million readers in 178 countries around the world—at a fraction of the
cost of any other advertising. CNUSA is placed in embassies and consulates worldwide.
• CNUSA is the ideal way for U.S. companies to showcase their products and services around the
world and increase export sales with a minimal investment.
Participate in Catalog and Video/Catalog Exhibitions
Catalog and video/catalog exhibitions are another low-cost means of advertising your product
• Your products are introduced to potential partners at major international trade shows on your
• For a small fee, U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (US & FCS) ofﬁcers in embassies show your
catalogs or videos to interested agents, distributors and other potential buyers.
Learn more about this option.
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 64
Pursue Trade Leads
Trade leads from international companies seeking to buy or represent U.S. products can be found in
• US & FCS ofﬁcers worldwide
• Domestic Commercial Service Locations
• World Trade Centers
• U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), if your product is
• U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Trade & Technology Network promotes
economic development in developing countries.
Exhibit at Trade Shows
Trade shows are another means of locating foreign buyers.
• Each year, the U.S. Commercial Service selects and promotes major U.S. trade shows representing
leading industrial sectors through its International Buyer Program , which brings thousands of
international buyers annually to meet with U.S. companies.
• International trade shows are an excellent way to market your product abroad. Many U.S. small
businesses ﬁnd that attending only one foreign trade show is just not enough.
Find more information about U.S. and international trade shows.
Participate in Trade Missions
Public/private trade missions are often organized cooperatively by federal and state international
trade agencies and trade associations. All arrangements are handled for you, in order to simplify the
process of meeting prospective partners or buyers.
• “Matchmaker Trade Delegations” are U.S. government sponsored trade missions to help U.S.
companies select foreign markets. Through these missions, your company is matched carefully
with potential agents and distributors interested in your product.
• Being properly prepared for the kinds of inquiries you might encounter on overseas trade missions
is important. SBA offers pre-mission training sessions through some of its district ofﬁces, Export
Assistance Centers and the SCORE program.
Customized Country Visits
Gold Key and Platinum Key matching services are offered for a fee by the Department of Commerce.
These allow you to schedule visits in your target markets and have your appointments preplanned by
the in-country trade specialists and the in-country foreign service staff.
• This fee-based service enables you to specify the timing and purpose of your trip.
• Your product literature is sent to the overseas location prior to your visit to assist the Commercial
Service staff in selecting potential business partners for your exporting initiative.
Many small business ﬁrms have used this service repeatedly for expanding into new foreign markets.
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 65
Contact the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs)
In developing countries, large infrastructure projects are often funded by multilateral development
banks. These include:
• World Bank
• African, Asian, and Inter-American Development Banks
• European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Multilateral Development Bank projects often represent extensive opportunities for U.S. small
businesses to compete for project work. While small businesses can beneﬁt from subcontracting
opportunities when larger U.S. ﬁrms win major project funding, cultivating the relationship with the
prime contractor is key to success.
If this specialized ﬁeld is of interest to you, a visit with the exporting representative to one of the
MDBs can help you assess the steps for best results. Project ﬁnancing by the MDBs helps U.S.
businesses gain access to many export opportunities.
Additionally, the International Trade Administration’s Ofﬁce of Energy, Infrastructure and Machinery,
Infrastructure Division can assist in identifying contracting and subcontracting opportunities.
Qualify Potential Buyers or Representatives
Once you locate a potential foreign buyer or representative, the next step is to qualify them by
reputation and ﬁnancial position. First, obtain as much information as possible from the company itself.
Once you have secured this initial background information and are comfortable about proceeding,
you should obtain a credit report on the buyer’s ﬁnancial position.
For More Information:
• Country-speciﬁc information from the U.S. Commercial Service.
• There are also online services for due diligence on foreign companies and a growing list of
reputable credit report providers, even in emerging markets. Check online for due diligence reports
on foreign companies.
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 66
Key factors vary signiﬁcantly according to the products/service you will be exporting and countries
involved, so tailor the following checklist to your own needs.
Here are a few sample questions* you will want to consider when qualifying potential
• Do they appear on any of the government’s restricted individuals or entities lists?
• What is the company’s history?
• What are the qualiﬁcations and backgrounds of the principal ofﬁcers?
• What is their current sales volume?
• How long have they been in this line of business?
• What is their banking relationship?
• Please describe the personnel, facilities and resources that would be devoted to your business.
• How will they market your product (retail, wholesale or direct)?
• Which territories or areas of the target country do they cover?
• Do they have other U.S. or foreign clients?
• Are any of these clients your competitors? (It is important to obtain references from several
• What types of customers do they serve?
• Do they publish a catalogue?
• What are their e-commerce capabilities?
• What are the features of their website?
• How effective is their sales force?
In addition, the Department of Commerce recommends exploring the following capabilities in greater
detail, depending on the factors that are applicable to/important for your business and its needs:*
Size of Sales Force
• How many ﬁeld salespeople does the representative or distributor have?
• What are the short- and long-range expansion plans, if any?
• Would the representative company need to expand to accommodate your account properly?
• Would it be willing to do so?
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 67
• Has the sales growth of the representative company been consistent? If not, why not? Try to
determine its sales volume for the past ﬁve years.
• What is the average sales volume per outside salesperson?
• What are the sales objectives of the representative or the distributor for next year? How were they
• What sales territory does the representative company now cover?
• Is the sales territory consistent with the coverage you desire? If not, is the representative or
distributor able and willing to expand the territory?
• Does the representative company have any branch ofﬁces in the territory to be covered? If so, are
they located where your sales prospects are greatest?
• Does it have any plans to open additional ofﬁces?
• How many product lines does the representative company handle?
• Are these product lines compatible with yours?
• Is there any conﬂict of interest?
• Does it represent any other U.S. ﬁrms? If so, which ones? (names and addresses)
• Would the representative company be willing to alter its present product mix to accommodate
• What is the minimum sales volume that the representative or distributor needs to justify handling
your lines? Do its sales projections reﬂect that minimum ﬁgure? From what you know of the
territory and the prospective representative or distributor, is the projection realistic?
Facilities and Equipment
• Does the representative company have adequate warehouse facilities?
• What is the method of stock control?
• Does it use computers? Are they compatible with yours?
• What communications facilities does it have (fax, modem, email)?
• If your product requires servicing, is the representative company equipped and qualiﬁed to perform
that service? If not, is it willing to acquire the needed equipment and arrange for training? To what
extent will you have to share the training cost? Are there alternative ways in the market to service
• If necessary and customary, is the representative or distributor willing to inventory repair parts and
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 68
• How is the sales staff compensated?
• Does the representative company have special incentive or motivation programs?
• Does it use product managers to coordinate sales efforts for speciﬁc product lines?
• How does it monitor sales performance?
• How does the representative or distributor train its sales staff?
• Would it pay or share expenses for its sales personnel to attend factory-sponsored seminars?
• What kinds of customers is the representative company currently contacting?
• Are its interests compatible with your product line?
• What are the key accounts?
• What percentage of the total gross receipts do those key accounts represent?
• How many principals is the representative or distributor currently representing?
• Would you be its primary supplier?
• If not, what percentage of the total business would you represent? How does this percentage
compare with other suppliers?
• Can the representative company help you compile market research information to be used in
• What media does it use, if any, to promote sales?
• How much of the budget is allocated to advertising? How are those funds distributed among
• Will you be expected to contribute funds for promotional purposes?
• How will the amount be determined?
• If the representative or distributor uses direct mail, how many prospects are on the mailing list?
• What type of brochure does it use to describe the companies and products that it represents?
• If necessary, can it translate your advertising copy?
• Does the representative have a website to promote the product?
• Can it provide product demonstrations and training if needed?
*From A Basic Guide to Exporting, Tenth Edition, Department of Commerce/International Trade
Administration, ISBN 978-0-16-079204-5, pp. 64 - 66
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 69
Getting Your Product Export-Ready
If you have decided to proceed into direct exporting, it is now time to assemble a resource library
and a team to assist you in export development leading to sales.
As you proceed into direct exporting, you might consider the following professionals to provide
• An international attorney
• Freight forwarder
• An advisor from SCORE, SBDC, USEAC or a mentoring export company (See Chapter 3. Training
and Counseling to help determine which type of counseling service best suits your needs.)
• For high-tech companies, optionally, an engineer from the National Institute of Standards and
Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership
You will need all of them to get your product ready, develop pricing, respond to inquiries, prepare
quotations, negotiate sales, prepare shipping documents, and select the best form of payment.
Keys to Successful Marketing
To be successful in placing your product/service in a foreign country, you must be mindful of
incorporating the following important aspects into your marketing strategy:
• Industry standards
• Government regulations and requirements
• Correct labeling
• Consumer preferences
• Other consumer-driven considerations
In many cases, only a minor product alteration may be required to gain appeal successfully; in
others, technical modiﬁcations must be made to incorporate standards of the importing country.
The CE mark, for instance, is required for products entering European Union countries; stringent
labeling standards apply to food, supplements and cosmetics in most countries.
Consideration should also be given to:
• Product name (beware of negative connotations in the local language)
• Cultural and/or religious connotations
• Compliance with standards
• Different electrical power systems
• Metric dimensions
• Local product regulations
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5. Developing Your Marketing Plan 70
About ISO Certification
Another consideration when planning a market strategy is understanding the ramiﬁcations of
ISO 9000, a quality control/management system. When competing for business in foreign countries,
particularly with regard to procurement bidding, it may be a requirement to be ISO-certiﬁed.
• In many instances, subcontractors supplying parts or services for major overseas contractors are
required by the terms of government contracts to be ISO 9000-qualiﬁed.
• The purpose of the ISO 9000 series is to document, implement and demonstrate the quality
assurance systems used by companies that supply goods and services internationally.
ISO standards are required to be reviewed every ﬁve years. Additional information on these revisions
can be obtained from the American Society for Quality (ASQ). For local help in quality control and
manufacturing efﬁciency issues, contact the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a joint effort of
the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and state governments.
There are three ways for a manufacturer to prove compliance with the requirements of one of the
ISO 9000 standards.
• You may evaluate your quality system and self-declare the conformance of the system to one of
the ISO 9000 quality systems.
• Second-party evaluations occur when your buyer requires and conducts quality system evaluations
of suppliers. These evaluations are mandatory only for companies wishing to become suppliers to
• Third-party quality systems and evaluations and registrations may be voluntary or mandatory and
are conducted by persons or organizations independent of both the supplier and the buyer.
Interpretations of an ISO 9000 standard may not be consistent from one registrar to another.
Since the supplier’s quality system is registered, and not an individual product, the quality system
registration does not imply product conformity to any given set of requirements. Additional information
on U.S., foreign and international voluntary standards and government regulations and rules of
certiﬁcation for nonagricultural products is available from the National Center for Standards and
National Institute of Standards and
Certiﬁcation Information (NCSCI), which is part of the
Back to Beginning
Financing Your Export Venture
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested