Go global — but do your homework

Written by Jennifer O’Connor

Considering selling your products and services in Europe? Hold your horses, says Lise Christoffersen, former Consul and trade commissioner for the Danish Consulate General in Toronto. Before you make up your mind to take on any export market, “Do your homework.”

Speaking recently at a Joint Business Forum hosted by Toronto-based Women Entrepreneurs of Canada and the National Association of Women Business Owners, Christoffersen advised women seeking export opportunities to thoroughly investigate their target market before committing a lot of resources — i.e. money. Questions to consider, she says: “Where do people buy goods and services like yours? What are the price points? What’s the image of similar products in the market?”

Contact the local trade commissioner in your target market; he or she can help you find the answers to such questions and also connect you with key industry contacts. Seek out potential trade missions as well as trade shows you can attend. You’ll also want to inform yourself about European regulations, taxes and labor issues.

Don’t overlook the Internet, says Christoffersen, it’s a wealth of information at your fingertips. Some useful websites:

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service

Canadian Professional Sales Association

“Once you have made up your mind to expand to Europe, stick to it,” says Christoffersen. “Coming to Europe or any other oversees market is a long-term investment and determination is an absolute must.”

The right stuffCongratulations. You’ve decided to boost your sales by expanding beyond Canada’s borders. But are you export ready? Mary Anderson, director of Trade Partners, a Toronto-based import/export consultancy reveals four traits of successful exporters:

Vision: You have to have a plan that maps out where you’re going and how you’ll get there, says Anderson. But that’s not enough. You must also be proactive in pursuing those goals.

Confidence: Successful exporters aren’t afraid to toot their own horns. They promote their products — and themselves — at every opportunity.

Savvy networkers: Winning the export game means finding the right partners and distributors, who are willing to buy into your ideas.

Optimism: Going global is a bumpy road. You can expect challenges at every turn. You must be optimistic that it will happen.

Says Anderson: “If you plan, if you promote, if you find partners, if you’re persistent and lead with a sense of optimism, you will be successful.”

© 2003 Jennifer O’Connor

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