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Get Your Share!©

Sunday, February 18, 2007   (0 Comments)
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Get Your Share!©

By Maria Velez de Berliner, President, Latin Intelligence Corporation

US services, technologies, and innovations are sought after by every country. And more foreign companies are entering the US daily; they need strategic allies and joint-venture partners, particularly if their objective is to enter the federal space.

This is the reason why the US government has entered into Free Trade and Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (FTAs and TIFAs) with countries such as Australia, Chile, Morocco, Uruguay, and others. And don’t forget NAFTA, the FTA between Mexico, Canada, and the US, which made North America the world’s second largest trading bloc. The EU is the first.

When a Free Trade Area of the America’s becomes reality, you will have low or free-tariff entry to 34 countries, with a GDP of US$12 trillion, and 800 million consumers – just in your backyard!

Based on 2006 figures of the International Monetary Fund, business transactions outside the US represent US$32 trillion dollars of opportunities

Wouldn’t you like to get your share of it? Certainly, and you can. Being a small business does not preclude you from it. But it does require that you compete on your capabilities, not on your socioeconomic classification, a qualifying category that does not exist in foreign markets.

What do you need to know to take advantage of foreign opportunities? Here are 11 easy steps to get you started:

1) Study the US’s FTA or TIFA agreements, which are at http://www.ustr.gov/Trade_Agreements/Section_Index.html, particularly the chapters applicable to your industry, to identify opportunities. For NAFTA go to http://www.mac.doc.gov/nafta/. Or study your industry needs in countries that have friendly relations with the US, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Japan; the best source is www.google.com. Go to the local library and read The Economist and the Financial Times to learn what the world’s industry leaders are doing, planning to do, where, and with whom. They are the bellwethers of where your industry is going, the challenges it faces, and how they might be overcome.

2) If you are in Virginia, attend in-bound trade missions sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority/International at http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/international_offices.htm. And don’t forget the International Office of the Virginia Development Partnership, http://www.yesvirginia.org/Default.aspx. The foreign companies they bring are vetted and are interested in establishing relationships with you. They are coming to you! All states have similar organizations and agencies.

3) Become a member of The ASBC’s Global Initiative - GI. It has established a collaboration agreement with the Embassies of the UK and New Zealand. The embassies of Canada, Australia, Chile, and Mexico will follow. The ASBC’s GI can help you make contact with their competent staffs, which sponsor in-bound trade missions, too. They will help you identify potential allies in their countries and match you up with foreign companies that are seeking strategic allies in the US.

4) Recognize that every country is different, that there are significant differences within countries, and that there no monolithic regions. Poland and Germany are both in the EU, but their market drivers are dissimilar. This is why the information resources above are invaluable.

5) Define your competitive advantage, your key market differentiator. This is what you are taking abroad or selling to foreign companies interested in doing business with you here. All things being equal, why should they do business with you and not your competitor? Your competitive advantage needs to be communicated in their language and cultural context, not yours.

6) Ascertain that your competitive factors and technology or processes are transferable to the market you are seeking. Check with the DOD or the DOC if you need export permits. Learn which local laws or cultural perceptions enable, prohibit or impede transferability. When dealing with the European Union, remember that the CE Mark seal of approval must appear on all products or software applications for sale within the Union, http://www.cemarking.net/.

7) Be clear about the strengths and weaknesses of your marketing and sales campaigns. Determine how current they are and their cross-border meanings. Do your taglines and slogans mean the same in, for example, Japan, Australia, Chile, and Morocco? For example, the original Oreo cookie did not sell in Brazil because the dark cookie looked burnt to the Brazilians - a lighter-color cookie conquered that market!

8) Establish your domestic sales cycle and your product/service’s life cycle and multiply it by two.Unless you have the newest iPod or Google search engine, international sales cycles can be two to four times longer than in the US. This is because foreign markets prefer leading technologies since such new products grant the early-entrant advantage of low or no competition. The older or more common the technology is, the longer the sales cycle will be.

9) Accept that not “everybody speaks English.” Your company will need to communicate in the language and culture prevalent in your chosen market, the language of your customers. Your vision, objectives, corporate image, marketing and sales collaterals must be meaningful to them. For example, safety and security have different meanings in English; in the Romance Languages only one word, seguridad, means both; in Chinese, levels of security and safety depend on the tone used to pronounce the word.

10) Unless you have worked or lived in the market you choose, use an independent source that has done so to help you identify the in-country region where you will be most competitive. Use the same source to help you perform due diligence to define the strategic positioning of your product, and to work with you to identify, articulate, implement, and manage your foreign partner or strategic alliance. The cost of this source is not an expense; it is an investment in your future success, an up-front savings in time, energy, and money.

11) Obey at all times the US laws that regulate your doing business abroad or establishing a state-side relationship with a foreign company. They are: US Patriot Act of 2001 and its Amendments; the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; the Denied Persons List of the DOC; the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List of the DOJ’s Office of Foreign Asset Control; the Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations list of the DOS; and, the US Money Laundering Statutes. All subject your company to the ”duty to know” legal doctrine of the US.

Does this sound daunting, corroborating that you should stay safe and protected within the US’sconfines? No, it does not! Many of your competitors have done it without the benefit of these 11 points; some have regretted not knowing them prior to going abroad. Your additional advantage is that here you have what you need to know to increase your probability of success and reduce risk. There is much to gain from being a knowledgeable, prepared, and informed international participant.

If you follow these 11 points, you will get your share of the international market.

Maria is a Member of The ASBC and Chair of The ASBC Global Initiative Committee.

© 2002-2007 Maria Velez de Berliner and Latin Intelligence Corporation. A one-time permission granted to The American Small Business Coalition – to reprint by Maria Velez de Berliner and Latin Intelligence Corporation, Alexandria, Virginia, 18 February 2007.

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