How to Market your product(s) for Export

An astute Marketer carefully calibrates his or her Marketing Mix on the basis of the 4Ps namely product, price, promotion and place to penetrate the target markets. While the 4Ps work well in the domestic market setting, additional Ps are required for a successful foray in international markets like Payment (international currency transactions), Paperwork (export documentation), Practices (social and cultural factors), Partnerships (strategic international partners), Prohibitions (tariff/nontariff barriers), Political(stable governments and policies) and many more. What seemed intuitive in domestic markets does not seem to work with the same precision in foreign markets and therefore there is a need to master additional skills and have a change in mindset. However having said that, global marketing is no rocket science and can easily be learnt and practiced. Here we will discuss in brief what are essentials for export markets and the possible pitfalls if the same get ignored. What we will talk of here might seem common sense, but unfortunately get ignored much too often leading to avoidable perils.

It all starts with a commitment: You are no novice to business and you have made the effort to make your enterprise a success. The same( and probably more) fire in the belly is required to compete beyond the borders in terms of time, effort, resources and then there are those imponderables of not playing in one’s home ground. It will not be an easy walk, and readiness to put sustained effort is needed both at the top and through the rank and file of the company.

Zeroing in on the right markets

Knowing the most profitable market where one would want to export is your guarantee of success. Market research provides signposts to approach the right market. Trade experts recommend that focusing on regional, geographic clusters can be cost effective than choosing dispersed geographic locations around the globe to sell ones products. And for starters taking on too many markets might lead to resources being spread too thinly. Knowing the HS Code of your product and perusal of the US trade statistics on exports for your HS category can be a useful guide for short listing markets. Trade reports at brought out by US Department of Commerce are an invaluable resource.

Getting your company Global Ready

You may be a trail blazer in domestic markets, but there may be unexpected hurdles when you venture abroad. A relook at your product, pricing, packaging, quality, standards, designs, regulatory requirement, logistics, export financing, banking channels, distribution mechanisms, acceptable gestation periods etc., might be required to meet the expectations of the international customer. Understanding the foreign that you are targeting at the outset is necessary to enable you to chalk out an entry strategy and make requisite changes in your buying process, production lines and systems, and in some cases to press the pause button and reassess in order to minimize cost and maximize profits. Market research might be commissioned or can be taken off the shelf. Other good sources can be talking to current exporters dealing in your product(s) or market as well as chambers of commerce, industry associations, embassies etc. A field visit if feasible to a Commercial Services office can be a valuable investment of your time.

Taking aim at your target market with a Marketing Plan

Till now you were collecting information, it’s now time to get on with the brass stacks of actual selling, and the first step is to make a marketing plan. The marketing plan outlines your distribution strategy, your price points, your sales and promotion road map, counter local and international competition, unique selling proposition(s) and means for adherence to foreign regulatory and taxation regimes. The quality of your marketing plan and realistic defraying of resources to achieve the same, will to a large extent determine the final outcome. However no marketing plan is cast in stone and requisite flexibility to make mid course corrections should be provided for. An essential corollary to the marketing plan is a realistically thought out market entry strategy which may be either direct exports, indirect exports or through strategic partnerships. You might be a trail blazer in direct marketing in US, but a foreign market might need a strategic partner. A goliath in domestic market might have to act like a David in a foreign market, this maxim is fundamental. Also adequate thought should be given to online business option, given the huge advantage of cost savings and logistics- of course internet penetration of the target country has to be worked out.

Tightening the nuts and bolts of logistics

It is often said that the last mile proves to be the most difficult. You have got the strategy right, the partners are in place, the product has been suitably customized for the local market but then disaster would strike if the product never reaches in time, the warehouse is not up to the standard, the labeling has an error, the bill of lading is stuck in the banking system or similar such logistical bottleneck. You will have to make yourself familiar with these procedures (as you learn on this website) and count on the industry professionals that have done this on a daily bases for years. To make things simpler it is advisable for product based businesses to have competent freight forwarding agent. Extensive and potentially confusing documentation should be left to the specialists, and advice be sought for the best shipping and customs handling options. There are other specialised services available like legal advisors, commercial consultants , insurance agents etc. to help you identify other attendant logistical requirements in the target markets, and their services be used for keeping the export process efficient.

Export Finance

Large companies have to be prepared for the long haul in foreign markets before they may see any return on the investment made. Financial resources have to be provisioned to see through this lean period, which may either be financed through accruals in domestic markets or by availing finance. The financing mix would be dictated by carefully constructed financial plan and projected cash budget for international operations.

Smaller companies do not face such huge obstacles. They tend to target focus on going to distributors on specialty items or target smaller foreign companies providing them with personalized customer care and lower cost by bypassing the “middlemen.”

United States Government has export finance programs with separate windows for small and large businesses. Another exciting option is the Federal Grants Programme wherein resources are available for the exporters to become familiar with the foreign markets as a precursor to large scale operations. US exporters have access to export credit insurance which enables them to extend credit to international buyers and are covered against non payment.

The world is ready for you, are you ready for the world?


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