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Developing Export Strategy 3/3

Traveling To Overseas Markets
Careful planning and preparation will maximize the effectiveness of your overseas trip, minimize your expenses and make efficient use of your time. Travel plans should take into consideration the normal work days and business hours in the country to be visited and be scheduled around foreign holidays, international vacation schedules, and religious holidays. Obtain World Commercial Holidays, published yearly in Business America, from your DOC office for more detailed information.

Keep free time in your schedule to allow for unplanned meetings and unexpected circumstances. Use extra time for research, planning, telephone contacts, or summaries of prior meetings. Take time to shop the competitive market, gain insight to business opportunities, and orient yourself to economic realities.

Travel Documents
A valid U.S. passport is required for all travel outside the United States and Canada. To obtain a passport, citizenship is required along with proof of identity, two identical passport photos, a completed application form and fees.

U.S. citizens who travel to a country where a valid passport is not required will need documentary evidence of their U.S. citizenship and identity. Proof of U.S. citizenship includes an expired passport, a certified (original) birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States.

Many countries require a visa. Plan on two to three months in advance for processing of your application, photographs, and visa. Apply for a tourist or multiple entry visa. It is more easily obtained than a business visa which is unnecessary unless you plan to physically sell, transfer goods, or earn money. Securing a visa from some countries can be a difficult task. Some countries require an invitation from the business contact in that country.

An international drivers license is a separate document and does not replace the need for a valid U.S. driver's license. More information can be obtained from the Office of Passport Services in Washington, D.C. (202-647-0518)

For more information on entry requirements by country and travel documents, check the international travel tips in the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site, as well as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. For additional information about travel documentation and tips visit A Basic Guide to Exporting. For safe travely security information visit Transportation Security Administration.

Medical Preparation
Check with health care providers and your records to ensure immunizations (e.g. tetanus and polio) are up-to-date. Preventive actions are the best protection against most health risks involved in traveling abroad, especially in developing countries.

Some countries may require international certificates of vaccination. Requirements for vaccinations differ from country to country. Investigate the need for immunizations or other preventive medicine against regional diseases you may encounter. Some of these treatments must be started weeks before you begin your trip. No immunizations are required to return to the U.S.

Some medical problems can be prevented before departure. For facts related to health conditions in the country you will be traveling to visit U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, International Travel Health Tips and the Traveler’s Health section of the Center for Disease Control. Detailed health information is included also in Health Information for International Travel, available from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

Cultural Factors
Understanding and respecting cultural, social, and business customs will prepare you for the flexibility needed to adapt to profitable international business ethics and practices. Lack of cultural awareness can be detrimental to the success of a company's position in the foreign market. Wells (Exporting from Start To Finance, 1995) suggests a quick, in-flight review of the Culture Grams, developed by Brigham State University's Center for International Trade. Over 100 countries and their special cultural considerations are identified in separate leaflets. Bookstores and libraries are also an excellent resource for historical and cultural information.

Target Market Distinctions
The Checklist For Your Overseas Trip includes specific marketing data that should be considered for your overseas visit. Determine the cultural differences of each market when evaluating information incorporated in the checklist documents. Proper knowledge of business manners and methods for your target market will protect the transmission of your company goals, objectives and business agendas.

Use foreign country marketing plans to compare social customs within potential markets before engaging in business conversations. Pay close attention to business styles, cross-cultural communication, and the degree of importance a foreign distributor places on developing business relations.

The potential of your foreign market can be maximized by using marketing resources to obtain a better understanding of consumer buying habits, business practices and management cultures.

Cultural Business Variables
Cultural sensitivity is critical to the success of your international travel. Let your host set the tone of your initial meeting. Pay close attention attitudes towards gift-giving, accepted form of greeting, business relationships, small talk and smoking. Misunderstanding these customs may embarrass both you and your host. If there is a language barrier, be sincere, but let the product speak for itself.

International business executives often carry confusing titles. When meeting your prospective customer or distributor, be careful interpreting the correct use of business titles, surnames, and first names. There is often a distinction between formal occasions, business meetings, and written communications.

Cultural Negotiating
There are additional characteristics and approaches to consider when negotiating international business deals. Wells (Exporting from Start To Finance , 1995) confirms the availability of the many principles, details and nuances you can use. The best strategy is to study what you can, when you can, with attention to logical priorities based on the importance of the deal and the immediacy of the need. Even though you may never perfect your cultural style for each foreign market, major offenses can and should be avoided.

Before you make your overseas trip, certain negotiating tactics, business fundamentals and issues should have been discussed with your company. Know these basic issues and how far you can deviate from the agreed upon concepts. Be aware of the least amount you can agree upon as well as concessions you can make during negotiations. Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal, make a deal that is best for you, your company, and the distributor.

Travel Tips

  • Change money at the airport of entry, it is usually better than the rate at your hotel or from an inner city bank.

  • Plan ahead for a translator or hotel operator to help make telephone contact to confirm or schedule appointments.

  • Try and skip taxis as your method of transportation from the airport. Arrange for hotel/airport transportation in advance. Taxi rates are usually higher and operators can be intimidating.

  • Select business, deluxe or first class hotels that offer business services for patrons. These services can include communication systems, translators, and general business information that relates to your target market.

  • Try to travel with others when possible.

  • Make a list of all the documents you are carrying in case of loss or theft. Have all the applicable numbers ready for replacement purposes. For instance, photocopies of your itinerary, reservations, passport, medical and eyeglass prescriptions, airline tickets, traveler's checks, and credit cards are recommended.

  • Proper clothing, sunscreen, and insect repellent is very important, not only for comfort, but to avoid more serious health hazards.

Your conduct during negotiation, overseas travel and even your choice of hotel characterize the image you portray for your company and product you are trying to sell.

Promoting the Product
The advertising effort actually begins as you make your first contacts with potential overseas representatives and introduce your company and product to target markets. In these early stages, you are beginning to establish your image This image is further refined by your negotiation and selection of your designated representative. Your conduct during negotiations and during foreign travel, even your choice of hotels, will characterize the image you are presenting.

There are two major considerations that must be addressed early in your selection of an advertising program. First, you must decide who will control the advertising campaign, you or your overseas representative. Second, you must evaluate and implement the most appropriate methods.

Frequently, there will be no "black and white" result from your evaluations. The promotional effort is often a collaboration between the exporter, his representative, and an advertising agency. A variety of advertising methods may be utilized to reach different aspects of the selected market.

Campaign Control
The promotional campaign can be either centralized (under direct control of the exporter) or decentralized (under the control of the overseas representatives). Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Centralized promotional efforts:

  • Control of all promotional efforts, logos, advertising messages by the exporter.

  • Uniformity of the company image and advertising message to all markets.

  • Economies of scale in maintaining one headquarters operation, minimizing duplication of efforts.

Decentralized promotional efforts:

  • Each market is different and local experts may have the best understanding of it and the best methods to promote the product.

  • U.S. ad agencies may not be strong or experienced in some overseas markets.

  • There is more flexibility in the selection of local advertising agencies.

  • Local regulations, customs, and taboos are more clearly understood.

As a beginning exporter, you will probably use the decentralized approach because you will be starting in one or a limited number of markets and require local expertise.

As your markets expand or become more numerous, a more centralized approach with greater control and potential cost savings will become feasible. U.S. advertising agencies can often affiliate with local firms to assure knowledge of the local market and effectiveness of the promotional effort. Larger U.S.companies such as Coca-Cola, Kodak, and IBM prefer this approach which gives them maximum control.

No matter which means you select, close collaboration with your representative and constant communication is essential not only in determining the focus of your marketing effort, but also in monitoring and evaluating it.

Means of Advertising
A variety of methods and agencies are available to assist in your marketing effort, many of which you may be using in you domestic efforts. However, there are a number of methods that will help you advertise internationally. Some may be best utilized in a general sense, while other may be focused and specific to selected target markets.

The following list represents the major methods:

Direct Mail
You may be conducting your direct mail campaign ahead of, or as part of your effort to locate an overseas representative.

Leads for direct mail can come from foreign trade and technical journals, trade association publications, responses to advertisements, or subscriber lists. Subscriber lists are often available from the publications, list brokers, or from direct mail consultants. Trade shows and the contacts generated can also form a source of mailing lists.

Specific mailing lists of screened prospect customers are prepared by the DOC through its Export Contact List Service, which collects data from its automated worldwide file of foreign firms. Information includes key contacts as well as addresses and telephone numbers.

Media Advertising
Media advertising is broader in scope than other methods. Television, video, and radio are general in their scope but well adapted for consumer products. A more specific approach, particularly for commercial products, is available through print media oriented towards specific markets such as:

  • Trade Journals - Many foreign buyers find business through advertisements in trade journals.This provides a screening function to narrow the focus of an advertising campaign.

  • Commercial News USA This US&FCS publication and EBB promotes American products overseas by distributing it to consulates and embassies. CNUSA reaches up to 110,000 potential buyers.

  • Trade Association Newsletters and Publications - Not only can U.S. trade association publications be used to promote your product, but also their foreign counterparts.

Whenever media advertising is used, make an effort to have it translated effectively in the local language. Screen it for conformance with the foreign country's customs, regulations, and note taboos or idiosyncrasies.

Trade Fairs, Trade Missions, and Catalog Exhibitions
There are several levels of international business events held both in the U.S. and abroad. These are frequently organized by state and U.S. government agencies, as well as trade associations and Chambers of Commerce. Some of the more prominent programs are:

  • Industry-organized Domestic Fairs and Exhibitions - Most major industries in this country have their own organization, often arranging regular exhibits of their member's products and services. Many attract potential foreign buyers

  • Trade Shows and Trade Missions - Organized by the DOC, Chambers of Commerce, or trade associations they are an excellent opportunity to showcase your product and make valuable contacts.

  • Matchmaker Events - Often oriented to new-to-export firms, they attempt to more closely align the exporter to prospective contacts and markets.

  • Catalog and Video/Catalog Exhibitions - are a relatively low cost advertising method. Other DOC programs include those of the Export Development Office, Major Projects program and Textile and Apparel Export Expansion program. Contact your local DOC office for further details.

  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) The U.S. Exporter Assistance division offers trade leads, buyer lists, and other marketing programs. Visit their web page for regional contacts that can assist you promote your food and agricultural products in the global marketplace. Go to section Finding Trade Leads - United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on page 1 for information referenced earlier in this chapter.

Careful planning and follow through are necessary when using methods requiring overseas travel due to the expense. The right event must be selected, materials and translators prepared and adequate follow-up assured.

Multilateral Development Banks (MDB)s
A number of firms have entered foreign markets by bidding on or subcontracting to bidders of Multilateral Development Bank projects. This has as its advantage a large degree of exposure while offering opportunities for immediate business. There are five main Multilateral Development Banks and their activity level has increased significantly in recent years. Go to section Pursuing International Bid Opportunities - Multilateral Development Banks (MDB)s on page 2 for information referenced earlier in this chapter. (p. 16)

Web Marketing: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media / Social Networks
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results as opposed to other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) which may deal with paid inclusion. The earlier (or higher) a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a web site web presence.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

Social media marketing is the use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media for marketing, sales, public relations and customer service. Common social media marketing tools include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr, Wikipedia, Orkut and YouTube.

In the context of internet marketing, social media refers to a collective group of web properties whose content is primarily published by users, not direct employees of the property (e.g., the vast majority of video on YouTube is published by non-YouTube employees).


Social media marketing has three important aspects:

  1. Creating buzz or newsworthy events, videos, tweets, or blog entries that attract attention, and become viral in nature. Buzz is what makes social media marketing work. It replicates a message through user to user contact, rather than the traditional method of purchasing of an ad or promoting a press release. The message does not necessarily have to be about the product. Many successful viral campaigns have gathered steam through an amusing or compelling message, with the company logo or tagline included incidentally.

  2. Building ways that enable fans of a brand or company to promote a message themselves in multiple online social media venues. Fan pages in Twitter, MySpace of Facebook follow this model.

  3. It is based around online conversations. Social media marketing is not controlled by the organization. Instead it encourages user participation and dialogue. A badly designed social media marketing campaign can potentially backfire on the organization that created it. To be successful SMM campaigns must fully engage and respect the users.


Social network marketing or social level marketing, is an advertising method that makes use of social network service and to increase their web presence. This ranges from simply advertising directly on social networking sites, viral marketing that spreads throughout the web, email, and word of mouth, or providing niche social networking sites focused around the item being advertised.

Many sites include features where companies can create profiles. Companies sometimes invest in internet presence management, which can include social network marketing.

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