International expansion is certainly no small task for companies around the world.  Recently a success story of a Dome manufacturer highlights a few lessons that can be applied to any product or industry.  Domes International is a United States-based firm that manufactures round structures molded out of fiberglass.  They are used in a variety of applications including housing, offices, schools, military barracks, and warehouses.

Domes International already had some experience in international expansion, even before its first international sale.  The United States military is a large customer of the firm and has shipped its domes to military bases around the world.  Clearly, direct exporting is a different story.  Because of the diverse requirements of the military, Domes International had a jump start on tailoring products to meet the needs of different customers.  Lets take a look at some other key things that helped the company expand into India.


Be Flexible

Domes International began looking to India for international expansion.  The began with a plan of selling single family homes to Indian citizens.  As the petroleum prices skyrocketed, so did the cost of materials and final delivered cost.  This caused Domes International to change customers from local citizens to the Indian government, where more funding for their products was available.


The company also learned that one size does not fit all.  Because the demands are different for the type of building and specifications, Domes International began to change the product design to better accommodate the demands of the Indian government.  One change was to alter the shape from a dome to a box due to local cultural opinions.


Listen and Adapt

After a local market visit to India, Domes International was able to ascertain more specifics on what would make the customer happy.  Although phone conferences and emails work well to get things started, it is very important to see the potential customer in person to understand what is important to them.


In this case, they discovered through a market visit that the cost of the delivered domes was too high, but so were the specifications.  After adjusting some specifications, the company was able to lower the final delivered price and meet the needs of the customer.


Local Assembly

Getting products through customs can be a huge stumbling block for many companies.  Domes International discovered that if the components are shipped to India individually and then assembled on-site, there was much less strife in getting through customs.  So, what did they do?  By setting up an assembly plant in India, they were able to get products through customs easily and win local acceptance by creating jobs.


Obviously, going international is no easy task.  Domes International did a great job of discovering unique solutions to problems that could have potentially derailed the entire sale.  It is important to understand that challenges are inevitable and your ability to create opportunities from those challenges will determine your success when exporting.  A great place to start in the exporting process is to start with the basics.

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