Are you an American small business owner? Here's an interesting fact for you: 95% of your prospects live outside the U.S. But you're just a small and measly company, how could you possibly access this vast global demand? Why the internet of course! You usually don't think of selling a product online as exporting, but it is. Starting small is a great way to go, but as a small firm if you want to grow, you may need a lot of help. How exactly do you develop and excecute a comprehensive exporting plan without much knowledge?

Recently Jim Blasingame, a very popular radio talk show host labeled as "The Small Business Advocate," had on his program Doug Barry from the U.S. Commercial service. They mentioned that even if you're not sure if you want to export, you should still learn how. You can avoid collapse of the local market, and therefore bypass the risk of staying in a small area. There really aren't that many good excuses not to export. The Department of Commerce will give small loans to exporters. You may want to meet potential buyers or distributors in other countries, but the U.S. Commercial Service can set you up with video conferencing. Especially in this tough environment, it doesn't hurt to try and export!

Now that you're on board, there are a few key things to remember. The four most difficult items for exporters are conducting market research, marketing and selling a product, finding buyers and making an exporting business plan, the most difficult being the latter. The easiest way to start exporting is to have a website, and the easiest way to come up with a plan is a checklist. Here's a few key items that should be on your website checklist. The first is make sure you can take payment such as paypal or credit cards. Most of your biggest customers will use credit cards. The second is make sure you welcome the international buyer on your home page, or have translated pages accessible in multiple languages. Another good idea is to mention that the buyer is in charge of paying duties and taxes. These land-in costs are extra charges that may surprise the buyer so much that they'll send the package back. Finally make sure your companies website is high on search engines. Google has a great guide on search engine optimization. You may want to even try a few online ads, that only charge money if clicked on.

Overall you cannot be passive. You must be active in the countries you are trying to export in, either by advertising or meeting with people in that country. If you're having trouble finding buyers, you may want to contact the U.S. Commercial Service. They'll be able to match up buyers with sellers and can even find distributors for you. Remember the most important step is to actually make a plan. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Exporting is a great way to guarantee the long term health of your company.

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