You have a small manufacturing company. You want to expand your marketing overseas. You are at a disadvantage because you don’t have the budget necessary to hire consultants to do the heavy lifting. You don’t know where to begin.
You are not alone. Many small American companies that have never sold overseas find the idea of expanding beyond the U.S. shores intimidating. Once the decision to enter the export market has been made, the question of where to start can be overwhelming. Finding the right information along the way can save you a lot of time and money. To this end, looking to government and government-affiliated programs is a smart way to go.
The United States realizes that economic success and global competitiveness is an important component of American prosperity. Therefore the government allocates funds toward building resources that can help American companies establish overseas presence. Some of these resources are free and others are fee-based, but because they are not for profit they are significantly cheaper than hiring private consultants.
The work of these government organizations is usually complementary. They collaborate with each other on many projects and feed off each other’s resources. Some may even be housed under one roof. A few do advocacy work while others deal with the day-to-day, practical realities of doing business internationally.
The following is a quick rundown of some of the government and related organizations available to help your company expand overseas. Contact them, explain your needs, and ask them what they can offer you.
1. U.S. Commercial Service: Through 107 export assistance centers across the United States and 145 U.S. embassies and consulates spanning the globe, the goal of the U.S. Commercial Service is to help small and medium-size companies expand their businesses internationally. Trade professionals located in these centers provide a range of services including international trade counseling, market identification, and help connecting to markets. Wherever you are, the U.S. Commercial Service is sure to have an office within your state.
2. U.S. Small Business Administration: The SBA was established in 1953 to attend to the specific needs of small businesses. It provides technical assistance through training and consulting and helps businesses tap into available financial resources. SBA services are available in all 50 states. If your business is thinking about expanding, it would be wise to look into the kind of help that is available at your local SBA.
3. International Trade Administration: Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ITA houses various offices that research issues related to international trade. This is the go-to office if you are looking for information about U.S. trade agreements, industry trade policies, data, forecasting, and analysis. The ITA also produces the Export Yellow Pages, which companies can use to develop global contacts.
4. ECI-Find New Markets: Originally founded in 1997 as the South Carolina Export Consortium with a private-public-academic partnership, ECI-Find New Markets has changed names and expanded to become a national organization that has already served more than 1,000 American companies. Just as its name indicates, ECI-Find New Markets helps small companies identify new markets, develop new products and services, and discover new customers within the United States and internationally. The organization also provides onsite customized NAFTA training on aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement that apply specifically to your industry and company needs. In addition, it can also help you craft a marketing strategy.
5. District Export Councils: DECs are nonprofit organizations made up of volunteer community leaders with international trade expertise. They provide counseling for small to medium-size businesses that are interested in branching out into overseas markets. While DECs themselves don’t receive government funding or represent the government, they do work very closely with the U.S. Commercial Service.