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International markets can be lucrative for companies looking to branch out beyond U.S. borders, but businesses should do research to make sure they make a smart move, said a panel of local experts Thursday.
Speaking as part of the “Who Wants What You’ve Got Seminar,” part of World Trade Center Utah’s 10 Tips series, Doug Bingham, global business development manager at U.S. Translation Company, said with 70 percent of purchasing power thriving outside of the country, looking internationally is a smart move for companies.
“Quite likely a lot of people want what you’ve got in goods and services,” he said. “If we know ourselves and what works for us, we’ll be able to see opportunities and markets overseas a lot easier.”
But for a company to succeed, he said, it’s got to hit the books first.
Companies should research the potential competition in the area, define what sets them apart and protect and refine that, he said. Research into currency rates and conversion is also important, he said.
“You’re going to be selling your product in another currency and you need to know how that currency fluctuates and compares to the dollar,” he said.
Once a market has been chosen, he said, companies would be smart to start anticipate any language differences on their websites and facilitate that.
“If you can present things in the language of the country you’re going, that would be nice,” he said.
Shelby Peterson, international trade specialist at Utah Export Assistance Center, said companies should also research whether a product needs local certification and licensing, what foreign tariffs and taxes would be in place, and shipping and other logistical concerns, as well as what intellectual property protections exist in that country.
Additionally, she said, companies should take heed of seemingly basic factors, such as internet connectivity in a country, or the weather.
“If it’s monsoon season or hurricane season, how is that going to affect the launch of your product?” she said. “These are things you think are intuitive but are important to consider as you move into that market.”
Clark Cahoon, international trade specialist for World Trade Center Utah, said the organization has several resources available to help companies determine which market and where might be the best fit for them.
“What we want to do is help companies in Utah take more of a proactive approach [to breaking into international markets],” he said.
WTC Utah will assist with or perform research on some topics for branching out internationally free of charge, he said. For more specialized research, though, he said, a consultant might be worth the extra cost.
In the case of Ultradent Products, a consumable dental product company that now conducts 70 percent of its business internationally, the company did a lot of careful research before breaking into new markets, said Dirk Jeffs, vice president of sales and marketing for Ultradent Products.
That research included looking at each potential country for a number of factors, including the number of dentists, dental awareness, esthetics spending per capita, the regulatory environment, potential hurdles to implementation, and local competition and acceptance, as well as political and economic stability.
The results of that research were plugged into a sort of equation developed for determining the viability of a market, Jeffs said. Subsequent research determined the opportunity in each product category—whiteners might do better in one country than another that had a strong local company presence, for example, he said.
Research is vital, Bingham said, but at the end of the day, it can only get a country so far.
“You can do a lot in your office or at home, but there’s no substitute for being there in the market,” he said. “Get on a plane; make a plan.”