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The export process

You are here:The export process - What's involved in exporting



The export process - What's involved in exporting


Notwithstanding all the benefits of exporting, it remains a complicated process that is fraught with risks. It is not a question of simply becoming an exporter from one day to the next. There are many steps involved in becoming an exporter and each of these steps may have several sub components to it. The steps to exporting are highlighted below:


A: Understanding and preparing for exports

  1. Considering exporting? - If you are considering exporting, you should get yourself up to speed by understanding why you want to export, what the difference is between domestic marketing and export marketing, what the various environments are that you will encounter in international trade and the trade barriers you may face in the international marketplace.
  2. Current business viability - If you are not managing to survive in your current business, then don't consider exporting.
  3. Export readiness - Besides for having an existing base (i.e. a viable business) to build on, there are several other factors that contribute to your readiness to export.
  4. Set a broad export mission statement and initial research budget for your firm - If you're ready to export, then you need to set a broad statement indicating that intention to export (which you may revise later), and you will also identify a small budget that will allow you to do the research and preparation necessary to plan and implement an export strategy.
  5. Confirm management's commitment to exports - probably one of the main reasons why firms fail with their export endeavours is because management only pay lip service to the firms' export efforts. This is not enough! Get management to commit on paper to the firm's exports efforts and have them approve the budget you submitted for your export research (see step 4).

B: Researching and segmenting export markets

  1. Undertaking an initial export SWOT analysis of the firm - as it is important to understand what the export capabilities of the firm are, as this knowledge is used as an input to the export marketing research process (see the next step), it is necessary at this point in the export process to undertake an export SWOT analysis. But as you do not yet have the foreign market information at your disposal, this SWOT analysis will need to be reviewed again later in the export process as an introduction to the export plan.
  2. Selecting and researching potential countries/markets abroad - It is a fact; you cannot export to all the countries in the world. Indeed, even established companies can only concentrate on two or three countries at most (and usually only those that are close to each other either geographically, culturally or in terms of language or some other factor). Smaller companies will barely be able to cope with one additional country (over and above the domestic market). The question is which country? At this point in the export process your firm must evaluate the many potential countries open to you and narrow the list down to no more than three to five countries with the greatest potential to look at more closely (a shortlist of countries). Once you established a shortlist of countries, the next step is to do some desk research and in-market research to identify the most suitable country (or perhaps two countries) from your shortlist. In the case of large countries such as the US, Germany, the UK, etc., you may also want to segment the country into more accessible segments (such as males under 30, or households with an income of $50 000 or more per annum) that you can focus your marketing efforts on. The purpose of this research will be to understand the foreign environment you intend to enter and to identify potential foreign customers and their needs so that you can plan an export marketing strategy that will meet your potential customers' needs.

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C: Compiling an export plan

  1. Preparing your export plan - This is one of the most important steps in the export process and will incorporate a situational analysis (export SWOT), your export objectives and an export marketing strategy.

D: Implementing the export plan

  1. Obtain financing/resources for your exports - You will almost certainly need to finance your export efforts in some way and you will have to give thought to how much you need and where you will find the money. You may also need to find the staff and facilities necessary to support your export activities (which, in turn, will cost money).
  2. Managing your export risk - When you negotiate and eventually sign an export contract, you need to be aware that you are committing your firm to certain responsibilities (such as delivering on time and according to a certain standard) and that you are making certain assumptions about your business partner (that they will pay, for example). These responsibilities and assumptions represent a serious risk for your firm and you need to be aware of what these risks are and you need to take steps to manage these risks as best possible.
  3. Promoting the firm and its products abroad - This involves letting the world know about your firm and what it offers and there are many promotional channels that you could use (such as advertising in trade magazines, e-mail marketing or participating in a trade fair). The channel you use will depend on what your promotional strategy is that you outlined in your export plan.
  4. Negotiating and quoting in export markets - You need to approach your customers, convince them to buy from you, negotiate a deal and price that that find acceptable, and present them with a quote (usually in the form of a proforma invoice).
  5. Revising your export costings and price - Following your negotiations, you will in all probability have to consider lowering your price or other sales terms. This may require you to revisit your costing exercise and pricing strategy.
  6. Obtaining the export order - This is all about closing that sale and signing the contract!
  7. Producing the goods - With the export order in hand, you now have to get down to producing the goods that you have promised to deliver. This will mean securing raw materials and components from your suppliers, and producing, packaging and labelling the goods for export.

E: Export transportation and logistics

  1. Handling the export logistics - You have to get the product from your factory to your customer and you will need one or other form of transportation to do this.

F: Export documentation and payments

  1. Handling export documentation and export payments - A lot of paper work will accompany each consignment. You need to ensure that your export documentation is in order so that you can effect export payment for your goods.
  2. Providing follow-up support - Customers will want to be ensured that you will help them if something goes wrong with your product. To this end, you will need to consider what warranties and guarantees you will offer your customer, as well as what support you will provide them.
  3. Getting paid - An important part of the export process.

G: Export management

  1. Reviewing the export process - To ensure a successful export department, you will want to review and improve your export process.
  2. Export management - The process does not end here. It needs to start all over again with your next customer. This is the focus of export management and involves the way you organise your export department.

Select the topic from the list above that you are interested in. Under each topic, you will find a number of other issues that will help deal with your exports.

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Learning to export...
The export process in 21 easy steps
Step 1: Considering exporting
Step 2:Current business viability
Step 3:Export readiness
Step 4:Broad mission statement and initial budget
Step 5:Confirming management's commitment to exports
Step 6: Undertaking an initial SWOT analysis of the firm
Step 7:Selecting and researching potential countries abroad
Step 8: Preparing and implementing your export plan
Step 9: Obtaining financing for your exports
Step 10: Managing your export risk
Step 11: Promoting the firm and its products abroad
Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
Step 13: Revising your export costings and price
Step 14: Obtaining the export order
Step 15: Producing the goods
Step 16: Handling the export logistics
Step 17: Export documentation
Step 18: Providing follow-up support
Step 19: Getting paid
Step 20: Reviewing and improving the export process
Step 21: Export Management
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