US Commercial Service for International business - Value?

Ed Marsh | Mar 5, 2011
"Going global"....It's a daunting challenge for sure - and in many cases so overwhelming as to discourage even the first tentative steps.

Sure some businesses take periodic orders through their websites for international shipment, receive payment in USD by credit card or maybe wire, and handle straightforward export documentation using USPS, UPS or FedEx forms.

Others may entertain opportunistic overtures from foreign agents as they arise, and may even develop some reliable freight forwarding relationships.  Less common (and therefore more difficult to find and cultivate) are appropriate FX services and counsel for small businesses.

Yet these approaches are passive and rely on overseas buyers to come to the American company.

But the real leap comes with the decision to extend the "global reach" outward with proactive market development efforts - and with that decision come a host of challenges which must be strategically considered and executed with experienced tactical precision and flexibility.

But what are those challenges; how can they be anticipated and mitigated; what resources are available to nurture the fledgling effort?

The US Government's National Export Initiative is a great place to start.  Offering widely distributed international offices in addition to regional offices within the US to foster communication, the commercial branch offers advisory and assistance services in areas including Sales & MarketingFinance, Logistics, Licenses & Regulations and Trade Data & Analysis.  They also stand ready to assist in resolving trade related problems.

But what can you really expect?  Quite simply they are a good introductory resource but they are not going to do the work for you.  And as in every organization one finds employees with a wide range of capabilities and differing degrees of expertise.  And you must be willing to invest, travel, staff and most importantly, to be patient.  Any orders which result from your initial efforts are a bonus!

Many individual states also offer a range of services to support your efforts.  Some overlap the domestic services of the US Commercial Service while others complement it.  But if you pass your "gut check" and are ready to start then contact them all - get lots of opinions and amalgamate them into your plan.

Identify proper markets, travel there and meet the local US Commercial Service representatives, have several end user and channel partner meetings coordinated through the reasonably priced Gold Key Service.  And off you the travel clinic because you will find business in places where you will need to be properly inoculated and prepared.

Continuously question and reevaluate, trust carefully, appreciate the adventure and experience a new respect for for the accomplishments of inveterate traders/exporters like the Germans.