6 ways to expand your exports

An exporting expert reveals his secrets for successful business growth.

Only 1 percent of small businesses in the United States tap global markets for fresh revenue growth, according to government statistics. And of that total, only 2 percent export to more than one country. In short, competition is scarce. There’s a lot of money to be potentially gained from sales generated abroad. But how?

Here, Al Youngwerth, President of Rekluse Motor Sports Inc., the winner of the Small Business Association’s 2012 National Exporter of the Year Award, offers six exporting tips for identifying and selling to new markets.

1. Make your products easy to find. Early on, Rekluse built a website and participated in online chats where motorsports enthusiasts share ideas. “Our initial export customer base came about through word-of-mouth on the Internet,” Youngwerth says.

2. Take advantage of easily accessible advice. Youngwerth participated in a three-month training program, offered by the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS), to identify the most lucrative opportunities. “They help small businesses develop an export plan that’s right for them,” he says.

3. Choose the right partners. Youngwerth learned that the right partner isn’t always the biggest one. “Most small businesses are going to rely on that distributor to generate demand, and if the distributor is large you might get lost,” he says.

4. Understand distributor rules and regulations—before you sign. Youngwerth stresses the importance of fully understanding your contractual relationship with each distributor. Be aware of all the rules that apply, even if they aren’t spelled out in a contract.

5. Communicate regularly and efficiently with distributors. In some cases, communication may be difficult because of language barriers, but a tougher challenge is distributors that require too much time to become self-sufficient, Youngwerth says. “Make sure you seek partners that can communicate effectively so you don’t waste a lot of time.”

6. Avoid competition with your own distributors. Rekluse prices its products so the cost to the end user is the same as if purchased from a U.S. dealer. In addition, the company requires its 1,000 or so U.S. dealers to agree not to sell products to overseas customers.