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Going Global

Are you ready to take the plunge into international markets? If so, here are some first steps.

Q: I've had some interest in my product from consumers overseas, but I'm not sure if it's enough to justify expanding to global markets. How do I know if it's a good idea to take my business global?

A: Before you go global, make sure there's a demand in other countries for your product or service. Where will you find prospects who need what you offer, can afford it and are willing to pay for it? Sure, foreign markets may be the answer, but you can't know for sure until you do a fair amount of homework.

Your first step should be to contact the Trade Information Center (TIC) at the U.S. Department of Commerce, a comprehensive resource on all federal government export assistance programs. The TIC's websitehas FAQs concerning international trade and information on trade missions to overseas markets where you can meet with potential distributors and buyers. You can also request a package of information that includes sources for market reports and country information, a list of publications to guide you through export transactions, trade leads and information on export financing. Or, call TIC's toll-free number, (800) USA-TRADE, to speak to an international trade specialist and get advice on sources of general market information, how to locate and use government programs, and basic export counseling.

Once you've determined there's a demand for your product overseas, there are two steps most businesses take when going global. First, they establish a relationship with a business or individual in each of their targeted foreign markets, often with help from some of the resources mentioned above. Then they carefully craft a Web site to make their products and services available to their new customers. Once you've identified your target markets, you'll need to create a site that's accessible in the appropriate languages and meets the unique needs of your international customers.

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