International Marketing: Questions to ask before selling to other countries

By Guest Blogger: Rusty Shaw, Coker College Alum

Everyone, and I mean everyone, says that your company creates the most adorable little garden gnomes ever, complete with that funny little red hat and white beard. With strong sales in the company’s home state of Oregon, and after lots of tourists visiting the flagship store, you’re thinking, “It’s time to go international….. It’s time to take the Canadian garden gnome market by storm with my superior white bearded masterpiece!”

garden gnome

Now, before loading a semi-trailer with 5,000 of your little beauties, the most important question to be answered is, “Who am I going to sell all of these to in……Canada?”

When considering an expansion overseas and across borders, the first thing to ask is, “Do I have a market?”

This fairly obvious question pivots around a countless number of country specific factors.  Possibly the BIGGEST pitfall many companies fall into: Assuming that that they do, in fact, fully understand a foreign market and all of its idiosyncrasies. Tariffs, tax regulations, demographic breakdowns, expendable incomes, and cultural particularities are some of the areas that must be addressed if one is to have a chance at success. While any company can address these issues internally, the cost of an expert, in comparison to the losses they may prevent or accurate profit projections they may provide, can prove to be some of your dollars most well spent!

So, does Canada have lots of gardeners? Do they have the extra $456.78 (or whatever garden gnomes sell for these days) to buy your gnome? Is there really a Canadian myth about gnomes that would make patrons wary about purchasing one? Is the Canadian government going to protect your special gnome smiley characteristics, or will other companies have free reign to use your ideas, and possibly steal your design outright?!?

An example as simple as this one brings to light some of the many hurdles involved when leaving the “comfort zone” of one’s own country. However, with a bit of boldness and sound expert research, international markets offer a new world of opportunities to those willing to reach for them.

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