If you’re like most successful Canadian business owners, you’re always looking for opportunities to grow your customer base, increase revenue and generate more profits. Depending on the sector and the growth stage of your company, it’s possible you may not need to look any further than your own country. But for many, looking to markets outside of Canada is often the next logical step. In-depth research from many reputable institutions shows that exporters do better. They grow faster, make more money and are more competitive.
Still, getting started with exporting isn’t always easy. The good news: Even if you’re just considering taking that first step, you may be further along in the exporting journey than you think. Here are five signs that your company is ready to go global.
1. You’re getting sales inquiries from abroad
Before the internet, selling outside Canada was expensive, and there were many logistical barriers would-be exporters needed to overcome to be successful. Today, many of these barriers have disappeared, mostly as a result of the vast array of sophisticated tools and technology we have at our fingertips:
- Take your website, for example. While you likely weren’t thinking about global markets when you launched it, your website gives you unprecedented global reach. With the advances in web search technology, prospective buyers—no matter where they’re located in the world—can find your business, learn about your products and inquire about making purchases.
- With the growing sophistication of social channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, prospective buyers have many options for reaching out.
So, as you receive an uptick in inquiries from Europe, Asia or elsewhere, it may be the first sign you’re ready to kick your exporting efforts into high gear.
2. You realize you’re already part of a supply chain
Another sign you’re ready to export? You discover that one of your customers is already exporting your product to markets abroad.
Let’s say you manufacture an electronic component that one of your customers embeds in their product. While you know you’re a part of your customer’s Canadian supply chain, you may not be aware that your product is contributing to their success in Europe, Asia and beyond. Sometimes, the realization comes suddenly, when your customer asks you for a specific piece of trade documentation required for exporting your product such as a Certificate of Origin. Whatever the case, it stands to reason that if your customer is successfully selling your product abroad, then there’s no reason you can’t do the same.
3. Government programs are motivating you to export
As you evaluate your options for growing your business within Canada, you’ll come across a range of government programs designed to help you do it. As you delve deeper, chances are you’ll also learn about the many programs specifically designed to help companies like yours get started in international markets. With new free trade agreements in place in Europe and Asia, the government is investing heavily in Canadian companies to help them with all aspects of exporting.
The CanExport program offered by Global Affairs Canada is one such program. It provides direct financial assistance to Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to help them develop new export opportunities and markets, especially high-growth emerging markets.
4. Employees and partners are suggesting you export
While government programs can be enormously beneficial to companies looking to expand their sales outside of Canada, sometimes there are people much closer to home who can also help you.
Especially when we consider the growing ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian population, your employees can be a valuable source of information about market opportunities in other countries. They may have lived and worked in markets, for example, where there is strong demand for your products. Business partners and board members with international business knowledge and experience are another key group with the potential to open your eyes to potentially lucrative opportunities abroad.
5. Increasing your capacity
Increased manufacturing or delivery capacity may be another key sign you’re ready to branch out internationally. Manufacturing businesses are continually contemplating ways to be more efficient, such as increasing production capacity and reducing costs. Sometimes, investments in new technologies and processes result in the ability to produce more products in less time, which has a direct impact on time-to-market and time-to-revenue. For companies in this position, exporting makes perfect sense, with potential buyers for their products in hundreds of markets around the world.
In the second blog in this series, I’ll discuss the specific steps you need to follow to build your export plan.