By Sylvia Martini
It’s time to think about a new source to explore for customers! Are you interested in attracting new customers to your business as part of a growth strategy, to rebound from a declining market, to improve brand recognition, to help stay in business, etc.? Do you have enough existing customers for your business where new customers are not needed or wanted? If you are a business owner that is satisfied with your existing customer base and doesn’t have a need for new customers, then suggest a new source to your associates that could benefit from it.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in countries outside of the United States. Why limit the sale of your products and services to consumers in the U.S.? Many Americans have a high level of pride in products/services made in the United States. The perception is reality for many others. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. is known throughout the world for high quality, innovative products/services, customer service, and sound business practices. Why not leverage the existing competitive advantage for U.S. based businesses in other countries?
If you answer one or more of the following questions with “yes”, there is an opportunity to explore a new source for customers outside of your traditional geographical area(s):
- Are your new customers declining?
- Do you have inventory that you would like to sell?
- Are you interested in improving your profit margins?
- Is your product/service only known to a small geographical area?
- Would you like to increase sales volume?
- Do you have a non-peak season where you would like to sell more?
- Would you like to attract new customers?
- Do you have a specialized skill set that others can use as a service?
- Do you have an existing or innovative product that others can purchase?
- Are there people that don’t know about your product/service who can benefit from it?
Now, it’s time to spend some time on your business and explore new customers that may reside outside of the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. businesses exported $191 Billion in products/services in April 2017. The U.S. SBA reports that 97% of all exporters from the United States are small businesses. This means there is an opportunity for your business to participate in the growing global market.
The following suggestions will help you explore the possibility of new customers:
- Determine the potential of your product/service in other markets by conducting market research through a resource like export.gov/market-intelligence
- Analyze your existing business to determine if your operation can handle an increase in sales and has the financial capacity
- Review the intellectual property related to your business assets, as most businesses have intellectual property and may not be aware of it
- Complete an Export Preparedness Questionnaire through a resource like https://business.usa.gov/export
- Attend or participate in a Trade Show in the U.S. and other countries
- Participate in a Foreign Trade Mission with the opportunity to connect with qualified buyers (https://www.export.gov/trade-missions)
- Know there are financial resources available:
- S. Export-Import Bank Export Credit Insurance – Limits international risk
- SBA Export Express – Financing up to $500,000
- SBA Export Working Capital Loan – Advances for up to $5 million to fund export transactions from Purchase Order to Collections
- SBA International Trade Loan – Provides Fixed Asset, Working Capital and Debt Financing
It’s time to think about a new source to explore for customers!
Sylvia Martini is a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) and a Business Advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by College of the Canyons (COC) serving Northern Los Angeles County – the Antelope, San Fernando, and Santa Clarita Valleys. The column reflects the author’s views and not necessarily those of the Signal. For more information about how the SBDC can help your business, please call 661-362-5900, or visit www.cocsbdc.org.