PETALUMA -- With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside the U.S. -- and with Sonoma County exports up 14 percent in 2012 -- more firms are looking to enhance their export potential.
To help them get started, a half-day “Export University” was held May 9 in Petaluma for 85 attendees.
The Sonoma County Economic Development Board (EDB) and the North Bay office of U. S. Commercial Service (USCS), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, sponsored the event, along with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and 18 other co-sponsors.
[caption id="attachment_73818" align="alignright" width="196"] Ben Stone[/caption]
Ben Stone, EDB executive director, said, “These experts have tools to help local businesses enter or expand global markets.”
According to county Supervisor David Rabbitt, “Sonoma County has a strong brand and small businesses account for most local jobs. Programs like this enable them to develop export strategies leading to more sales and jobs.”
Export University is a branded USCS program covering topics such as global marketing and U.S. Government trade resources, finance and worldwide logistics.
“North Bay Exports are a gold mine,” said Elizabeth Krauth, director of the North Bay USCS office. “We can help you achieve global penetration.”
[caption id="attachment_73819" align="alignright" width="196"] Elizabeth Krauth[/caption]
“While most larger firms have learned how to take advantage of foreign markets, smaller firms can do the same.”
Erik Andersen, head of global sales for Remedy Interactive, said export marketing begins with an executive commitment to sacrifice short-term profits to increase overseas travel and administrative budgets.
He said firms need people focusing on global business, conducting research, developing multilingual marketing materials, complying with international standards and obtaining export licenses and permits.
[caption id="attachment_73820" align="alignleft" width="245"] Erik Anderson[/caption]
“Companies must establish credibility overseas, differentiate and promote their products in target markets and identify, select, manage and motivate foreign distribution networks.”
Tapping foreign visitors at U.S. trade shows, exhibiting at foreign shows and networking through international trade associations are ways to begin.
“Think about your product from a solution perspective, and educate foreign buyers on its benefits to them. What problems does it solve? Is it better/different from what can be obtained elsewhere? Is the cost of ownership lower? What is the value proposition compared to price? Where can people buy it?”
He said, “Leverage your website. Make it easy for foreign customers to find your partners through web links, or localize your presence by using country-specific web domains.”
[caption id="attachment_73821" align="alignleft" width="158"] Daniel Giavina[/caption]
Daniel Giavina, an international trade specialist with USCS, said, “Every $1 billion in U.S. exports supports 5,500 jobs at home.”
With offices in 74 countries and 100 U.S. cities, this agency can assist North Bay firms in locating international buyers and distributors.
Through www.export.gov, companies can obtain free foreign market overviews, lists of competitors and international trade shows. This site provides access to import regulations, documentation requirements and distribution channel information. For a fee, USCS can conduct customized market research.
The agency’s Gold Key Service, also offered for a fee, arranges meetings for U.S. companies with prospective foreign partners, holds post-meeting debriefings, provides logistical support and referrals to qualified interpreters.
The California STEP program (californiastep.org), working with an SBA grant, enables U.S. firms to participate in select foreign trade shows at reduced rates.