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Exporting for fun and profit: 5 tips for making it big overseas

Exporting to foreign markets is easier than people think, according to the U.S.
Ben Smith
via Flickr
Exporting to foreign markets is easier than people think, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

President Obama outlined the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years in his 2010 State of the Union address. Nearly a year into that timeline, how far have we come?

Turns out we still have a ways to go, according to John Tracy, a trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Central New York region. But don't fear: Tracy has some advice for companies that want to get their products onto foreign shelves.

Five tips after the jump.

1. Don't sell yourself short

Whether your company is big or small, Tracy says size doesn't matter. If you have a product that's marketable in the U.S. and your company is stable, then go ahead and start seeking out similar markets in other countries.

2. Use a foreign market matchmaker

The Commerce Department can connect your company with partner search services. Here's how it works: a U.S. company defines what it's looking for in a foreign partner. The partner could be a distributor, an ad agency, or a retailer. The government will then initiate a search to find companies and screen the candidates, and then bring back a list of suitable matches to the U.S. firm. Or, if you're looking to get away to an exotic locale, the Commerce Department also helps set up overseas trips, and can schedule meetings with prospective partners. 

3. Do a background check

If a U.S. company wants to do business with a foreign business partner, but wants to learn more about the company before making any formal agreements, the U.S. can do a background check. That includes seeking trade references, searching for media reports about the company, and doing a site visit to make sure the facility checks out.

4. Seek financial advice

Dealing in a different currency can be tricky, so the U.S. can help a company find banking tools to sort that out. There's also financial assistance for firms that see an opportunity to make a sale, but don't have the cash on hand to fill an export order.

5. Take up offers of help

Tracy says there's a growing enthusiasm for exports, and a lot of people are cooperating. Organizations are working together, beyond just the Commerce Department. International attorneys, bankers and freight brokers are all rallying to boost U.S. exports. Tracy says if you've got a concern about exporting, there's likely a qualified professional on hand to help you address it.

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.