International Business Opportunites Available to All

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I had a great meeting this afternoon with Duncan McCampbell of McCampbell Global, a Minneapolis-based consultancy firm that helps American businesses identify and successfully pursue growth opportunities overseas. Duncan has extensive experience working abroad while working at Thompson Reuters and brings that knowledge to his clients. Maira Gavioli, his Brazilian consultant, joined us for our meeting and chat.

While we were talking, we asked ourselves why more companies don’t take advantage of the opportunities that exist beyond our own borders. Although the United States exported $1.55 trillion in goods and services in 2009 , exporting companies are few and far between. Fewer than 1 percent of America’s 30 million companies export, a significantly smaller percentage than those of other developed countries. Of the companies that do export, those with fewer than 20 employees represent 72 percent of the exporters and 14.2 percent of the value of goods exported.

Exporting your products or services takes research and hard work but can bring immense rewards in increased revenue. Successful companies follow 4 simple rules:

  1. Choose a market — Do your market research to see whether there is a market for your product or service. The Minnesota Trade Office has a library where you can do some research, and the website has a lot of market research available at the click of your mouse. Industry trade shows are often a good place to find foreign importers eager to carry products in the exporter’s country of choice.
  2. Build relationships — While Americans are used to getting straight to business — often over the phone — most foreign countries require serious relationship-building. Take the time to get to know your distributors or your agents, as they will make or break your success in these foreign markets.
  3. Customize your products — This lesson was learned the hard way by WalMart, which tried to sell our American super-sized products in Mexico without taking into consideration that Mexicans don’t have the storage space that Americans do and often take public transportation rather than driving, making it more difficult to carry the extra large bottles of shampoo, dish washing detergent or paper towels.
  4. Remember to make a profit —  Because of shipping costs, import duties, compliance requirements and added middlemen, profit margins are usually lower in exporting. Remember to add those costs into the price of your products or services and charge accordingly.

Contact us for any questions about exporting your company’s products or services. We offer language and cultural experiences to help our clients as they enter into foreign markets.



  1. Roxanne Barnes  May 11, 2010

    Karen, I read all of your posts and am a subscriber! I thrive off the information I learn in your post and share it with a client for whom I work.

    • Karen Lundquist  May 12, 2010

      Thanks for the nice words, Roxanne! I appreciate it and am glad to know that my posts are informative to others, rather than just to me!


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