Thanks to technology, small business owners can instantaneously find customers halfway around the world. But where to start?
Visit The United States Commercial Service (www.Export.gov), which can provide world-class market research, promote your product or service to qualified buyers at trade events, make introductions to qualified buyers and distributors and counsel you through every step of the export process. In most cases, there’s no charge.
Ask your state officials for free assistance. In Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) supports foreign trade locations in Europe, the Far East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Shanghai, North Asia/Oceana, the Middle East, Canada, Poland and Brazil (http://www.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Export/Documents/Illinois%20-%20Foreign%20Office%20Contact%20Sheet%20Aug%202015.pdf). U.S. state foreign trade offices help business owners find customers and expand internationally.
The International Trade Association of Greater Chicago (www.itagc.org) also provides a forum for the exchange of up-to-date and practical information on the trends and tools of the ever-changing global marketplace.
Do a Google search for “U.S. state foreign trade office” and your state to see if you have representation.
Contact our Washington D.C. foreign embassy community (www.embassy.org/embassies/). Select a country where you wish to conduct business and e-mail the country specialist to request assistance. For example, say “I want to sell widgets in Portugal. Please provide a list of the top ten importers for this type of product. Thank you.” You will be amazed at the quality of customer information the specialist will provide on a complimentary basis.