Entering new markets? Prepare right for shipping and exporting.
A big milestone for growth in companies selling physical products is shipping to new international markets via export. Whether you are already a large team in your home country, or you are running a small startup, it is exciting to have customers in new countries interested in your products!
But how do you best serve these new customers? And what do you have to do to prepare for exporting? What are the costs and can you still make a good profit?
In working with growing businesses, we see some common areas where companies are not always well prepared and get surprised. Here are some “not so often talked about” areas we have found to be crucial:
1. Pay attention to the culture of your export country
Yes you read that right, the first thing to think about has nothing to do with freight, packaging or duties. Your customers are from a different culture than you are, make sure you understand that culture from a business perspective and are ready to manage communications and service appropriately. Selling in Germany? Be sure your team can answer questions in German and about data privacy. Selling in the US? Get ready for very high customer expectations on responsiveness. RESOURCE : Check out this very nice list of country culture guides
2. Know how you will register for export
In order to get product into their country, many countries require a registered entity locally within their country – this ensures local communication, compliance and responsibility. You may be able to hire a company to do this for you, or register as a foreign importer – or it may be better for you to create a local legal entity. Be aware of the options and the cost and tax implications so that you can make the right choice.
3. Check your product/shipping labels and product claims
Different countries have very different requirements for what is allowed or forbidden on product markings and labels, as well as on marketing language used in your descriptions. You may need to relabel your product, or you may need to change how you describe your product online – especially in markets like the food/supplements/health space. RESOURCE : EU Labelling requirements are listed in this site
4. Review import requirements by country and sometimes by province or state
Too often, US-based companies assume that EU countries all have the same requirements, just like many EU-based companies assume all US states or Canadian provinces have the same requirements. This is unfortunately not always true. Double-check all countries on their own – and research to understand if there are any special requirements within that country.
5. Take shipping and import/export seriously
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, and are often tempted to “fudge” the paperwork to avoid duties and taxes or take shortcuts to get their shipments as cheap as possible. Take it from us, this is not an area to risk. Your product can get held (and incur significant fines) or destroyed. You lose money, you lose time, customers flee to your competitors – it is not worth it. Pay attention, take it seriously, and pull in experts if you do not have that expertise already on your team.
Any others that you have found to be key? Any that have gotten you into trouble and you wished you had known about earlier? Share your experience and let us know in the comments.
You may also be interested in this article written by our logistics expert, with other tips on shipping and export.
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