Ottawa, ON — You have a great product that is selling well in Canada. Or you have a good reputation for your services that you believe can be delivered outside Canada. Suppose too that you have a business plan and an export plan. In other words, you have researched the competition, the foreign market you are targeting, and ways to differentiate your offering now, if only you had some foreign customers!
Here are some ideas on where to look for them, both at home and abroad.
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service: With trade commissioners in 12 cities across Canada and 140 locations worldwide, International Trade Canada (ITCan) can help you by identifying business opportunities abroad, important international market contacts and, when you’re ready to meet your foreign buyer, by providing practical advice on making the most out of your visit. You can also keep informed about foreign bids or business opportunities for your product or service by registering online with the Virtual Trade Commissioner, a personalized gateway to the Trade Commissioner Service. Visit www.infoexport.gc.ca for more information.
Another online government service is SourceCan, a partnership of Industry Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation. It provides a company both with business opportunities and the resources it needs to conduct business on the web (www.sourcecan.com).
Trade associations: Many business associations, such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and various industry sector associations offer special events and activities that help you make vital contacts that can lead to future U.S. or foreign buyers.
Trade shows: Studies show that more than 85% of trade show audiences are made up of decision-makers or those who influence the company’s buying decisions. And more than 50% of all qualified sales leads are closed during the show. So trade shows can be a good place to meet new clients and make business deals. But which show?
Focus on your target market, your industry sector and the shows your buyers are likely to attend. Find out if the show fits your image and budget. Does it have a good reputation and good attendance record? If possible, meet with the promoter and get references from past exhibitors. After the show, make sure you follow up with all qualified leads.
Trade missions: Small businesses considering exporting to the U.S. can take part in the New Exporters to Borders States program (NEBS), presented by ITCan. It introduces the essentials of exporting, including first-hand exposure to U.S. markets.
EXTUS, the Exporters to the United States program, is for those exporters who want to expand to other U.S. regions. It provides entry to a major national or regional trade show and meetings with distributors, representatives and buyers. You can search online for NEBS and EXTUS on http://exportsource.ca.
And finally, once you have found a potential foreign buyer, don’t forget to check the company’s credit profile before closing the deal at www.edc.ca/eservices.
Export Development Canada helps Canadian businesses expand their sales internationally and ensures they get paid for them. A Crown corporation, EDC provides trade finance and credit insurance services for its Canadian clients, 90% of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises. To reach EDC, contact 1-866-297-1255 or visit www.edc.ca/smallbusiness.
Suzanne Morris is vice-president, Small Business Services, Export Development Canada.