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Are you looking for a way to grow sales at your small business, diversify your operations and be part of an increasingly global future? Then consider joining the thousands of small businesses that sell their products and services internationally.

A whopping 80 percent of small and midsize businesses that sell globally say their revenues are up compared to one year ago, a survey by American Express reports. Companies surveyed say international trade accounts for about one-fourth of their annual sales. In addition, over three-fourths (76 percent) expect their international sales to grow in the next five years, by an average of about 30 percent. And nearly 40 percent plan to increase their international sales efforts in the next six months.

The decision to take your business global may arise from a well-thought-out strategy or simply an unexpected opportunity. Whichever path you take, selling internationally is a smart move. Expanding your market globally can help insulate your small business from economic ups and downs here at home, providing more stable income.

Are you interested in exploring international trade? Here are some tips for success:

Start close to home. More than four in 10 companies in the American Express survey concentrate their sales efforts on Mexico or Canada. Choosing an international market that's relatively close geographically, one with a similar culture and business climate, and one with a high percentage of English speakers will make your first attempts at international trade much easier. Doing business in China or India, on the other hand, introduces more difficulties, unless you already have connections in those countries.

Choose the right trading partners. It’s important to select your vendors, partners and customers wisely when first getting into international trade. Make sure to meet potential partners in person. Investigate the background, reputation and reliability of any company you’re considering doing business with. The right connections can make all the difference.

Educate yourself. Learn all you can about the marketplace, culture, customs and business practices of the international markets where you want to do business. You can get information online, from your networks and contacts, from market research, and from publications or websites covering international trade.

Get help. Entering the global marketplace is a lot easier if you have experienced assistance at hand. American Express has a program, Grow Global, that provides resources and networking opportunities to both novice and experienced small businesses involved in international trade. You can also get help online at Export.gov, which provides market research, advice and tools for U.S. exporters. And at Alibaba, an international marketplace, you can find global suppliers and trade with confidence using their Trade Assurance program. There’s also a lot of information from Pitney Bowes about global trade and how to make sure you get your merchandise from one country to another.

Finally, don’t forget about the business experts at SCORE. They can help you decide if exporting is right for you, conduct market research and develop a plan for international success. Visit SCORE.org to get matched with a mentor today.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and SmallBizDaily.com.

CEO, GrowBiz Media
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