How Commercial Service Helps Exporters

May 6, 2009

Patrick McRae is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service. He is currently assigned to the Grand Rapids,Michigan Export Assistance Center.

My colleagues and I assist Michigan-based firms access and develop foreign markets. Truth be told though, many small or medium-sized firms were quite reluctant to consider international sales, especially when things were going so well domestically…

Economic downturn, however, has greatly enhanced our business community’s interest in international markets. In fact, I just had a conversation with a potential new-to-export firm that went something like this:

Me: “So, you have a good product here…you really should think about selling overseas.”

Potential Exporter: “Sell internationally? Don’t you have to be a major player to go international? I really need to increase sales! How do we go about it?”

At which point I assured him that almost any product is exportable, regardless of the size of the firm, and the Commercial Service can help make it happen!

Another counseling session successfully underway….

I went on to explain that the export process usually begins with an assessment of a firm’s “export readiness” where an international trade specialist sits down with the client to review the firm’s readiness to explore and implement export related activities.

Next comes the market research phase, where we identify “best prospect” markets. Commercial Service trade specialists carry out basic research, using an extensive array of trade data bases compiled and maintained by the ITA. These services are typically offered free of charge. Once basic research indicates potential export markets, our clients may choose to pursue specialized market research in order to gain more detailed market insight such as competitive presence, pricing, nature of relevant supply chains, etc. These services are typically provided for a small fee.

With this enhanced understanding of the target market, a client may wish to meet with key in-country contacts such as potential distributors, sales agents, strategic allies or joint venture partners. Through our Gold Key Service, we will identify, screen, select and set up meetings so that in a matter of days, clients may begin to forge the relationships that will be critical to future export success!

At this point, having gone through the pre-export research and planning process, you will design and implement a well thought-out international business plan and begin the cycle of planning-implementation-assessment-adjustment.

I wrapped up the conversation with an assurance that trade professionals throughout the ITA will be there to assist in the transition from export-novice to export-expert!


  1. I am thinking about entering the export business. I have read many books on the subject, but I do not have a particular product etc. How do I find someone to talk to who can help me as a novice just getting started?

    • To assess your export readiness, please visit our U.S. exporter focused sister site: Export.gov and click “Begin.” You will be guided through a self-assessment and, based on your score, given links to the most appropriate counseling options. Export.gov/begin also provides a quick and simple overview to what’s involved in beginning to export.

      Based on your description, you will probably be directed to a “SCORE” counselor. SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small business start, grow and succeed nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration. SCORE’s 12,400 volunteer counselors have more than 600 business skills. Volunteers are working or retired business owners, executives and corporate leaders who share their wisdom and lessons learned in business. SCORE counselors are available to assist companies who are just beginning the export process and are unsure of how to proceed.

      Their website is http://www.score.org.

  2. As Patrick mentions, finding relevant supply chains in specialized markets is the key here. The supply and demand aspects are critical but aligning yourself with demand is even more important especially dealing with exporting to foreign markets.

  3. In today’s competitive markets, it is crucial to have an open eye not only on demand and supply but also on demand and supply prices. Only when you can offer your products at competitive prices will you have a chance of being successful exporting your products (or importing for that matter).

  4. There is so much potential exporting our goods abroad. Despite the current crisis, many countries are booming, particularly in Asia and South America. By exporting, we can increase profits and secure jobs in America

  5. Thank you for the information.
    Can we have more information on becoming an exporter agent.

  6. Iam intrested on exporting common commodities such as casava,cashew nut,bitter kola ,kola nut,and even honey product but my problem is how to secure foriegn potaincial trusted buyers has bein my challeng all the while.

  7. As a work at home mom who just develop her own brand of coconut oil skin care product, is it advisable to look at overseas market or should we just focus on the domestic market first? Also, who should we speak to with a self develop product?

  8. With so much of competition it is important to know the demand and supply and also about the prices. for example when you sell your products at a good price that gives you confidence to export your products and also know about the imports. In countries like China they are exporting so many products that their economy is booming.

  9. As a mom who tries to develop my own business,I found export can be a good idea,But,it is not easy to initiate it without proper support and details.As my idea is based on spices,I am still in research stage,I found this article as a helpful support.

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