A sample export plan that exporters can use as a template to create their own customized plan from. This article is part of the U.S. Commercial Service's "A Basic Guide to Exporting".
Last Published: 11/28/2016

My Export Plan


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(This is an example of an export plan that you can use as a template by copying into a desktop editing program, such as Word.)
Table of Contents and Executive Summary (1-2 Pages)

Introduction: Why your Company Should Export

Part I: Export Policy Commitment Statement

Part II: Situation or Background Analysis

  • Product/Service for Export

  • Operations

  • Personnel and Export Organization

  • Resources Inside the Company

  • Resources Outside the Company

  • Industry Structure, Competition, and Demand

  • Export License (if needed)

  • Export Control Compliance

  • Products/Services to Be Exported

  • Product Classification(s)

  • Products That Qualify Under FTAs

Part III: Marketing Component

  • Identifying, Evaluating, and Selecting Markets

  • Product Selection and Pricing

  • Distribution Methods

  • Terms and Conditions

  • Internal Organization and Procedures

  • Sales Goals (Profit and Loss Forecasts)

  • Pricing with Consideration of Duties, Taxes, Freight Costs, and Logistics Included

Part IV: Tactics—Action Steps

  • Primary Target Countries

  • Secondary Target Countries

  • Indirect Marketing Efforts 

  • Quarterly Accomplishments

Part V: Export Budget

  • Pro-forma Financial Statements

  • Website Enhancements

  • Trade Show Visits

  • Marketing Materials

  • Travel

  • Other Costs

Part VI: Implementation Schedule

  • Follow-up

  • Periodic Operational and Management Review (Measuring Results against the Plan)

Addenda: Background Data on Target

  • Basic Market Statistics (Historical and Projected)

  • Background Facts

  • Competitive Environment

Example Export Plan
1. Introduction
Lips L'amour is a spectacular lip balm providing maximum lip protection and flavor that includes a hint of wheat grass and kale. It is a healthier, more pleasant alternative to its mass-marketed competitors. Several years of successful Internet sales to domestic buyers lead to the the creation of a network of domestic distributors in 10 states and two Canadian provinces.We are now ready to pursue international sales via an expanded web presence, including direct sales to distributors via popular e-commerce platforms, such as serving the market-base in China.
Our location in Venice, California creates brand value by associating the product with images of youth, body-building, a clean environment, and social consciousness (we give five percent of profits to an international charity).
Add additional information as necessary, but limit to a few brief paragraphs.

2. Goals:

  • Use third party e-commerce sites to increase company sales by 15 percent in 2 years.

  • Participate in markets outside the United States, given that is where 97 percent of buyers live.

  • Improve product lines, marketing, and management by learning from discerning customers in the new markets where we will sell.

  • Locate one distributor in two new country markets within 2 years of selling on the e-commerce sites.

Add additional goals as appropriate.
 
3. Financial Resources:

  • An annual capital budget of $35,000, which will cover assistance finding distributors and participation in a government-sponsored trade show or overseas trade mission. 

  • A three to five-year minimum commitment to the export channels.

  • A decent website, which we will continue to internationalize with the help of a consultant.

  • A Translation of marketing materials.

  • A half-time staff position.

Add other resources as appropriate.
 
4. Non-financial Resources:

  • The benefits gained from several staff members having traveled abroad.

  • One staff member will take courses on how to export.

  • One staff member will research free and low-cost government export assistance.

Add other resources as appropriate.

5. Current Trends and Practices:

  • Revenues have grown four percent over the past 4 years.

  • Our product is sold via the Internet and through a network of domestic distributors.

  • We have occasional unsolicited sales to individual buyers; a few inquiries from potential distributors.

Add additional trends and practices as appropriate.
 
6. Production Capacity:

  • We have the capacity to increase production 30 percent without additional capital investment.

  • Investigate contract production at a nearby plant.

Customize for your business and products.

7. Target Markets:

• Pursue all leads generated from our website and e-commerce platforms, as well as investigate Singapore as a regional market for Southeast Asia.

  • Investigate Singapore and other country markets for lip balm by using available market research, including research from the U.S. government sources.

  •  Analyze effects of the recession for the past 4 years and for the current year for signs of trends.

  • Look at U.S. Free Trade Agreement countries for advantages created by zero tariffs on importation of qualifying goods.

  • Look at shipments of lip balm from the United States (U.S. consistency) to other countries and the average selling price to help determine the point of highest demand and if our company is price competitive.

  •  Evaluate market size, GDP, national debt, and currency reserves, as well as projected growth and ease of doing business data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations.

Customize for your company and products.
 
8. Risk
Risk is  largely comprised of non-payments, goods  delayed by foreign customs, and goods lost or stolen en route. Non- payment risks are mitigated through [U.S. government assistance vetting prospective buyers and our initial cash in advance policy].. To decrease/prevent customs issues, we plan to use the services of government export promotion organizations as we get closer to finding one or more distributors. We will further minimize the potential risk from customs issues By having a better understanding of shipping and documentation processes.

Risk is largely comprised of non-payments, goods delayed by foreigh customs, and goods lost or stolen en route. Non-payment risks are mitigated through U.S. government assistance vetting prospective buyers and our initial cash in advance policy. To decrease/prevent customs issues, we plan to use the services of government export promotion organizations as we get closer to finding one or more distributors. We will further minimize the potential risk from customs issues by having a better understanding of shipping and documentation processes. Additional losses will be covered through insurance.
Customize risk profile for your business. 

9. Credit Policies:

  • Require advanced payments via debit or credit card.

  • Verify account is in good standing prior to shipping goods.

  • Consider and investigate providing terms for sales to distributors.

  • Become familiar with letters of credit for use with larger orders from distributors

  • Inform/notify buyer of policies related duty and tax payments

Customize for your business and products.

10. Return Policies:

  • Provide full refund or replacement of goods lost or damaged in transit; website will reflect this policy.

Customize for your products. For example, you might want to offer free shipping for product repair, or you might need to find someone in their nearby market to repair the product

11. Shipping

  • Staff will handle shipping tasks and will ship within 24 hours of receiving order and verifying payment.

  • Primarily shippment transportation will be air and will select one or more express carriers; will also offer the U.S. Postal Service as a lower cost option for shipments weighing less than 70 pounds.

Based on your choices of shipping companies, you might wish to customize this section.

12. Freight Forwarder
None needed at this stage of international sales development; however if you do need one,be sure to address the following within that section: what you and your staff will do; what the forwarder will do; what it will cost.

If a freight forwarder is needed, especially if initial sales volume is large, contact the National Association of Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers of America (hyperlink attached) for referrals to forwarders in your area. A forwarder can also help you clear the goods at the port of arrival. Keep in mind that some of the largest freight carriers are also forwarders and customs brokers and offer these services worldwide.

13. Export Licenses
If your product needs a license, refer to the discussion earlier in Chapter 2. You can also contact the Bureau of Industry and Security (hyperlink attached).

14. Health Certificates
Depending on the country of destination, the product may require a health certificate issued by a state or federal government authority and based on the manufacturers’ representation of product ingredients and/or a physical inspection of the facilities where the product is manufactured. Lip balm is considered a cosmetic and, as such, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues a certificate upon request.
Customize this section as needed.

15. Language Laws
Check to see which languages in addition to English the product packaging must include. Consumer goods such as lip balm may require a list of ingredients and that “Made in the USA” be printed in both English and the country’s official language(s). For many non-consumer products, the shipper need only note on the commercial invoice where the product is made.

16. My Product’s Harmonized Code or Export Number (U.S. Schedule B)
The Schedule B number for lip balm is 3304.10.000. The Harmonized Code number is the first six digits of the Schedule B number: 3304.10.

Add your code(s) in this section. To learn more about the the Harmonized Code System, please visit the export.gov site (hyperlink attached).

17. Intellectual Property:

  • Investigate international protection for my trademark (see http://www.uspto.gov/).

  • Investigate filing for patent protection in countries where I have distributors or retailers. 

Expand this section as it fits your needs.

18. Export Documents
What are the documents I need to be familiar with including commercial invoice, bill of lading, and certificates of origin? To read more about common export documents, please visit the export.gov site (hyperlink attached).

19. Pricing:

  • Our pricing strategy is premium product and premium pricing.

  • For customers purchasing one or more of our products, we will offer to calculate the total landed cost. In both our communications and on the website, we will clearly express that the customer is responsible for paying all applicable duties, taxes, and shipping costs.

  • For larger orders to, say for example, Mexico, we calculate the cost of shipping one package at 25 cents per package including trucking, freight forwarder fee, documentation fee, banking fee, and insurance. With a market price of $10 per package, minus transportation costs and distributor fee, we will be left with about $8.75 to cover production, marketing, and profit.

Add your customized pricing strategy and calculations here.

20. Website Tactics:

  • Internationalize the site by adding text on your homepage that welcomes international buyers.

  • Add a currency converter on the homepage.

  • Add text regarding duties and taxes and explain that it is the buyer’s responsibility to pay them. Include sample duties and taxes for select countries.

  •  Have all prices  listed in U.S. dollars (or in Canadian dollars or euros), but make it possible for shoppers to use a currency converter link that is located next to each order placement button.

  • Add international buyer reviews (and photos) as they become available.

  • Add shipping options and consider including the U.S. Postal Service as a lower cost  alternative.

  • Provide a clearly written returns policy.

  • Welcome inquiries from potential distributors.

  • Consider click-through ads that are targeted at specific countries using specific key words.

  • If product qualifies under an existing free trade agreement, include details on the website.

Action Plan

Priority

Objective

Task

Resources

Schedule

Evaluation

1

Create or revise export plan

Review export plan template provided by SBA. Where to find?

Your time or staff time to draft the plan

Over the next 3 weeks

Completion of plan

2

Internationalize website

Use template to identify enhancements, contact local US Commercial Service for advice

Task in-house or contract web folks

Complete within 30 days

Evaluate any WPG and other international transactions

3

Learn more about international transactions

Review WPG learning resources What is this acronym?

Identify what you need to know and who in the company needs to know it

Complete within 60 days

Number of error-free transactions

4

Monitor transaction activities

Proactively spot sales opportunities

Identify staffing and scheduling

Start within 14 days

Number of sales leads via website or other channels

5

Develop database of international prospects and customers and e-mail new product offers

Create database and e-mail template for sending promotions; use social media

Identify staffing and frequency of messaging; include opt out

Start within 30 days

Number of messages; open rate; sales

6

Secure certificate from FDA if needed

Understand the process turnaround time, etc.

Staff time

Complete within 14 days

Certificate in hand if needed by importing country

7

Determine whether product needs an export license

Review government lists

Staff time

Complete within 14 days

 

8

Learn how to calculate duties and taxes

Review recommended links

Staff time, no charge for information

Complete within 14 days

Accurate calculation and communication to buyer

9

Use tariff code lookup

Identify tariff code for your products (HTS numbers)

Staff time, no charge for information

Complete within 14 days

Accurate completion of shipping documents

10

Establish pricing and returns policy

Calculate landed costs and make revenue projections

Staff time

Complete within 14 days

Establish revenue benchmarks

11

Meet your local government export resource

Understand the services available to your company

Staff time

Completion within 14 days

Value of assistance provided

12

Research a new market

Review recommended links in A Basic Guide to Exporting

Staff time

Complete within 120 days

Go or no-go decision

13

Travel to the market with help from your government support resource

Meet potential distributors

$4,000

Complete within the first year

New revenue

Success Story: Downloading New International Markets - Urban Planet Mobile

With the largest library of English language lessons available for  mobile, Urban Planet Mobile reach up to 85% of the world's English learning population

The Company
Urban Planet Mobile specializes in “mobile education” software that teaches English audio lessons to users after they download it to their wireless device. The company started in 2008 and now has customers in 38 countries served by 26 employees. As such, the company is an outlier, since the majority of U.S. exporters export to  a singular international market. The company’s largest selling product is Urban English, and it also produces a writing product that helps people learn how to write in English. 

The Challenge
According to founder and CEO Brian Oliversmith, the company started in 2008. “That was a really tough time to start a company, because this little recession happened about 5 months later,” he recalled. Money was extremely tight and great care had to be taken when  bugeting for marketing and other business development strategies. From the beginning, the largest market for the product was outside the United States. How would Oliversmith find reliablebuyers without spending a fortune on travel and advertising?

The Solution
Oliversmith made the first investment in a flight to a conference at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, co-sponsored by the U.S. Commercial Service. At the annual spring conference he met senior U.S. Commercial Service officers from  throughout Asia, which was a region he had never  visited. He stated that: “With their help, I started to narrow down where we were going to first jump into the market, where we would start to spend our real resources. It was an amazing 3 days. I learned more in that conference than I could have learned in 2 years flying around on airplanes. Since then we now invest in those countries and are up and operational in many of them.” 

Officers he met at the conference helped him find partners in Asian countries with high growth potential. “Before we knew it, we were in a wonderful university they found for us in Myanmar formerly Burma, and less than 9 months later we launched our product there.”

Total company profits generated from international sales are about 98 percent. Oliversmith said that Urban Planet Mobile is expanding every year and continually creating new jobs.

Lessons Learned
Oliversmith contends that his company is better and stronger  due to international exposure.

More importantly, he has diversified his staffing to reflect the need for cultural expertise. He said, “In our little team, we have people from Santiago, Chile, to Lithuania, to people who are from Russia and Korea, to people who have come from Japan. It gives us a global perspective. It’s very hard to do business worldwide from a very American-centric perspective.”

A second lesson learned is the importance of not waiting to export until your company achieves a certain size. “I would encourage people to start at an earlier stage to see what they can learn from the U.S. Commercial Service. Owners can learn a lot about where they should start without having to go to all these countries. Talk to them early on. Don’t wait.”

Third, he actively seeks out other companies in his area with complementary products and services that are not exporting. One such company has 400 employees. Oliversmith said, “They’ve started an alliance with us and are seeing what demand is for some of their products in an external market, and I think it’s started to really open up their eyes to the opportunity they have internationally. What I tell people is there is a great big world out there that is very, very hungry for education products, especially American education products.”

Action
The U.S. Commercial Service sponsors or participates in a variety of national and international conferences that often feature business matchmaking. One of these such events is TRADE WINDS  and it takes place annually in  varying international areas that are deemed to have significant opportunities for U.S. small and medium-size businesses.

The conference referred to in the story on Urban Planet Mobile is the annual Asia Pacific Business Outlook Conference at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The highlight of this event is one-on-one counseling by Senior Commercial Officers— the heads of U.S. Commercial Service offices located within U.S. embassies and consulates— throughout Asia.

Lastly, you can attend regional Discover Global Markets export conferences that are also held on an annual basis and include matchmaking with international buyers. For more information, contact your local U.S. Commercial Service office.




Planning