An overview of what to consider when determining the 'ideal' international buyer. This article is part of "A Basic Guide to Exporting", provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, to assist companies in exporting.
Last Published: 10/20/2016

Who is the 'Ideal' International Buyer?

The short answer: anyone who can afford your product or service and buys it regularly. “Ideal” varies according to export plan and e-commerce goals. But regardless of your approach, treat all buyers as if they mean the world to you. Picture the best customer service experience you ever had and deliver something similar—or better.

Exporting for the Long Term
One of the biggest complaints we hear from buyers is that U.S. suppliers drop international customers when domestic business improves.

A weak dollar means goods produced in the U.S. are cheaper for consumers with stronger currencies; a stronger dollar makes U.S. products more expensive, lowering demand if the product isn’t considered essential.

For example, in early 2015 European customers were paying almost a third more for U.S.-made products. Maybe the products are genuinely worth the price premium, and buyers will eat the difference or pass on the cost of the suddenly more expensive import to their customers. But in most cases, such a big price increase will cause you to lose sales.

Buyers Have Long Memories
What should you do? Turn away from the international market?

No. Exchange rate fluctuations are a fact of life, and the most short-sighted thing you can do is abandon international customers. When you need them in the future—when domestic sales are slow and currencies have rebalanced—they’ll remember when you stopped answering  their messages.

Strategies for Keeping Buyers
Regardless of changes in currency, it probably costs you about the same amount to sell a unit of your product. Show your international buyers you value them as customers—maybe you can trim from your margin so they can afford your product, and in return they’ll reward your flexibility with their loyalty. Or, if some of your costs involve imported components, a stronger dollar may make the components cheaper, enabling you to pass savings on to buyers in third countries.

Find ways to make your supply chain more efficient. If fuel prices drop, shipping costs should reduce. And if you and your buyer both save money on shipping, you’ll both be happy.

Consider offering longer payment terms. Price shock may be cushioned if the buyer has more time to pay. Call your regional Ex-Im Bank office for support with payment terms, as well as protection against foreign currency losses if you accept payment in foreign currencies.

Help your customer lock in lower exchange rates and order larger quantities (perhaps at a discount) so they won’t need to replenish inventory when your product becomes more expensive to them.

If you treat all your business relationships equally and please all your customers—wherever they are—your domestic and international business together will help keep your profits stable.

But whatever you do, don’t sit back and wait for market changes. Take steps now to keep the customers you have, even while looking for new ones who can afford your costlier products.

Because while you’re thinking about pulling back, foreign competitors are getting ready to expand.

International Buyer Program