The first stage in export planning is to investigate the market and the various reasons to consider exporting to customers. This article details the value in trillions of dollars that U.S. total exports hold and explains some of the reasons why small-to-medium sized businesses are in a good position to leverage selling to overseas markets.
Last Published: 12/2/2016

Export Process Overview

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World Is Open for Business—Your Business
Today, it’s easier than ever for companies to sell goods and services across the globe. Small and medium-sized companies in the United States are exporting more than ever before. In 2013, more than 300,000 small and medium-sized U.S. companies exported to at least one international market—nearly 28 percent more than in 2005.  In 2013, the value of goods and services exports was an impressive $2.28 trillion, nearly a 25 percent increase since 2010. And 2014 topped the previous year, with exports valued at $2.34 trillion.

Additional Reasons to Explore or Expand Exporting
Global trade in goods and services is likely to grow in the future. The World Trade Agreement on trade facilitation that was introduced at the end of 2013 and renegotiated in 2014 will reportedly add $1 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP) once it is fully implemented. This agreement compels the World Trade Organization (WTO) members to improve customs procedures and cut regulatory red tape, speeding the flow of goods and services across borders and reducing the costs involved. The U.S. government will create a “single window” system that has some of the same benefits and efficiencies as the WTO effort.

If you have a web presence, you have a global marketing and order-taking platform. For a few more dollars, you can process credit card payments for buyers in Australia or translate key pages into Spanish and other languages to further your reach. During the next few years, worldwide B2C e-commerce is projected to nearly double to $2.2 trillion with the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific. You’ll want to be in the game as sales soar.

U.S. Total Annual Exports (2010-15)

YearValue (in trillions of chained [2009] U.S. Dollars)Increase
YearValue (in trillions of U.S. Dollars)Increase

Source US Census Bureau

Do You Want More Sales Channels?
Online B2B and B2C marketplaces offer virtual storefronts and a ready-made global army of shoppers. They also offer payment solutions, and you can choose a shipper that will take care of the required documentation for you. The shippers want to help make things easier too, and many offer international business advice, freight forwarding and customs brokerage services, cost calculators, and in some cases, financing. Plus, they’ll pick up goods and documents from your back door and deliver them to almost any address in the world. And you can track everything on their website. Some e-commerce platforms will arrange to ship your goods to one or more of their fulfillment warehouses located in major commercial centers around the world. As items are sold and shipped quickly to buyers, you can restock the goods by sending larger quantities to the fulfillment centers, generally at less cost than shipping one item at a time from your place of business in the United States.

Want even more sales channels? If web-based marketing and sales are insufficient to meet your sales growth appetite, you can attend trade shows in the United States where buyers from around the world come to purchase U.S. goods and services. Show organizers will facilitate introductions to the buyers, working with agencies of the U.S. government to provide matchmaking services on the show floor. These same government agencies can arrange for you to attend shows in other countries, where the connections and influence of your embassy network can save you time and money generating new business. Government agencies can find buyers for you and arrange introductions in more than 100 countries. Call this service “customized business matchmaking.”

Channels can include:

  • Direct to end-user
  • Distributors in country
  • Supplier to the U.S. government in a foreign country
  • Your e-commerce website
  • A third-party e-commerce platform where you handle fulfillment
  • A third-party e-commerce where they handle fulfillment
  • Supplier to a large U.S. company with international sales

Franchise Your Business
You are not limited to one of these channels. Today’s global trading system is ideal for the smaller company employing more than one marketing and sales channel to sell into multiple overseas markets. But most U.S. exporters currently sell to one country market—Canada, for example. And the smaller the company, the less likely it is to export to more than one country. For example, 60 percent of all exporters with fewer than 19 employees sold to one country market in 2005.

Imagine the boost in the bottom line if they could double the number of countries they sell to.

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

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