Exporting to the United States - Preparing to export to the U.S.
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On this page
- 2. Preparing to export to the U.S.
- 2.1. Is there a market for your company?
- 2.2. Researching specific target markets
- 2.3. Assessing your company’s readiness
- 2.4. Creating your export plan
- 2.5. Selecting your market
- 2.6. Developing your export marketing plan
- 2.7. Government services for exporters
- 2.8. Government training programs for U.S.- bound exporters
- 2.9. Sourcing business opportunities
2. Preparing to export to the U.S.
Forum for International Trade Training
The Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) is Canada’s international trade training and professional certification body. It sets the standards and designs the training programs through which you can acquire the professional designation of Certified International Trade Professional (CITP). Delivered by a broad network of educational partners, FITT´s training programs will provide you with the knowledge and practical skills that are essential for engaging in international trade. Refer to the FITT website for more information.
To prepare for your entry into the U.S. market, you must ensure that your company has the financial, human and production capacity to meet its demands. For a general introduction to becoming "export-ready," you might want to read Chapter 1 of the Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting.
2.1. Is there a market for your company?
Your first step is to find out whether there is, in fact, any U.S. demand for what you are offering. A good way to start this research is to look at Canada's annual exports of the type of goods you manufacture, and identify how much of this went to the U.S. This will help you estimate the size of the U.S. market for your particular product(s).
The Trade Data Online tools on Industry Canada’s website will help you determine how much export business your sector carried on in the U.S. over various time periods. However, this only tells you how much of your type of product was imported into the U.S. from Canada. For a complete picture of the U.S. import market, you will need a U.S. statistical source, such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Remember, also, to examine how U.S. domestic production fills the needs of the U.S. market.
These statistics still might not tell the whole story. For example, goods may be officially recorded as imports into one state, but be really destined for another. If you do not do your research, you may end up targeting the wrong market.
To retrieve the Trade Data Online information - and for many other purposes - you will need to determine the Harmonized System code (HS code) of your product. If you are not familiar with HS codes, they are an international description and coding system for commodities, and the tariffs of most countries are based on them.We will examine HS codes in more detail in Section 7.2, "Harmonized System (HS) codes."
Also valuable at the early stages of market research are the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service sectorial market studies and country-specific reports. Provided free of charge, the reports are prepared by Canada’s offices abroad.
The website of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. gives contact information for Canadian trade specialists both in the U.S. capital and in Canadian consulates across the U.S. The embassy site has a list of Canadian government offices in the U.S.
Another resource for targeted research about potential exports is Industry Canada’s sector information page. It is a handy gateway to information about major Canadian business sectors, their markets, strategies and so on.
2.2. Researching specific target markets
You will develop a better export strategy if you investigate potential markets from the very beginning of your export initiative; as you close in on the market segment that seems best for you, your research will simply become more focused. You can obtain an overview of the market research and selection process from the Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting.
This step involves reading and analyzing as many relevant market reports and publications as you can manage. Here are several Canadian and U.S. sources to help you better understand your potential market (some are repeated from Section 1.7, "Information (sources for the U.S. market")
You will make better decisions about your export strategy if you have been investigating potential markets from the very beginning of your export initiative.
The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service provides many types of market reports. Refer to http://tradecommissioner.gc.ca/trade_commissioners-delegues_commerciaux/index.aspx?lang=eng.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides various analyses and statistics.
Refer to http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/?id=1361289956531.
The Canada-United States Relations website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has links to many resources on business development in the U.S. Refer to http://international.gc.ca/world-monde/united_states-etats_unis/relations.aspx?lang=eng
Export Development Canada (EDC), at www.edc.ca, has a good range of research tools and resources.
CanadExport, at www.international.gc.ca/canadexport, is a free, online publication of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. You will find news about U.S.-related trade opportunities, export programs, trade fairs, business missions and more.
The State Trade Fact Sheets, prepared by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., furnish trade-related backgrounds for all states. Refer to
The U.S. Census Bureau, at www.census.gov, provides coverage of the statistical data collected in the U.S. Census, including detailed demographic data.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides statistics and analyses of U.S. economic performance. Refer to
American Demographics, a subscription website, is a gold mine of marketing and demographic information, especially for trends and consumer analysis. It is at www.adage.com/americandemographics.
The U.S.National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at www.ntis.gov is part of the U.S.Department of Commerce and is a repository of more than two million titles of government-sponsored scientific, technical, engineering and business-related publications.
FedBizOpps at www.fbo.gov provides a single point of entry for the U.S. government's product and services procurement process. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada also provides information about this market on its Sell2USGov website at http://tradecommissioner.gc.ca/sell2usgov-vendreaugouvusa/index.aspx?lang=eng.
2.3. Assessing your company's readiness
After identifying a market segment - perhaps a demographic or a region where your product might do well - your next step is to decide whether your company has the financial, human and production capacity to supply a market in the United States. You might consider this in the light of the following questions:
- The U.S. is a ferociously competitive market.What advantages does your product or service have that will set it above its competition?
- Can you obtain the capital needed for any necessary expansion, such as staff or production facilities?
- Do you have enough cash flow to sustain your operations until you receive payment for your goods or services?
- Will your product or service need to be adapted to the U.S. market? For example, will your oak cabinets warp in the humid conditions of the South?
- Will your product or service need different packaging and promotional materials? For example, will brochures need to be in English and in Spanish?
- What further research are you doing to identify your intended market? Is it time, for example, for an on-theground survey of the territory?
- Can you obtain the financing needed to promote your product or service in the U.S.?
2.4. Creating your export plan
The next step is to create your export plan, because a good plan will vastly improve your company's chances of success in the United States. Your plan will also be crucial if you need financing, because financial institutions will not lend to a business that has not developed one. The Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting has an overview of export plans that you may find useful.
Your export plan will be similar in many ways to your business plan, except that it will concentrate on the conditions of the U.S. market. Among other things, it will include:
A good export plan will vastly improve your company's chances of success in the United States.
a description of how you will organize your export activity;
an analysis of your product and its suitability to the U.S. market;
an overview of your market research;
a description of the methods by which you will enter the U.S., such as promotion and distribution;
an analysis of U.S. regulatory, logistical and risk factors and how you will deal with them; and
an implementation plan and a financial plan.
We will examine money matters in more detail in Section 5, "The Basics of Export Financing."However, financial planning is part of your export plan, so it bears mention here.
First, it may take months or even years for your U.S. export venture to show a positive return on investment. Be sure your plan accounts for this and that your operations can be sustained until either they become profitable or you choose to leave the market.
Second, a solid financial plan for your export initiative is a must. In addition to including a capital budget and a cash budget, itmust allow for fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar thatmay affect your profitability in the U.S.market or at home.A good financial plan is also essential if you need to approach lenders for working capital, letters of guarantee or other kinds of financial assistance.
2.5. Selecting your market
The selection of your market or markets is among the most crucial decisions of your export initiative. At this point, you will need to undertake non-documentary research such as person-to-person contacts, specialist advice and on-the-ground investigation to confirm that you are making the right choice.
To help achieve this, you can:
You will need to undertake non-documentary research such as person-to-person contacts, specialist advice and on-the-ground investigation to confirm that you are making the right choice.
Contact the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in your province. The trade commissioner will help you identify U.S. markets where your company has the most potential, and will work with colleagues in Canadian consulates in the U.S. to give you information on business conditions and recent developments in the local market. The TCS offers expert advice, problem-solving skills and a U.S.-wide network of contacts. See further information.
Contact potential U.S. buyers, partners, agents and distributors.
Approach the chambers of commerce in your prospective markets.
Visit the particular region of the U.S. in which you are interested.
The above list is not exhaustive; for more information, contact a Canada Business Network Information Officer at 1-888-576-4444.
2.6. Developing your export marketing plan
Export marketing plans are always works in progress, and successful exporters begin developing them almost as soon as they decide to go into international trade. Assuming you have done this, the final selection of your market means that you can now put the finishing touches on your own plan.
Whole books have been written about this subject, and we will not try to compete with them here; for a general overview, you might read the "Reaching the Customer" chapter of the Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting.
In the meantime, remember to consider the following in your export marketing plan:
exchange rate fluctuations between the U.S. and Canadian dollars (for more information on managing our strong dollar, see Section 5.8, "Currency fluctuations");
the expense of business travel to and from the U.S.;
costs involving third parties such as U.S. customs brokers, freight forwarders and possibly U.S. representatives or agents;
possible modifications to your product because of U.S. standards, regulatory requirements or consumer preferences;
insurance for travel and shipping;
delays at the border and the costs of these delays; and
extra packaging to cope with increased handling and travel time.
You will also need to research the price trends for your particular product or service in the target market, so that you will understand both your competitors' pricing strategies and the buying patterns of your potential customers. At this stage, you can obtain valuable assistance from trade commissioners at the appropriate Canadian consulates in the U.S., who will be familiar with the local business environment. For a general discussion of the factors involved in establishing prices, you can also refer to the "Setting Prices" section of the Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting.
2.7. Government services for exporters
There are many government programs and services for Canadian exporters who are selecting a target market.
For general guidance in identifying government services and programs suitable for your business, contact a Canada Business Network Information Officer at 1-888-576-4444.
Regional offices of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service can help you find the services you need. Located across Canada, the TCS regional offices provide expert advice, problem-solving skills and a global network of contacts. Services are provided free of charge. For contact information, refer to www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca.
Export Development Canada (EDC) has a wealth of country information available on its website at
www.edc.ca/EN/Country-Info.html. These reports provide current market intelligence for a wide range of countries.
Another valuable resource is Canadian Commercial Corporation's market access services at www.ccc.ca, which can help you sell to U.S. public-procurement markets. The help available includes advice on preparing international bids and contract-related services that will help you obtain the best terms for your export sale.
Your approach to advertising and promotion also requires careful thought and research. American attitudes to matters such as the environment, politics, religion and political correctness often diverge from Canadian viewpoints; attitudes also vary considerably across the U.S. As a result, marketing that works in New Brunswick may fail in Montana, and what works in Montana may fail in Louisiana. Also, if you decide to use an agency to handle your promotional materials and marketing campaign, make sure the firm — whether Canadian or U.S. — clearly understands the market you are entering.
2.8. Government training programs for U.S. - bound exporters
New exporters to the U.S., and exporters seeking to expand their existing U.S. markets, can find hands-on, practical training through ExportUSA, which focuses on export education and targets Canadian companies considering exporting to the United States. ExportUSA consists of three programs:
The New Exporters to Border States (NEBS) program introduces the essentials of exporting, including practical export information and first-hand exposure to markets in the United States.
For Canadian companies not yet exporting to the United States, the Reverse NEBS program provides seminars in Canada that cover the essentials of exporting.
Missions and seminars may vary by Canadian province or by region in the U.S., depending on the location, the industry sector and the interests of the participants. A program may include the following:
information on exporting and export services and programs;
briefing on border procedures;
presentations by U.S. manufacturers' representatives, sales agents, distributors or buyers;
briefings by industry experts and an overview of regional U.S. markets; and
distribution of an exporter's information guide.
The NEBS may also include:
travel to the U.S. border;
a meeting with Canadian Consulate trade officers, plus networking opportunities with potential agents and distributors; and
visits to trade shows and/or meetings with local wholesalers and retailers.
The Export USA webinar series can help increase your knowledge on how to access the North American market. These free online seminars cover general export information, industry-specific trends and market opportunities. Attend those webinars to hear US expert speakers discuss topics such as:
- border procedures
- financing and insurance
- industry trends
- new market opportunities
- legal services
- selecting sales agents and distributors
- warehousing and product distribution
Complete list of upcoming and on-demand webinars.
Further information and a list of upcoming events.
To register or to ask about the details of the programs, contact the nearest regional office of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service.
2.9. Sourcing business opportunities
It is a good idea to keep informed about foreign bids or business opportunities for your product or service. An excellent way of doing this is to register with RFPSource.
RFPSource is a secure electronic doorway to the global e-marketplace. It matches Canadian products and services from a comprehensive capabilities database with thousands of business opportunities posted by domestic and foreign companies and governments. It operates on a fee-for-service basis, although registration is free.
RFPSource members can:
respond to requests for proposals and quotations;
develop strategic partnerships;
showcase products and services in a virtual trade show; and
browse financial services.
The above services are just a selection of what is offered. For more information and to register, visit www.rfpsource.ca.
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