U.S. Small Businesses Can Seize Opportunities Using Lessons Learned from their Exporting Peers
Atlanta, Survey Finds Those Engaged in Global Trade Are More Positive About the State of Their Business
Although concerned about the economy, small- and medium-sized business exporters are confident about their companies’ futures, especially when it comes to international sales, according to this year’s Business Monitor United States survey commissioned by UPS (NYSE:UPS).
Of the small- and medium-sized business exporters interviewed, 85 percent said the economy was their top concern, far exceeding their worries about any other issue. However, most respondents indicated they remained positive about their businesses and their international sales opportunities. More than three-quarters (78 percent) said they were confident international sales leads would materialize.
“Entrepreneurs who export are self-assured, adaptable and resilient so it doesn’t surprise me that the survey shows exporters are confident about meeting their business goals,” said Laurel Delaney, owner of small-business consulting firm Global Trade Source.
The survey found that most small- and medium-sized businesses (61 percent) that had expanded into foreign markets did so with a sound plan. And, exporters are quick to learn about the in’s and out’s of exporting; more than half (53 percent) said they do not find the process of exporting frustrating. However, those who were newer to exporting said documentation and customs requirements were the biggest barriers to expansion.
“Talking to current exporters reveals that for many small businesses, the most difficult thing about exporting is just getting started,” said Dan Brutto, president, UPS International. “But with the administration’s new export initiative, there’s never been a better time for small businesses to give exporting a try. The right partner can serve as a bridge to help businesses ease into global trade and, in turn, find new revenue streams.”
More than one-third (35 percent) of small businesses said exporting had a significant impact on their overall sales. And when it comes to international sales leads, four in five businesses follow up on all leads. Those that don’t follow up indicated that a lack of trust with the prospective customer was their biggest concern.
The survey also found that small- and mid-sized businesses already exporting are looking to further expand globally. Respondents indicated they would most prefer to expand their business in the future to Europe (36 percent), followed by Asia (22 percent) and North America (22 percent).
For small- and medium-sized businesses not yet engaged in global commerce, advice is focused on:
* Taking advantage of the recently created National Export Initiative, which helps small businesses grow overseas business by overcoming common barriers to exporting.
* Working with trusted partners, such as consulates, the U.S. Commercial Service and the Small Business Administration.
* Boosting their online presence to increase visibility with overseas customers.
In addition, companies looking to expand globally should make a long-term commitment as exporting has long-term benefits. The survey found that long-term exporters (those exporting more than five years) say it has had more of an impact on sales growth than those companies newer to exporting, indicating that companies who have committed to making exporting part of their long-term expansion see the most benefit.
Social media: an underleveraged opportunity?
The survey also revealed that despite the entrepreneurial nature of small and medium business owners, they may not be making the most of social media. About one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents said they’ve received sales leads from social media, far behind word of mouth (84 percent), the company’s website (74 percent), networking events (50 percent) and sponsorships or advertising (41 percent). And just 1 percent cited it as the factor that, besides marketing communications, helped their business grow the most.
“Social media is one of the biggest marketing opportunities for small business today; nothing else offers such targeted exposure for such minimal costs,” said Jim Beach, entrepreneur, former University of Chattanooga professor, and co-founder of The Entrepreneur School, an online educational program designed to support the specific needs of entrepreneurs. “Social media offers another venue to access international markets and reach a whole new customer base.”
For complete results of the Business Monitor United States, visit ups.com/businessmonitor/us. UPS also offers tips and resources for small businesses looking to export at pressroom.ups.com/snapshotsforsmallbiz.
UPS (NYSE:UPS) is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain and freight services. With more than a century of experience in transportation and logistics, UPS is a leading global trade expert equipped with a broad portfolio of solutions. Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., UPS serves more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The company can be found on the Web at UPS.com and its corporate blog can be found at blog.ups.com. To get UPS news direct, visit pressroom.ups.com/RSS.
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