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Expanding U.S. Exports Focus of New Commerce Guide

The latest version of A Basic Guide to Exporting includes updated information on identifying new markets and selecting the best finance options, as well as other tips to help businesses take greater advantage of the current boom in U.S. exports.

by Doug Barry

Cover of A Basic Guide to ExportingA Basic Guide to Exporting is a step-by-step manual that covers various topics, including how to identify best overseas markets and financing options and how to create a Web site for selling goods to international buyers. The book contains 17 chapters on the nuts and bolts of the export process, as well as case studies in which owners of mostly small companies share how they’ve profited from international sales. Some of the featured companies are involved in hair care products for pets, senior care, fiberglass houses that withstand tropical storms, medical devices, and machines that use light bursts to purify water. The merchandise may seem ordinary, but not how the companies have increased their sales in the face of slowing demand at home.

“Whether you look to make your first export sale or to expand into new markets, this new edition of A Basic Guide to Exporting provides expert advice and practical solutions for reaching new customers and making sales around the world,” said Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez.

U.S. Exports Continue to Grow

According to Gutierrez, U.S. merchandise exports grew 19.1 percent during the first seven months of 2008, reaching $776.4 billion, which is up from $651.9 billion during the same period in 2007. More than 97 percent of U.S. exporters are small or medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees.

In 2007, there were more than 235,000 exporters, which is up about 4 percent over 2006. Although the number of exporters is growing as more U.S. companies find overseas opportunities too good to resist, the dollar value of U.S. exports is growing at a much faster rate. This also suggests there is ample opportunity for small and medium-sized companies to add to U.S. export growth in value and volume if these companies can take advantage of the opportunities.

Numerous studies indicate that non-exporters would sell internationally if they had more information on opportunities and on the nuts and bolts of how to complete the paperwork, to reduce risk, and to get paid. A Basic Guide to Exporting is intended to fill that information void and to take the exotic and mysterious elements out of exporting.

Advance Praise

Well-known business advocates of increased U.S. exports have also welcomed the book. Frederick Smith, chair of the FedEx Corporation, said, “A Basic Guide to Exporting is a great source for anyone preparing to do business or to increase their sales overseas.” FedEx plans to use the book as a text for a series of nationwide seminars called Exporting 101, which it is hosting with District Export Councils and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

The first edition of the guide was published in 1935, long before the Internet, credit cards, and jet transportation—things that have revolutionized and hugely increased trade between nations. Jamal Quereshi, an entrepreneur born well after the first edition but featured in the new edition, is the owner of a medical equipment company in California. He recommends studying the book and then learning the rest by doing.

“Get out in the world and get a feel for what people want and how they do business,” Quereshi advises. “Opportunities for growth are tremendous, and the risks are very manageable thanks to advances in logistics, banking, and market intelligence for the small company.”

Doug Barry is an international trade specialist in the Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center.

For More Information

Copies of A Basic Guide to Exporting are available at bookstores and can be ordered at The Web site features reviews and sample chapters from the book.


E-Commerce Opens New Markets for Exporters

Since the publication of the 1998 edition of A Basic Guide to Exporting, e-commerce has exploded, offering many new opportunities for exporters. Because of this change, an entirely new chapter, titled “Going On Line: E-Exporting Tools for Small Businesses,” was added to the 10th edition. Here is an excerpt.

Using the Internet to transact business in the global marketplace offers significant advantages to the small or medium-sized company seeking new outlets for its products and services. More than 1 billion people throughout the world have access to the Internet. This presence offers a tremendous potential customer base for the entrepreneur.…

For certain industries, products, and services, going online reduces variable costs associated with international marketing. Tasks such as order processing, payment, after-sales service, marketing (direct e-mail), and advertising on various sites may lower the international market development costs that an enterprise would incur if the firm used conventional “brick-and-mortar” market penetration strategies. You should be aware of one important caveat: although English is spoken in many countries around the world, it is still important to consider using the languages prevalent in the countries targeted in your company’s e-business strategy. The Web site should be designed to reach the widest audience in the languages of that audience.

In the context of the Internet, electronic commerce needs to be viewed beyond the traditional commercial arena. E-commerce affects marketing, production, and consumption. Information gathered from customers through Web stores can be used to customize products, forecast demand, and prepare business strategies.…