Why is exporting so hard?

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Why is exporting so hard?

Or more importantly, why do businesses struggle to wrap their heads around the concept of exporting, creating a perceived barrier to entry?

The Ivany Report; the One Nova Scotia Coalition; the Province of Nova Scotia and Government of Canada; each has long advocated the merits of exporting, whether that be out of province or out of the country.  Consider the tremendous trading partner just south of us, with a market opportunity 10 times that of the Canadian market.

For those more committed to more global expansion, there’s CETA (The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) – the world’s second-largest market (incidentally, China was the world's largest economy, producing $21.3 trillion in economic output; the European Union was second with$19.2 trillion; and the United States was third, producing $18.6 trillion). The world's three largest economies, combined, produced $59 trillion - that's almost half of the world's total economy!  So, how do you like the thought of exporting now?

Exporting is just good business.  In terms of wealth creation, export brings new dollars into Nova Scotia (or Canada) that can be re-invested into plant and equipment, hiring, skills development, innovation and R&D.  Oh, and the profits - which are even better when you're bringing in premium US dollars, or Chinese Yuan.

I have been working in export markets since my start in marketing in London, England, with heavyweights like Kraft General Foods, Unilever, and Rolex.  Those organizations didn't really see what they were doing as exporting, but more so, about serving the global market.  In todays’ day and age, when we can actually buy, ship and deliver any product from the other side of the world on our smartphone, why is it that we think that exporting is so difficult?

It’s not necessarily an ‘easy’ undertaking, but look at the success we’ve had in Nova Scotia with: 

  • lobster, crab, seafood and seafood by-products
  • Christmas Trees, lumber and paper products
  • tires, natural gas, frozen fruit, plastics and gypsum

Look at trail blazing companies like Clearwater, (Surette) Rolls Battery, Velsoft, and more recently Proposify, Carbon Cure and Kinduct Technologies.  

Here are a few things I learned, that might help with taking the first step:

1.    Understand that there are plenty of people and businesses out there, beyond our borders, that look, act and behave the same as your current customers.

2.    Nova Scotian products and services are exported all around the world.  We can and do compete with the best.

3.    Export Markets are closer than you think.  A two hour drive from Halifax, gets you to the export market of New Brunswick.  A two hour flight gets you to Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto or Boston, New York and Philly.  Overnight couriers bring a lot of countries closer. 

4.    Critical infrastructure may already exist to get your products to market.  Logistics and supply chain management are real growth industries, as the world continues to shrink.  Just ask UPS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCh6HnXHKRc

5.    People buy from people they like.  Make no mistake - people like us, and respect us in Nova Scotia.  We’re very likeable.  Could be our honesty.  Our humility.  Our listening skills.


Where do you start? 

In a recent survey, 74% of business buyers told Forrester Research they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.  Make sure your business is ‘open for business’ on the web.  

There are some great resources through NSBI and ACOA, as well as access to other companies that have blazed the trail before you.

Just one new customer in Des Moine, Boston or Kitchener makes you an exporter, and provides a good beachhead in a new market (any chance of a referral?).

Don't be afraid to experiment, and we’ll see you ‘out there’.