Throughout my career people have often referred to me as a "data guy." This is only partially true. While not an economist nor someone who likes to get "down and dirty" with data, I am a diehard advocate of data-based decision making. My experience today in the ExporTech program offered by NIST MEP and the US Commercial Service reminded me why data-based decision making is so critical to a company's success in moving beyond their domestic market and venturing into international markets.
Eleven different companies participated in the first day of this three day program that is spread over several months and includes a capstone event of presenting their exporting plan to a panel of ex(porting)perts. What was validated for me today was the importance of data to the decisions of when and where to export their product.
Three basic types of information play a role in the decision. Information about the country being considered, widely available through government and private sector sources. Second is company information about potential partners, suppliers, and distributors, also available through public and private sector sources.
The third type of information is the one most often rushed through by companies considering exporting for the first time or exporting to a new market. That is market competitiveness of understanding competitors, differentiating the product, and understanding the size and depth of the market. Often referred to as the "company's sweet spot" for determining which country is the "best fit" for their product, this is information that should never be overlooked, but often is.
But which country markets are most attractive? Evaluation criteria for this critical question should include: (1) market size and growth trends; (2) pricing, margins, and costs; (3) current opportunities; (4) competition and differentiators; (5) business climate; (6) legal and compliance; (7) and culture, climate, or geography.
It is very interesting to observe the participating companies think through these critical issues. I will be very interested to watch their journey over the next several months as they consider these and other important questions during the meeting, and back inside their companies. I look forward to following their path to new export markets, and learning how they use data and market intelligence to drive these important, strategic decisions.