Warm up: Where to find information for analysing target export countries

This training session concludes the “warm-up” part of our orientation programme on internationalisation.

We have provided some initial inputs for proceeding in a systematic manner when structuring an export plan.

I think it is now necessary to sum up a series of sources from which you can derive up-to-date information relating to your business. Get down to the specifics. We have talked about theory but now let’s get our hands dirty in the Web by extrapolating data for our analysis and creating a veritable database.

We can divide information into two large categories:

– Primary information, or data that are processed specifically for one purpose

– Secondary information, i.e. data that are already available through a variety of channels

It goes without saying that the information in the former category is on average more precise but it is also more costly and can take longer to collect.

Secondary information, by contrast, is often free and up to date, especially if you operate in markets that are not specialised niches. Pay a bit more attention to data accuracy if you have to make comparisons between countries and the data sources are different.

That said, let’s see how to break down the sources of information and provide some useful references:

Information related to countries and markets

Since 1989, Assocamerestero, with the contribution of Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad, has been publishing the BUSINESS ATLAS – a guide to business in 54 countries worldwide.

The country descriptions in the Business Atlas provide a concise and functional overview of the main characteristics of different foreign markets, data on trade and the flow of investments, regulatory and legislative aspects, details about the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad and other useful information.

SACE: country information, risk map and export opportunities.

Website of the Italian Trade Agency. You can find free services providing initial guidelines for exporting to a specific country or according to market sector. It also offers custom fee-based services (primary information) created for your product in relation to a given country.

Website of the Central Intelligence Agency (USA), which analyses and keeps track of inflation rates in countries around the world.

Index of Economic Freedom, which enables you to monitor a wide variety of tax, economic and legal indicators.


Specific information for the type of business concerned

Here we will obviously not suggest any specific links that may be useful for seeking information about your sector. Only a few tips on where to find them.

I’d start off by asking the Italian Trade Commission for help. They have contacts with a large number of professionals in an equal number of sectors. Through one of their representatives you can establish a constant link so as to get up-to-date information or set up a direct contact with a colleague based in the target country.

Trade associations. An important opportunity for retrieving primary information given that they represent your business at home and abroad. In this case as well, make a phone call and identify a valid contact person with whom to establish a working relationship. They will be more than happy to intermediate an exchange of up-to-date information between your company and other businesses and associations abroad.

Trade publications and newsletters

Many of these are free. Many others are available at a minimal cost for your company. Once you have identified the right source for you, register and request that publications or updates be sent to you automatically. Create a rule for your email account in order to organise and save them in an intelligent manner so you can consult them when you have the time and need to do so. This is an activity that you should not limit to the analytical phase alone, as it will always be useful to you.

LinkedIn. Create a network! Increase the number of contacts whose profiles match the characteristics of your sector and are inclined toward foreign trade activities. Follow the groups that talk about your business and do not hesitate to interact with them. Ask questions if you need something specific. You’ll find plenty of collaboration!

Information about trade flows

European Commission Market Access Database.

Here you can find statistical information on import-export flows, information about duties and tariffs and indications about the trade barriers in the individual countries you are interested in.

ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics). A source of foreign trade statistics broken down by product category. Both exports from Italy to the rest of the world and between one foreign country and another. This will enable you to identify the countries that import the product you are most interested in.

IHS Global Trade Atlas. An online system for viewing world trade statistics. You can track the importation and exportation of a product on a global level, identify new markets and competitive products, analyse market trends by viewing historical data and find a breakdown of market shares by product and country


Information about competitors and information about companies

The register of the Italian Chambers of Commerce on companies engaging in foreign trade. It enables you to find out whether a competitor exports to a specific country.

Import Genius. By analyzing international cargo manifests you can trace the name of your competitor and find out where they export goods to and to whom (potential customers). Service provided for a fee.

To these we should add signing up for newsletters and registering for the LinkedIn company pages of competitors. In this way you can monitor their activities and developments.

Once again I’d like to stress that this work of selecting and organising the sources of information will enable you not only to retrieve data useful for the phase of analysis but also and above all to keep yourselves up to date as professionals.


That’s all for this training session!

The next focus will be on selecting the methods for entering a market.

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Warm up: Selecting foreign markets

In this training session we’ll take a look at how to plan an analysis of target markets and classify them so we can make an easier and more logical choice.

We should point out first of all that any method or technique used will not exempt the working group from subsequently assessing the data resulting from the analysis within the framework of the company Business Plan. Let’s just say that the market selection method must give an “organized” input into subsequent stages of strategic assessment and always remain open to continual review.

We can identify reactive or proactive inputs to the analysis. The reactive approach is based on previous signs of success of your product: information requests received from potential customers in the area, past sales, competitors’ activities or feedback from existing customers. If you manage to identify trends rather than individual or sporadic events, all the better.

The proactive approach, on the other hand, places an emphasis on analysing factors and indicators that are completely independent of previous performance. Geographical location, macroeconomic data, growth rates for the specific sector, efficiency of the importation channels and the presence of infrastructure, regulations tied to use of the product, etc.

Regardless of your basic strategy, it is important for you to make a first selection of markets. 15-20 target countries that might seem promising for your product.

Using this analytical method will lead immediately to a major benefit: that of encouraging the team to conduct a structured analysis of key factors and get a better knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the product and of the company BEFORE entering a market. This will also let you identify and limit risk factors.

We therefore have to identify the relevant indices and enter them in a matrix that enables them to be classified by priority.

Some suggestions:

– Limit the relevant indicators to no more than 10 or 12. These are more than enough to cream off the best candidates and create a ranking of countries;

– Look for the indicators which express the total size of the target market;

– Prefer quantitative indicators. They are precise. Qualitative indicators are more difficult to catalogue and measure;

– Always enter at least one indicator reflecting the import flows into the individual countries;

– Use the same source to extract information about the countries you are analyzing. That way you will avoid distortions in the definitions and measurement of data;

– Always enter an indicator of the complexity of doing business from the standpoint of market entry methods. Especially if you intend to invest directly. Therefore, the legal, political, financial and fiscal aspects, etc.;

– Enter an indicator that expresses the level of tariff and other barriers.

Now you have to attribute a weight to these indicators and convert the data obtained into a score. Depending on your specific business, some indicators will have more weight than others.

– The weight/importance of the indicators can be expressed using a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being the total of the levels of importance of all the indicators taken into consideration.

– Conversion of data into a score. Use a scale from 1 to 10. Assign 10 points to the country that obtained a value higher than all the others (top indicator). Then calculate as follows:

Country points = (value of each country/value of the top indicator) x 10

Scores of less than 1 point will be rounded up.

Here is an example of a matrix showing a country by country analysis:


How to use the results of the matrix.

As said at the beginning, the results of the analysis should serve as a starting point for discussions, further assessment and verification of consistency with the company’s business strategies.

It is important to compare the results obtained with the company’s organizational structure. Availability of personnel to be sent abroad, language skills, financial resources and tangible opportunities.

It is also worth identifying the points of contact among the listed countries. Are there any similarities that can be exploited as a common factor for approaching a group of countries? Some classic examples: countries located within a geographic area or countries which share the same language or are parties to trade agreements. Common strategies can be devised, so that the choice will fall on some countries in the list rather than others.

Note: in this case as well Project Management has a part to play. It is important to plan these activities within the framework of an “Internationalization Project” which explicitly defines the objectives, human and financial resources, responsibilities, breakdown into phases, time frame and costs.

That’s all for this training session!

The next topic will be: Where to get information for our analysis.

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Warm Up: How to catalogue your products

In this training session we are going to analyze an aspect that may seem to be of a strictly technical-logistical character but can also serve to identify potential markets, complete profit and cost assessments and gauge the competition.

Why should you catalogue your products? And what is the Harmonized System?

In order to get a better idea of the importance of cataloguing exports we can use a very simple example.

Your company has selected a product to export. OK. First step done!

You’ve identified one or more promising target markets. Not bad!

You’ve worked out a method for entering the market and a price policy. That’s good too.

You’ve organized the logistics for transportation and delivery to the destination. We’re almost there!

But what happens if the customs authorities in the country you are exporting to considers your product differently from you? They could unexpectedly classify it using a secondary (in your eyes) feature and consequently apply particularly high customs tariffs. This very often occurs as a means of protecting local industry. Everything would have to change and to do this afterwards would be difficult. The prices have been set and agreements made with the distributors and final customers!

Although such discrepancies between countries may always occur, the Harmonized System (HS) has enabled this problem to be drastically reduced by classifying goods on an international level. In short, a large majority of the countries engaged in trade have decided to describe all goods using 6-digit codes.

The first six digits serve to classify goods in a global, harmonized manner: each country may then further break down these categories of goods under more specific headings. From the seventh digit onwards, the various customs tariffs might differ, but with a minimal or no impact on your activities of analysis.

How to read an HS code.

Example: HS 83.0990

– The first two digits identify the chapter

– the third and fourth the customs heading in the chapter

– the fifth and sixth the statistical position under the customs heading.

Let’s see it applied to a real product. A metal closure for packaging. The classic jar cap.


The HS code is 83.0990, i.e.:

– 83 Miscellaneous articles of base metal

– 8309 Stoppers, caps and lids …

– 830990 Stoppers, caps and lids …., of base metal

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to catalogue your products at first glance and though there are some rules which help to determine the correct HS code it’s always better to consult your logistics department or a transport agency. However, we can use some online tools in order to do a search and start getting some idea:

Agenzia delle Dogane [Italian Customs Agency]:


Free consultation and search by both code and keywords.

Global Trade Solutions


Free trial and consultation for a fee. It offers the possibility of calculating import tariffs and duties based on the HS code, country of origin and destination country.

World Trade Organization


Free consultation subject to registration.

Calculation of tariffs for different countries and statistical analyses of the import-export flows of one or more countries.

Global Trade Information Services


It provides information about the import and export flows of numerous countries, with the option of breaking down goods sector by sector. A subscription fee is charged.

Let’s see a few examples of “exercises” we can do by crossing the information obtained from these sources (but there are also others).

  • A positive import flow of a given product into a market may indicate a growing interest due either to an increase in demand or an inability of local competitors to meet existing demand in terms of quantity or quality. Conversely, a negative trend in importation might signal an increase in local competitiveness or the introduction of laws and regulations that do not favour foreign products.
  • For each product it is possible to draw up a ranking of foreign countries that import most in the market you are interested in. This will let you find out from where competition may come and whether you can be competitive in terms of delivery times.
  • Calculating import tariffs will enable you to start a price analysis and determine the best method of getting into the country.

As you can see, there are several reasons for cataloguing your products and this should be done at the beginning of your analysis. As noted, the product code is always the same irrespective of where you are going to sell it.

In the next training session we’ll see how to select markets!

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Warm Up: Solid financial bases

In this training session we’ll take a closer look at the financial aspects tied to an export project. In the previous section we hinted at some strategies that might be adopted and their implications from a financial standpoint. It is worth mentioning them briefly:

– Direct or indirect entry into the new market

– Time frames for entering one or more new markets

– Sales & marketing strategy

 When you start up an export project, having a solid financial basis does not mean having enough cash to finance your activity… if that were the case, very few companies could afford to export.

Having a solid financial basis means being able to use a financing strategy capable of best supporting penetration into a new market.

So how shall we proceed?

  • Definition of an exhaustive, detailed budget. Identifying the costs to be borne in the start-up phase of the export project is fundamental to ensure that the project is managed efficiently and with due awareness. Constant monitoring of these costs will be necessary in order to verify and correct any deviations from forecasts and thereby avoid incurring unexpected expenses that might affect the company’s “ordinary” cash flow, for which it will be necessary to undertake further unanticipated steps (project revision, recourse to other financial resources, modification of the mechanism of penetration into the new market, …);
  • Clear identification of the expected returns from the export activity. Staying on course with a clear view of the objective to be reached will enable you both to simplify the decision-making process in the various stages of managing the activity and identify the strategy to be adopted in your approach to new customers and the formulation of sales policies. We can identify two common mistakes in the initial stages:
  1. An unstructured, and above all unrealistic approach to analysing the expected return times. The “Best, Base and Worst case scenario” continues to be highly recommended.
  2. Starting off without having properly identified the business opportunities on the different export markets, so that you end up dissatisfied or disappointed, or adopting the wrong approach so that you won’t be able to conclude sales contracts that are strategic for developing this area of business in future years.
  • Identification of the most suitable financial sources on which to rely to start up your export activity. How to finance export activity is a question that has various answers. The company’s financial structure, the project characteristics and the public support offered by the State will all be factors that will guide you to the best choice. A company can consider it more advantageous to turn to on sources (public) that support export initiatives, or better to opt for self-financing, or else rely on bank loans.

 Finally, a brief mention goes to Project Sales Management. When setting up your project team dedicated to exports remember to make sure you have someone from the Finance Department capable of grasping and reflecting on the inevitable changes to plans that will need to be made along the way in different financial scenarios.

The second fundamental ingredient is to set up a flow of information created ad-hoc (in terms of times and contents) and aimed at the member of the company’s top management responsible for overseeing financial activities (typically the CFO).

In the next training session we’ll see how you should classify your products!

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Warm Up: the reasons for internationalizing the company

It’s time to warm up a bit with internationalization!

The reasons to internationalize

Companies very often, yet erroneously, think that internationalization is a process exclusively reserved to large companies. Companies that can afford large and dedicated organizational structures and big budgets. Actually internationalizing a business means developing and customizing a vision that fully involves the entire structure whether it is a small company with a few workers, a company of 500 employees or an industry-leading corporation. It is vital to develop an international vision for the company and bring it forward with conviction! Let us briefly look at some of the potential reasons for developing an international vision, starting with the simplest reasons to then name others that are perhaps less clear but not less important.

Selling in other markets. Starting with neighbouring countries provides the advantage of simple logistics. Perhaps focusing on countries with favourable trade relations. Increasing sales in other markets to take advantage of economies of scale by diluting the costs of the life cycle of a product.

Avoiding or limiting the effect of changes in the domestic market. It may be necessary to find new customers abroad to offset a decrease in the domestic ones. Some markets allow lengthening the marketing period of products that on the domestic market are in the final stage of their life cycle. In some cases it may be profitable to identify new markets with less restrictive laws and regulations that allow an easier sales activity. Many companies are characterized by seasonal sales. Identifying new markets with different sales seasons can help maintain a good level of production and sales for the full year. For companies with products that are technologically obsolescent, it may be a motive to investigate in less technologically developed markets to identify possible interest in these products.

Access to cheaper facilities.  This is only one of the most often cited reason for positioning the company in other markets. Access to lower production costs (e.g. labour costs and raw materials) can be an excellent reason to produce some components abroad and import and assemble them at home. If it is cost-efficient to produce the entire product abroad, it can be considerably profitable to develop a marketing plan to leverage the lower logistics costs in order to reach the company’s target customers. At this point it is important to emphasize the difference in approach between delocalization and internationalization.

These are just a few reasons for internationalization: to boost sales!

But what else can be useful for leading this process to the company? An organization that is open to the global market will also draw strategic benefits because of the interaction with different markets and customers as well as with the competition.

Some of the strategic benefits are:

– Increase the visibility of the company brand

– Increased opportunities for acquiring the latest know-how. The entry into markets that are one step ahead of the technological progress may lead to the acquisition of know-how and keep abreast.

– Competitiveness of the company’s products will increase. For example, the changes to meet the needs of different customers can raise the existing product to a higher level of competitiveness.

– The company’s experience will give impetus to key areas such as Purchasing, Production, Marketing and Sales, Customer Service, Logistics and Cost Control.

In and of themselves, these four aspects lead the company to a higher level of maturity and competitiveness. The experience of global trade creates an invaluable advantage in terms of human resources with more managers who are experienced, motivated and aware. The company that opens to the global market also launches very clear messages to the competitors.

Are you convinced? Shall we start?

In the next chapter we will see how to check the extent to which the company is ready to enter the global market. What to watch for and how to fill possible gaps. Follow us. One training session at a time.




Export Training Lab presentation

The PMC Export Training Lab welcomes you to its Training Lab for internationalization.

From here we will introduce a series of guidelines for companies interested in exploring the foreign trade environment, after which we will do warm-ups in order to be prepared to the field.

A simple training program will whet your appetite for a serious, structured and in-depth study of what is necessary to enable companies to compete globally. Why companies should approach internationalization, what to do to figure out if a company is ready and how to bridge the gaps; which are the markets to choose from and how to evaluate them.

Then there will be training, logistics, financial aspects, trading strategies and much more at the PMC Laboratory:

Warm Up

  • The reasons to internationalize the company
  • Preliminary “check-up”
  • Solid financial footing
  • Classify your products
  • Select the markets
  • Where to find information

Basic training

  • Selection of in the market entry methods
  • Finding partners
  • Evaluation of the cultural aspects
  • International Products and pricing policies
  • Legal Considerations
  • Country Risk
  • Taxation and other administrative aspects

Specific training

  • Logistics
  • Export Documentation
  • Financial risks, payment methods and foreign trade

Final Sprint

  • Paving the path to sustainable growth
  • International marketing, business missions and sectorial trade fairs
  • Internet and foreign trade
  • Sales Management Project

The PMC Coaches are ready. Are you?

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Warm Up: The preliminary check-up

It’s time to warm up a bit to internationalization!

The preliminary check-up

This training session will address the theme of Export Readiness. In other words, to check whether the company is ready to engage in internationalization projects and what may be the macro areas to focus our attention on filling any gaps there may be.

We can identify four essential conditions.

The Business Commitment, i.e. the will and need to clearly and consistently establish an internationalization process that involves a large number of corporate functions and departments.

The support of the management means being able to rely on the timely availability of resources and a clear sharing of objectives by all company departments that will not withdraw their support at crucial moments.

The involvement of the management also allows an immediate clarification of the objectives, priorities, budget parameters and risk levels accepted for the project. This will minimize misunderstandings or divergent expectations.

Adequate involvement also impacts human resource management. New resources can be dedicated to the project, using outsourcing experience (e.g.: a temporary export manager) or levels of internal HR assistance and training.

Extensive experience regarding product and services

To prepare a foreign market development plan, it is important to start with the basics of the experience acquired by the company; therefore the activities carried out in the domestic market.

Now we can better understand why this is true.

– Who are the users of the products/services and why these users need these particular products/services? Answering this question helps to identify possible reference markets and changes to be made to the product/service.

– What are the competitive advantages of the company? Quality, price, characteristics, technology level, brand and image of the product and service offered to the customer. Answering this question helps identify target markets and establishes the marketing approach.

– What are the sales methods: through agents, distributors or directly to the end customers? Answering this question helps to identify target markets and establishes a method for entering those markets.

It is hard to believe that a company can face the international challenge if it does not already have solid experience and a position on its reference market.

The capacity to provide products and services from an international perspective

This aspect is often underestimated but it has a great impact on the company. Is the product / service suitable for a new foreign market? Does it meet local laws and regulations? Is it easy to use for users who probably do not speak your language?

These are some of the aspects that must be taken seriously to avoid a loss of sales due to a product that is not ready for the target market. Company departments such as R&D and Customer Service must be involved to check for any changes (low-cost) to align the product/service with market expectations. The Production Department too must do its homework. Are they able to shoulder a potential increase in production? To what extent can these departments maintain production increases in relation to new orders from foreign markets? Even in this case it is crucial to calculate all possible scenarios.

Adequate economic coverage

Do you have the resources needed to cope with an internationalization plan? The question is legitimate and desirable if you seriously want to prepare such a project. The answer is not always the same for all projects.

The amount of funding will depend primarily on the strategy adopted and the opportunities identified. If you decide to approach the market directly, more resources will be required than those of an indirect entry (e.g. through distributors). The time frames set to enter one or more markets will have an impact on the budget to be allocated: the more aggressive you are in the entry to the market, the more resources you need.

It is important to maintain control of the allocations and balance them with the profit expectations considering the impact they will bring to the company in the medium to long term.

This aspect will be dealt with in detail in the next training session. We are talking about the “foundations” of each company project, whether it is domestic or international. A correct evaluation, constant monitoring and readiness to implement the necessary actions are vital to the sustainability of the business and its success.

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