Have you ever planned an overseas business trip and mistakenly landed during a national holiday; or being unfamiliar with local business culture, found yourself in an awkward situation? Ah, if so, you’re not alone.
Many firms put a high level of effort into preparing snazzy PowerPoints and slick product brochures only to forget one thing: the basic essentials of doing business overseas. So, no matter how much you prepare, there is always the possibility of overlooking some aspects of a country’s business regulations or norms that could impede your success. That’s where the U.S. Commercial Service can assist by helping you do your homework first and avoiding those costly mistakes that could set your company back.
As a trade specialist working with the U.S. Commercial Service in New York City and northern New Jersey, I worked with U.S. businesses on a daily basis, frequently counseling small and medium-sized businesses and helping them prepare to go overseas in pursuit of new export sales. Whether or not they were experienced exporters, I often turned to and recommended a key and familiar resource for the latest market intelligence: the Country Commercial Guides (CCG).
The Premier Source of Market Intelligence
Published by U.S. Embassy staff worldwide, the CCG’s are the premier trusted source of market intelligence, and are now easier to access. Authored by commercial and economic specialists fully focused on finding business opportunities for our U.S. firms, these professionals are in daily communication with overseas businesses, potential buyers and government agencies looking for the latest in quality, made in USA products and services.
In particular, I found the CCG’s especially useful for distant, far-away markets where little English-language market intelligence exists on the internet. Having such unparalleled boots-on-the-ground expertise has made all the difference, as many of my business clients have personally attested. Many have reported that the strategic insight gained led to more informed business decisions such as which markets they should invest in with their limited resources. Other businesses have utilized the CCGs to become well-versed in preparing for those all-important overseas business trips.
Available for 125 markets and broken down by chapter the CCG’s are a great place to begin researching a market—with the A to Z of doing business spelled out in readable format. The new streamlined search format dramatically reduces the time and effort it takes for U.S. businesses to obtain the latest on industry sectors as well as economic overviews, selling techniques, investment climate considerations, trade financing options, and business travel advice and resources. By the end of 2015, the system will enable users to receive dozens of multiple country readouts for specific industry searches.
Country Commercial Guides: Chapter by Chapter
One of my favorite and most widely-used sections is the chapter on Leading Sectors for U.S. Export and Investments, which provides businesses with a quick sense of how much demand there is for U.S. products in a particular industry:
- Take for example, a U.S. exporter of technology used for infrastructure projects. There are many developing markets that are committing resources to build highways, airports, railroads and smart grids to keep up with demand. India’s new government, for example, has proposed a nationwide program to build 100 Smart Cities. A user could find this information by reading India’s CCG best prospect chapter to see what export opportunities exist for infrastructure technology providers in India. There is huge demand in this sector, so much so that our colleagues in India are organizing an executive-led Infrastructure Trade Mission to India in February 2016.
- If you determine India is a good market for your technology, you could then use India’s CCG to research how best to enter the market. Can you sell directly to the Indian government, or would it be more strategic to establish a joint-venture partnership or agent? Before signing any agreements, make sure to familiarize yourself with India’s dispute settlement laws and its record on protecting intellectual property rights in Chapter 6. Since most companies are interested in getting paid, I recommend reviewing the Project Financing and Methods of Payment sections in Chapter 7 to determine options for negotiating payments with your buyers.
- As you prepare for that business trip to India, you might be unsure as to whether a visa is required. Chapter 8 on Business Travel confirms that a visa is required and that the application can now be processed online. Buses are the most common method of transportation in India, but a safer bet is to hire a local driver who will likely have more experience in avoiding the inevitable traffic. Also, before dining on that tasty Tandoori Chicken in Mumbai, browse the section on health tips for eating and drinking in India.
India is but one example of how U.S. businesses will benefit from this streamlined market intelligence. Previously, industry sector snapshots and other critical market entry guidance were buried in large, unsearchable PDF reports for each country. With the improved CCGs, U.S. companies can find opportunities more quickly in popular markets, and access the full scope of global demand for their products in other, often-less crowded markets. Each CCG contains roughly 70 articles, for a total of more than 8,800 for the world.
Greater Search Engine Access
In the new CCGs provides the expertise of our U.S. Embassy colleagues being reintroduced to our clients in smaller portions through phones and tablet and more streamlined search engines. For example, if you are interested in how to use an agent/distributor in Saudi Arabia, you can now go directly to that particular subheading without having to scroll through the entire 100-plus page PDF document on Saudi Arabia’s CCG homepage!
While it doesn’t replace working directly with our U.S. Commercial Service staff worldwide, the CCG’s are full of useful business intelligence that has helped even experienced exporters do business overseas. So before you get on the plane to Rio de Janeiro without that business visa on your passport, take a moment to use the CCG and become a smart traveler.
Visit the U.S. Commercial Service
U.S. businesses can follow up on their market research efforts through the worldwide U.S. Commercial Service network with more than 100 U.S. offices and locations in U.S. Embassies and Consulates in more than 75 markets.
Joel Reynoso is a commercial officer and former international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service in Washington, D.C.