Skip to main content
Business LibreTexts

6.5: The stages of going international

  • Page ID
    21368
    • jburnett.jpg
    • Contributed by John Burnett
    • Sourced from Global Text Project

    Earlier in our discussion on definitions, we identified several terms that relate to how committed a firm is to being international. Here we expand on these concepts and explain the rationale behind this process. Two points should be noted. First, the process tends to be ranked in order of "least risk and investment" to "greatest involvement”. Second, these are not necessarily sequential steps, even though exporting is apparently most common as an initial entry.

    Firms typically approach involvement in international marketing rather cautiously, and there appears to exist an underlying lifecycle that has a series of critical success factors that change as a firm moves through each stage. For small and medium-sized firms in particular, exporting remains the most promising alternative to a full-blooded international marketing effort, since it appears to offer a degree of control over risk, cost, and resource commitment. Indeed, exporting, especially by the smaller firms, is often initiated as a response to an unsolicited overseas order–these are often perceived to be less risky.

    Exporting

    In general, exporting is a simple and low risk-approach to entering foreign markets. Firms may choose to export products for several reasons. First, products in the maturity stage of their domestic lifecycle may find new growth opportunities overseas, as Perrier chose to do in the US. Second, some firms find it less risky and more profitable to expand by exporting current products instead of developing new products. Third, firms who face seasonal domestic demand may choose to sell their products to foreign markets when those products are "in season" there. Finally, some firms may elect to export products because there is less competition overseas.

    A firm can export its products in one of three ways: indirect exporting, semi-direct exporting, and direct exporting. Indirect exporting is a common practice among firms that are just beginning their exporting. Sales, whether foreign or domestic, are treated as domestic sales. All sales are made through the firm's domestic sales department, as there is no export department. Indirect exporting involves very little investment, as no overseas sales force or other types of contacts need be developed. Indirect exporting also involves little risk, as international marketing intermediaries have knowledge of markets and will make fewer mistakes than sellers.

    In semi-direct exporting, an American exporter usually initiates the contact through agents, merchant middlemen, or other manufacturers in the US. Such semi-direct exporting can be handled in a variety of ways: (a) a combination export manager, a domestic agent intermediary that acts as an exporting department for several noncompeting firms; (b) the manufacturer's export agent (MEA) operates very much like a manufacturer's agent in domestic marketing settings; (c) a Webb-Pomerene Export Association may choose to limit cooperation to advertising, or it may handle the exporting of the products of the association's members and; (d) piggyback exporting, in which one manufacturer (carrier) that has export facilities and overseas channels of distribution handles the exporting of another firm (rider) noncompeting but complementary products.

    When direct exporting is the means of entry into a foreign market, the manufacturer establishes an export department to sell directly to a foreign film. The exporting manufacturer conducts market research, establishes physical distribution, and obtains all necessary export documentation. Direct exporting requires a greater investment and also carries a greater risk. However, it also provides greater potential return and greater control of its marketing program.

    Licensing

    Under a licensing agreement, a firm (licensor) provides some technology to a foreign firm (licensee) by granting that firm the right to use the licensor's manufacturing process, brand name, patents, or sales knowledge in return for some payment. The licensee obtains a competitive advantage in this arrangement, while the licensor obtains inexpensive access to a foreign market.

    A licensing arrangement contains risk, in that if the business is very successful, profit potentials are limited by the licensing agreement. Alternatively, a licensor makes a long-term commitment to a firm and that firm may be less capable than expected. Or, the licensee may be unwilling to invest the necessary resources as needed to be successful. Licensing may be the least profitable alternative for market entry. Scarce capital, import restrictions, or government restrictions may make this the only feasible means for selling in another country.

    Franchising represents a very popular type of licensing arrangement for many consumer products firms. Holiday Inn, Hertz Car Rental, and McDonald's have all expanded into foreign markets through franchising.

    Joint ventures

    A joint venture is a partnership between a domestic firm and a foreign firm. Both partners invest money and share ownership and control of partnership. Joint ventures require a greater commitment from firms than licensing or the various other exporting methods. They have more risk and less flexibility.

    A domestic firm may wish to engage in a joint venture for a variety of reasons; for example, General Motors and Toyota have agreed to make a subcompact car to be sold through GM dealers using the idle GM plant in California. Toyota's motivation was to avoid US import quotas and taxes on cars without any US-made parts.

    Direct investment

    Multinational organizations may choose to engage in full-scale production and marketing abroad. Thus, they will invest in wholly owned subsidiaries. An organization using this approach makes a direct investment in one or more foreign nations. Organizations engaging in licensing or joint ventures do not own manufacturing and marketing facilities abroad.

    By establishing overseas subsidiaries, a multinational organization can compete more aggressively because it is "in" the marketplace. However, subsidiaries require more investment as the subsidiary is responsible for all marketing activities in a foreign country. While such operations provide control over marketing activities, considerable risk is involved. The subsidiary strategy requires complete understanding of business conditions, customs, markets, labor, and other foreign market factors.

    US commercial centers

    Another method of doing business overseas has come in the form of US Commercial Centers8.. A commercial center serves the purpose of providing additional resources for the promotion of exports of US goods and services to host countries. The commercial center does so by familiarizing US exporters with industries, markets, and customs of host countries. They are facilitating agencies that assist with the three arrangements just discussed.

    US commercial centers provide business facilities such as exhibition space, conference rooms, and office space. They provide translation and clerical services. They have a commercial library. They have commercial law information and trade promotion facilities, including the facilitation of contacts between buyers. sellers, bankers, distributors, agents, and government officials. They also coordinate trade missions and assist with contracts and export and import arrangements.

    Capsule 12: Review

    1. International marketing involves the firm in making one or more marketing decisions across national boundaries.

    2. The debate between standardization versus customization of the international marketing strategy is unsettled; best to consider on a case-by-case basis.

    3. There are many reasons to enter an international market led by large market size and diversification.

    4. There are also several reasons to avoid entering international markets, including too much red tape, trade barriers, and transportation difficulties.

    5. The stages of going international are as follows: exporting, licensing, joint ventures, direct investment, US commercial centers, trade intermediaries, and alliances.

    Trade intermediaries

    Small manufacturers who are interested in building their foreign sales are turning to trade intermediaries to assist them in the sale and distribution of their products. These entrepreneurial middlemen typically buy US-produced goods at 15 per cent below a manufacturer's best discount and then resell the products in overseas markets. These trade intermediaries account for about 10 per cent of all US exports9.. The trade intermediary provides a valuable service to small companies, which often do not have the resources or expertise to market their products overseas. The trade intermediaries have developed relationships with foreign countries; these relationships are time-consuming and expensive to develop.

    Alliances

    Heineken, the premium Dutch beer, is consumed by more people in more countries than any other beer10. It is also the number-one imported beer in America. Miller and Budweiser, the two largest American beer producers, have entered into global competition with Heineken, partly because the American beer market has been flat. They are doing so by forming alliances with global breweries such as Molson, Corona, and Dos Equis. Heineken has responded to the challenge, heavily promoting products such as Amstel Light and Murphy's Irish Stout. Heineken has also begun developing an alliance with Asia Pacific Breweries, the maker of Tiger Beer.