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How to locally and internationally expand your import export knowledge and connections

One of the ways I took to learn more about importing and exporting was to serach locally for training and learning classes. I found that the close by community college offered a summer class on the subject of International Trade. I signed up for it and out of attending the class, I got to know the instructor who had just recently formed an non-profit International Trade Association that was focused on providing trade promotion services to intersted businesses. The association was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce and through its business members subscription fees along with few for-fee services.

I joined the association and started attending its monthly meetings. I had the opportunity to get in touch with many business that are either interested in international trade or have been doing it for a number of years. The association also participated in welcoming and meeting with foreign business delegates that came to the area on trade opportunities finding missions.

For where you do business, try to locate such associations especially your local World Trade Center. Most of them offer many opportunities to connect internationally via evens such as:

  • Monthly Breakfast Series which targets trade-specific topics and great networking opportunities.
  • Monthly Lecture Series which are luncheons to promote community leaders and their experiences.
  • Videoconferences to create international connections between WTC members and overseas companies.
  • Trade Missions offering face to face international connections and trade relations.
  • Educational seminars on trade-related issues for beginners and experts.

Similar educational and connections opportunities are also offered through your area's International Trade Association.

Other methods I used to get connected with new manufacturers/suppliers and new customers/importers included:

  • Visiting industry specific trade shows and exhibits. For example; a big part of my exports were in the medical devices and supplies field. I located one of the biggest medical supplies trade shows which was hosted in Atlanta, Georgia. I attended the exhibit to achieve multiple things:
    • Increase my know-how about the industry. The more I understood it, the better I would serve my customers and increase my exports.
    • Increase my sources for medical devices and supplies that I can offer to my international customers.
    • Increase my face to face contacts with the suppliers and manufacturers. Many of those representatives that I met at these trade shows were interested in using my services in getting them connected to my market and exporting their goods.
  • Advertising your services and visits in your import partners local newspapers and magazines. Whenever I was going to travel to a country to visit with some of my international customers, I would advertise in advance about my business and its services and offer those who are interested an opportunity to schedule a meeting between us to consider the opportunities.

Of course the internet offers many free opportunities to learn about importing and exporting and opportunities to connect with international trade partners; but nothing can substitute for the actual experience of learning the business by doing it and connecting with new customers and suppliers on a personal face to face setting that builds trust and long lasting relationships.