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The “how-to’s” of Internet marketing &
Expanding into the US
Raven Bay Wood Products has some
suggestions on how to set up an effective marketing presence on the
Internet and how to expand into the US market.
Companies looking to
export to the US market should become familiar with tariff issues,
such as the softwood lumber countervail, and the possible impact on
use of the Internet in the forest industry continues to grow. To help
companies looking to set up, or improve, their Internet marketing, Bay
Wood Products, a BC-based wood products marketing consulting company,
recently developed a “to-do” list exclusively for Logging & Sawmilling
Journal. And for those smaller companies looking to take their sales to a
higher level and expand into the US market, they have a hit list of the 10
things a company should do before exporting to the US.
10 Key Things To Do Before Exporting
Your Products to the US
- Establish an account with a reliable
customs broker at least a month before your first shipment over the
border. Your customs broker is a valuable source of information about
export regulations and related costs. The broker helps take care of all
the cross-the-border paperwork to ensure that you’re doing things
- Become familiar with any tariff issues
that may affect the cost of exporting your product, e.g. the softwood
lumber countervail. In the wood flooring business, for instance,
flooring made from softwoods must be end-matched (tongue and groove on
all four sides) to meet the requirements for the value-added exemption
to the softwood lumber countervail.
- Keep an eye on the value of the
Canadian dollar versus the US dollar and adjust prices accordingly. Your
financial institution should track this daily. You probably won’t put a
deal on hold because the dollar dropped a few cents, but you should be
aware of the trends and how the dollar is affected by world events.
- Transporting your product to the US
adds significantly to the cost, but you can still be competitively
priced against “local” goods if you explore shipping options. If you
plan to ship a container load or more regularly, establishing a
relationship with one or two shipping companies can help ensure good
rates and reliable service. If you ship packages of materials
sporadically to different locations, some of the online transportation
brokers may provide good shipping rates.
- If you don’t live in a major border
city, getting your product to the nearest one is usually the first step
in transporting it across the border. If your buyer isn’t in a big hurry
for the product, explore whether a local trucker or transportation
company can take your product to a border city as a “backhaul.” Backhaul
means they’re going to drive to the city anyway to pick up goods, so
they may take your product at a really good rate just to have some kind
of load going into the city.
- Communicate with your customer
regularly to keep them posted on how their order is coming. Regular
e-mails and/or phone calls make it seem like you’re not so far away, and
show that you care about their business. help capture the interest of
- Many trade associations have members
in both Canada and the US and have compiled information on import/export
issues that affect their members. If you haven’t already, consider
joining a multinational trade association that covers your products.
- Talk to people at companies that make
similar products and who are already exporting to the US to learn from
their experience. If approached in a friendly way when they’re not
rushing to meet a deadline, most people are actually happy to share
their knowledge and experience.
- Attend a large trade show or two that
includes your kind of products. People at trade shows are there to talk
and many of them will likely have experience exporting products similar
- Unless you are shipping in a container
that you pack and that won’t be opened except by your customer, research
and develop packaging that will protect your product through multiple
loadings and transfers. Be sure to talk to your customer about what kind
of material handling equipment they have, if any, then package your
The web site for
Theden Forest Products (see story on the company on page 30) follows
the guidelines of being graphically simple and using large, good
10 Keys to Success for Internet
- Use your web site to tell potential
customers about your company, your products and how you do business.
Keep it graphically simple and use large, good-quality photos of your
product. Customers won’t be impressed by how many streaming videos and
flashy graphics you have; in fact, sometimes these can get in the way of
allowing the customer to see and learn about your product.
- People like to learn, so
providing educational information about your product and your industry
on your web site can help capture the interest of potential customers.
- Having a web site isn’t
enough—people have to be able to find your site. That means learning how
search engines, such as Google, work and ensuring that you provide the
search engines with the information they need so you show up on a search
conducted through that site.
- Consider advertising with a
couple of the leading search engines. As the Internet grows, a potential
customer’s search can find literally thousands of “hits,” and yours
could be way back in the pack. Paid advertising can put your web site
link in a prominent position.
- Even if you don’t have a web
site, you can use existing Internet marketplaces to promote your
product. Online auctions such as eBay offer a seller-to-buyer
marketplace that’s easy to use and gives you visibility on a national or
worldwide level. Industry-specific product exchanges such as the Lumber
Exchange and the Machinery Exchange on
www.woodweb.com offer more targeted online marketplaces. For a
look at how some forest industry suppliers have set up their sites,
refer to Logging & Sawmilling Journal’s site at
www.forestnet.com and check
out the links.
- Many trade associations have web
sites and online forums that facilitate communication between their
members. Some associations also have classified or online advertising
opportunities through which you can reach their membership.
- Look for complementary and
compatible products that have web sites, then contact the companies and
ask if they’d like to exchange links. If you provide a link on your web
site that takes viewers to their site, and vice versa, you both can
benefit. Plus, some search engines, notably Google, look for linkages in
evaluating the merits of sites for ranking in their search directories.
The more links going to and from your site, the better.
- Don’t forget to promote your web
site on your own printed literature and “traditional” advertising such
as telephone directories.
- You don’t have to do “e-commerce” to
have a web site. However, if you do want to enable customers to actually
buy your product over the Internet, several online payment services such
as Billpoint and PayPal can help simplify online transactions,
especially for purchases under $1,000. For larger purchases, you may
want to consider an escrow service to facilitate the transaction.
- You may never actually speak to some
customers, but don’t forget that communication is still the most
essential sales tool. Use e-mail to respond promptly to inquiries and to
keep customers posted on what’s happening with their order.
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