Increasing the Efficiency of National Export Promotion Programs: The Case of Norwegian Exporters
Weaver, K. Mark, Berkowitz, David, Davies, Les, Journal of Small Business Management
Encouraging exports is a primary concern of most governments. In the United States, the Department of Commerce has many programs devoted to the development and nurturing of beginning exporters. Substantial resources are devoted to export promotion programs designed to increase the propensity of small companies to export. This approach to the stimulation of export sales is similar in many countries.
However, while useful politically throwing monetary resources at a problem can be very wasteful. In the era of government budgetary problems and fiscal frugality, program accountability is part of every politician's and administrator's agenda. In the export promotions sector, the need to spend money wisely has emerged as a key concern.
Traditionally, small and medium-sized firms have played an important role in local economies. However, the role of small and medium-sized firms in international trade is changing. A report by Birch (1988) noted that U.S. firms most likely to be exporters are small, not large firms. More than half of all exporters have fewer than 100 employees.
The purpose of this study is to begin developing a preliminary screening device to help government agencies effectively allocate scarce time and financial resources for support and assistance given to exporters. Previous models of export behavior and success have tested the statistical significance of key variables but do not address this task. In this article, a regression approach is used to assess the relative importance of several variables that have been shown in prior studies to be related to export success. Based on this regression analysis, a weighted checklist is developed to assess a firm's potential for export success. This screening device can help predict how successful firms are likely to be in their export efforts. We do not intend for this model to be the final or only model for screening export candidates. However, it is useful in segmenting candidates in the initial screening process.
Academic research has identified several aspects of the firm which influence export strategy. According to Bilkey (1978), Miesenbock (1988), and Aaby and Slater (1989), the majority of the research has been focused on internal and external influences on the export decision process.
Internal influences to export strategy are characterized by variables over which the firm has control. Many studies have examined the impact of internal influences on the export behavior of firms. Examples include Bilkey (1978), Cavusgil and Nevin (1981), Cavusgil (1984), and Cavusgil and Naor (1987). The latter study examined constructs such as the organization's commitment to exporting, motivation of the firm to export, management capabilities and perceptions of exporting, firm size, and product advantages. We examine each of these constructs in turn.
Commitment of. the Organization. Commitment to exporting has traditionally been of two forms - financial and personnel. To understand the commitment level of the firm, researchers have examined the firm's behavior in gathering foreign market information, hiring and training additional staff, making international visits, learning about exporting procedures and documentation, and financing sales (Cavusgil and Naor 1987). Although research has found that commitment is not always a clearly significant factor in helping to achieve export success, several studies have found that the lack of investment in an infrastructure that supports exporting is a deterrent to achieving export success (Cavusgil and Naor 1987; Cavusgil and Nevin 1981).
Other researchers have looked at the firm's strategy regarding its marketing mix in an effort to determine the firm's commitment to export. Jain (1989) emphasized that it is necessary to modify a product in order to sell it successfully overseas. Cavusgil and Kaynak (1982) suggested that strategies "suitable for modification" included extension of credit, promotion directed at distributors or end-users, and channels of distribution. Finally, Weinrauch and Rao (1974) found that over half of the exporters they surveyed indicated a need to modify marketing mix, with pricing being the most important modification.
Motivation of the Firm. Bilkey (1978) was the first to link motivation to initiation of export sales. His research found that the key motivations for managers to export were long-term profitability secured through diversification and long-term growth. Rabino (1980) also provided support for this position by suggesting that managers consider diversification of markets to be an important advantage of exporting. Hirsch and Lev (1971) suggested that firms are motivated to export in order to make their sales volumes more stable via diversification. Finally, Brooks and Rosson (1982) found that the single most important reason for a firm to begin exporting is excess capacity. Clearly, the motivations for exporting are quite varied. Export motivation may come in many forms, and for each firm be composed of a combination of factors.
Management Capabilities and Perceptions. Cavusgil and Nevin (1981) concluded that variations in export behavior can be explained to a substantial degree by differences in management's characteristics. Important characteristics are type of education, degree of risk aversion, and the international orientation of managers (Cavusgil and Naor 1987). A positive management orientation towards export marketing is directly related to the likelihood that the firm will export (Bello and Barksdale 1986; Cavusgil 1984). Exporters are more likely to be internationally oriented relative to non-exporters (Cunningham and Spigel 1971; Kaynak 1985; Kaynak and Kothari 1984). Likewise, Weaver and Pak (1990) have shown that when compared to non-exporters, higher percentages of exporters have prior experiences in foreign living, foreign travel, and foreign language.
The extent of a firm's experience in the expansion of its domestic market also plays a role in determining the level of its exports. Welch and Wiedersheim-Paul (1980) have argued that experience gained in domestic expansions helps to spur international expansion. Finally, Reid (1981) suggested that educational background and language skills are antecedents of attitudes towards export marketing.
Firm Size. Many researchers have also investigated the relationship between firm size and exporting activity (Bilkey 1978). Firm size has been measured by annual sales volume (Cavusgil 1984; Cavusgil and Nevin 1981) and number of employees (Cavusgil and Naor 1987; Bilkey and Tesar 1977). Some studies have found a positive relationship between size and the decision to export (Burton and Schlegelmilch 1987; Kaynak 1985; Reid 1982; Tookey 1964). Other studies have failed to find this relationship (Bilkey and Tesar 1977; Cavusgil and Naor 1987; Cooper and Kleinschmidt 1985; Czinkota and Johnston 1983). No clear empirical relationship has yet been identified.
Product Advantages. Product advantages generally have been measured by investigating the technological superiority that the product or firm brings to the marketplace. Cavusgil and his colleagues have found that when a firm is aware of its product's superiority, it is more likely to export the product (Cavusgil 1984; Cavusgil and Naor 1987; Cavusgil and Nevin 1981). Likewise, the technological intensity of the industry has a significant relationship to the proportion of output that is exported (Cavusgil 1980; Garnier 1982; McGuiness and Little 1981; Ross 1989). Superior technology in the firm's products is likely to increase the level of exports.
External influences are variables over which the firm has little or no control. Included here are market environment, and the level, type, and amount of government assistance with exporting.
Market Environment. A firm's decision to export may be dependent on either the domestic or foreign market environments. Studies have shown that the current or potential size of the domestic market can have an influence in the decision to export. Rabino (1980) found that large domestic markets inhibit exporting. He argued that larger domestic markets provide enough demand that firms participating in these markets are unlikely to search for new markets. Consequently, good sales and profit potential in the domestic market reduce export intensity (Madsen 1989). Likewise, it can be argued that if the foreign market has greater potential than the domestic market it is likely that the firm will engage in exporting on a greater scale.
In addition to market size, competitive conditions in the foreign market can also play a role in determining export behavior. Ross (1989) argued that perceived competitiveness and size of the market are both important considerations. He argued that in foreign markets major native competitors have the advantage of being well entrenched in distribution channels. In addition they are well known to customers. These advantages are deterrents to a firm wanting to enter the market. In contrast, countries with little competition and high growth opportunities are more likely to be attractive targets (Madsen 1989).
Other considerations for the foreign market environment include tariff and non-tariff barriers to entry, as well as physical and psychological distance from the home country. The greater the tariff and non-tariff barriers the less likely it is that the firm will view the market as attractive (Samli, Still, and Hill 1993). Likewise, the greater the psychological and physical distance from the home market the less likely it is that the firm will view the market as attractive (Buzzell 1968; Davidson 1983).
Government Assistance. Government assistance refers to the policies that a government puts forth to help the exporter conduct international business. Studies have shown that governments can either help or hinder the export process. Typically, they help by providing information, sale leads, tax incentives, insurance, and financing programs. Czinkota and Ricks (1981) and Reid (1984) found that government assistance could stimulate export activity by providing relevant information. Governments can also hinder export decisions via their foreign exchange rate policy. Bauerschmidt, Sullivan, and Gillespie (1985) found that a high U.S. dollar relative to foreign currency was the most important barrier to international activity for U.S. exporters. Similarly, a survey of European managers indicated that a decline in the value of their currency relative to other currencies in foreign markets is an important incentive to international activity (Sullivan and Bauerschmidt 1988). A final issue is the burden of paperwork required placed on exporters; not surprisingly, Axinn (1988) found a negative relationship between the complexity of the paperwork and exporting.
Many researchers have used either propensity to export or export performance as a dependent measure for their studies (Bilkey 1978; Cavusgil 1984). Others have used perceived profitability (Bilkey 1982) or perceptions toward exporting (Brooks and Rosson 1982). Moini (1995) has recently used exports as a percentage of total sales and export growth to examine export performance. Some researchers have looked at "export success" (Suzman and Wortzel 1984; Moini 1995) or perceptions of success (Johnston and Czinkota 1982). (See Cavusgil and Zou (1994) for a summary of export performance measures appearing in the literature.)
Data Collection Methodology
The data for this study were collected using a mail survey instrument. This instrument was an extension of two prior studies based in the United States (see Berkowitz et al. 1995). The survey's items were based on prior research on firm and market characteristics that influence export behavior (as reviewed in the prior section), with emphasis on the recent research of Cavusgil and Zou (1994). A double-back translation technique was used to translate the English-based portion of the questionnaire to Norwegian. The study was pretested on a small number of firms. After pretesting, the initial mailing was made to 2,405 exporting firms provided in a mailing list purchased from Kompass. The Kompass list provides a complete census of all manufacturing firms in Norway that have export experience. Two hundred surveys were returned as undeliverable resulting in a final population of 2,205 surveys. After a second mailing, a total of 697 usable surveys were received (a 31.7 percent response rate). Since the questionnaire was twelve pages long and therefore presented a formidable task for the respondents, this response rate was considered acceptable. To assess non-response bias, responses by the first-wave and second-wave respondents were compared; no significant differences were found in the response pattern (Armstrong and Overton 1977).
Sample Demographics and General Exporting Statistics
A substantial majority of the firms (65.0 percent) had over five years exporting experience; 56 percent had over 20 percent of sales generated out of Norway. The firms are generally quite small; fifty-four percent of respondents had fewer than 20 workers and fifty-three percent had under 20 million Krona in yearly sales (approximately $3 million U.S.). Regarding language abilities, managers were reasonably fluent in several non-Norwegian languages: English (97 percent), German (71 percent), French (18 percent), Spanish (8 percent), and other (6 percent). (This language ability is anticipated to be based on need; a future study will examine the relationship between the countries to which firms export and the language skills possessed by these managers.) Multiple language capability is one of the factors related to management capability (Cavusgil and Naor 1987) and to the ability to communicate in external markets. It is also an indication of a positive management orientation toward international sales (Cunningham and Spigel 1971; and Kaynak 1985). This ability helps reduce barriers to exporting (Kaynak 1985).
In examining reported comparisons of profitability between domestic and export sales, only 17.4 percent of respondents reported that exports were less profitable than domestic sales. With regards to the proactive vs. passive nature of sales efforts, over 84 percent of respondents reported that 40 percent or more of their sales were reorders. Similarly, 63.1 percent reported less than 10 percent of sales were unsolicited. This is in stark contrast to U.S. samples which have reported as high as 65 percent of sales as coming from unsolicited orders (Weaver 1985; Weaver and Pak 1990).
The majority (61 percent) of owner/managers travel outside Scandinavia extensively on business activities (three or more times per year), with 28.8 percent traveling more than six times per year. Further, 38.4 percent of the firms reported three or more trips per year by staff; 61 percent reported at least one trip by staff. Managers reported spending 10 percent or more of their time (5 hours per week or more) on exporting in 61 percent of the firms. Nearly 20 percent reported spending 50 percent or more of their time on export sales. Staff commitment is also high, with 46 percent reporting spending 10 percent or more of their time on exports. This frequency of management and staff travel and the amount of time spent suggest that many of these firms are committed to export markets.
The dependent variable used to represent export success was the extent to which respondents reported that exporting had helped the firm generate profits, measured on the questionnaire by a one-to-five scale anchored by "no help" (1) and "extensive help" (5). As a preliminary screen, the relationships between the characteristics measured via the questionnaire and the dependent variable were tested via one-way ANOVAs. Independent variables that were significantly related to the dependent variable at the 0.05 level based on this univariate screen were retained for the next stage of the analysis. (More details on these results and a correlation matrix are available from the authors.)
The relationship between the remaining explanatory variables and the dependent variable was assessed via stepwise regression analysis. Data requirements for this procedure reduced the sample to 483 observations. The results are reported in Table 1; thirteen independent variables were selected by the stepwise procedure. Table 2 lists the specific questions from the questionnaire that measure these variables. The regression equation explains 70.8 percent of the variance of the dependent variable, adjusted for degrees of freedom. The F value is 90.88 and is highly significant. A histogram of the data, normal probability graphs, and individual plots of the residuals versus the dependent variable were examined and all showed satisfactory fit. The residual plots showed the expected scattered distributions for the residuals. (Contact the authors for more details.) The Durbin-Watson test statistic of 1.924 indicates no significant autocorrelation (Neter, Wasserman, and Hunter 1989). In addition, the correlation matrix indicates that there are few instances of high correlation; only 5 of 91 total correlations between independent variables are greater than .5.
Since our objective is prediction, the signs of the estimated coefficients for particular variables in the estimated regression are of less importance than they would be if the objective were hypothesis testing. However, based on the literature, a positive sign is expected for each coefficient in the regression. This is true for nine of the thirteen variables. The [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] exceptions are: (1) willingness to modify customer service policies for exporting; (2) perception of the financial helpfulness of the Norwegian government; (3) perception of the business value of EC membership; and (4) cost- versus competition-based pricing strategy. (With regard to the latter, a more competition-based pricing strategy and consequently a less cost-based pricing strategy leads to lower profits.)
Application of the Regression Results as a Weighted Checklist
We used the model to produce a weighted checklist for screening potential exporters. In this procedure, the responses of the firm under consideration are used with the Beta values from the regression to produce a score for the dependent variable. In this procedure, the exporter would be asked to respond to the questions representing variables in the equation (see Table 2). Multiplying the individual item responses by their Beta values from the regression and summing them produces a prediction of the value of the dependent variable in the equation. A score of 1.0 indicates poor anticipated export profitability, while a score of 5.0 indicates excellent anticipated profitability.
A hypothetical calculation is provided in Table 3. If a potential exporter responds to the questions with this hypothetical pattern of responses, the resulting value for the equation is 4.2538. This indicates that this potential exporter would most likely experience excellent profitability based on its responses to the thirteen items in the equation. For decision purposes, an extremely low score (1.0 to 2.5) would suggest the exporter is unlikely to add to profitability from export operations based on this model. [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED] [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 3 OMITTED] Assuming funds for support are limited, our hypothetical candidate scoring 4.2538 would be more likely to benefit from support than the candidate who scored a 2.5.
An Alternative Model
While the prior model explains a substantial portion of the dependent variable's variance, many of the explanatory variables it contains relate to past exporting. As an alternative, we performed a regression that does not include any variables that are specifically related to previous export performance. This stepwise regression model included the following variables: the help of exporting with profitability, profitability of foreign sales relative to domestic sales, help of exporting with growth opportunities, and the firm's willingness to modify pricing for exporting. The same dependent variable was used as in the previous model. The results are shown in Table 4. This model was also highly significant (F is 313.188), though the percentage of variance explained was lower. This equation explains 64.4 percent of the variance of perceived help of export sales in contributing toward greater profits.
Governmental units face a substantial problem in allocating money and effort among firms who seek aid for their exporting endeavors. In this study, we [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 4 OMITTED] developed a statistically-based weighted checklist for assessing the likely effects of exporting on the firm's profitability. The purpose of this checklist is to screen candidates for governmental assistance, identify candidates where support would be useful, and consequently more effectively allocate limited public funds. We view this as a advance on the armchair opinions sometimes used for this purpose.
The model's basis in prior research, the relatively large sample size, the relatively high response rate, and the relatively powerful statistical results suggest a high level of confidence in the model. Cautions should be noted, however. First, though the model is intended for prediction, we have not performed out-of-sample validation, choosing to use all data for model development. Second, no single model or equation will ever capture the complete nature of the export process. Responses could change based on unmeasured and unique external factors. Third, our measures of the dependent variable and of many of the independent variables are manager's perceptions, not measures of actual results or conditions. The reliability of the estimated equation is subject to any differences between these perceptions and actual results.
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Dr. Weaver is associate professor of management at the University of Alabama. His research interests focus on the international dimensions of entrepreneurship and strategic alliances.
Dr. Berkowitz is associate professor of marketing at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. His research has been in new product development and global marketing.
Dr. Davies is currently a consultant to growing firms on financial and expansion concerns in London, England. Research interests include outcomes of strategic alliances and international concerns of growing firms.…
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Publication information: Article title: Increasing the Efficiency of National Export Promotion Programs: The Case of Norwegian Exporters. Contributors: Weaver, K. Mark - Author, Berkowitz, David - Author, Davies, Les - Author. Journal title: Journal of Small Business Management. Volume: 36. Issue: 4 Publication date: October 1998. Page number: 1. © 2002 Journal of Small Business Management. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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