Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Skills for Woman Service Exporters: Most Women-Owned Firms Are in the Services Sector. Business Training Can Build the Expertise and Confidence Necessary for These Firms to Export Their Services Efficiently

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Skills for Woman Service Exporters: Most Women-Owned Firms Are in the Services Sector. Business Training Can Build the Expertise and Confidence Necessary for These Firms to Export Their Services Efficiently

Article excerpt

While businesswoman have the potential to supply services across borders, many businesses owned by women in developing countries are not exporting. Often, they do not take advantage of the opportunities open to them because they lack confidence or exporting knowledge--problems that can be solved by obtaining training in the skills they need to export their services successfully.

The most important skill for service exporters--whether male of female--is building trust in their offering. Because services are intangible and a service is not actually created until it is delivered, it is essential for service providers to develop a profile and credibility in new markets. Below, we will explore several strategies to achieve this.

Relationship marketing

Relationship marketing is different from traditional marketing because service providers listen to clients' needs, then shape the service offering accordingly. The goal of relationship marketing is to build trust, out of which sales result. In the case of agricultural or manufacturing exports, customers may see and handle samples or try them out at the trade fairs. Services, however, cannot be inspected ahead of time. Buying services is therefore a risky business for the buyer, who relies predominantly on word-of-mouth referrals. Service exporters need to become the firm that others recommend in the export market. Therefore, exporting in the services sector requires the service provider to establish credibility and gain the trust of potential clients. This can be a lengthy process.

Becoming the recommended firm also requires extensive networking and an understanding of the client's culture. Potential clients need to be confident that firms can actually deliver the services they offer. In fact, word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most important ways in which services are sold, so service providers need to have an excellent reputation among their clients. Therefore, one of the key strategies will be to find ways for potential customers to see how well the business can perform: giving presentations, writing articles and providing informational seminars are all very good.

Networking successfully

To survive in business, it is imperative to develop a strong network of information and referral sources. Businesswomen's organizations and networks play an important role in supporting women exporters and developing international contacts and trade. However, they should not be a substitute for chambers of commerce or mainstream associations, but rather a complement to them.

To be a successful exporter means replicating domestic networking success in a new market. The most efficient way to begin to build international contacts is at events that bring together people with similar interests, such as professional conferences and international seminars.

An important purpose of networking is to encourage people who know the capabilities of the services business to recommend it to others, i.e., to become an advocate. Therefore, the business needs to provide potential advocates with frequent updates on accomplishments, particularly as it expands into export markets, and to alert them to opportunities that would be ideal for the firm.

Networking does not stop with meeting people. For those with a busy travel schedule, follow-through becomes the challenge. Women service exporters need to learn how to develop and use networks, at the local, national and international levels, and how to make and follow up on contacts.

Creating strategic alliances

Firms will need to establish relationships directly with potential customers, rather than relying on local agents. …

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