OER-CRAFT

Basics of market analysis for internationalization & competitiveness

MA_C_1  

 Title:
Basics of market analysis for internationalization & competitiveness
 Keywords
market analysis, customers, competition, trends, barriers, partners, support, online tools, localization, language, brand name, references, reviews
 Author:
Comenius
 Languages:
English
 Objectives/goals:
At the end of this course you will understand basic principles, steps and benefits of market analysis. You will be able to execute own market analysis, or identify and approach available support services on European Single Market. You will be able to analyse your potential foreign markets (i.e. understand main trends, demand, competitors and prices) using available online tools. You will be able to understand localization, its levels and options, will learn dos and don’ts of successful localization, and understand role of country brand name. You will be familiar with good practices how to earn references, boost customer reviews, improve your credible and trustworthy online image, and build an outstanding seller profile on online marketplace. You will be familiar with process how to select partners in foreign markets to support your business internationalization and competitiveness.

 Description:
In the part of the course devoted to key principles and basic steps of market analysis you will learn the basics and benefits of a market analysis, a simple to-do list for performing your own market analysis, and where to find help and support for foreign market analysis on European single market. While you usually know your local market and customers quite well, sometimes even personally, expanding the scope of the business to foreign markets is a completely different story. Decision on whether and how to enter any foreign market should be based on understanding the industry and target market, competitors and regulations. You can obtain such information through market analysis.  
In the part of the course devoted to using online tools for market analysis you will learn about selected available free online tools and techniques that can be used for market research and analysis when exploring potential foreign markets for your products. The tools and techniques have been selected from the variety of existing options to best fit the needs of arts & crafts microbusinesses. A good knowledge of potential foreign markets can help you to understand main trends, demand, competitors and prices on the foreign market, and adjust your entry strategy accordingly. As you are very likely to use online channels to reach Europe-wide market, online tools are very relevant for your market analysis needs. First we will start with overview of available online tools and resources, after that you will learn how to use them through market analysis steps, and finally you will learn some technical tips and hints.
In the part of the course devoted to thinking locally on foreign markets you will learn what are the levels and options of localization, several  advices on how to approach localization of your product, as well as insights how to handle strengths and limitations set by your country brand name. Adjusting your product to local market (i.e. localization) is always an issue when considering the foreign market entry strategy. On one hand, as your each individual product is usually unique, you are generally easily able to adjust them without high investment needs. However, on the other hand you may sometimes find out that your product as such is not suitable for the foreign market, particularly due to cultural reasons. 
In the part of the course devoted to building customer trust and earning references you will learn how to build customers trust and earn references among your future customers on your target foreign markets when exporting your products. One of the barriers that arts & crafts microbusinesses, as well as any other businesses, face when entering a foreign market is lack of trust and related worries of local customers. Fortunately, there are some good practices that can help you to overcome such barriers to certain extent. These include advices to obtain references and reviews from customers, and establish a credible and trustworthy image on the market. Also, standing out from the crowd and being a visible seller on online marketplace can help you in this effort.
In the part of the course devoted to looking for partners on foreign markets you will learn about finding your partners in foreign markets that bring your product to end users. A good partner is one of the key drivers to success in your target market that can help you to grow your business. There are a few steps you should apply in process of looking for partners: 1. Choose one from various approaches, or their combination, that can be used in process of using partners in abroad. Selection each of them depends on your exporting strategy, your expertise/how good you are in doing business abroad and effort and resources you want to devote to this activity. 2. Select ways (techniques, strategies) how to find partners and make contacts with them. 3.Once you identified your partners the next step is to qualify them by reputation and financial position to check them before entering into any agreements. 



 Course contents:

 Module 1 - Basics of market analysis for internationalization & competitiveness

UNIT 1 - KEY PRINCIPLES AND BASIC STEPS OF MARKET ANALYSIS

Clic to read  WHAT IS MARKET ANALYSIS?



Market analysis, in simple words, studies the attractiveness and the dynamics of a special market within a special industry. Understanding how the potential foreign market works and what customers want is very important. Findings from the market analysis should help you identify where to focus your efforts and how to maintain a competitive edge. Your market analysis should include an overview of your industry, a look at your target market, an analysis of your competition, and any regulations you’ll need to comply with. Market research will help you understand your customers, familiarise yourself with the competition and get to know what people are prepared to pay for your product or service.
Analysing potential foreign market can be generally divided into points to five key steps: 
1. deciding the questions you need answers to, 
2. deciding what information you need to collect in order to answer those questions, 
3. deciding how youre going to collect the information, 
4. how youre going to analyse it, and 
5. what youre going to do with the results.

Market analysis should provide understanding about the following issues:
A. Industry description and outlook – What is the current state of the arts & crafts sector in the target country overall and where it’s headed? What is the market size? What are the current trends? In which life cycle stage the market is, and what is the projected growth? 
B. Target market - While the scope of the previous section of your market analysis was rather general, the next step has to be specific. You need to establish a clear idea of your target market before you decide whether to enter or not. Lot of businesses think that everyone is their potential market, but, in fact, they are definitely not. By narrowing in on your real customers, you will be able to direct your market entry efforts and limited resources and capacity more efficiently. The target market section of your market analysis should include the following:
o Customer persona and characteristics: You will want to include demographics such as age, income, and location here. Moreover, you will also need to think of your customers’ psychographics as well. This means understanding their interests and buying habits, as well as being able to explain why you are able to meet their needs.
o Market size: Try to estimate how much your customers on your target foreign market spend annually on your product category. This will tell you the size of the potential market for your products. Make sure you want to get real here. To do so, you also need to find out who and where your competitors are.
C. Competitive analysis – Deep understanding of your competitors is important for a couple of reasons. Obviously, you would like to know who are you going to compete with, but it also helps you to unveil competition’s weaknesses. Are there customers on your target market that are underserved? What can you offer that similar arts & crafts makers are not offering? The competitive analysis part of your market analysis should contain the following components:
o Market: Who are your main competitors? Are there also any secondary competitors who could impact your business?
o Competitor strengths and weaknesses: What is your competition good at? Where are their weaknesses? Try to look for opportunities to outperform competitors in areas where they are falling short.
o Barriers to entry: What are the potential pitfalls of entering your target foreign market? What are the cost of entry? Can anyone enter the market?
o Window of opportunity: Is the entry into your target market time-sensitive? Are there particularly favourable times in the year to enter? Is there an opportunity to get in early to take advantage of an emerging market?
D. Regulations - Are there any specific regulations or restrictions on your target foreign market? If so, what are they and how you are going to comply with them? What is the cost of compliance?

Clic to read  BENEFITS/INFORMATION PROVIDED BY MARKET ANALYSIS?



Market analysis is an important step when considering to enter a new market, especially if this is a market in a foreign country. By conducting a market analysis, you will be able to gather valuable data that will help you get to know your customers, determine appropriate pricing, and figure out your competitors’ vulnerabilities. Determining the characteristics your potential target market and analysing this information will help you make decisions whether and how to enter.
Please be aware that nothing is black or white. Always assess the value of information that could be potentially obtained through market analysis for your business, and act accordingly. If extensive own market analysis is too time- and cost-consuming compared with your sales prospects or ambition, you may look for other solutions.
Market analysis will help you to find the answers to the following most frequent questions asked by arts & crafts makers when considering entering foreign markets:
o Where can I find information on the target foreign market?
o How am I different from competitors on that market? What are my advantages and disadvantages? What are my unique features?
o Is there anyone offering the similar product?
o Can I succeed against my competitors?

Clic to read  WHAT IS AN ENTRY STRATEGY? WHAT ARE THE MAIN STRATEGIES?



You can enter foreign market in different ways that are generally called entry strategies. The most suitable entry strategies for arts & crafts microbusinesses to enter the foreign market are:
o Direct export means selling your products on foreign markets without intermediaries. You either sell directly to your customers (consumers or retailers), or you find a local distributor who will purchase your products and resell them to local wholesalers or retailers.
o Indirect export means selling your products through domestically based export intermediaries. You can approach an intermediary who collects products and takes further care on their export. In some countries, organizations that pool traditional folk arts & crafts makers may work in this way.
o Using online channels is a way of export where country boarders or physical distance play very little role. You can either use your e-shop or social media profile to communicate with customers in any country you are able to ship to, or you may use online marketplaces and platforms (universal or specifically focused on arts & crafts products). Marketplaces and platforms work internationally (or even globally) as well as locally. In the second case, make sure platforms accept sellers from foreign countries.

Clic to read  THREE MAIN OPTIONS FOR PERFORMING A MARKET ANALYSIS



There is no single best way how to perform the market analysis. Everything depends on many factors, such as available resources, skills and experience, aspirations on the foreign market, nature of the foreign market, and actual value of the required information for your business. After you consider these factors, you have three basic options:
1. Performing own market analysis
2. Relying on partners or trade intermediaries
3. Using available support services in European Single Market

Clic to read  RELYING ON PARTNERS OR INTERMEDIARIES



One of the best methods to enter a foreign market is to partner with someone in that country. Such partners usually know the country, culture and attributes of a local market, and can facilitate transactions while keeping you current on local market conditions.
There are some characteristics of a good partner that you should look for. A good partner helps you to achieve your goals on the foreign market, such as market access or cost sharing. A good partner is also unlikely to try to exploit the partnership for his own benefit.
Selecting a good partner is not easy, but there are some basic steps that should help you. Start with collecting as much information as possible on the industry and potential partners on the foreign market. You can use official sources of information, other arts & crafts makers doing business in that country, or even customers of the potential partner (e.g. through references). After identifying potential partners, approach them and discuss the idea and details of partnership several times before any commitment is made.
Besides partnering with a foreign partner, you might also establish partnership with domestic export intermediary, who will take care of exporting your product and related market analysis.
More information and instructions will come in the training fiche dedicated to looking for partners on foreign markets.

Clic to read  USING AVAILABLE SUPPORT SERVICES



Regardless of the craftsmen’s language skills there are freely accessible basic information on the European Single Market and the possibilities of establishing themselves in their native language. These are usually provided either by the European Commission directly or its representations in the respective countries. The European Commission has developed a number of easy to use on-line tools to help European citizens find the required information and the responsible institutions that may provide further assistance.
One of such tools is called the “YourEurope“ portal http://europa.eu/youreurope/. This portal amongst information about life and travel in the European Union has also a detailed section dedicated to doing business in the EU. It is mostly suited to gain a basic picture on the targeted countries, the legal steps required to establish oneself on a given market and last but not least a list of contact details to several support networks of the European Commission. The portal is structured so that it provides all the basic information on starting a business or its expansion on other EU markets and is divided to several topics, including selling abroad, VAT & customs etc.
Other such on-line tool is the portal of Points of Single Contact http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/eu-go/, accessible also in all languages, which helps you to explore new business opportunities or to expand your business in another EU country. Or if you are planning to set-up a new business at home.
You may also find support for your market analysis in Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Its experts provide advice on market opportunities to help small businesses (craftsmen included) expand internationally. The network thanks to its local insight and various associated partners can cut through the complexities of international expansion by providing practical advice, targeted market intelligence and personalised support. These information are provided either through educational events and workshops or on an individual basis based on an assessment of the clients needs via individual consultations. Advisory services include:
o Practical advice on doing business in another country
o Targeted market intelligence
o Information on EU laws and standards
o Advice on intellectual property
If you are interested to make use of the advisory services provided by EEN you can do so in your native language by contacting your local Network office. List of all EEN members can be found under: http://een.ec.europa.eu/. 
And what is the best, all EEN services are provided free of charge.

Clic to read  PERFORMING OWN MARKET ANALYSIS



Basic steps of market analysis
1) Trends and lifecycle of your industry
Try to identify the main trends related to your potential market for arts & crafts products in the foreign country. Here are some questions you may want to answer: Is the online sales increasing, or do customers stick to traditional channels, such as local shops or traditional makers fairs? Which products are selling well? Are customers open to buying foreign products, or do they prefer local producers? Are the products offered on the market based more on traditional folk arts & crafts, or more fancy and universal? What fashion trends are now rising?
2) Estimate market size
Estimating market numbers is probably not the most enjoyable part of the market analysis. However, it truly helps to you to get a basic understanding of how big the potential foreign market is, and whether it is big enough to start a profitable business there. Usually, it is more art than science, but there are two basic rules to follow: 1) always look for numbers from reliable sources (e.g. statistics from government or private sources, objective figures from online marketplaces etc.); and 2) stay conservative.
Try to estimate the following numbers:
o Total market: How many customers want/need the product or product category you plan to offer? How large is the market in terms of sold units or sales? Of course, getting to a reliable number you can be tricky. The general common sense approach is to find a basic number (e.g. total number of customers who do shop online, if we speak about online marketplaces) and then step-by-step break the basic number down using your customer groups attributes.
o Serviceable market: How many customers can I reach with the sales channels I am considering to use (e.g. online marketplaces, partners etc.)? This number is for you, in fact, an actual number of customers in the respective market.
o Target market: How many customers do I actually want to sell my products to within the first year on the foreign market? This is a proportion of the market you want and can reach with your products.
Also, try to estimate what is the growth rate of your total and serviceable markets. Put simple, is the number of customers growing? Is spending on arts & crafts products in general, or specifically on your product category increasing?
3) Understand your customers
To understand your customers, you need to clearly identify what type of customer you are targeting, and what are their trends. Be sure to include figures and predictions for future.
There are two primary aspects to any customer analysis, a demographic profile and a behavioural analysis. Demographic profiles break down customers into age, income, geographic and other easily identifiable categories. A behavioural analysis in its simplest form identifies the reasons customers choose to buy a product instead of the other alternatives, their interests and buying habits.
Generally, there are three main ways to understand your customers better. One is to put yourself in their shoes and try and look at your business from their point of view. The second way is to collect and analyse secondary data to define your customers and their buying behaviour. The third way, suitable for already established businesses, is simply to ask your customers what they think.
After you understand basic demographic and behavioural attributes of your customers, you can better target your marketing plans and be sure that your products meet the needs of your intended audience.
4) Look at your competitors
The aim of this part of your market analysis is to understand who you are competing against. Here, you want to explain your competitors? positioning and analyse their strengths and weaknesses.
Be careful about statement like “there is no competition”. It is really uncommon to be in a market without competitors. If you really believe there are no competitors, ask someone to search for you. If you still don?t find any competitors, there might be logical explanation - maybe you are targeting a market that is not feasible for such products.
Don?t be afraid of competition. Even if there are a many competitors and you the market is fragmented, it can be a good news for you: you are probably offering a product that is really wanted by your potential customers. Here, you need to consider whether you can find your competitive advantage in such market or if it is too crowded or too late to enter.
Be aware that in addition to direct competitors you also need to consider your indirect competition. E.g. if you are producing handmade artistic glass cups, you may also look at plastic designer glasses of ceramic cups as your competition.
To systematically analyse your competitors, follow these basic steps: 1) find at least 5 competitive products/arts & crafts makers and explore their websites/offerings, 2) write down important aspects of their offers, 3) if you come across any indicator of their customer base or number, write it down as well.
5) Consider barriers to entry
In this step you would like to learn whether there are any barriers that may prevent you from entering the market. Typical barriers to entry foreign markets usually include:
a) Physical (i.e. geographical) distance - Do I have capacity to serve the market from my home country? Am I able to ship to the selected market?
b) Psychological distance - culture, language- Is my product culturally acceptable? Isn’t it specific for my home country only? Can I speak the local language? Do enough of my potential customers speak any international language that I can use?
c) Economic barriers - Do I have access to distribution channels? Can I offer competitive price (including shipping costs)?
d) Legal issues - European Single Market should put no limitations to free movement of goods. However, some local legal requirements or rules (e.g. terms of service of online marketplace) that you need to comply with may occur.
Consider the above mentioned barriers. Are they relevant for your potential foreign market? If so, how would you try to overcome them?
6) Look at regulations
In this step you need to make sure you understand the main regulations related to trading on the foreign market. If you plan to use an online marketplace, make sure you are familiar with its terms of service, as these are important regulations for you as well.
More information on regulations will come in the training fiches dedicated to basic legal and regulatory implications to tap into the EU Single Market.
7) Useful tips and tools for conducting a market analysis
Does the market analysis seem too complicated? Don’t worry and remember that good access to information and common sense to analyse them is usually all you need. Here you can find two tips for your market analysis:
o Try to look for experience and references among your peers (arts & crafts makers) on your home market - check discussion forums on relevant websites or platforms (e.g. makers sometimes share their experience with exporting their products, or look for advices that you might be interested in).
o Use free but powerful online tools and techniques to get useful information on market size, trends, customers or competitors (More information and instructions will come in the training fiche dedicated to using online tools for market analysis).



UNIT 2 - USING ONLINE TOOLS FOR MARKET ANALYSIS

Clic to read  ONLINE TOOLS AND RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR MARKET ANALYSIS



Market research is a key component to any business’ growth and success. Without it, you may easily waste time, energy, and resources hoping that your product and message is reaching the right people in the right way at the right time. Nowadays, online technologies play a crucial part in the foreign market analysis for microbusinesses, not just because it is the only way to truly collect and analyse required data, but also because many consumers are using the internet and social media to search, purchase, and review arts & crafts products and makers.
You can use the following main categories of online tools and resources to obtain some insights on potential foreign markets:
o Online marketplaces - online marketplaces are traditional places where people offer and buy arts & crafts product. They can be grouped into several categories. First, in each country you can find local marketplaces specialized on arts & crafts items, as well as local generic marketplaces where all sorts of products are traded. Second, there are plenty of international online marketplaces specialized on handmade and arts & crafts items (such as Etsy or Dawanda). See some of the resources from bibliography below, or Google “arts and crafts online marketplaces” to look for most relevant marketplaces for you. Third, handmade or handcrafted items are also traded on world’s largest online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. 
o Online tools analysing online consumer behaviour - you may also use some of tools or websites that offer various online consumer behaviour analyses for free. There you will discover what, how or when are different segments searching for and buying online in different countries or regions, what devices they use, what are the hot topics on social media or Google search. Some examples of such tools are:
o The Customer Journey to Online Purchase provided by Google (https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html)
o Google Trends - analysis of interests in topics using Google search data (https://www.google.com/trends/)
o Consumer Barometer provided by Google - a tool showing how people worldwide use internet (https://www.consumerbarometer.com/)
o Connected Life by TNS - sample results from global consumer behaviour study (http://www.tnsglobal.com/get-connected/connected-life)
o Social Mention - a real time social media search and analysis tool (http://www.socialmention.com/)
o Internet search - you can do internet searches to find different types of information. For example, you can look for information about any state or local regulations or licenses you may need to sell on particular markets. Be aware that there is a lot of stuff out there, so make sure you are depending on reliable sources. Also, you can search for online marketplaces, for potential partners or local distributors, or for various events for arts & crafts makers. Try to make your search as relevant as possible. For example, Google enables you to filter results according to country of origin, language or newness in its search tools.
o Statistical databases - you may use websites of statistical offices - Eurostat (ec.europa.eu/eurostat) or national statistical offices to obtain various demographic data and economic indicators. For example, census data gives you fantastic information about the area, about age groups and occupations. To get information about the local population you may approach local authority websites.

Clic to read  EXECUTING MARKET ANALYSIS USING ONLINE TOOLS AND RESOURCES



Following the basic steps of market analysis, you can take the following steps when analysing your potential foreign market using the online tools and techniques:
1) Identify trends, lifecycle and market size
Trends on the arts & crafts market can be analysed using Google Trends - an online tool providing analysis of interests in topics using Google search data. Put simple, it shows you how often a particular search-term is entered. If the trend of interest in your product is constantly declining on the explored foreign market, it is a warning signal. In addition to long-term trend, you can also look at the annual cycles. For example, search for „handmade“ shows a gradually increasing trend, and it peaks every year in November and December. Moreover, this tool enables you to define country you are interested in, time period, category, type of search (web, picture etc.), so you can get pretty relevant results for your target country.
You should be also interested whether a product you are planning to sell on the foreign market is selling well. There are several options to find it out. First, go to online marketplace and search for the product through product categories directory or fulltext search. Look at the results and try to find an information (if available) on volume of sales (e.g. seller ranking, number of items sold by the seller). If such information is not available, you can get some estimates from number of reviews provided by customers. If there is enough hype around the product, it might be a good chance for you.
Of course, you should be interested in the price level for your product on the foreign market. Here you need to review online marketplaces (both local and international) to discover the actual price level.
Another insights can be extracted from the content of customer reviews. Go through the reviews to find out what are customers happy with regarding the product, shipping and packaging, communication with sellers etc.
Finally, information on trends and development in arts & crafts sector or particular product category can be obtained from articles on specialized websites or on online marketplaces, as well as from other resources found through internet search.
Information on market size can be obtained mainly from statistical data available on Eurostat or national statistical offices. To find out your total market, in the first round, use this data to estimate the size of your target group according to demographic criteria that you define (age, income, rural/urban etc.) after understanding your customers (see step 2 below). In the second step, try to narrow this set down using information from other resources (e.g. Consumer Barometer to discover online behaviour and habits) or found through internet search.
To find out your serviceable market, try to find out visits statistics for online marketplaces that you plan to use as your channels on the foreign market. If possible, confront this with demographic and behavioural profile of your customer.

2) Understand your customers
Even if you will be happy to serve anyone interested in your product, not everyone is your typical customer. Each product especially attracts one or several customer segments. To better adjust your offer to these in order to boost your sales, use online tools and resources to understand demographic and behavioural attributes of your segment.
First, look at your typical customer from demographic perspective. Who usually buys products that you plan to sell? Consider gender, age, income category. Try to find these information from customer reviews on similar products (you will identify them in your competition analysis) at online marketplaces, social media (using e.g. Social Mention - a real time social media search and analysis tool) or from discussion forums or internet search results.
Second, behavioural analysis aims to discover reasons why customers choose to buy a product instead of the other alternatives, their interests and buying habits. To discover these, try to use “Customer Journey to Online Purchase“ and “Consumer Barometer“ provided by Google. Also, look into customer review and try to look for common patterns in customers‘ behaviour. Finally, try the internet search to look for articles on buying habits on your taget market. Look at resources coming from the target foreign country, but also from your home country, as some of arts & crafts makers might have shared their experience on discussion forums.

3) Look at your competitors
Before you decide to enter the foreign market, you should take some effort to map your competition. Start with looking at the same channels that you plan to use (e.g. particular online marketplace) as these are the places where you will face your competition in front of your customers. However, also try to review other online marketplaces (e.g. local marketplaces that do not allow selling from abroad) to obtain a comprehensive picture.
You can identify your competitors using product category search or keyword search. You should use several most relevant keywords. Try to put yourself into your customer’s shoes - what keywords may he/she use when looking for your product? Also, try the search with keywords translated to local language (if you don’t speak it, use Google Translate). Executing a comprehensive analysis of search results is usually not necessary - looking at first or second page should be enough. However, look at sorting of search results, as you may rather want most popular instead of most recent results.
Do not forget that in addition to direct competitors you also have indirect competitors. Do not forget to look at them during your mapping. Look at similar product categories or search results for products similar but not same as yours.
The next step after you identify your competitors is to analyse their offer. What products do they sell? What are their attributes in terms of style, design, quality, materials and techniques used etc. Also. Look at the online presentation of their products. Do they use quality pictures? Is the headline catchy? Are the products described in an attractive way? If the offers of competitors on the first pages are poorly presented, it is a good chance for you. Also, have a look at customer references. Are there many feedbacks? What proportion of them is positive/negative?

4) Consider barriers to entry
Look at official EU websites (e.g. http://europa.eu/youreurope/) and websites of national/local governments, ministries or trade agencies to discover whether there are any legal barriers.
If you consider using an online marketplace as your channel, check the requirements and rules related to eligibility for selling, payments, shipment etc. for legal entry barriers.
Analyse the level of language barrier. Do local online marketplaces have English language mutation, or are they available in local language only? To what extent do people in the foreign country speak English or any international language?
Find out what are the shipping options and costs. Use internet search to look for companies that can deliver your product to target country (mail service, specialized shipping companies, etc.) After including these, can you still offer a competitive price for your product?
Finally, try to find whether customers on the online marketplaces you aim to use accept foreign sellers. Try to find foreign sellers (ideally coming from your country) on that marketplace and look at their sales figures and received reviews.
5) Look at regulations
There are several ways you can find useful information on regulations related to entering the particular foreign market:
o Official EU websites (e.g. http://europa.eu/youreurope/) and websites of national/local governments, ministries or trade agencies provide official and updated information on regulations related with doing business in particular country. EU resources are usually available in all EU languages, while national resources usually provide information in local language and in English.
o Google search - internet search can direct you, besides above mentioned official websites, to other resources that may provide comprehensive information in user friendly form. As always with internet resources, make sure you are referring to up-to-date information.
o Online marketplace regulations - besides legal regulations, online marketplaces also have their regulations that you need to comply. You can usually find them in Terms of service or FAQs sections.
o Experience in coping with the regulations when selling abroad is sometimes shared among arts & crafts makers themselves. Make sure to review discussion groups / forums by your peers on local websites or international online marketplaces.

Clic to read  TECHNICAL TIPS AND HINTS FOR EXECUTING MARKET ANALYSIS



Lot of market data analysis can be done reading product reviews on online marketplaces. Try to go through some of the review on similar products or your competitors (arts & crafts makers selling same product category) to find out what is important for your customers, what they liked and disliked on your competitor (i.e. what are his/her strengths and weaknesses).
Generally, online tools and techniques require some knowledge of English, as most of international websites are available in English language. So, either try to practice or improve your language skills, or try to ask someone for help. Also, there exist many local websites (such as marketplaces) in different countries, but they are usually available in local language only. Here you might find useful some of the online translators or dictionaries, that are available to you free of charge. A good universal example of such tool is the Google Translate (translate.google.com), but there probably exist other local-based services in your home countries as well. While Google Translate enables translation to/from practically all European languages, local services usually provide translation to/from main international languages only.
When conducting a Google search, instead of using your country mutation or general Google.com version, you can also use the language mutation for the foreign country you want to analyse. Here, you can filter search results to websites coming from that particular country. Moreover, if you translate the search terms into the local language (e.g. using Google Translate), you usually get relevant and helpful results.
Specialized online marketplaces usually offer seller support content, such as FAQs or “seller handbooks”, where you can find useful tips, training materials and other contents that you may find helpful when executing market analysis, but mainly when selling your products online.
You can find information on tools and resources for market analysis on several websites or in online articles. One of great websites is Open Strategy (http://openstrate.gy/) - a great market research resource that compiles up-to-date tools and reports on consumer research, market data, case studies and much more.



UNIT 3 - THINKING LOCALLY ON FOREIGN MARKETS

Clic to read   WHAT IS LOCALIZATION?



It’s good to start this training fiche with explaining what localization actually means. Localization is the customization of all components of a product for a particular target market. These components include: 
o product itself,
o customer service, 
o any printed or online documentation related to the product, 
o online presentation and websites, 
o advertising campaigns, and
o any other marketing communication materials for the product.

Clic to read   LEVELS OF LOCALIZATION



The actual extent to which you localize your product may vary. There are three main alternative approaches for competing internationally with this respect: 
1) A multidomestic strategy, i.e. a think-local, act-local approach to set the international strategy for entering foreign markets. This approach is appropriate for cases that require varying product offerings and competitive approaches from country to country in order to adjust to different customer preferences and market conditions.
2) A global (or international, if we consider smaller extent of internationalization) strategy, i.e. a think-global, act-global approach. This approach characterizes an internationalization strategy that works best when there are benefits to be gained from taking a standardized and globally integrated approach and, at the same time, there is little or no need for responding any specific local customer preferences.
3) A combination think-global, act-local approach, also known as a transnational strategy. This approach is required when there is a high need for local responsiveness as well as substantial benefits from taking a globally integrated approach. It is the most challenging international strategy to implement, and it can be used when it is feasible to use essentially the same basic competitive strategy in all markets but still customize its product offering and some other aspect of its operations to fit local market requirements.

Clic to read  WHERE TO FIND INFORMATION WHETHER AND HOW TO LOCALIZE?



Do research online - check local and relevant international online marketplaces, specialized websites devoted to arts & crafts in target countries, as well as websites of arts & crafts shops. Observe whether and how your product is present on the market.
Find a partner abroad - approach a local retailer or arts & crafts shop owner with experience. He/she should be able to estimate whether and how your product could be successful on the market, and what are the eventual requirement for its localization.
Participate on a fair or market - if it is geographically, linguistically and financially feasible, visit the target foreign country to present and sell your products on an arts & crafts fair. Talk with people attending your stall and get as much information and feedback as possible. There is no need to go to big and fancy events, local markets in small towns and villages usually attract enough visitors who will provide you feedback. Also, fees to sell on such markets are usually affordable. Of course, you need to speak an international language, and any knowledge of local language is a huge advantage.

Clic to read  COUNTRY BRAND AS A PART OF LOCALIZATION



Some arts & crafts items are particularly typical and traditional for their country of origin, while some can be considered rather universal, without attachment to any specific country. One of the questions you can consider when planning an expansion to foreign market is the country brand name. In particular, you might either use the power of your country’s brand name, or, on the other side, to completely ignore or even hide the country of origin, as country brand name influences consumer preference for products and services
When customers see a specific country name, they have certain associations in their minds that help them, for example, when deciding to purchase products coming from that country. Thus, you may want to consider whether and how your country’s brand might influence your potential customers.
For illustration on the power of countries’ brand names, FutureBrand, a creative agency, regularly prepares the Country Brand Index. In its 2014-2015 edition, following European countries have been classified in TOP 10 according to strength of their brand name:
o Switzerland (1st in Europe, 2nd worldwide)
o Germany (2nd in Europe, 3rd worldwide)
o Sweden (3th in Europe, 4th worldwide)
o Norway (4th in Europe, 6th worldwide)
o Denmark (5th in Europe, 9th worldwide)
o Austria (6th in Europe, 10th worldwide)

Here are several issues you should consider when thinking of whether to emphasize your country of origin when attempting to attract the customers on a foreign market:
o How do customers in the target foreign country perceive your home country and its brands? In this case, it is not just customers’ attitudes toward the country in general that matter, but it is also important to consider the country’s reputation related to arts & crafts products, as country brands are perceived to have expertise across categories.
o How do customers in the target foreign country perceive their own country and its brands? At a first glance it may seem counter-intuitive, but many people in some countries show negative attitudes about the ability of their fellow countrymen to make quality products.
o How would entering a new country change your personal seller’s image? If you fail to provide the quality customers associate with your country’s brand name, the benefits of the brand name’s promise may quickly be lost.  Living up to your brand name’s promise can help you increase your chances of successfully entering a foreign market, and also facilitate potential expansion in the future.

Clic to read   LOCALIZATION OPTIONS



Localization has a lot to do with language issues, as in multilingual Europe your potential foreign market customers will probably speak different language than is your mother tongue. Depending on the scope of the localization, you have a few options how to cope with language issues: coping with them internally or asking for an external help (e.g. hiring a translator). Also, larger scale export focus (i.e. exporting to more countries) may require more single language vendors or engaging one or few multilingual vendors. However, each option has some disadvantages:
o Dealing with localization internally - besides your comprehensive knowledge of your products and possibly also about your potential target foreign market, your everyday tasks and responsibilities would slow down the localization process. To handle the localization yourself, you not only need to be proficient in the specific language but you must also have an understanding of the cultural nuances. Also, you may not have the skill for translation as does a professional, native translator. If you decide to localize the product in additional languages, you would need to have the ability to translate several other languages as well as an understanding of the technical issues of localization.
o Hiring an external translator - a general translator or translation firm may provide a quality translation but it may not have the technical expertise necessary to produce successful localization.
o Single language vendor - this type of vendor may have expertise in a specific language or market but managing the cooperation may be difficult. If you aim to enter more markers, you will be duplicating your efforts in terms of communicating with more than one vendor. If you become more successful and your market grows, you will probably need to expand to other languages to serve customers in more countries.
o Multilingual vendor - this type of vendor is considered a full-service localization vendor who will provide linguistic and technical expertise as well as international project management experience for as many languages as you need. If you decide for such cooperation, your vendor should be a partner that understands your marketing strategy for each target market. Since they are the only vendor that will manage the project, this vendor must be chosen very carefully. During your selection process, you should: check the vendor?s references, visit the production sites, research whether your vendor has experience in localizing arts & crafts or similar types of product, and discover whether or not they truly have the required technical expertise.

Clic to read   DOS AND DON’TS OF LOCALIZATION



Here are some recommendations you should follow when planning and implementing your localization project:
o Do plan your localization project to keep the balance of time, cost and quality.
o Do research your local competitors in each target foreign market. They will generally have a better understanding of native culture and therefore be targeting more locally relevant keywords.
o Do demonstrate understanding of the customer. Rather than using a generic keyword in hopes that it is used universally, international localization demonstrates the importance of the customer through the research and understanding of each cultural market.
o Do show your customers how to use your product if they are not familiar with it. If your product is new to foreign market (hand-crafted ceramic utensil to separate egg yolks from white may not be well known in all European countries), inspire and instruct your potential customers how to use and benefit from your product.

On contrary, make sure to avoid following “Don’ts” of localization:
o Don’t use translations without understanding cultural significance. You can find tens of marketing horror stories in which companies simply translated their standard campaign without checking the local implications
o Don’t use automated translation (e.g. Google Translate) without having the text checked. Also in such translation some ideas or sentence meanings may get lost, so even if you have someone checking it, he/she may not get your original point. To see how machine translation can?t be trusted, check out Translation Party (www.translationparty.com). It takes a sentence and translates it into multiple languages and then back to its original language. The result is sometimes surprising.
o Don’t use your or your product’s brand name without verifying its cultural or language connotation in foreign language.



UNIT 4 - BUILDING CUSTOMER TRUST AND EARNING REFERENCES

Clic to read   REFERENCES AND CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS



A good way how to establish yourself and successfully sell on online marketplaces is to build trust with your customers and develop credible, outstanding seller profile. Here are three main things you should consider with this respect:
1) Get references and customer testimonials - reviews from your customers help to increase your trustworthiness and catalyse word-of-mouth marketing (e.g. customers spread the word about yourself and your products).
2) Improve your credibility - establishing a credible profile among the community of your customers based on providing credentials, engaging in forums and sharing experience, and presenting personal background information will help to build trust with your customers and boost your sales.
3) Stand out from the crowd - following tips and hints to stand out from thousands of other sellers on online marketplaces will let your customers notice and recognize yourself, leading to increased sales of your products.

Reviews from your customers will refer to two main attributes: A) your product(s), and B) your customers service (i.e. the way you treat your customers before, during and after the process of handling their orders). Both of these attributes are equally important and crucial prerequisites to obtain positive customer feedback.
Your hard work to provide great products and customer service, can, in turn, lead to positive reviews. Seeing that others had a positive experience helps new customers feel comfortable making a purchase, especially if they have never purchased from you before.
Also, how you handle unhappy customers can result in positive feedback as well. In any case, you should be confident that your products are good and your descriptions are realistic. Even though, however, some of your customers may be unhappy. In this case, make sure that you handle such situations professionally, as customers might in turn leave positive feedback about your great customer service.
An experienced seller from an online marketplace for arts & crafts identified the following five ways to get great reviews:
o „Treat every buyer like they’re your first. Your shop’s success is dependent on the people that purchase from it, each and every one of them. I never let an order pass through my shop without reaching out to thank the customer personally. This means going beyond the automatic email that’s sent out when an order is placed and sending a direct Conversation message, written by me, expressing my gratitude. Not only is a timely thank-you note a great way to convey how much you value their support, but customers will often take the direct connection as an opportunity to ask last-minute questions that might be important to address before you produce or ship their order.“
o „Keep your shop honest. When you’re focused on capturing beautiful product photos and writing snazzy copy for your item listings, it can be easy to overlook the obvious question: Will your buyers actually know what they’ll receive after looking at your listing? Your photos and item description should set clear expectations for your buyers: Do your photos showcase each item’s size and what will be included with their purchase? Do your item descriptions answer any possible questions buyers might have?“
o „Deal with mistakes right away. Mistakes happen, no matter how hard we try to prevent them. Customer service snafus can be a total nightmare, and no matter who is in the right, ask yourself, is it worth arguing with a customer? What solution would you want if the situation was reversed? For me, this is the most painful aspect of running a shop on online marketplace, although the best solution is often a no-brainer: Give the buyer what they’re looking for, and come up with ways to prevent the same issue from happening in the future. While this isn’t always as easy as it sounds, I can say from experience that what may initially feel like a loss can result in a worthwhile gain down the line.“
o „Ask yourself, “Is there anything else I can do?” Think about what else you can you do for your buyer to ensure an exceptional experience. For me, this often manifests in how I package an order; I’ll include a little print as a wedding gift or include a handwritten note congratulating the couple on their upcoming wedding. After all, who doesn’t love to receive a thoughtful bonus with their order?“
o „Always follow up. Strategically following up with buyers after an order is processed is great for a number of reasons. First, you enable your buyer to alert you if they had any issues with their order so you can resolve the problem before they leave a negative review. You can also inquire about ways to improve, and proactively make changes to your shop policies and workflow to prevent similar issues from happening again. Your final correspondence is also a great opportunity to encourage buyers to leave feedback for your shop. The messaging and timing of your follow-up message is key, since you don’t want to seem spammy or too aggressive. I normally reach out around the time the item is expected to arrive to ask the buyer if they’ve received everything safely and as expected. I’ll also give them instructions for leaving feedback if they’re so inclined - that way I’m making the process as simple as possible.“
However, as a new seller you usually have one disadvantage – no one knows you, your brand or your product. So, how to persuade potential customers to buy your product then? You can try highlighting your offer (a paid option), but customers will probably not trust your products, as they look for “social proof” from reviews and testimonials. There are several options to get your first reviews:
o Ask your customers for review. Remember, ask for a “review”, not for a “good review”. Also, ask them only after the purchase process has been completed.
o Instead of asking directly, you can motivate your customers to provide a review by putting links on review site to your e-mail signature, or add the request to a message about another topic (e.g. newsletter, follow-up distribution of relevant information etc.).
o Add a small gift and a small flyer (e.g. business card format) requesting customer to provide a review about how he/she was happy with the product and customer service.
o Look for active reviewers, offer them significant discount or free sample and ask them to leave their feedback.
o Ask couple of your friends to purchase your product through the particular online marketplace and place their reviews. Remember, they have to be honest and natural.
o Finally, do not worry. After getting to know your customers well, you will be able to find and utilize the most appropriate way to receive reviews. To boost this, try to understand your customers using a market analysis.

How should good reviews look like? Helpful and trustworthy reviews that will help you to build trust among your customers should have the following parameters:
o Include the "why": The best reviews include not only whether your customer liked or disliked a product, but also why. Encourage customers to make comparisons with related products or services they have experienced.
o Specific: A review should be relevant to the product the customer is reviewing and focus on specific features or his/her experience. For video and image reviews, writing a brief introduction is recommended.
o Not too short, not too long: Written reviews should be at least 20 words, and the ideal length is around 75 to 500 words. For video reviews, 2 to 5 minutes length is recommended to keep the audience engaged.
o Sincere: Reviews should not be artificial, but they should provide customer’s honest opinion about the product.

In addition to reviews, sometimes you also can include customer testimonials in your seller profile or shop at the online marketplace. These should be excerpts from genuine e-mails or messages from customers expressing how they enjoyed your products or buying process. This last point is important - customer testimonial that states how your product benefited them is much more effective than one that just says something like "Your product is great!".

Clic to read  ENGAGING IN FORUMS AND SHARING EXPERIENCE



Online discussion forums are great places to give out tips and advice, answer questions, and acquire a customer or two.
Use the forums located on the online marketplace you are using as your sales channel, but also try to Google search out some active forums that may directly relate to your product. When you post, ensure you aren’t breaking any forum rules when you promote your brand or products. Get to know the limits and restrictions of the forum, and stick to them. Using your forum avatar, signature, and profile page to promote your brand are usually well within the rules.
You may feel the temptation to post and promote wildly, but keep it professional. No forum will tolerate constant promotion or posts full of links to your website. Bedsides, acting in such a way online will damage your brand in the eyes of other forum users. So, keep it simple by posting just enough for people to notice your activity, but not enough to constitute spam. Also, avoid coming screaming in, telling everyone what you have for sale. This will generally get you banned from the forum faster than you can say spam.
Instead of trying wildly to promote yourself, always try to follow a customer-centric or "you-centric" approach rather than a "me-centric" approach. Try to provide value and genially help customers or peers with their problems.
Finally, be patient and follow gradual steps to establish your trustworthy position in the forum. First, sign up, fill out your bio and “about me” sections, upload a real photo of yourself, but refrain from putting up links to your ecommerce website. Second, read and listen. The main point is to learn as much as you can from your audience. Remember, these are your future customers. Third, help. After you feel comfortable with your new community, feel free to help people. Helping people by responding to their questions and providing information to them will make you highly respected in any forum. Fourth, only now you should promote your products, but make sure you do it the right way. Start by going back to your bio and link to your website. When you feel really comfortable and if the forum allows it, create a signature that links back to your website.



UNIT 5 - LOOKING FOR PARTNERS ON FOREIGN MARKETS

Clic to read  PROCESS OF IDENTIFICATION OF PARTNERS FOR PENETRATION INTO FOREING MARKETS



There are the following approaches to identify and choose partners for foreign markets:
a) to find domestic buyers who then export your product. In this case partners are domestic one and your selling approach to them is like you would sell  somebody in local market. You will filling orders from domestic buyer and he/she then will export it even you don´t know whether it will be successfully exported. This your partner has decided that your product meets foreign demand. He/she takes all the risk and handels all exporting activities.  Advantage of this approach is that it doesn´t ask any your knowledge about doing business in abroad and due to that is simple for you.  However, disadvantage is that you, as original seller and producer, are not aware what is going on with your product. Usually, if original seller (yourself) learns about his/her product success in selling abroad starts to think about the other approach to find partners for selling in abroad that would alow him to be better recognized and participate more on sharing export margin. 
b) to find domestic buyers who represent foreign end users or customers. There are trading companies, local or foreing corporations, general contractors, foreign distributors and retailers etc. that purchase for export.  In this case you may know your product is being exported even it is still the buyer who takes risk and handles all details of exporting.
c) to use  intermediaries who provide special services to identify foreign partners for your products (indirect approach). You as exporter can gain access to well-established expertise and trade contacts. And above all you can still retain considerable control over the process and realizte som of the other benefits of exporting such as learning more about foreign competitors, new trends in your business and other market opportunities. Typical intermediares are: export management companies; foreign agents; piggy back exporting partners.                                                                                                            
. Export management companies  (EMCs) functions as an "off-site" export sales department, representing your product along with various other non-competitive manufacturers. The EMC searches for business for your company and  in area of looking for partners usually provides locating new, and utilizing existing foreign distributors or sales representatives to put your product into the foreign market. Functions as an overseas distribution channel or wholesaler. Takes ownership of the goods and operates on a commission basis.                                                                                                                          
.  Foreign agents (FAs) are hired by companies for representation in overseas markets as the agent has knowledge of business practices, language, laws, and culture. There are different types of agents who perform a number of functions.   The one you choose to hire is based upon how much you want the agent to do for you and how much you are willing to pay.

Exporters use commissioned agents most often. It is the simplest way of doing things: The agent is paid a percentage of a sale only when the sale is made. This provides an incentive for the agent to work on your behalf.
Retainer agents are paid a fixed amount to do certain work for a company over a specified period of time. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to monitor how hard they are working and they get paid whether they do anything or not.
Retainer/Commissioned agents are placed on a retainer but also receive a percentage from each sale. The retainer provides them with funds to help run their business while      the commission gives them additional incentive to work harder on your behalf. 
Piggyback exporting partners:  when a company, which already has an export distribution system in place, is allowed to sell another company?s product in addition to its own. A good advantage is that the requisite logistics associated with selling abroad are borne by the exporting company.
d) to do directly own research in your target market to identify partners or end users as part of your direct exporting strategy. This approach is most ambitious and difficult. You have to be aware of significant committment of your time and effort if you want to find a good partners. On one side it is more risky and costly approach (as far as your own time and effort is)  but may also be the best  way to achieve high profit and long-term growth if it is properly executed with appropriate guidance from different state (national) and international  institutions, international banks etc. that focus on exporting services. Partners for direct channels of your product may be: sales representatives, distributors/agents, end users. 

Sales Representatives/Paid by seller: foreign-based representatives who work on a salary/retainer plus incentive basis to locate buyers for a company’s products.
Distributors/Agents: purchase merchandise directly from the home-country firm to re-sell at a profit.
Direct Sales to End-User: Your product line will determine whether direct sales to the end-user are a viable options. Major end-user include foreign goverments, schools, businesses and individual consumers.
Approaches a/ and b/ are quite extensively used by small and medium size companies. However, they don´t require any special knowledge as far as foreign partners finding is. You can apply the same methods as for finding of local partners. If your export strategy, developed on your own goals and resources, is in favor of indirect approach (c/) it means you are new to exporting or you don´t have staff and resources that you could devote to more complex export activities then this approach is the most appropriate to you.   There is a key to find suitable intermediares. However, applying this approach (c) still allow you to go directly to some well known markets for you (neighbouring country) and to apply indirect approach for finding partners in less known markets. Later, when you are more experienced in foreign market activities, then you can choose to gradually increase direct approach to find partners as part of direct exporting strategy.



Clic to read  SELECTION OF WAYS (TECHNIQUES, STRATEGIES) HOW TO FIND PARTNERS AND MAKE CONTACTS WITH THEM



There are different ways how to find partners and make contacts for arts and crafts. You can consider some of them listed below either as single one or in combination:  
Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) – the world´s largest support network for small and medium sized business (SME) with international ambitions. Network  was established by European Commision with aim to provide support through local experts. It has 3000 experts across 600 member organsations in more than 60 countries. Member organisations include chambers of commerce and industry, technology centres and research institutes. EEN  provides international business expertise with local knowledge across a range of targeted services:
a) Partnership
b) Advisory 
The Network also offers specialised industry expertise across 17 sectors. 
Partnership services
The Network manages Europe’s largest database of business opportunities. With the profiles in the database, Network experts can help businesses forge international partnerships with excellent growth potential. The database is updated every day, offers thousands of company profiles.
After preparing and submitting your own profile, you can join the database and receive regular updates about companies interested in working with you. The network can then connect you with selected parties and help you to broker a partnership.
The Network organizes 70,000 international business meetings every year and hosts matchmaking events throughout Europe, where you can meet potential business partners, on a confidential one-to-one basis if required. Many of these events take place at international fairs which means you can keep travel and accommodation costs down. These events can be divided into two separate formats with different purposes:
Matchmaking and brokerage events where SMEs can meet potential business partners
o Fast and effective matchmaking event at international conferences and trade fairs
Company missions for targeted international meetings with strong business prospects
o Tailor-made trade missions lead to successful partnerships thanks to thorough preparation. Local knowledge and expert guidance
? Advisory services
Network experts provide advice on market opportunities to help small businesses (craftsmen included) expand internationally. The network thanks to its local insight and various associated partners can cut through the complexities of international expansion by providing practical advice, targeted market intelligence and personalised support. These information are provided either through educational events and workshops or on an individual basis based on an assessment of the clients needs via individual consultations. 
Advisory services include:
Practical advice on doing business in another country
Targeted market intelligence
Information on EU laws and standards
Advice on intellectual property
How to use these services: in order you are interested to make use of the partnership or advisory services provided by Enterprise Europe Network you can do so in your native language by contacting your local Network office. List of all Enterprise Europe Network members can be found under: http://een.ec.europa.eu/. 
Important notice: all Enterprise Europe Network services are provided free of charge
State and local government assistance. States provide an array of services to help to find partners both through agencies supporting small business (e.g. Slovak business agency in Slovakia - add the name of your agencies supporting SME´s), and  commercial sections of  ambassies of the ministries of foreign affairs. These sections can be contacted through ministries of foreign affairs.
Assistance from national chambers of commerce, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), World Chambers Federation (WCF) and arts and crafts national and international organizations.  National chambers of commerce used to have their units or projects that are involved into active support to find international partners for SME. As local business support agencies, chambers of commerce connect ICC to small- and medium-sized companies and promote the important role they play in the global economy. WCF recognizes the valuable contribution of SMEs and helps them to face the challenges and opportunities of globalization. Arts and crafts national and international organizations used to present itself at webpages and inform about projects that support international business.
Advertisement in periodicals , webpages; participation in catalog and video/catalog exhibitions, at trade fairs focused on arts and crafts etc. These means of product presentations can belonged to the cheapest ways of spreading message on your product if they are  supported by government or  governmental that have mission to support internationalisation of arts and crafts.
Pursue Trade Leads.  Trade leads are very important in identifying potential customers in abroad. They are most often  accessed via Internet and offer an inexpensive way to establish vital links with buyers in target markets. There are a few portals that are a good source of information on leads around the world.  

Clic to read  QUALIFY POTENTIAL PARTNERS TO CHECK THEM BEFORE MAKING SECTION 3: QUALIFY POTENTIAL PARTNERS TO CHECK THEM BEFORE MAKING AGREEMENTS



It is important to qualify  potential partners by reputation and financial position with aim  to check them before entering into any agreements.
Once you locate a potential foreign partner  the next step is to qualify them by reputation and financial position.  
First, obtain as much information as possible from partner itself. If you are O.K. with background information both from reputational and business points of view than you should try to get some credit information to check financial position of the company. 
There are different sources of information that could support you in decision making process.  As far as financial position of your partner is you should  go either  through public credit information, social security or health insurance public data on past due clients in countries you are familiar from language point of view. You can also go to your  bank and ask for banking information on your partners through correspondent banking contacts.  For countries you are less familiar with you can obtain reports on due dilligence of foreign companies. 
To be sure that you don´t miss any important piece of information you should use some publicly available check list/questionnaire that you can adjust to sector specifics of your product and further needs.

 Indicators


 Bibliography

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