Smart people turn setbacks into opportunities.
Are you disappointed that this year’s IWA Outdoor Classic was canceled and that the next IWA won’t take place until March 2021? Have you found other ways to hit your international marketing goals for this year?
With IWA not an option, maybe 2020 is a good time to test new ways to connect with international customers and build your brand in the international market. New export regulations took effect on March 9. New doors have opened.
You may find that you can achieve objectives you thought were lost for the year and set yourself apart from the competition.
We have three ideas that are easy and inexpensive to implement. Do them now and you may find that you can turn the loss of IWA into a very good opportunity for your business.
1. Create an “International Booth” on your website.
Companies in the firearms industry miss a big opportunity to build brand loyalty and sales in the international market by treating international visitors the same as domestic customers.
If you want to reach new customers and end-users in other countries, and sell more to your existing customers, one approach might be to cater to needs international site visitors have that your U.S. customers don’t have. Show them you understand their unique needs and that you care about them.
No one does this. Check your competitors’ websites. With the change in export regulations that took place on March 9, it’s okay to put the welcome mat out for your international website visitors. Be among the first.
Here are some suggestions for your international booth:
- Consider adding an “International” menu at the top of the page, where the important stuff goes. That by itself sends a good message. Most websites speak to international visitors from the bottom of the page.
- Might it help to create a landing page for visitors to your website from other countries, a home page just for them that identifies the resources you provide for them, with links? If you like the idea of an international booth, this is where it would go – a background graphic with links to the resources mentioned below and others.
- Give visitors an overview of which of your products are available in the international market and which aren’t. Help them avoid spending time on products they can’t buy.
- If you ship directly to international end-users, tell them that you do and how to make purchases through your website. If you ship only to certain countries, make it easy for international visitors to check whether their country is among them. If you sell only through dealers, identify the dealers.
- If you are soliciting new dealers or distributors, say so and tell them what to do next.
- Create an “international sales and support” page. Post dedicated “international customer support” and “international sales” email addresses. Train international specialists on your product support and sales teams. Maybe develop and post a set of FAQs for international firearm customers.
- Post your international terms of sale here so they’re easy to find.
There are lots of ways to implement these suggestions and other ideas you will come up with. The point is to make it clear that you are enthusiastic about the people in other countries who are looking at your products and that you are eager to help them learn more.
Action item: Schedule a meeting of your team or designate an individual in your organization to create an international booth for your website. Set an implementation deadline in 2020.
You can improve the face you show the world and drive more sales.
2. Explain how your company is using the new export regulations to make it easier for international customers to buy your products.
Whether or not you create an international booth on your website, consider rewriting your international shipping policies to announce the ways you are using the new export regulations to make it easier for international customers to buy your products.
Experienced importers of U.S. firearm products react with glee when they learn how much easier it is to do business with American suppliers under the new export regulations.
Show existing and potential customers that it is easy to do business with you:
- Identify the products you sell that do not require an export license.
- Demonstrate how the Limited Value Shipment (LVS) license exception lets you fill many small orders without an export license.
- Tell customers you can obtain export licenses that will cover their future orders, so you can ship right away.
- Inform large customers that orders for more than $1 million of firearms no longer require Congressional Notification.
- Let smaller customers know that a formal purchase order is no longer required. An email or online order now suffices.
Yes, doing international business has gotten easier. Don’t keep it to yourself.
Action item: Rewrite your international sales and shipping policies to let international customers know all the cool ways you are making it easier to do business with you.
Think of it this way. The world changed on March 9 when the new export regulations took effect. Other companies are already rewriting their policies. Is doing nothing really an option?
3. Take a hard look at your international distribution strategy and make changes where appropriate.
Have you used a network of international distributors or dealers or on U.S. exporters to get your products to end-users in other countries? Maybe you can do more by yourself under the new regulations. The $500 license exemption under the ITAR has driven lots of direct-to-consumer sales into Canada for years. Now there is a $500 exemption that applies to almost all countries. Why not sell direct-to-consumers everywhere now that you can?
Imagine the worldwide direct-to-consumer business you now are able to do in firearm parts, accessories, optics and more. If you sell magazines, for instance, you can fill most consumer purchasers’ requirements yourself for less than $500. No license would be required. The same applies to many, many other products.
You also can reach small dealers, too, more easily today than in the past. Export licensing is simpler and more flexible. Does the $10,000 minimum order requirement you imposed in the past make sense today now that it’s easy to get an export license that covers future orders?
Are your products available for purchase today in all the countries in which potential purchasers exist? If not, how can you find channels into the countries you aren’t reaching today?
We’re not suggesting you disrupt your established distribution system and start fresh. Don’t lose the value you have in your existing channels but do take a hard look at additional ways to grow your international sales by reaching consumers, smaller dealers and other purchasers you couldn’t reach in the past.
Action item: Analyze your current international distribution channels and identify new channels to add this year.
To conclude, there’s no IWA this year, but why not use 2020 to prepare your company to go to IWA 2021 with a dramatically enhanced international profile?
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