Market Entry

Define Your End User

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Before you can decide on a market entry strategy, you need to identify and define who is your target customer (end user) in the market. Answer the questions below:
  • How do they need to be sold to? Personal sales, web interaction, relationship
  • Will it be lots of customers and small orders or few customers with large (or large dollar) orders?
  • Will they need a lot of support to use your product?
  • Will they often need repair and other customer support to use our product?

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Sales Channels

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Decide How To Market to Your End-User

There are several ways to reach your end-user. Your first consideration is your preference for how to enter the market: direct and on your own, or using a rep or distributor? Next, consider the typical market entry strategy for your product in your chosen country. For guidance, review the “Market Entry Strategy” section (under Doing Business in…) in the Country Commercial Guide for your chosen country.

The graphic below will help you to understand the path to the customer and additional considerations for each market entry strategy.

Market Entry Strategy

market entry


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Worldwide economic development and growth of the middle class has put increased purchasing power in the hands of millions of new consumers. Global cross-border eCommerce sales alone total some $2 trillion annually and are expected to exceed $6 trillion by 2020. Are you ready to take advantage of growing international selling opportunities? Find new foreign buyers and position your company by utilizing customized eCommerce and social media platforms and strategies, as numerous exporters have successfully done.

While international sales are often more easily attained through cross-border eCommerce, new opportunities bring new responsibilities: complying with regulations, collecting additional information about your product, and managing new risks. Click here for a checklist that outlines the elements needed to find international buyers and complete international sales, including Target Markets, Selling Methods, IP and Regulations, Customer Service Issues, etc. Integrate these items into your business operations from the start of the sales-and-fulfillment process.

Visit the US Commercial Service’s eCommerce Innovation Lab for additional reading and resources on this topic.

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Finding foreign buyers

Exporting Basics

International website optimization (specific for Montana exporters)

Website Optimization

How to get paid

how to get paid

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ExportMontana's Montana Online Global program provides 50% reimbursement of the cost of international website optimization.

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Technology licensing is a contractual arrangement in which the licenser’s patents, trademarks, service marks, copyrights, trade secrets, or other intellectual property may be sold or made available to a licensee; compensation is negotiated in advance between the parties. Payment may be in the form of a lump-sum royalty, a running royalty (based on volume of production), or a combination of both. U.S. companies frequently license their technology to foreign companies who manufacture and sell products in one or more countries, per the licensing agreement.

A technology licensing agreement usually enables your company to enter a foreign market quickly, and it poses fewer financial and legal risks than owning and operating a foreign manufacturing facility or participating in an overseas joint venture. Licensing also permits U.S. companies to overcome many tariff and non-tariff barriers that frequently hamper the export of U.S.-manufactured products. Therefore, licensing can be attractive for small companies or companies with little international trade experience. Technology licensing may also be used to acquire foreign technology through cross-licensing agreements or grant-back clauses that award rights to improved technology developed by a licensee. (Seek legal advice to determine liability.)

As a form of “exporting,” technology licensing has some drawbacks. Your control over the technology is weakened because it has been transferred to another company; additionally, licensing usually produces smaller profits for your company than exporting actual goods or services. And in some countries, adequately protecting the licensed technology from unauthorized use by third parties may be difficult.

You should register your patents and trademarks in each country. Copyright is recognized globally, but patents and trademarks are territorial, so rights may vary depending on different countries’ legal conventions. (You only need to file your patents and trademarks once with the European Union [EU], as EU laws apply to all EU members. The Patent Cooperative Treaty (PCT) and the Madrid Protocol allow you to apply for patent protection in the EU, as well as in specific countries throughout the world.

When considering technology licensing, remember that foreign licensees may attempt to use the licensed technology to manufacture products that compete with your company or other licensees. Often, U.S. licensers may try to impose territorial restrictions on foreign licensees, depending on U.S. and foreign antitrust laws and host country licensing laws. Also, U.S. and foreign patent, trademark, and copyright laws can often be used to bar unauthorized sales by foreign licensees, provided the U.S. licenser has valid protection in the applicable countries.

Many countries, particularly members of the EU, also have strict antitrust laws that affect technology licensing. The EU’s block exemption regulation—Commission Regulation (EC) No. 772/2004 of April 27, 2004, dealing with the application of article 81(3) of the Treaty of Rome to categories of technology transfer agreements— governs patent and information licensing agreements, as well as design and model rights and software copyright licenses. If you are currently or considering licensing technology to the EU, be sure to understand and carefully consider the regulation.

Due to the complex nature of international technology licensing, be sure to get qualified legal advice in the United States before entering into an agreement. It’s also often a good idea for U.S. licensers to retain qualified legal counsel in the host country, to be able to obtain advice on applicable local laws and to receive assistance in securing the foreign government’s approval of the agreement. Sound legal advice and thorough investigation of the prospective licensee and the relevant practices of the host country will increase the likelihood that your licensing agreement will be a profitable transaction.

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Intellectual Property: Licensing

IP Licensing

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Sales Representatives and/or Distributors

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An overseas sales representative is the equivalent of a manufacturer’s representative in the United States. The representative uses your company’s product literature and samples to present the product to potential buyers. Ordinarily, a representative handles many complementary lines that do not conflict. The sales representative usually works for a commission, assumes no risk or responsibility, and is under contract for a definite period of time (renewable by mutual agreement). The contract defines territory, terms of sale, method of compensation, reasons and procedures for terminating the agreement, and other details. The sales representative may operate on either an exclusive or a nonexclusive basis.

The foreign distributor is a merchant who purchases goods from a U.S. exporter (often at a discount) and resells them for a profit. The foreign distributor generally provides support and service for the product, relieving the U.S. exporter of those responsibilities. The distributor usually carries an inventory of products and a sufficient supply of spare parts and also maintains adequate facilities and personnel for normal servicing operations. Distributors typically handle a range of noncompeting, complementary products. End-users do not usually buy from a distributor; they buy from retailers or dealers.

Considerations for Selling via Sales Reps or Distributors

Considerations for Selling via Sales Reps or Distributors

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Foreign Retailers

You may also sell directly to foreign retailers, although in such transactions, products are generally limited to consumer lines. The growth of major retail chains in markets such as Canada and Japan have created new opportunities for this type of direct sale. The approach relies mainly on traveling sales representatives who directly contact foreign retailers, although results might also be achieved by mailing catalogs, brochures, or other literature.

The direct mail approach has the benefits of eliminating commissions, reducing travel expenses, and reaching a broader audience. For optimal results, a company that uses direct mail to reach foreign retailers should support it with other marketing activities. For more information, contact the Direct Marketing Association at or the U.S. Postal Service at

U.S. manufacturers with ties to major domestic retailers may also be able to use them to sell abroad. Many large U.S. retailers maintain overseas buying offices and use those offices to sell abroad when practical.

What is the most common and consistent channel for producing the desired result among smaller U.S. exporters? The answer is distributors.

Direct Sales to End-Users

You may sell your products or services directly to end-users in foreign countries. The buyers may be foreign government institutions, businesses, or final consumers via online sales. The buyers can be identified at trade shows, through international publications, by the overseas posts of the U.S. Commercial Service, or may find you via search engine results that you may or may not influence through search engine positioning strategies, purchases of online ads, key word auctions, and the like.

You should be aware that if a product is sold in such a direct fashion, your company is responsible for shipping, payment collection, and product servicing unless other arrangements are made. If the cost of providing these services is not built into the export price, you could have a smaller profit than you had anticipated.

Find & Evaluate Foreign Buyers

Once you have decided your market entry strategy, whether it be licensing, reps, distributors, retailers, etc., you then need to come up with a plan for how to find your foreign partners or buyers.

Featured U.S. Exporter Directory (FUSE)

Looking to enhance your international marketing efforts through improved search engine optimization? Advertise in FUSE, the featured directory of U.S. products on U.S. Commercial Service websites around the world.

Click here for more FUSE information.

Click here for information on the Montana STEP grant that can reimburse 50% of the cost of the FUSE.

Contact us to get started on this process.


Foreign Partner Search Plan Worksheet

Use our Foreign Partner Search Plan Worksheet to prepare your plan to find a foreign partner.

International Partner Search (IPS)

Looking for potential agents, distributors or other strategic partners overseas? The US Commercial Service can save you valuable time and money by identifying prospects that match your needs without having to travel to the market.

Click here for more IPS information.

Click here for information on the Montana STEP grant that can reimburse 50% of the cost of the IPS.

Contact us to get started on this process.

Once you have gotten to know potential foreign representatives, it’s a good idea and, in some cultures expected, for you to visit the country to meet potential business partners, as well as observe the size, condition, and location of their offices and warehouses.


Gold Key Service (GKS)

Spend your time doing what you do best - managing your company. Let us identify, vet, and arrange meetings with interested partners when traveling to an overseas market.
Click here for more GKS information.

Click here for information on the Montana STEP grant that can reimburse 50% of the cost of the GKS.

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Trade Shows

Attending or exhibiting at trade shows can be an effective way to meet prospective new international partners and to find export buyers.

Domestic trade shows

Many international buyers attend export trade shows right here in America. If a company is interested in learning more about domestic trade shows they can contact us for additional information.

International trade shows

Click here for information on the Montana STEP grant that can reimburse 50% of the cost of exhibiting at international trade shows.

Montana Pavilions

Not sure which shows are available? Contact us for help.

Trade show training

Evaluate Potential Foreign Partners

International Company Profile (ICP). Need a background check on a foreign company? The US Commercial Service will provide in-depth or basic background check information on a specific foreign company to help determine its suitability as a potential business partner.

Click here for more ICP information.

Click here for information on the Montana STEP grant that can reimburse 50% of the cost of the ICP.

Contact us to get started on this process.

Foreign Partner Evaluation Worksheet. Use our Foreign Partner Evaluation Worksheet to assess a foreign partner’s fit with your needs.

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Finding Foreign Buyers: Customized Services

Finding Foreign Buyers

Finding Foreign Buyers: Trade Shows

Finding Buyers Trade shows

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ExportMontana's STEP grant program provides 50% reimbursement of the cost of:

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