Below is an extract from Laurel Delaney’s book “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.” This book was published in December 2013 and is available for purchase online. If you would like to find out more about the author, the book, or about exporting in general, Laurel’s blog is an excellent source of information.

Now you’re ready to get organized and create your own plan. To keep the process manageable, let’s look at three different types of sample template plans, each with distinct advantages for business people with different needs. Pick the one that works best for you, keeping in mind that you can shorten the analysis while keeping the major components of the plan intact.


  • The back-of-the-napkin export business plan (suitable for born-global entrepreneurs)
  • The traditional-export business plan
  • The Laurel export business plan

The Back-of-the-Napkin Export Business Plan

The back-of-the-napkin export business plan is for folks who are big on ideas and pressed for time and want to get to market fast. While it’s typically short and sweet, it serves a better purpose than having no export business plan at all. A back-of-the-napkin export business plan can be as simple as explaining what the business does, what you want to do next export-wise, and how you are going to get there (who is going to be on board). It might look like this:

  1. “We make the absolute-best purple widgets on the planet.”
  2. “We will export purple widgets.”
  3. “We will export purple widgets to France.”
  4. “We will consider making other type widgets, say in red, if a customer in France is large enough to justify the change.”
  5. “Suzy, Ted, Mike, and I will work on this initiative.”
  6. “We will export, at a minimum, twenty thousand purple widgets within the first year.”
  7. “We will not reduce efforts from our domestic business to apply them to the export business.”
  8. “We will figure out how much money we need and when we need it.”
  9. “We will finance the exports of purple widgets with profits from our domestic business.”
  10. “We will find our own customers directly via our Web site, blog, and Facebook.”
  11. “We will consult with our banker to provide payment options on all export sales.”
  12. “We will have fun in the export journey to success!”

Add a Web site link to show what the business does and provide an executive summary that includes the founder’s bio and the key team members, and you’re done.

The Traditional Export Business Plan

It’s important to have a business plan, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create one. One place to visit and bookmark online is the Small Business Administration’s “Export Business Planner”. It is a free, customizable tool for small-business owners who are exploring exporting. When you are using the planner, you can refer to Getting Started: Creating an Export Business Plan. It outlines the following (in Chapter 12, we guide you on market research so don’t overly challenge yourself if you can’t answer all the questions at the initial planning stage):

1. Profiling Your Current Business

  1. Identify current successes.
  2. Determine competitive advantages.
  3. Evaluate companywide commitment.

2. Conducting an Industry Analysis

  1. Find export data available on your industry.
  2. Research how competitive your industry is in the global markets.
  3. Assess your industry’s international growth potential.
  4. Research government market studies.

3. Identifying Products with Export Potential

  1. Select the most exportable products/services that your company will offer internationally.
  2. Evaluate the product/services(s) that your company will offer internationally.

4. Marketability: Matching Your Product/Service with a Global Trend or Need

  1. Classify your product.
  2. Find countries with the best-suited markets for your product.
  3. Determine which foreign markets will be the easiest to penetrate.
  4. Define and narrow down those export markets you intend to pursue.
  5. Talk to your US customers or other companies who are doing business internationally.
  6. Research export efforts of US competitors.

5. Determining Market Expansion Benefits/Trade-Offs

  1. Assess the benefits to exporting.
  2. Determine the trade-offs to exporting.

6. Identifying Markets to Pursue

  1. Select the top three most penetrable markets (see the sidebar at the end of this list).

7. Conducting an Export Marketing and Sales Analysis

  1. Come up with an overall marketing strategy.
  2. Figure out sales strategies.
  3. Write a detailed product or service description.
  4. Map out the product life cycle.
  5. Make a list of copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.
  6. Determine research and development activities.

Short-and Long-Term Goals

  1. Define short-term goals.
  2. Define long-term goals.
  3. Develop an action plan with timelines to reach your short-term goals.

In summary, the most difficult aspect in developing an export business plan is determining the demand for a product or service offering in a foreign country. It’s one thing to know a product can be sold in a market—after all, that’s why you selected a particular market—but it is a totally different ballgame when it comes to forecasting how much you can sell and over what time frame. Assume that the demand for a product develops in direct proportion to the economic development in each country. This might be a useful way to think about it, especially when data might be unknown.

Next Week’s Extract

Did you enjoy the extract? Next week we’ll be running the final extract from Laurel’s book. Make sure to check back in if you’re interested. If next week is too long to wait and you want to bulk of the substance ASAP, Laurel Delaney’s book is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apress.

AvatarLaurel Delaney

Laurel J. Delaney is founder and president of Chicago-based, a management consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses go global. She is the publisher of The Global Small Business Blog, which is ranked No. 1 in the world for entrepreneurs and small businesses interested in going global and the author of “Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably,” published by Apress, 2013.