Friday, July 4, 2008

Selling Internationally

First off, I now have the song "We are the World" stuck in my head, so I thought I'd share the misery.

Now, on to business. It's no news to anyone living in the US that the economy and the exchange rate for the US dollar is down the tubes. You can blame any presidential administration you like, but it won't change the facts. If you want to survive as a business, you HAVE to think globally. There have been weeks on end where I didn't see a single US sale, but thank G-d for Australians and Swedes! (smooch! love you guys!)

I'm in a rambling frame of mind, so I'll list some tips and bits of advice in no particular order:

  1. Buy a postage scale and get a chart from your post office for estimating shipping expenses.
  2. If you get an order from Italy, don't turn it down, but DO send an email stating that it can take up to 3 months for a package to arrive. Give the buyer a chance to cancel the sale, and then insist that they pay for extra tracking. From the US, Global Priority starts at $25.00 extra in postage. Italy has an insane list of restrictions on what can be brought into to country, so make sure that the buyer knows that there is an excellent chance that whatever they get will be held up in Customs, possibly forever. Buyer Beware!
  3. Every other country (except possibly Nigeria) is just fine to ship to, and will take a few days to 3 weeks, maximum.
  4. Shipping Global Priority from the US is NO guarantee that your package will actually be received within 2 to 3 business days. It may still get held up indefinitely at customs in the receiving country for weeks and weeks. This recently happened to me with a shipment to Denmark.
  5. When you are writing, get into the habit of being aware that you have a global market. Little things can make a big difference. Instead of saying "things are more expensive here" try saying "in the US". "Here" could be anywhere, and it's annoying to assume that everyone knows where you are. Instead of saying "local shipping" you could say USPS or US postal service. Instead of saying "overseas shipping" you could say "for shipping outside of the US". It takes a bit of getting used to, but it makes your statements much clearer and helps avoid confusion. It's also just plain more polite.
  6. In your website profiles, list more than just your city name. Not everyone knows where Springfield, Ellensburg, or Bjrkvvstron are. (I confess, I made that last one up.) For example, "Seattle, Washington, United States" or "Sidney, New South Wales, Australia".
  7. When you ship, use Tyvek envelopes or sturdy boxes. Anything less will get shredded. I have received bubble mailers from overseas that were hanging together by a fiber, and the contents bursting at the seams. I'd much rather pay a few extra dollars for better packaging, than have my item fall out mid-transit and have to deal with claims forms and grumpy customers.
  8. I'm sure I'm forgetting some important points, so please feel free to add your comments. :-)

1 comment:

Grace said...

A friend of mine who doesn't have a Blogger account wanted to add this info:

I just read your blog post, and I have one thing to add. My mother own a
Mail n'Ship and I've lived in Italy, we've had to deal with shipping
there a few times.

1. If you want something FAST FedEx World Air (something like that) is
the way to go...I got stuff overnight from Connecticut to Italy.

2. Italy's customs officers are fantastically corrupt. Like, we've had an
easier time shipping to post-Soviet republics. Be aware that your buyer
may have a to pay a bit of a bribe to liberate their jewelry on the other
end. It's a good idea to put "gift" on the customs form. Do not say

3. It's a good idea to make all your international buyers sign a waiver
saying they are responsible for any customs and duties fees. Normally,
the shipper bears full responsibility. My mom got sammed with a $200
customs fee once and...never again.