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Global markets create new opportunities for Wisconsin businesses

With 96 percent of the world’s population making purchasing decisions outside the U.S. and one billion people expected to join the global middle class in the next decade, Wisconsin companies are changing the way they think about their businesses. For many, exporting is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. Here’s how some companies are navigating international markets.

Developing a “go-to-global-market” strategy

Milwaukee-based Prolitec is built on the innovative concept of a “subscription for scent,” in which the company uses its proprietary technology to create specialized scents for their commercial customers to diffuse into the air, to evoke positive emotions in shoppers. After realizing that scents can be understood and utilized across continents, the company looked to begin exploring foreign markets.

In order to help reach its full global market potential, Prolitec enrolled in ExporTech™, an export acceleration program, offered by the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) with support from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

The company used ExporTech’s proven export strategy development tools to create a “go-to-market” timeline by developing a customized international growth plan in targeted export markets, including the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Brazil. Company officials also received access to subject matter exports, individualized coaching and consulting, customized support and guided development of an international growth plan.

Since participating in 2011, Prolitec has been able to expand its reach to more than 70 countries worldwide and quadruple its export sales in just two years, earning a 2013 Governor’s Export Achievement award for its efforts.

Meeting face-to-face with global customers

Building from the creation of an overarching export strategy, business owners know that personal contact creates business opportunities. However, that’s not always easy when target markets are thousands of miles away.

Determined to gain traction in Canada, Australia and Singapore, Doug Biggs, vice president of sales and marketing at Gilman Precision in Grafton, knew that time on the ground in those markets was crucial, which is why he invested in global trade ventures to those key international markets that were identified during his company’s ExporTech experience.

The trade ventures included a high-level country briefing from WEDC’s market development director before commencing a well-organized tour of the country’s major markets. At each stop, Biggs participated in pre-arranged, customized meetings with companies whose needs or capabilities aligned with his export objectives.

These resources helped Gilman to jumpstart its export program. In fact, Biggs attributes 100 percent of the company’s 2014 growth to exporting, and expects to see continuing increases in Canadian export sales as a result of the new representation they established during the company’s visit.

The bottom line

Let’s talk numbers. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, companies that export earn revenues that are more than two times greater than their non-exporting counterparts. Furthermore, exporting companies grow faster and pay wages that are significantly higher than companies serving the domestic market only.

Exporting also often results in product improvements, as companies see different ways of producing and using their products when selling internationally. Moreover, serving multiple international markets helps companies withstand market swings within individual countries.

All of these factors combine to increase a company’s valuation, but unfamiliarity with the culture, language and trade practices and regulations of foreign target markets can be steep hurdles to overcome, without help. However, Wisconsin has a plethora of resources available to companies that need help starting the exporting process. In fact, WEDC offersoWEDCWEE a global network of foreign trade agents who represent 79 countries to provide Wisconsin businesses the in-country expertise they need to tap some of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

To learn more about WEDC’s export assistance services, visit

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