Is there an overseas market for professional services? You bet, says Jimmy Calano, CEO of CareerTrack, a business-seminar company in Boulder, Colo., that began exporting four years ago. By 1988 the company was getting 20% of its $52 million in revenues, and a slightly larger share of its profits, from abroad. And Calano says it's been much easier than he expected. Among the surprises:
* The firm has had to make few changes in seminar content. "We thought we'd have to tailor our examples to the local countries," says Calano. "But often the attendees actually prefer the American examples."
* People in other countries are more responsive to direct marketing. On average, CareerTrack gets upward of 50% more responses from an overseas mailing than from the same mailing in the United States. (But some of the increased volume is offset by expenses, which are about 30% higher.)
* Foreigners are willing to pay more for the same product. "If we double our price from $48 to $96, our response rate falls a bit," Calano says. "But we'll still get at least as much revenue as we do in the U.S. at the lower price."
* The company can cut costs by doing some jobs in America. It buys mailing lists in foreign countries but does the data processing and printing at home. The finished materials are then shipped overseas for local mailing.
"We have had to tone down the language in the brochures," says Calano. How so? "The American brochure might say, 'This seminar will set your people on fire.' Well, that's got a very different connotation in Asia." -- Bruce G. Posner