A French distributor approached Prescience, a San Francisco-based software company with a single product and slightly more than $1 million in sales, to ask if it could translate and sell Prescience's program in France. Prescience agreed.
Under the distributor's sponsorship, the American-bred software has now become a "naturalized" French product: people know it originated elsewhere, but its adoptive parent has made it French. In some markets -- Japan, for instance -- naturalization can be a real advantage, points out Peter Brown, president of Generic Public Relations, in San Jose, Calif. "The Japanese love our products," he says. "They just hate our companies."
In fact, Brown urges his small-company clients contemplating export not to globalize but to naturalize. Advice to think globally often intimidates companies that haven't yet dented their own domestic markets, according to Brown. "It makes a lot more sense for a small company not to try to conquer Europe," he says, "but to find a native company, a sponsor, to help sell some units first in, say, Germany or France."
Prescience gave up a few sales points, says Brown, "but it also gave up all the headaches, and it derives greater revenues from the product than it would have if it wasn't exporting at all."
A good way to find national sponsors: international trade shows or large U.S. trade shows where, Brown points out, many of the visitors are likely to be foreign companies looking for good U.S. products. To find out about shows, call your own industry's trade association; your state or city export-development office (see "The Inc. Network," May 1991, [Article link]); the U.S. Department of Commerce; or the Small Business Foundation of America's Export Opportunity Hotline, at 800-243-7232. -- Tom Richman