Export Manager: an increasingly Complex Profession that requires New Training Methods

An example of a training course that combines tools, method, and field experience

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Planning Internationalisation International marketing Internationalisation tools

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The role of the export manager has acquired more and more importance and credibility in recent years, given the increasingly important challenges of international markets and the need to consolidate the export structure for small and medium-sized companies. Not surprisingly, many institutions offer the opportunity to start training aimed at this profession. Training centers, such as the ITS LAST located in Verona, with a two years post-diploma course, offer all the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge for the development of this professional figure.

We talked about practice precisely because there are many collaborations that these institutions initiate with professionals in the field; their tools, skills, methods are used, allowing students to participate in real cases and projects, as well as being able to apply as interns at partner companies.
The case studies proposed to students during the year 2020-21 are very interesting, starting 4 internationalization projects along the entire process to promote Italian companies abroad.

Project method

The method used is structured as follows:
  1. Business analysis to understand the strengths to be enhanced in the project and the weaknesses to be taken into consideration for internal company improvement
  2. Definition and analysis of the target market(s) that present the best opportunities for the company at the lowest risk
  3. Know and identify any counterparties and competitors in the target market
  4. Definition of a market entry strategy
  5. Definition of a marketing, organizational, financial and operational plan
  6. Creation of an operational, logistic, controlled and supported network for the continuation of company activities in the target market

ExportPlanning as a tool for analyzing and defining target markets

After an initial business analysis carried out with interviews made by students to the 4 companies available for the implementation of the internationalization plan, defining the target market has revealed a challenging activity.

The optimal market identification tool was the dedicated section in the ExportPlanning platform. Thanks to the Market Selection tool, students obtained a first ranking of the most attractive countries for the company considering:
  • Macroeconomic data:
    • Development factors: Doing Business Index
    • National accounting indicators: gross domestic product at current prices
    • Characteristics of the demand: male/female population, total
    • Forecasting scenario: GDP forecasts (International Monetary Fund)
    • Country risk factors, exchange rate and credit risk
  • Specific market figures:
    • Import value in EUR
    • Import value + estimated national sales in EUR
    • High and medium-high price range
    • Expected change in imports in EUR
    • Export value in EUR (accessibility)

Once the ranking of the most potential markets was obtained, on the basis of a correct identification and weighting of the critical success factors, the students have analyzed in detail every market identified with a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis.

This analysis was always made possible by ExportPlanning, thanks to the Market Research and Market Monitor sections, which made it possible to provide precise data on market trends over the years and the quarterly evolution of the market and competitors.

Using the customs code of the company's product, it was possible to analyze the distribution of each country's imports by price range. This allowed to understand how the company is positioned within the various markets, in order to determine whether the company is in the low to mid or premium price bands.

Another aspect taken into consideration concerns the accessibility of the markets. The IMA International Market Accessibility subsection, within the "Market Research" section, is proposed as the main tool for this activity by providing detailed reports both for the reference country and for the specific market of company operations. In fact, all documents, laws and regulations for accessibility of the target market have been analyzed.

Some markets have been discarded from the analysis, while others have been found to be optimal for business expansion abroad.

Finally, the students made a first summary report to the companies. For all their analyses, the students discussed directly with the company - from the company analysis to the choice of the market - explaining and motivating the choice of some markets over others, in order to determine if the strategy is correct and functional for the entrepreneur/manager of the company, or if there is a need to make some corrections on the basis of their indications.

Conclusions

Although not yet completed, the internationalisation shadowing of the 4 SMEs in the project has undoubtedly provided the students of the ITS-LAST 2020/2021 course with an excellent opportunity to learn the combination of skills required of the Export Manager today: method, analytical tools and field experience are the main ingredients of an apprenticeship to be tackled with the right amount of humility and dedication, but also curiosity and enthusiasm.