In general, exporting is a simple and low risk-approach to entering foreign markets. Firms may choose to export products for several reasons. First, products in the maturity stage of their domestic life cycle may find new growth opportunities overseas, as Perrier chose to do in the US. Second, some firms find it less risky and more profitable to expand by exporting current products instead of developing new products. Third, firms who face seasonal domestic demand may choose to sell their products to foreign markets when those products are "in season" there. Finally, some firms may elect to export products because there is less competition overseas.
A firm can export its products in one of three ways: indirect exporting, semi-direct exporting, and direct exporting. Indirect exporting is a common practice among firms that are just beginning their exporting. Sales, whether foreign or domestic, are treated as domestic sales. All sales are made through the firm's domestic sales department, as there is no export department. Indirect exporting involves very little investment, as no overseas sales force or other types of contacts need be developed. Indirect exporting also involves little risk, as international marketing intermediaries have knowledge of markets and will make fewer mistakes than sellers.
In semi-direct exporting, an American exporter usually initiates the contact through agents, merchant middlemen, or other manufacturers in the US. Such semi-direct exporting can be handled in a variety of ways: (a) a combination export manager, a domestic agent intermediary that acts as an exporting department for several noncompeting firms; (b) the manufacturer's export agent (MEA) operates very much like a manufacturer's agent in domestic marketing settings; (c) a Webb-Pomerene Export Association may choose to limit cooperation to advertising, or it may handle the exporting of the products of the association's members and; (d) piggyback exporting, in which one manufacturer (carrier) that has export facilities and overseas channels of distribution handles the exporting of another firm (rider) noncompeting but complementary products.
When direct exporting is the means of entry into a foreign market, the manufacturer establishes an export department to sell directly to a foreign film. The exporting manufacturer conducts market research, establishes physical distribution, and obtains all necessary export documentation. Direct exporting requires a greater investment and also carries a greater risk. However, it also provides greater potential return and greater control of its marketing program.