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Exporting is one way to expand your business. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

COMPANIES can only grow so much in Australia, with a population of less than 23 million, so those with bigger ambitions often need to look to export markets.

Along with helping to expand a business, exporting can also spread risk and reduce dependence on the Australian market alone, says the government's export assistance arm, Austrade.

''Exporting exposes you to new ideas, management practices, marketing techniques, and ways of competing that you wouldn't have experienced by staying at home. All this considerably improves your ability to compete in the domestic market as well,'' Austrade notes in its online guide to exporting.

Ivan Kaye, the chief executive of corporate advisory firm Business Strategies International, says almost any successful Australian business is a candidate for export markets, because if they're managing to thrive in Australia with the high dollar and the reduction of import tariffs, they're likely to be able to compete overseas.

''What you find is that with people who succeed, it's not really based on whether the product is amazing or not, because the reality is that if the product or service is viable in Australia, the chances are that it's pretty much exportable,'' he says.

''Someone who's successful in Australia has to compete internationally anyway.''

Mark Gustowski, global business development manager at business advisory company Pyksis, regularly takes business owners and managers overseas to help them explore export markets and to make contacts. He has six tips for successfully entering an export market:

1. Have a flexible business model. The model that used to sell in Australia might not work in other markets. ''A lot of companies … have a very fixed idea on how they're going to access the market, but it just doesn't work,'' says Gustowski.

2. Protect your intellectual property. Before a company expands overseas, it should seek trademarks of business names and patents of technology in the overseas territory.

3. Use trusted partners. ''Use established paths to market and supply chains … like Pyksis or another company that has access to those alliances in another country that can connect you up to the right distribution or manufacturing partners.''

4. Use in-country expertise. The US, for instance, has different local, state and federal regulations and taxes, and so local expertise is crucial. China is similarly complex.

5. Consider the corporate structure. The Australian corporate structures do not always have corresponding entities overseas, so it is necessary to explore the legal forms an overseas venture can take.

6. Have a budget. ''Companies need a formalised budget that is everything to do with sales, marketing, distribution, airfares - and then double it, because it will probably cost twice as much as they expect,'' says Gustowski.

Austrade has a program of grants - Export Market Development Grants - aimed at helping exporters break into foreign markets.

Once a company has decided to enter an export market, it needs to decide how best to do this. It can use a foreign-based distributor, who sells it through its own networks and distribution channels.

Kaye says this is a risk-free approach for the exporter, but the distributor might also be representing other products, and might not necessarily focus on the exporter's product.

A company appointing its own representative can ensure that person is focused only on its business, and the grants can be used to help pay the representative's salary.