Export Growth: A Format That Works


Each year, my export consultancy for SMEs is enriched with new digital tools. The experience I gain in the field – it’s been 15 years now – does the rest. This leads me to continuously adapt my way of working with small businesses that want to expand into new international markets.

Exporting in 7 Steps, 2024 Version

In these first months of 2024, I am successfully using the following modus operandi, which I usually develop over three days, spread over a couple of months:

  1. Brief Market Analysis: To decide which geographical areas to focus on. Often, we discover that there are also Italian regions where we have little presence. In this phase, I use tools such as Export Planning and Statista.
  2. Internal Analysis: A brief internal analysis to frame the current clientele and understand our strengths. The tool I use most at this stage is a simple SWOT analysis (strengths and weaknesses). Additionally, a look at competitors is always very useful for making comparisons.
  3. Target List Creation: This is where Matchplat comes into play to create lists – divided by zones – that identify the names of target companies in the chosen markets: customers or distributors.
  4. LinkedIn Optimization: If the personal profile and the company page are not complete, it is necessary to spend time setting up this digital showcase that will then be used to knock on the doors of potential customers. One often overlooked aspect is translating these profiles into the languages of the target countries. I am satisfactorily using ChatGPT for translations.
  5. Editorial Plan for LinkedIn: An editorial plan for our LinkedIn company page is also essential. We are credible in the eyes of potential customers not only if we present ourselves well but also if we speak competently. Here again, ChatGPT is of great help in developing an editorial plan and preparing posts. In the 4.0 version I use – the cost is about €20 per month – I can also produce suitable images for various posts.
  6. Identifying Contacts: Simultaneously, we proceed to identify on LinkedIn – or better, Sales Navigator – the people to contact – first and last names – in the target companies identified with Matchplat.
  7. Initial Contact: Finally, the initial contact activity begins via LinkedIn, and in some cases via email. Fine-tuning well-calibrated messages, obviously in the language of the target market, is important. As is having a scheme to follow in the flow of activities to be carried out, with the relative timing. When the contacts to be made are more than a hundred – which is usually the case – it is important to have a scheme to follow; a simple Excel file is fine. Unless you want to immediately invest in a professional CRM. In this case, I recommend Teamleader, also for cost reasons.


This is the method I use and it is working. I am not saying this, but the clients with whom I have recently concluded activities: references. Satisfied customers are the best advertisement.

The steps are always seven, as described in my 2018 book “Exporting in 7 Steps.” If you want to delve into all the digital tools available to a small business, I also recommend my other book written a year ago, “8 Digital Tools for SMEs.”