With the reces­sion reaching the remote cor­ners of the globe, gov­ern­ments and inter­na­tional firms of all sizes are searching for ways to increase sales. Mar­keting pro­fessor Samuel Rabino dis­cusses the chal­lenges and makes some rec­om­men­da­tions. He is the author of numerous arti­cles on indus­trial mar­keting, inter­na­tional mar­keting, export incen­tive pro­grams, product plan­ning, and brand strate­gies and development.

Gov­ern­ments, world­wide, appear to be looking for ways to stim­u­late exports as one step toward re-​​energizing their economies. What rec­om­mended actions do you have for gov­ern­ments to help jump-​​start exports of local businesses?

There are many ways by which gov­ern­ments can stim­u­late exports (like pro­viding net­working and market research infor­ma­tion), some of which might be harmful (e.g., depre­ci­ating their country’s cur­rency or depressing wages of workers in the export sector). Efforts should be con­cen­trated on expanding pro­duc­tivity, espe­cially in the high value-​​added sec­tors of the economy, like the high tech indus­tries, including telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. The object should be making the overall economy more com­pet­i­tive in terms of its trade with other nations.

Do small and medium sized enter­prises face greater chal­lenges (than large busi­ness) in exporting? Are these chal­lenges mag­ni­fied by cur­rent world eco­nomic con­di­tions? How should a small busi­ness owner respond to these challenges?

Small exporting firms that supply only a few cus­tomers over­seas depend on their customer’s eco­nomic well-​​being and their ability to access credit. Large com­pa­nies with a broader base of cus­tomers are less exposed to this risk. In the same vein, when the home market cur­rency appre­ci­ates, exporting firms suffer more than large com­pa­nies who are diver­si­fied and have the ability to man­u­fac­ture goods in low cost coun­tries. The biggest advan­tage of the small export firm is their ability to change product port­fo­lios, reach cus­tomers via online sales, and iden­tify new market niches.

Are there cer­tain con­sumer prod­ucts that are more immune to world eco­nomic conditions?

Con­ven­tional wisdom sug­gests that high-​​end luxury prod­ucts are more immune to eco­nomic down­turn. Oth­er­wise, most lux­u­ries suffer more than neces­si­ties. For example, a recent study by Nielsen Co. indi­cates that some kinds of foods (e.g. seafood, pasta, beer) are more immune to a reces­sion than others (like car­bon­ated bev­er­ages or tobacco). Very large clothing whole­salers are also able to leverage on liq­ui­da­tions. When fac­to­ries close, they buy the prod­ucts and resell them to their ven­dors or in an online store.

Are there par­tic­ular prod­ucts that are really hard-​​hit? What steps do these busi­ness leaders take to main­tain ade­quate exports to sur­vive until we have an up-​​turn?

Exports that depend on demand from sec­tors such as the auto­mo­tive and man­u­fac­turing indus­tries, espe­cially of durable goods, machinery, and parts and com­po­nents, are par­tic­u­larly hard hit. Until credit con­di­tions and con­sumer demand, as mea­sured by con­sumers’ overall con­fi­dence in the economy, and dis­cre­tionary income reverse their neg­a­tive turn, there is only so much that small enter­prises can control.

Are there any world geo­graphic seg­ments where con­sumer demand is holding up and might be pur­sued by firms looking to export?

China and, to a lesser extent, India, appear to be rel­a­tively unaf­fected by the cur­rent crises due to a high domestic demand. Like­wise, Brazil ben­e­fits from trade agree­ments with China and India that also invest heavily in Brazil’s man­u­fac­turing sector. Overall, how­ever, reces­sion 2009 is global in scale and, if not mit­i­gated, it will cause every economy to suffer con­trac­tion in its eco­nomic growth.