All Business is International Business
East Syracuse's Morse Manufacturing Seeks Customers Worldwide.
By Charley Hannagan
and printed in
The Post Standard
How do you know your product is a hit in the international marketplace? When a request for information written in Icelandic lands in your company's e-mail inbox.
The Icelandic message arrived at Morse Manufacturing Co., a 36-employee company in East Syracuse that makes drum handling equipment.
Some small companies hit the delete button when they receive those kinds of international e-mails, said Robert I. Trachtenberg, president of the
Central New York Technology Development Organization.
Smart companies, however, see them as an opportunity to sell into the international market, he said.
"All business is international business. If you're not thinking about it, your competitors are," Trachtenberg said.
Over the past five years, Morse's international sales have produced double-digit sales growth and a new way of doing business, said Nate Andrews,
the company's sales engineer and son of its president.
"Other companies are not willing to go through the hoops and as a result they won't reap the sales," he said.
A decade ago, Morse, like many manufacturers, focused on beating the competition in the United States rather selling to the
international market, said Robert Andrews, president of the family-owned company.
Even as it took steps to become more competitive domestically, Morse saw cheap foreign imports cut into its market and more of its customers move offshore.
Then Morse turned over its modest Web page design to Ralph Phillips, its marketing representative.
Type in the term "drum handling equipment" in the Google search engine, and Morse Manufacturing's site comes up first on the non-sponsored links on the page.
Morse's page is packed with information,
videos with voiceovers by
Phillips about the company's
products. Maintaining the website is a top priority so that the
content doesn't grow stale and competitors take over that coveted
top spot, Phillips said.
Smaller companies who sell into an international market face some
challenges, but none that can't be overcome, Trachtenberg said.
For example, whenever an e-mail written in a foreign language
arrives, Phillips seeks an online translator to decipher the
message. That's how the company deciphered the one from Iceland
enough to know what the customer wanted. It later found a dealer in
that country willing to distribute its products, Phillips said.
Morse would rather have dealer handle its products because they know
the language and culture of their countries, Phillips said. An
Italian dealer is working with the company to provide video
voiceovers in Italian on its website, he said.
The company has over 2,000 dealers worldwide that sell its products. It doesn't sell direct to customers in the United
States because it prefers to sell to dealers who better know
customer needs, said Sales Manager Charlie Lighthipe.
Foreign customers also are sent to dealers, if one is located in
their area. If there's not a dealer nearby, they can order directly
from the company, he said.
That's where the next challenge comes in. Both sides must trust each
other in international transactions, Lighthipe said. Morse doesn't
send its products and then bill for them because it doesn't know
what recourse it would have should a customer fail to pay, he said.
The company asks for payment up front before delivery, and customers
must trust that the company will deliver the goods, Lighthipe said.
"The key ingredient for the is trust," he said. "The first
transaction they have to take it on faith."
The company sends the six or seven foreign sales it had weekly
through freight forwarders who take care of any paperwork and send
the goods to a port. It's up to the customer to pay any custom fees
or duties and to transport it from there to the customer's plant,
Morse also must be
aware of any local regulations, such as electrical testing to meet
European Union standards or a recently rescinded certification
needed for sales to China that wood used in shipping was
There are state and federal resources available to help small
companies deal with the paperwork that goes with selling overseas,
Trachtenberg said. The Central New York Technology Development
Organization offers classes in exporting, he said.