A Conversation During World Trade Week on Resources and Opportunities Available for Businesses to Expand Globally

Courtney Overbey

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

In today’s market, deciding to take your business global is not “if” but “when.” Alyssa Tracey, Director of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) International Trade program, and John Worthington, CEO of IBT Online, team up for a virtual discussion during World Trade Week about how businesses can use the state’s resources to expand globally, the importance of digital marketing and 2021 digital and e-commerce trends.


See below for excerpts and key insights from the conversation and watch the full 30-minute livestream to learn more.

COVID-19 has changed the way we do business — and international companies are pivoting accordingly.

John: We can’t expect to go back to business as usual for some time now. The Global Business Travel Association projects business travel volumes won’t return to their pre-COVID numbers until 2025. We’re in for a long duration of recovery, so that means business must continue to pivot and prepare for a digital age. E-commerce is growing rapidly, and it’s going to be a huge asset for businesses. For example, half of Amazon’s operating income, which is about $4.2 billion, came from its cloud division. Zoom was downloaded 485 million times in 2020, has well over 500,000 business customers and its average meeting minutes has soared over 3 trillion. We can’t get into today’s conversation without understanding the big picture digital trends and pivots we’re currently seeing in the international market.

Alyssa: We’re also hopeful that business travel will resume because we all know the importance of being in the same room, what being face-to-face can do to develop a relationship. But of course, you can have initial conversations online, you can create new business partnerships online – you can even strike deals online. But moving forward, for at least the foreseeable future, the way we do business will involve some sort of digital component for a while, whether that’s through trade missions or trade events.

The MEDC and IBT help Michigan companies elevate their online presence globally and right here in Michigan.

Alyssa: There are so many international websites and ways for companies to get into different markets digitally — some we had not even considered before until the pandemic, so it’s great to know just how much opportunity there is out there.

John: Absolutely. MEDC and IBT online have been working together for eight years, and every single year, we have added services to our Michigan online program to make it more useful and impactful for Michigan exports.

Now more than ever, it’s important to take advantage of today’s online technologies. How can we use those technologies to get out there and be in front of audiences and customers internationally? Websites are the obvious go-to. The International Chambers of Commerce tells us that every company’s number one marketing and sales tool is to get out there and do businesses internationally. The key is to be where your target is, and if you can’t do that in person, you can do so by optimizing your website and keywords.

MI-STEP supports and empowers Michigan small businesses to export their products.

Alyssa: How do you conduct business when you cannot be there physically in person, and how can we help facilitate more of those connections online? From the International Trade side, we were fortunate that the Michigan State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) was nimble enough through the Small Business Administration to add in a new grant category for e-commerce solutions. We were then able to support companies that wanted to integrate an e-commerce platform into their own website. Even now, MI-STEP is available to provide up to $10,000 for companies and small businesses looking to tap into support activities for e-commerce integration.

With offices strategically located around the globe, the MEDC’s International Trade team is uniquely positioned to help Michigan businesses thrive in new markets.

Alyssa: MEDC’s International Trade program has foreign offices all over the world. In China, for example, we have a dedicated center, in which the individuals that run it are uniquely equipped to support companies that have IP, intellectual property and trademark protection issues they’d like to safeguard in advance of entering the Chinese market. You can view a map of international trade managers around the globe and their contact information by visiting michiganbusiness.org/export.

To learn more about the MEDC and how we can help you grow your business into new markets, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/export.

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