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The Ambassador Bridge spanning the Detroit River between Ontario and Michigan sees a heavy flow of goods between the two countries.


Exporting companies grow faster, are more productive and are more likely to survive.

That's the conclusion of new research by Deloitte Canada contained in a report released Wednesday, Smart Exporting for Canadian Companies.

And yet fewer than 4 per cent of Canadian companies now sell beyond their own borders – part of the reason why Canadian exports have languished in the past decade. And companies that do export sell mainly to the United States – a mature and competitive market – while ignoring some of the fastest growing regions of the world.

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With Canada stuck in a slow-growth economic environment, not exporting is likely to be riskier for companies than exporting in the years ahead, argued Jonathan Goodman, the report's co-author and senior partner of Monitor Deloitte Canada, a Deloitte affiliate.

"It's not going to be good enough to stay at home and say, 'I'll serve the customers that I have,'" Mr. Goodman explained.

Deloitte has come up with seven keys to export success, based on interviews with top executives of 46 large and small Canadian exporters.

Reflect: Figure out what your company does best, and then refocus the business around a compelling product or service. This may involve benchmarking against global competitors, and testing out potential interest at foreign trade shows.

Explore: Gather extensive market information on every target market, tapping sources such as other exporters, the Canadian Trade Commissioners service and other publicly available information.

Promote: Build trust and establish a long-term commitment to a target market by consistently showing up at local trade shows.

Localize: Adapt your company and product to the local market, including ensuring adherence to all local measurement, technical and safety standards. Put people on the ground, hire local representatives, visit customers regularly and make sure your website offers local language support and contact numbers.

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Protect: Understand and mitigate export risk by starting small, setting reasonable risk thresholds and meeting all prospective business partners in person. Vet buyers, learn about key local players and look for ways to share currency and pricing risks with local partners.

Reinvent: Embrace innovative local technologies and methods to make your business stronger, not just in export market, but also at home.

Collaborate: Work with foreign customers and business partners to become more innovative and gain global scale. Invite customers to visit Canada and work with them to pilot new technologies or products in export markets.

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