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"How can we sell and market our product to six billion people on the planet?" asked Jeff Dzuira, Director of International Sales at Ferris Manufacturing Corporation.

In 1996, 97% of the company's annual revenues were being generated from local sales. He knew the company had a good product, PolyMem, a pink dressing used to improve healing of wounds. He also knew that the product could be used around the world. Five years and a lot of work later, foreign sales account for 25% of total company earnings.

"International sales have certainly contributed greatly to the overall growth of Ferris," said Dzuira. The Burr Ridge, Illinois-based company, founded in 1977, employs about 30 people and posts annual sales of $10 million.

Federal officials involved in promoting international trade are urging other business owners to enter the global game, especially as the U.S. economy has slowed down.

Having a product or service that works at home and abroad is the first step towards global success. Medical products, like PolyMem, are among the products finding eager customers overseas.

In 1988, founder and CEO, Robert W. Sessions, patented a formula for his drug-free and irritant-free wound therapy treatment that stimulates healing and reduces painful wound dressing changes. Now, it's known worldwide as "The Pink Dressing."

But, going global wasn't always part of Ferris' vision. It began its sales and marketing efforts, as most small businesses do, with a strictly domestic focus. But Dzuira said he visualized the world as a single market. He researched and contacted every government office that he could. Working with the resources of state and federal agencies helped him secure the Illinois Governor's Export Award two years in a row.

"I learned of a subsidy available to us through the federal and state governments that would help fund our participation in "Medica 96," the world's largest annual medical device exhibition held in Dusseldorf, Germany," said Dzuira. "That venue launched our global sales and marketing campaign. The first Medica show yielded us over 140 qualified leads worldwide and secured us our first large block of distributors."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laurel Delaney (LaurelDelaney.com) is the founder of GlobeTrade.com and the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.