I’m always amazed with how many companies don’t think to plan their product design around future company growth that includes global markets. The cost is huge to retrofit product size, material requirements, packaging, etc. after your product has already been created. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Tip #1 – Meet CE Marking Standards

The European Union’s CE Marking is the product standard accepted throughout most of the world as meeting health, safety and environmental protection legislation. To conform to these standards, you need to find the relevant Product Directives for your product. Once you’ve met these standards, you can legally sell your product in the EU. Here’s a link to information that should get you started towards compliance: http://export.gov/cemark/index.asp

Tip #2  Designing for shipping containers

This is a step that many companies overlook. Utilizing the space in standard international shipping containers can mean the difference between a profitable shipment and one that loses money. Your product packaging should be designed to fit as many products into one shipping container as possible with minimal damage. Here are standard shipping container dimensions in English & Metric dimensions: http://www.schumachercargo.com/shipping-container-sizes.htm

Tip #3 Company & Product Names should be easy to write & pronounce

This comes up a lot in international business. A good example is my former last name, DeStigter. It’s a Dutch last name and few outside of the Netherlands or Flanders can pronounce it. Using DeStigter as part of a company or product name would be a bad idea. Names with characters unique to a specific language such as ř,Æ or ñ should probably be avoided. Speaking of Dutch, almost all American swear words are normal words in the Dutch language. A product/company name example that translates poorly is the airplane manufacturer, Fokker. Yes, it’s pronounced just like F**ker. I think you get the idea. A Google search could help find at least the most blatant translation disasters.

Tip #4  Trademark early in other countries

Most countries award trademark and patent protections to the first person to file the IP application. That means that if your product sells in your home market, someone can trademark or patent your product in another country. Keep this in mind if you believe that overseas markets and associated IP protections are key to your company’s long-term success.

Tip #5  Remember differences in electricity, sizing, weight, etc.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one standard for electricity, clothing sizes, and measurements? Hopefully someday there will be, but until then we need to keep these differences in mind. One way to have a better idea of what to consider is to travel internationally and see how consumers and/or businesses use your product or similar products. Another way to find out is to talk with others in your industry who have ventured into international markets.