The thought of shipping and delivering goods across international borders can be a thrilling milestone for many small business owners. But concerns over logistics and legalities can become a mental roadblock. Ever wondered how your logistics choices affect your profit margins? Or how you get your shipments cleared through Customs? DHL Express can help you determine how to take your goods to new markets.

1. Know your company’s priorities

Is it reputation, customer satisfaction, speed, global coverage, visibility, cost or other factors that drive your business’ desire to expand to new markets? The answer will help guide your decision making as well as whether a vendor or service partner can help meet your needs. Once you have your priorities straight, you can move forward with your logistics plan.

2. Pick transportation modes based on delivery speed

The mode of transportation determines cost, time of delivery and how it will be shipped. There are several types of transportation to consider whether it is truck, rail, ocean, air or a combination of these (multi-modal). For example, an ocean shipment will take longer to be received and can be part of or a whole container on the ship, but cost associated with the shipment will be less since it is part of a larger overall shipment and uses less fuel to reach its destination. If time is of the essence, Express delivery companies like DHL Express offer door-to-door, day and time-definite deliveries.

3. Who can help me clear my shipments through Customs?

A broker acts as an agent during the shipping process, helping clear merchandise through customs, preparing documents and more. It’s up to you whether you want to hire your own broker. DHL Express does this every day for its customers because it acts as a broker on their behalf – ensuring that our customer’s Customs paperwork is relevant and accurate at all times.  Once thoroughly checked, shipment information is handed over to the appropriate customs authority. From import to export services, DHL Express has dedicated export and clearance personnel who apply trade agreements, file shipment declarations, apply  tariff classifications and duty and tax calculation prior to our customer’s shipments leaving or arriving the U.S.

4. Know how to perform the outbound process

Correct documents ensure that shipments are cleared through customs quickly, efficiently and correctly. Examples of bad descriptions include: samples, parts, promotional items, gift or no description at all. Examples of good descriptions are: wood screw samples, part for printing press, golf balls/keychains/pens (for promotional use not for sale), men’s T-shirt (gift), business letter. In other words, be as specific as possible.

5. Know what shipments require special handling or processing

When you focus on the product itself and the packaging needed for shipping, your product will be market-ready and arrive safely. Some considerations include:

  • Pack to protect against physical damage
  • Use strong containers
  • Help the buyer to identify your shipment
  • Do not over pack, even out weight distribution
  • Use pallets and outer containers as buffers if needed
  • Avoid product and brand names on outside of boxes, which could invite theft
  • Requirements change across countries

Also keep in mind Foreign Regulations and Standards such as restrictions on animal products, textiles and electronics. has information on U.S. and foreign standards as well as specific requirements and regulations.

6. Be prepared with common documents

Below is a short checklist of common documents needed for all shipments going outside of the U.S.:

  • Completed Waybill (must be in English)
  • Certificate of Origin or Manufactures Affidavit
  • Power of Attorney with any agents
  • Licenses, Permits, Carnet, Letters of Credit, or Certificates
  • Bill of Lading

DHL Express’ shipping support center includes a step-by-step guide to walk you through this process from start to finish.

With these questions answered, your business is on its way to reaching new markets and avoiding the most common problems shippers face. Have other questions? Tweet us at @DHLUSHelp.