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Like It? Then Export It!

Content provided by the Women Presidents' Organization


By Laurel Delaney

When it comes to exporting, you cannot be all things to all customers.  Decide on something.  Then stick with it.

How will you select a product for export?  I'll give you some starter tips, and from there it will be up to you to take a deep breath, pick a product and get your global business underway.

Finding a Product To Export

What gives you the most pleasure as a businessperson?  Is it creating satisfaction by meeting consumer demands?  Is it the challenge of spotting a trend, positioning yourself to take advantage of it, and striking it rich?  Or is it the chance to spend your time dealing with a commodity you love?  You have two viable reasons for choosing a product to export:  because you know it will sell, or because you like it.  Let's consider both alternatives.

Choose a Product That Sells

Start with a product that you know will sell -- if not everywhere, at least somewhere.  At the very least, start with a product that you would buy!  Nike shoes, The Body Shop's beauty products, and Apple electronic gadgets became global successes because the companies' founders created high-quality products they'd be glad to buy themselves.  They were packaged attractively and sold at a value.  On the way to global success, the founders talked about their products to their family and friends.  You might try the same tactic:  when you find a product for exporting, show it to anyone who will listen to your pitch.  If every person responds positively, you are onto something big.  If, on the other hand, you receive a lukewarm response from most listeners, you need to find another product fast.  And remember, once you find the right product, you have to find the right market.

Also, you will improve your odds of picking a winner if you cultivate a knack for tracking trends, or even spotting potential trends.  Getting in on the ground floor and exporting a product before it becomes a super-seller in its country of origin could be the business breakthrough of a lifetime!

Choose a Product You Like -- And Others Will Like It, Too!

You might also start with a product you really like and know something about.  This will probably prove much easier than deciding where you want to sell it.  For example, let's say you love gardening.  Your friends call you another Martha Stewart because you collect every gadget ever manufactured to help you devise more creative and beautiful ways of doing things.  You ask yourself, "What if I could take some of these handy tools and get them to gardeners in other parts of the world who might enjoy them?"  That's how you plant the seed, so to speak.  Then it occurs to you that a great gardening glove or colorful, sturdy lightweight raker won't be enough forever -- you'll want to start off by offering your customers something simple, but later you'll want to broaden your product offerings, continuing to use your own enthusiasm for home gardening as a guide to what others might find useful and enjoyable.

In addition, your product must possess certain advantages that will allow it to obtain a competitive niche in foreign markets.  Not only do you ward off your own potential boredom this way, but you keep customer interest alive all the way down the line:  your export customer will need your product innovation to support her sales, too, because her customers, in turn, will look to her for line expansions and novelties.  Everyone wants to position themselves on the cutting edge in their field! Now you have a vision of building a global business in gardening supplies.  Start with a single product -- say, colorful rubber gardening gloves with blisterproof padded palms -- and look for someplace to take it!

Once you have a likely export product in mind, learn everything there is to know about it.  If you were its creator, how would you improve it?  Go to a manufacturer, offer your export services, and suggest product improvements to turn a mediocre product into something slightly ahead of its time. Your suggestions might mean the difference between a mobile transistor radio and the Apple iPod.


Copyright ©2006 Laurel J. Delaney. All rights reserved.

Laurel Delaney runs GlobeTrade.com and LaurelDelaney.com, both Chicago-based firms that specialize in international entrepreneurship.  She is also the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter and The Global Small Business Blog, which are both highly regarded for coverage on global small business.  Laurel can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.

Content copyrighted by the Women Presidents' Organization


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