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Export Market Research | Export Strategy, Tips and Advice

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Export Market Research Tips and Advice


To be successful, exporters must assess their markets through export research.

Exporters engage in export research primarily to identify their marketing opportunities and constraints within individual foreign markets and also to identify and find prospective buyers and customers.

Market research includes all methods that a company uses to determine which foreign markets have the best potential for its products. Results of this research inform the firm of

  • the largest markets for its product,
  • the fastest growing markets,
  • market trends and outlook,
  • market conditions and practices, and
  • competitive firms and products.

A firm may begin to export without conducting any export market research if it receives unsolicited orders from abroad. Although this type of selling is valuable, the firm may discover even more promising markets by conducting a systematic search. A firm that opts to export indirectly by using an intermediary may wish to select markets to enter before selecting the intermediary, since many intermediaries have strengths in some markets but not in others.

A firm may research a market by using either primary or secondary data resources. In conducting primary market research, a company collects data directly from the foreign marketplace through interviews, surveys, and other direct contact with representatives and potential buyers. Primary market research has the advantage of being tailored to the company's needs and provides answers to specific questions, but the collection of such data is time-consuming and expensive.

When conducting secondary market research, a company collects data from compiled sources, such as trade statistics for a country or a product. Working with secondary sources is less expensive and helps the company focus its marketing efforts. Although secondary data sources are critical to market research, they do have limitations. The most recent statistics for some countries may be more than two years old. Product breakdowns may be too broad to be of much value to a company. Statistics on services are often unavailable. Finally, statistics may be distorted by incomplete data-gathering techniques. Yet, even with these limitations, secondary research is a valuable and relatively easy first step for a company to take. It may be the only step needed if the company decides to export indirectly through an intermediary, since the other firm may have advanced research capabilities.

Methods Of Export Research

Because of the expense of primary market research, most firms rely on secondary data sources. Secondary market research is conducted in three basic ways:

By keeping abreast of world events that influence the international marketplace, watching for announcements of specific projects, or simply visiting likely markets. For example, a thawing of political hostilities often leads to the opening of economic channels between countries.

By analyzing trade and economic statistics. Trade statistics are generally compiled by product category and by country. These statistics provide the firm with information concerning shipments of products over specified periods of time. Demographic and general economic statistics such as population size and makeup, per capita income, and production levels by industry can be important indicators of the market potential for a company's products.

By obtaining the advice of experts. There are several ways of obtaining expert advice:

Contacting experts at government agencies.

Attending seminars, workshops, and international trade shows.

Hiring an international trade and marketing consultant.

Talking with successful exporters of similar products.

Contacting trade and industry association staff.

Gathering and evaluating secondary market research can be complex and tedious. However, several publications are available that can help simplify the process.

A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO MARKET RESEARCH

The exporting company may find the following approach useful.

1. Screen potential markets.

Step 1. Obtain export statistics that indicate product exports to various countries.

Step 2. Identify 5 to 10 large and fast-growing markets for the firm's product. Look at them over the past three to five years. Has market growth been consistent year to year? Did import growth occur even during periods of economic recession? If not, did growth resume with economic recovery?

Step 3. Identify some smaller but fast-emerging markets that may provide ground-floor opportunities. If the market is just beginning to open up, there may be fewer competitors than in established markets. Growth rates should be substantially higher in these countries to qualify as up-and-coming markets, given the lower starting point.

Step 4. Target three to five of the most statistically promising markets for further assessment. Consult with business associates, freight forwarders, and others to help refine targeted markets.

2. Assess targeted markets.

Step 1. Examine trends for company products as well as related products that could influence demand. Calculate overall consumption of the product and the amount accounted for by imports. Demographic information (population, age, etc.) can be obtained from World Population (Census) and Statistical Yearbook (United Nations).

Step 2. Ascertain the sources of competition, including the extent of domestic industry production and the major foreign countries the firm is competing against in each targeted market.

Step 3. Analyze factors affecting marketing and use of the product in each market, such as end user sectors, channels of distribution, cultural idiosyncrasies, and business practices.

Step 4. Identify any foreign barriers (tariff or non tariff) for the product being imported into the country

Step 5. Identify any domestic or foreign government incentives to promote exporting of the product or service.

3. Draw conclusions.

After analyzing the data, the company may conclude that its marketing resources would be applied more effectively to a few countries. In general, efforts should be directed to fewer than 10 markets if the company is new to exporting; one or two countries may be enough to start with. The company's internal resources should help determine its level of effort.

The following section describes the publications that have been mentioned and includes additional sources. Because there are many research sources, the firm may wish to seek advice from a Department of Commerce district office (see appendix III).

Sources Of Market Research

There are many domestic, foreign, and international sources of information concerning foreign markets. Several of these sources are given here. Available information ranges from simple trade statistics to in-depth market surveys.

Trade statistics indicate total exports or imports by country and by product and allow an exporter to compare the size of the market for a product among various countries.

Market surveys provide a narrative description and assessment of particular markets along with relevant statistics. The reports are often based on original research conducted in the countries studied and may include specific information on both buyers and competitors.

GENERAL INFORMATION RESOURCES

One of the best sources of information is personal interviews with private and government officials and experts. A surprisingly large number of people in both the public and private sectors are available to assist exporters interested in any aspect of international market research. Either in face-to-face interviews or by telephone, these individuals can provide a wealth of market research information.

In the private sector, sources of market research expertise include local chambers of commerce, world trade centers or clubs, and trade associations.

Sources of General Information

* Business America.

* Business America. This biweekly publication of the US Department of Commerce contains country-by-country marketing reports, incisive economic analyses, worldwide trade leads, advance notice of planned exhibitions of U.S. products worldwide, and success stories of export marketing. Annual subscriptions cost $49 (GPO:703-011-00000-4). Contact Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; telephone 202-783-3238.

* Commerce Business Daily (CBD). Published daily, Monday through Friday (except holidays), by the US Department of Commerce, CBD lists government procurement invitations, contract awards, subcontracting leads, sales of surplus property, and foreign business opportunities as well as certain foreign government procurements. It is available by subscription and on line (electronically). A first-class mail subscription is $260 per year or $130 for six months; second-class, $208 per year or $104 for six months (GPO:703-013-00000-7.) Contact Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; telephone 202-783-3238.

* International Financial Statistics (IFS). Published by the International Monetary Fund, IFS presents statistics on exchange rates, money and banking, production, government finance, interest rates, and other subjects. It is available by monthly subscription for $188 yearly (yearbook, $50 alone, included in the price); single copy, $20. Contact International Financial Statistics, Publication Services, Room C100, 700 19th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20431; telephone 202-623-7430.

* UN Statistical Yearbook. Published by the United Nations (UN), this yearbook is one of the most complete statistical reference books available. It provides international trade information on products, including information on importing countries useful in assessing import competition. The yearbook contains data for 220 countries and territories on economic and social subjects including population, agriculture, manufacturing, commodity, export-import trade, and many other areas. The latest edition available is about 900 pages and costs $100. Contact United Nations Publications, Room DC2-0853, New York, NY 10017; telephone 212-963-8302.

* World Bank Atlas. The World Bank Atlas provides demographics, gross domestic product, and average growth rates for every country. Contact World Bank Publications, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433; telephone 202-473-1154.

* World Fact-book. Produced annually by the CIA, this publication provides country-by-country data on demographics, economy, communications, and defense. The cost is $23 (GPO:041-015-00169-8). Contact Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; telephone 202-783-3238.

* Worldcasts. This eight-volume annual series presents 60,000 abstracted forecasts for products and markets for 150 countries. Forecasts are arranged by modified standard industrial classification (SIC) codes and are typically one-line entries providing short- and long-range projections for consumption, employment, production, and capacity. A product volume and a regional volume are published each quarter. The complete annual set of four product volumes and four regional volumes costs $1,300; the product set and the regional set, $900 each; single volumes, $450 each. Contact Predicasts, 11001 Cedar Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106; telephone 800-321-6388 or 216-795-3000.

GENERAL INDUSTRY INFORMATION

* Exporters Encyclopedia.

* Exporters Encyclopedia. This extensive handbook on exporting is updated annually and contains exhaustive, in-depth shipping and marketing information. More than 220 world markets are covered country by country. Topics include country profile, communications, trade regulations, documentation, marketing data, health and safety regulations, transportation, and business travel. The annual price is $535. Contact Dun's Marketing Services, 3 Sylvan Way, Parsippany, NJ 07054-3896; telephone 800-526-0651 or 201-605-6749.

* Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) surveys. These economic development surveys produced by OECD cover each of the 24-member OECD countries individually. Each survey presents a detailed analysis of recent developments in market demand, production, employment, and prices and wages. Short-term forecasts and analyses of medium-term problems relevant to economic policies are provided. The surveys are shipped from France. The complete set costs $180 ($203, airmail); a single copy, $13. Contact Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Publications and Information Center, 2001 L Street, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20076; telephone 202-785-6323.

* OECD publications. OECD publishes widely on a broad range of social and economic issues, concerns, and developments, including reports on international market information country by country, such as import data useful in assessing import competition. The chartered mission of OECD is to promote within and among its 24-member countries policies designed to support high economic growth, employment, and standard of living and to contribute to sound economic expansion in development and in trade. For information and prices on these publications, contact Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Publications and Information Center, 2001 L Street, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20076; telephone 202-785-6323.

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