How to Develop an Import/Export Business Plan

Measuring Results Is Crucial For Global Success

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An import/export business plan is important for defining your company's present status and internal goals and commitment, but it is also required if you plan to measure results.

Where do you start? Begin by adapting the skills, interests and resources you already have. Then, learn about importing/exporting the hard way -- by doing it -- but first you must have the basics in place: time, nerve, imagination, capital, energy, knowledge and determination.

If you have these, you're halfway up the hill. If you want to reach the top, you implement the following action plan:

1. Launch a website or blog that provides great content about your product or service offerings! How else will cross-border customers and suppliers find you?

2. Conduct detailed market research (study business climate) to determine if there is a need for your product or service. This measure will also alert you to possible barriers to entering your target market.

3. Package your product or service so one can see that yours is notably different from that of others. If you think there are no competitors, you didn't research enough. Keep digging.

4. Size your product or service according to the needs of the foreign market. In other words, listen to your customers! If all your customers tell you your offering is too large, then size it to their liking. If you give too many choices, it can also be confusing.

5. Size the market you are entering. Any major advertising agency or market research company in the foreign country where you wish to do business can make market predictions.

6. Participate in industry-wide trade shows. This is a uniquely effective way to contact international customers, especially if you have a difficult product to sell, or a product that a customer needs to actually see.

Look for a listing of exhibitions held in markets worldwide.

7. Know the basics about your product or service when customers inquire and respond swiftly with accurate answers. If it's a product, inform the customer about production capacities, production facilities, product quality, supply chain timing, packaging, transportation and price. If it's a service, describe your area of special expertise (for example, a global marketing communications program), clients served, turn-around time, applicable fees, credentials and any other important background information.

8. Visit customers regularly in person who are involved in your business transactions or at the very least, conduct Skype calls to connect virtually. Personalize your relationships and be prepared to yield and compromise when needed.

9. Capitalize on cost effective sales lead generation programs. Generating sales leads is a challenge for most businesses, but it becomes even more complicated when you are trying to win new business globally due to language, customs, and cultural differences that also must be taken into account.

If you have an opportunity to place ads on several different social media and networking forums (Facebook, Google+ or Linked In) that effectively reach your target market, you should consider taking advantage of it. Same holds true for search engine (Google and Bing) ads. These programs are cost effective and they do the global marketing work for you.

Remember, a plan is just a plan.  It is your and your team's responsibility to execute the plan and, at the same time, promote your efforts.  

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