Market Research: Dreaded Chore, a Powerful Tool

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One of the tasks I dreaded while getting my import/export business underway was conducting market research. I hated it because it cost both time and money. I would promise a potential supplier that I would study a foreign market to determine whether it would be receptive to their product. Then I would rack my brains about (a) how I would go about it and (b) how I would go about it inexpensively!

When representing a company in export markets, you typically work on commission.

You earn your fee after you make a sale. To approach a supplier, convince them that you can export their product, and conduct market research to prove it all adds up to a substantial investment of time and money up-front, especially if you have limited capital of your own.

Selecting a Product

When attempting to import a product (really the opposite of exporting), you most likely have an import product in mind. You must learn everything there is to know about the product and the overseas market before you can begin the import process. If you were its creator, how would you improve it? Find a manufacturer and suggest product improvements to turn a mediocre product into something slightly ahead of its time. That's how it works.

Sometimes you'll get lucky, and an inquiry will land on your desk, pointing you right at an ideal market for your product. For example, you might have a friend who lives in France and loves peanut butter but can't find it there.

He contacts you and asks you to source a supplier of it. You now have a country (France) to export to, a potential buyer (your friend) to sell to, and a product (peanut butter) to offer. And furthermore, now that you know that there is no peanut butter in France, you've been alerted to an untapped market that you can develop on a larger scale!

But don't take these windfalls for granted. If you want to keep the orders coming in, you're going to have to go out and approach customers. Market research tells you where they can be found.

Market Research Project

Your first market research project is usually the toughest because it's all unfamiliar terrain. But once you have searched out the data you need to predict how a specific type of product will sell in a specific geographic location, you can use the information over and over again as a guideline for imports/exports of similar products in the future. As you build your personal information database on global markets and learn to keep yourself up-to-date on developments in international trade, it will become less and less of a chore to determine where to take your product. You will find that market research is a powerful tool for exploring and taking control of your global territory.