Will your export idea work? 3 ways to test it first

Before you export your products or services do what you can to assess responses from competitors and customers.

Before you export your products or services do what you can to assess responses from competitors and customers. You’ll also want to try to predict the impact on your original operations in case any adjustments are required there.

Here are 3 ways you can gauge the success of your export idea.

Do a cost-benefit analysis

Although there’s always some risk involved when branching out in a new direction, knowing the true costs up front will help you decide whether the venture is worthwhile. A cost-benefit analysis can work as a kind of pre-test, before you decide to invest in your exporting plans.

As a first step, you’ll want to research:

  • Canadian exporting policies and regulations (for example, license, permit and documentation requirements and obtaining an export/import business number).
  • Direct expenses (shipping costs, customs broker fees).
  • Your import country (exporting restrictions, local labelling requirements).
  • Your competitors, to determine which of your products have the best export potential.

Once you know what to expect in terms of costs and red tape, you’ll be ready to take the next step: drafting an exporting business plan.

Test your idea online

Selling to international buyers via the web can be an end in itself – for example, if you sell business services or e-products. It’s also a good way to find out how much interest there is from your target customers before you start shipping products to retailers outside of Canada.

It isn’t costly to build a micro-website to target customers in a foreign region. A handy tool like Google’s Global Market Finder can translate your English keywords into any language you choose – and tell you which markets have the highest search volumes for particular keywords.

Depending on which market you’d like to sell to, you may also need to translate your content. At the very least, be sure your website is localized with a domain hosted in your import country. Try to use local currencies and references as well.

Conduct a field test

One of the best ways to find out whether your business idea will succeed in a foreign market is to partner with a retailer willing to sell a sample of your products in-store. This kind of small scale joint initiative is low-risk and low-cost, and it will provide you with a firsthand look at sales figures in the proposed expansion region.

To find potential partners, search for business connections on LinkedIn and other online networking sites.

You might also try speaking to a representative of the local Economic Development office to get a referral to a potential business person. Try the Chamber of Commerce as well – there may be a joint Chamber of Commerce set up here in Canada that may help facilitate an introduction to a foreign connection. For example, the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce exists to foster connections and trade between those two countries.

Next steps

  • Conduct some primary research. Travel to the country you hope to export to so you better understand the market and gain on-the-ground insights. Assess the local competition. Meet with potential partners including retailers, agents and distributors.
  • Research cost-saving trade incentive programs like Export Development Canada’s Export Guarantee Program and the Canada Border Service Agency’s Duty Relief Program.
  • Gain access to financing to support your international plans by speaking with a Scotiabank Small Business Advisor.