How to Choose a Product to Export

Aerial view of cargo ship, cargo container in warehouse harbor at thailand .
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Many people find fulfillment as business owners and entrepreneurs through creating products that add value by meeting consumer demands or by solving consumer problems. Sometimes it's the challenge of spotting a trend or spending your time dealing with a product you love.

Starting or expanding your business by exporting products may help grow your enterprise to new heights while bringing unique products to locations and customers across the globe.

First Things First

Some countries require you to obtain a license before exporting your goods. The vast majority of products and locales required no license, but inquire before choosing your final products, just to be sure. You can find more information on this and many other export questions on, the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration website.

Viable Reasons to Export

Finding a perfect product to sell usually represents the most critical step in creating and growing a profitable export company. Generally, products made in the U.S. provide a certain appeal because of unique features that seem common here, while being considered a novelty in other countries.

Additionally, many U.S.-created products are known for their manufacturers' attention to safety, durability, and overall product quality.

The following reasons make a good starting point for choosing a product to export:

  • The product already sells well domestically. If you currently sell a product in the U.S. or serve as a manufacturer's representative, you'll have a very good idea of a given product's success locally. If your product does well in U.S. markets, it has a good chance of selling well in international markets.
  • You have a product that appeals to a strong niche. You may have a product that appeals to a certain niche with a small but sufficient market size. For example, you could explore a product that caters specifically to animal owners. However, if your product caters only to cat owners who have a black cat with green eyes between the ages of 10 to 12, your niche might be too narrow to bring any real sales volume. You'll also probably have a harder time finding customers, spend more money to acquire them, and because of the small market size, you might limit your company's potential growth.
  • You have a passion for the product. You gotta love it! How else will you be able to talk it up? Keep in mind, if your product can be bought locally, you need to find ways to differentiate it and convince people to buy from you instead of your competitors.

Before making your final product choice, do your research on the same or similar products already selling in your target markets to see how yours can be slightly tweaked to gain an edge over the competition.

A Few More Ideas

If you keep drawing a blank and can't come up with product ideas, try keeping a notebook and writing a list of things like your hobbies, passions, and problems. Then see which products would address those areas the best. Search websites like Amazon and look at their top best-seller lists, browse eBay, and watch television shopping sites like QVC or HSN.

You can also watch infommercials, go to the mall and browse several stores, and talk to your friends and family about the types of products they've recently purchased.

Perform Thorough Research

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. Google's, Apple's and Samsung's electronic gadgets became global successes because the companies' founders created high-quality products and services they'd be glad to buy or use themselves.

On the way to global success, the founders talked about their products to their family, friends, and media. You might try the same tactic, and when you find a potential product to export, but can't get ahold of much market data, show it to anyone who will listen to your pitch.

If every person responds positively, you could be onto something big. If, on the other hand, you receive a lukewarm response from most listeners, keep looking for another product.

You can improve your odds of picking a winner if you put some time into researching and tracking current trends or spotting potential future trends. Getting in early and exporting a product before it becomes a hot seller could be the business breakthrough of a lifetime.