When it comes to exporting, you cannot be all things to all customers....

Decide on something. Then stick with it. But how do select a product for export?
What gives you the most pleasure as a businessperson? Is it creating satisfaction by meeting consumer demands? Is it the challenge of spotting a trend, positioning yourself to take advantage of it, and striking it rich? Or is it the chance to spend your time dealing with a commodity you love? You have two viable reasons for choosing a product to export: because you know it will sell -- if not everywhere, at least somewhere, or because you like it.
Let me give you an example of how it works. You might start with a product you really like and know something about. This will probably prove much easier than deciding where you want to sell it. For example, let's say you love gardening. Your friends call you another Martha Stewart because you collect every gadget ever manufactured to help you devise more creative and beautiful ways of doing things. You ask yourself, "What if I could take some of these handy tools and get them to gardeners in other parts of the world who might enjoy them?" That's how you plant the seed, so to speak.
Once you have a likely export product in mind, learn everything there is to know about it. If you were its creator, how would you improve it? Go to a manufacturer, offer your export services, and suggest product improvements to turn a mediocre product -- gardening gloves -- into something extraordinary. Your suggestions might mean the difference between a mobile transistor radio and the Apple iPod.

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Laurel Delaney (LaurelDelaney.com) is the founder of GlobeTrade.com and the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.