How to Start an Import/Export Business
Trade is one of the oldest industries around the globe, it existed back in the dark ages where humans used to trade fur for food supplies and other commodities.
In the modern world, trade has become a simplistic process and with the digital age providing tons of information, starting an import/export business is convenient.
Let’s first understand what makes trading such a success around the world before we learn to set up our own business.
WHY ARE IMPORT/EXPORT BUSINESSES A SUCCESS AROUND THE WORLD?
Trading allows a company to acquire products from another country at a much lesser cost than producing it locally.
Importing has always been preferred by large-scale manufacturers to procure goods instead of investing in expensive machinery and labor.
Imagine a smartphone manufacturer needed about 10 different mechanical parts to put together a single device.
Making 10 different electronic parts such as the motherboard, GPU fixtures, camera, etc. requires expensive machinery and it’s not an ideal investment to gather expensive equipment to manufacture the components.
Importing parts makes the most sense, you receive the best parts from around the globe and it’s incredibly cost-effective.
The smartphone manufacturer then exports his device to all corners of the world to receive profits. In this way, import/export business is incredibly profitable without having to manufacture every component by yourself.
An import/export business allows an entrepreneur to fully understand the demands of one country and increase the standards of his product to meet their demands. New practices and measures are introduced to ensure quality is matched and customers are satisfied.
Consider this example — An entrepreneur goes all around the world and learns about the best industry practices concerning his industry.
He returns back to his country and starts a business, he now understands exactly where to acquire high-quality products.
By simply importing his products from different parts of the world, he can put together a high-quality item and create a brand.
Moreover, not every place in the globe can produce high-quality products. For example — China is well-known globally to produce components that are of inferior quality.
Similarly, Japan and Korea are known for producing products and components that are of higher standards.
It depends on your business and the need for quality over quantity.
By importing and exporting you create a demand for products that aren’t easily acquired by consumers in a specific demographic.
Depending on the demand for your products, you can effortlessly create a market and increase your profits exponentially.
If a product created in Europe is worth more to the audience located in Australia, start an export business to launch your product to the masses in Australia and multiply profits.
One way to do this is by creating an online store for your products. It’s as simple as creating a website and demonstrating your product list.
Maximum Sales Potential
Exporting products expands the overall sales potential of your brand and product. Imagine selling your product in local markets located in a foreign country.
If your product is cheaper than the locally produced product, you’ve just gained a new market in that country. In this way, sales potential is increased through exporting.
If you’ve already gained a large audience in a market, sales potentials increase exponentially and your small business could soon transform into a medium or large-scale industry in no time.
Exporting allows you to scan for opportunities and if needed, present local businesses with the ability to franchise your brand.
TYPES OF IMPORT/EXPORT BUSINESSES
Export Trading Company
An ETC works on a commission or fee basis by searching for a domestic source to sell their product to the consumers. ETC identify trends of buyers from foreign lands and caters to their demands by producing the product.
The main objective of an ETC is to assist manufacturers in finding foreign buyers and to provide them with all kinds of market knowledge that helps them in launching a product.
It’s not uncommon for a group of manufacturers to come together and form their own ETC in hopes of creating a market-driven economy.
ETC processes include billing, warehousing, providing insurance, and all forms of logistics including air transport and shipping.
Examples of well-known Export Trading Companies include —
- Swedish East India Company
- Virginia Company
- Hudson’s Bay Company
- ABN Assets
An important/export merchant is someone that deals with all kinds of goods and services and has a good relationship with both — the domestic seller as well as the foreign seller. Their allegiances aren’t with just one type of seller.
The primary objective of an import/export merchant is to purchase in-demand goods from a foreign or local producer and then resell them on his own. He is responsible for shipping, packaging, and warehousing.
The merchant assumes all risk in transactions and he enjoy all the profits as well. The Import/Export merchant is considered a free agent and acquires all sorts of products without needing to sign a contract with any single organization.
Export Management Company
An EMC handles the entire operations of the domestic company and is tasked with operations such as — advertising, distributing, invoicing, handling, packaging, etc.
Let’s understand the EMC with an example — Let’s say you’re a domestic manufacturer that has no idea about how your product will perform in a foreign land and you’ve got absolutely no idea on how to export your product.
That’s where an EMC comes in, they handle all the areas of selling your product and ensure your product is sold to a foreign market under a contract.
The contract can either be a share of profits, a percentage of the retail item sold, or a straight commission.
An EMC is a great option for domestic sellers who want to sell their products to a foreign audience without knowing the “how” and “what” of trading.
STEPS TO START AN IMPORT/EXPORT BUSINESS
Step #1 — Select the Business Name and Launch a Website
The name of your import/export business defines the future of your trading business.
So, acquire a good business name and register it with the related authorities of your country.
Next, you need to choose a top web hosting platform to ensure your business is online 24/7. Good options include — HostGator and In Motion. Once you’ve got a website setup with a content managing system such as WordPress, your trading business is now live.
A website allows your trading business to communicate with an international entity or customer base. To increase your site’s overall design, hiring web design experts to create an easy to navigate trading platform will help gain more visitors.
Blogs are another way to reach your target audience when launching your import/export business for the first time.
Step #2 — Choose an in-demand product
Make a list of all the products that are in-demand in a market and then decide the components required for manufacturing the product.
If you’re going to be importing materials, you will need to outline a plan to contact the manufacturing companies from different countries to get a good price.
Ensure your product price is calculated and all the hidden costs are brought on paper. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that you made a bad decision on choosing your supplier.
To determine whether your products will sell, here are 2 factors to consider —
- Low price — If the product you sell is of a lower price than your competitors, then you certainly have a market for it. Also, pay attention to the quality of the item, a fairly cheap quality item will start to fade in the minds of your consumers.
- Demand — Let’s say your customers demand sports shoes, if you were to create a business that creates high-quality sports shoes on a budget and are able to match the demand of your consumers, you’ve got an exceptional market to capture.
As a new trading business, it’s impossible to meet every customer’s demand for your product, ensure you only focus on what’s necessary such as customer service and product quality.
The remaining factors will start to fall into place once you’ve launched the company.
Step #3 — Contact a Freight Forwarder
Importing and exporting require permissions from the country you are trading with.
Not all countries allow open trade and a license may be required to conduct your trading business.
For shipping, a freight forwarder should be contacted to handle all the base operations required to transport a product. A freight forwarder acts as an intermediator between you and the various transport custom handlers in countries.
Here are some of the issues the freight forwarder helps your import/export company with —
Most freight forwarders provide assistance in packaging products on behalf of your company.
Whether the packages require a container or not will be decided by the freight forwarder.
Since there will be many routes that require unloading and reloading, a freight forwarder is the best service to hire without going through the hassles of packaging.
Several documents are required when transporting an item to its destination. Documents such as
- Commercial Invoice — Invoice generated to the buyer from the seller.
- Certificate of Origin — Certificate containing information of the product’s origin
- Bill of Lading — Contract between the manufacturer and the transporter
- Inspection Certificate — Receipt handed over to customers to demonstrate the items have been inspected
- Shipper’s Export Declaration — Document prepared by the US Postal Service when the price of the product exceeds $500
- Export License — Authorization license to permit the sale of goods to a specific destination
Labeling is conducted by the freight forwarder to provide information on the type of items the customers are to receive. Information on the label should contain:
- Any Port of Entry information
- Hazardous items should be notified
- Product’s origin
- Language details of country product originated from
- Weight in kilos or pounds
As you see, a freight forwarder can assist in sorting out a host of operations on behalf of the company. F
reight forwarders help in saving time and provide you with all the necessary documentation.
Step #4 — Find a Supplier and Provide Input
A supplier that procurers the components required to create your product is immensely critical to your end product.
Always spend time collaborating with your supplier and explain how you want your components delivered. A single change affects the overall outcome of your product.
For example — if you’ve been manufacturing headphones, by asking your supplier to supply a foam cushion for the ear pads, you increase overall customer satisfaction and encourage positive feedback.
Apart from suppliers, the following websites are helpful for finding logistic partners and other trade leads.
Step #5 — Marketing
An international trader must always consider advertising his products to the domestic consumers.
You can assist the local distributors by establishing a market base for your product or by directly headlining the marketing campaigns yourself.
For e-commerce trading, gain your target audience by utilizing several digital marketing strategies and SEO mechanics. Also, consider utilizing email marketing to send emails to your clients to generate leads.
A brand video is required to demonstrate the superior quality and use of your product. Another way to market is by hosting trade shows or workshops and sending invites to high-profile clients.
Marketing is a necessary tool to acquire the necessary consumers for your trading business. Without the right customers, your business could fail.
Don’t try to launch an advertising campaign aiming at the general public, pick a category of audience that your products suits.
For example, if you are launching music players, your target audience should be youngsters and businessmen.
These are the people that are most likely to buy your product over other age categories.
Step #6 — After Sales Service
The most important step if you intend to retain your consumers is after-sales service. Retained customers are loyal customers that spread a positive word about your product.
Always ensure every product that you trade has access to customer support.
This is incredibly critical when entering a foreign market, domestic buyers don’t usually trust a foreign brand.
Hence, it’s necessary to go the additional mile to prove that your product has exceptional customer support if they were to face grievances.
CONCLUSION: CUSTOMER SERVICE
Even with the right marketing plan, an import/export business will only succeed if combined with the right customer support for a global audience.
No amount of demand for your product can bring in sales if you don’t provide your customers with after-sales support.
By providing customer care accessibility for foreign buyers, you wholeheartedly increase your sales and consumer base for your trading business to thrive.