Data is an excellent starting point for your export strategy, but it is important to remember that numbers can be misleading. Straight data without explanation can be interpreted as something that it frankly is not. The problem is not that a lot of international traders use market data in their search to expand their markets; it's that many of them only use data that they don't fully understand.
When you begin looking at data to determine new import and export markets, you will need to ask yourself four important questions to better understand it:
- What happened before the stated trend?
- What has happened after the trend?
- What caused the trend to occur?
- Can you legitimately compete in the marketplace?
We understand that budgets are always tight, especially when you are growing your international trading business. You can identify potential export markets without going over your organization's budget by:
- Using raw data as a starting point. The UN Comtrade Database, TradeStates Express and the U.S. Census Bureau all are great online resources where import export businesses can find raw data about potential markets. We do not recommend that you base your decision to expand into a market solely on raw data; instead, use it as a starting point to narrow down the options that you will investigate further.
- Using reports to improve your understanding of the market. The Market Research Library has an extensive collection of general reports and international trade information, specifically about export opportunities. Take your potential markets from the previous tip and cross-reference them with these reports.
- Consulting people "in the know." If you are looking to export, you need to be in touch with people who are already knowledgeable about international trade. The ITA offers business counseling, but it can also give your business an insider's perspective on your potential markets. You can also attend U.S. and foreign trade shows to network and attend lectures on the topic. The District Export Council is another resource you should look into for counsel and other information.
- Visiting the market. There is nothing quite like visiting the market you intend to export to to learn more about it. Discuss your visit with the U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Centers, state and local Economic Development Organizations and other chambers of commerce. These agencies can help you to organize trade missions or facilitate your visit to the future market and get you contacts so that you can make future deals. You can also get more information from your local U.S. Export Assistance Center at www.export.gov.