As Bob Marley said, “beginnings are usually scary.” Probably the hardest thing in whatever you want to do in life is how to begin. But, when you think about it, if you have thought of an idea, then you have already started. Believe it or not, the most challenging part is behind you.
Once you know your goal, once you know you want to start an import/export business, the path to it starts to unravel. Of course, this is not to say that the rest of the journey will be easy. Still, when you make your first steps on that path, you will discover parts of your personality you have never known existed.
You will begin to see the ways to solve issues that seemed impossible to resolve. Most importantly, you will realize that you have the necessary skills to find the answers.
The thing is, before you start your business, you won’t even know what questions to ask. But once you begin taking the first steps toward achieving your goals, all these big and small questions will start showing their faces. And then, you will find ways to address them.
So, the very first question you will ask when you know what you want to do is how to do it. And you will immediately realize that you have easily found a way to overcome this first obstacle: reading our guide how to start an import/export business.
How to start an Import/Export Business:
Cover the Basics:
Before you can begin your operations, you have to get a few things in order. First and foremost, you have to register your business. You will do that in the state or country where you plan your headquarters to be. Also, you may need to obtain some licenses in order to conduct your business legally. Then you can proceed to the next step, which is setting up a fast website and creating accounts on all relevant social media channels.
Next, you will need to develop a business plan. Moreover, it would help if you did a thorough research of rules and regulations in the countries you want to operate in. For example, if you plan to import alcohol or cigarettes, there will likely be some rules you will have to follow and probably a few permits to acquire. The way you will handle these regulations will have to be included in your business plan.
Finally, don’t forget that starting your business will require substantial capital. The costs of starting will vary depending on the type of business. However, to ensure you get your foot in the door, know that you will have to have capital upfront.
Choose a Product you Want to Import or Export:
Once you have got your basics sorted, the next step is to pick a product you want to import or export. It’s advisable to choose something you are passionate about. This will be your company, your job for a considerable portion of your life if you are successful. And if you want to ensure success, you will need to invest your energy.
And what better motivation than doing something you like in an industry you like. But also, make sure you have decided on a product that will sell in international markets.
Decide on the Right Markets:
Speaking of markets, you will also need to identify the right market for your product. The good advice would be to choose a product that is just starting to gain popularity or something that will likely be popular in the future. If you are apt at spotting trends, this skill will come in handy here.
Moreover, you will have to research the markets. Thankfully, you can use many resources. A good place to start is Market Potential Index on GlobalEDGE. Alternatively, you can browse through reports on the import/export industry on the United States United States Census Bureau. These resources will provide you with valuable insight into the whereabouts of various products and services, thus giving you information on how to hop on that train.
Source the Suppliers:
After you know which product you want to import or export, you should learn everything you possibly can about it. You can even think about ways to improve it and share your ideas with the manufacturers. You never know how valuable and appreciated your ideas could be.
If you have been wondering where to find reputable suppliers, it’s likely that you already know the answer to that question. Alibaba, Global Sources, and Thomas Register are probably the easiest way to gain access to high-quality suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, and exporters.
Price your Product Adequately:
When you start an import/export business, you will realize how critical adequate pricing is. You have to price your products so that your commission doesn’t go over what your customers will be willing to pay. So, the goal is to determine that sweet spot, the price that is neither too high nor too low, to prevent you from making a healthy profit. The typical markup over the price that the manufacturers charge is 10 to 15%.
Who are your customers?
If you have done an excellent job with your SEO and invested enough effort in digital marketing, your customer will find you. However, this is not to say that you can sit still and wait for it to happen spontaneously. Join the Chamber of Commerce, contact embassies, trade consulates, and other trade organizations, and check what is happening in the international market. Moreover, these organizations can provide you with a list of contact relevant to your industry. They can also inform you about various trade shows, both local and international, where you can directly connect with your prospective customers.
Furthermore, don’t neglect your social media channels. Use them to post information about your product, write blog posts on your website, get in touch with your audience, and discover their specific needs. All these efforts will make people think about and remember your business.
Figure out the logistics:
After you have set the base, the time has come to move your product. And to do that, you will need to hire a global, reliable freight forwarder. Such a company will prove invaluable for your business at a reasonable price. They will save you a lot of trouble and money. They can also handle all your shipping arrangements, including paperwork and insurance. Also, they will determine and obtain all the required permits and licenses and know about any restrictions within a particular country’s regulations. As you have already probably guessed, this last part is the most complicated and daunting aspect of starting an import/export business.
And once you have researched all the potential freight forwarders, you should keep in mind that transfer via sea is the most affordable option. So, although it is also the slowest one, it is worth considering it.
After you have set up your business and begun your operations, it is crucial to provide excellent customer service globally. What is the point of knowing how to start an import/export business if you cannot maintain a high level of service from the very start of the communication with your customers to the end of a transaction? And the cooperation doesn’t not, nor should it, end there. It would be best if you thought about your after-sale service too. And it begins with a simple “thank you.”