Desk research - Sales Management

Desk research is an important export market management activity, as the cost of foreign travel is invariably higher than in the domestic market, and time available when on a market visit is very limited.In most countries it is customary that,when an export takes place, the exporter must report to some authority (such as customs and excise) the nature of the product under appropriate customs tariff headings,the volume of exports, and the value. As a starting point, the export marketer should make a study of home market export statistics,which will normally show:

  • whether exports are taking place already
  • where they are going
  • the volume and value of exports
  • any seasonal pattern to exports in your product categories
  • who is exporting.

Home market export statistics will normally be available from government sources (e.g. customs authorities) or through trade associations,chambers of commerce, business libraries or government export promotion agencies. You will be surprised at the data uncovered by a meaningful analysis. If it is known that other countries are producing similar products and are exporting them, then access to their export statistics will yield the same information on potential markets as I have noted above, and will additionally provide a basis for analysis value/ volume comparisons of:

  • comparative export prices
  • competitive export quantities
  • magnitude of import trade to key markets
  • any seasonal trends (in the case of raw materials or commodities).

In addition to the desk research into exports and imports, and patterns of movement of goods, some further desk research, such as through the government resources of the Department of Trade and Industry for the United Kingdom, will normally yield data on:

  • health and ingredient laws
  • labelling and packaging
  • import licences and procedures
  • import quotas
  • export licences and quotas
  • exchange control restrictions
  • product registration / approval
  • import/ duties /tariffs /taxes
  • import/ export documentation
  • agency and distribution agreement, and other relevant regulations in foreign markets.
    When the desk research is at a suitably advanced stage potential markets will have been identified, and an exercise to prioritize markets can begin by looking at criteria such as:
  • existing or potential consumer or user demand in the foreign market
  • suitability or adaptability of the products to meet specific needs in the foreign market
  • sales volume and value potential for your company in the face of competition from other sources (e.g. competition in terms of price, availability, quality, traditional supply sources, etc.)
  • existence of foreign market manufacturers with compatible production facilities or products, either to utilize your products as inputs or to compete with local product on advantageous terms
  • a local distribution infrastructure suited to the product needs (i.e. refrigerated trucking for delivering frozen goods, or dealers capable of supporting product with after-sales service)
  • existence of local distributors capable of marketing the products
  • current or potential protection (from imports) for locally produced products
  • availability of foreign exchange for imports
  • availability of import licence's (if required).

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