• Select your business name and set up a website and blog.
Without a website or blog, you can't have a networked import/export business. Get yourself a platform that allows you to develop a presence online and grow your business beyond your wildest imagination. The goal is to balance the flow of communications, sell products online (or offline) and build your customer base to drive profits for your international business.
But first, remember to register your business name with a reputable web host because your domain name is what customers use to find you and your business. And it can’t hurt to consult with an international lawyer, banker and accountant for advice on establishing a virtual import/export business and keeping it in the best legal and financial position possible.
A couple of places to get started with a website are Network Solutions, Go Daddy, Intuit and Verio. All offer domain name registrations and affordable website hosting packages with easy-to-use site building capabilities.
To create a professional blog, which allows a continuous flow of engaging communications, try Blogger, Typepad or Wordpress. These services allow you to create a blog in minutes with stunning designs, reliable hosting and on-demand tech support.
Now you are ready to share your business expertise and capabilities and sell to the world.
• Pick a product to import or export.
When it comes to importing and exporting, you cannot be all things to all customers. Decide on something and stick with it.
You have two viable reasons for choosing a product to import or export: you know it will sell or you like it. Hopefully, you can meet both criteria. That’s an ideal business model. Would you buy it if you saw it in another part of the world? Then you are on to something!
• Find the right market.
You’ve selected a product, now you must look for someplace to sell it! You will improve your odds of picking a winner if you cultivate a knack for tracking trends, or even spotting potential trends. Getting in on the ground floor and importing or exporting a product before it becomes a super-seller in a country could be the business breakthrough of a lifetime!
Do the homework and research the market beforehand to locate the best potential foreign market for your product or service. Two places to check are The World Bank’s "Ease of Doing Business" and globalEDGE’s "Market Potential Index."
You might also check with local government officials to best determine sources for conducting market research. For example, in the United States, there are the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Data and Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade, which governs the reporting of all import/export statistics. These resources are helpful for determining where in the world products and services are moving to and from, and why and how to get in on the action.
• Source a supplier.
Once you have a likely import or 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 and suggest product improvements to turn a mediocre product into something slightly ahead of its time. Your suggestions might mean the difference between a Sony Walkman and an Apple iPod.
The easiest access to reputable suppliers might be Alibaba, Global Sources, and Thomas Register. There are others, but these three are considered the holy grail to finding high quality suppliers, manufacturers, exporters, importers, buyers, wholesalers and trade leads.