Get export orders & expand to foreign markets through proper export marketing

If you are from India or some other fastly developing Asian/African country. And you are about to start your own export company, then export marketing is something you can’t ignore. There is a saying: “Failing to plan is a planning to fail”. In export-import business, for export marketing, this is 100% true.

I am getting so many questions, like “How to find overseas buyers”?, “Which product should I export from India”? “To where I should export”?, “How to get export orders”? -Those easy questions cant answer so easily.

That’s why I decided to write this article. This is for all of you who are eager to start an export-import business and change your life!

Export marketing (if you are doing this right) will give answers to all of the previous questions for you.

Marketing most important function is to bring you export orders, paying customers and retain those

In this article, we will show you: how you can build your own export marketing plan, step by step. We will also explain, why this is important for your business. We will also show, what are the differences between domestic marketing and export marketing.

Before we show you, HOW to build your export marketing plan. At first, we need to explain its different from domestic marketing, its importance, and potential for you. The first part of this article is like an introduction to the export marketing and domestic marketing as well!

Export marketing

So, let’s dive in!

In easy terms, export marketing is all about how to find international buyers and clients for your export goods. Domestic marketing is all about finding clients in your country or even in your hometown or village.

Following is all based on our own practical experiences in export-import business and also a domestic business.

Domestic Marketing VS Export Marketing

WHAT IS domestic Marketing

Domestic marketing includes resources, actions and strategies entrepreneur uses domestically. For make sure WHO are the clients, what do they want and how. Also, what are the market prices for the goods and how to sell them. Trough marketing research you can make sure quickly, who are the main competitors and what are their prices and tactics.

Every marketing starts with the research of the market to make sure the current situation.

After research, you have an overview of the market situation, about your clients, competitors, selling channels. Next step is to plan your marketing strategies and tactics properly, to get maximum result with optimal costs.

After research, plan out following strategies and tactics for your business:

  •  Select proper marketing/sales channels- Through which you can reach to your clients with optimal cost.
  • Create suitable marketing/sales messages, branding, and promotional materials- That are relevant to clients.
  • Select suitable distribution model-Must to meet your clients where they are moving.
  • Design proper package for your goods- Must be attractive for your target customers.
  • Work out optimal pricing strategy- Price level and discounts need to be affordable and attractive for clients.
  • After-sales strategy- If your clients expect it, then plan this also properly.

Domestic marketing activities and strategies can be planned and executed quite easily compared with export marketing. You as a local person, you know how your country works. You know the culture and you can plan and execute most of the things on the fly. If something won’t go as you expect, then you can easily figure out what mistakes you made. You can adjust the plan and take actions again.

Domestic marketing is much easier compared with the export marketing. It is because you are operating in a familiar environment and you know what to expect from the business.

In Domestic business, you are competing with local competitors.

However, in export-import business and in export marketing things are more complex…

WHAT IS Export marketing

Export marketing includes the resources, activities, strategies what export company is pursuing internationally. To acquire clients and successfully sell exported goods to foreign markets. The overall process of export marketing is similar to the domestic marketing, but it has many new aspects. Also, the process itself will take much more time, especially the research and planning phases are much longer.

But anyone, who wishes to start export import business successfully, needs to deal with export marketing!

In export marketing, many new aspects need to consider, because exporting company is operating in the unknown environment.

Export-import companies, when developing export strategies and foreign market entry strategies. Must learn and consider the following factors, aspects and their possible impacts on their business.

  • Cultural differences- Europe, USA, UK has different culture compared with Asian countries. Culture affects the consumer habits, communication ways, marketing messages, product properties etc.
  • Technological differences – Developed western countries have different technological standards, for complex goods. Example If Indian made machine doesn’t have CE certification, then it is not allowed to enter into the European market.
  • Import requirements by importing country- Exporting company need to be aware all of the rules, import duties, restrictions etc.
  • Local competition in foreign markets- Export company need to be aware that it is facing competition from foreign local companies who are operating there.
  • International transactions – If in India you can make easy transactions and even deal with cash. If you are exporting to a foreign country, then money is going to move through international banks. Sometimes need to use banking instruments like Letter of credits ( L/C), Documentary credits ( D/C).
  • Export procedures and documents– If you are sending goods to the foreign countries, then you need to provide the necessary documentation for your clients. Proper international sales-purchase contracts are also important.
  • Foreign exchange- Export transactions are usually being made in US, dollars or Euros. The exchange rate is not always the same. The exporter needs to estimate how much foreign cash reserves they need. The foreign exchange rate can be favorable or unfavorable.
  • International shipping- Exporter need to handle freights, shipping, logistics internationally.
  • Market entry methods- You can participate by establishing a company or joints venture in a foreign country. As a direct exporter-importer (trading company). Or as an export-import or sourcing agent.
    As you see, there are many new aspects compared to doing business domestically. But don’t worry!It may seem complicated to consider and analyze those new aspects of your export business, but don’t worry!

    Actually, you can learn things quickly if you have step by step instructions ( which we will give you.)

    BUT Is it right time to start an export-import business?

    Before we show you, how to build your export marketing plan and strategies, a lot of you may be thinking something followings:
    Is this worthy to start an Export business?
    Is it good and rewarding business?
    What is the future outlook for this business?

    And it is totally normal to ask such questions. Because we want to invest our time and money into something, what has stability and what can give us the life we want.

    We want to confirm to you, that export-import business is a very rewarding business. You can make much bigger profit margins what you cant make in domestic business.

    It can change peoples lives and it is very stable- it is one of the oldest business in the world and it won’t disappear.

    For people from fastly developing countries like India, South Africa, and from Southeast Asia, South America now is probably the best time to get started in export-import business. Europe is more open than ever before.

    For people from India and for other southeast Asians – now is probably the best time ever to start an export-import business!

    So, even you need to learn new things first, it is absolutely worth it!

    Export business can be extremely rewarding and can change peoples lives in developing countries!

    As you now probably understand the potential of the export business, then you probably also understand the importance of export marketing.

    Lets now look, how to do export marketing and set your export strategies to build your export marketing plan.

    Export market research for export marketing strategies

    Step.1-Define your business and its position

    Note This first step you should do also if you don’t plan to export. The following exercise is also very helpful if you do business locally only!

    I also assume, that you already know, what kind of product you are exporting or importing.

    Before, we dig deeper into export marketing and take actions it is important to define in what kind of business you are in. Or what is the business you are planning?

    In what export import business you are

    I suggest to take a pencil and paper and write answers to the following questions:

    1). WHAT products am I selling (or what product I am planning to sell)?
    You should be as specific as possible. Are those premium coffee beans for the middle class, stone slabs for manufacturing counter tops, fresh fruits for wholesalers, textile products for manufacturing jeans, organic chemicals for producing paint etc.

    2). WHO exactly is my customer ( if you are just starting, then brainstorm who is your potential customer)? This is the most important question in every business! If you don’t know, to whom you are selling, then it means you are selling to no one!

    In question No.2, use pencil and paper and mark down as much as possible. Are they companies or private customers? If companies, then what kind of companies are they? Are they direct users of your products or they are mediators? If they are private customers, then what is their income level ? are they highly educated or not? Are they men or women, what ages, are they family persons?

    3). What is the main reason, WHY your customer needs/wants your products?
    This is extremely important to understand.
    People purchase goods only because of the following 3 reasons:

    1. The product makes their life easier/better. Motorcycles, dishwasher, fertilizers for farming, telephones, coffee, etc.
    2. Product solves their problem/pain. Medicine for a headache, food to beat the hunger, water, Gasoline, spare-parts, etc.
    3. Because of irrational passions ( hobbies, status).  A good example is luxury cars, super fashionable and expensive clothes, handbags, watches, golf equipment etc.

    Sometimes it is not so easy to understand, why someone purchases something.

    Let me give you one example. Let’s say, there is a 30+ single female who purchases the diet-food.
    What do you think, what is the main reason, why she purchases diet-food ??

    Because she wants to lose the weight and look pretty?

    No… this is not the actual reason…

    The actual reason is this,

    She is looking for a man into her life and it is easier to find a man when she looks slim – this can be the actual reason, why she purchases diet food on the first place.

    If you know WHO exactly is your customer and WHY she/he purchases your goods, then you can create marketing message accordingly and this will raise your sales A LOT!

    But what if your customer is another company?

    With companies, it is much easier. All companies want to make more money and save costs.

    So, your product is either something they need in their production in order to create their own products so they can make more sales. OR your product is something that can save their costs, raise efficiency. Or is a combination of both, no more choices.

    If you are selling to companies, then pricing factor is more important compared to private consumers.

    After brainstorming answers to the previous 3 questions, you have clarity about in what kind of business you are. Who are the customers and why?

    WHO are your clients, WHY they need your products, WHAT exactly is your product- Those are fundamental questions for every business.

    Now we can actually start the export market analysis. We can analyze different markets ( countries), where you could possibly export your goods.

    step.2- Select 2-3 possible export markets for your products

    To succeed in exporting, you must first identify the most profitable international markets for your products or services. Without proper guidance and assistance, however, this process can be time-consuming and costly — particularly for small export-import businesses. So, below we will give you instructions on what you need to follow.

    We would suggest selecting 2-3 foreign markets. Those few markets you need to analyze further.

    How to approach for this, how to select those 2-3 countries?

    You need to do research.

    In export marketing and in marketing generally, there are online and offline research methods. Online research is available for everyone, so we demonstrate how to do some basic online market research online.

    Let’s say, you want to export coffee and coffee beans from India. How you can get the idea of where you should export??

    Let’s do some easy research online about export markets for the coffee. Your best tool can be Google. Write into google the questions: “Top 10 coffee importing countries”. If you do that, then you will get many reports and articles about the greatest importers. You can find, that greatest importers are some of wealthiest countries in the world, like USA, Germany, France.

    From the previous tool, I took this screenshot below:

    Coffe importing countries

    Top countries by coffee imports

    Also remember this: in export-import business, huge market size doesn’t mean that you could get higher profits from there. Profit margin depends a lot on the selling price, and the price depends on about the relation between supply and demand. If in some country, the demand is huge and increasing but supply is low or even decreasing, then this means, that prices there must go up and so do the profits!

    That’s why it is clever to pay attention to the fastest-growing coffee importers- those can be also your export markets. You can see that China boosted its coffee imports up to 265%!!

    Based on the previous, I would select: China, Germany, Netherlands and explore those countries further.

    To succeed in exporting, you must first identify the most profitable international markets!

    If you want to get more ideas, how to select your export markets, then we have an article which shows you in depth, how to select target countries for export.

    step.3- export market research – analyze selected target countries

    This is probably the hardest and most time-consuming part of the whole export marketing. But it is also most important part and the data you collect and the conclusions you make after will become the foundation for your export marketing plan and your overall business strategies.

    How to collect data about export markets?

    Sometimes, online research is not enough, especially if you need very specific information about the target country. In the next steps 3-6 you cant get enough data online about your target countries. In this case, you have following options :

    • Make friends in those target countries and let your local friend help you get the information you need.
    • Use the services of international research companies
    • Hire a freelancer to do the market research for you.

    The first and the last options are most affordable for you. I would suggest start making friends in foreign countries first.

    But if you need to get the data quickly, then freelancer platforms would be good place where to start. Look the screenshot below.

    freelancers for market research

    Skipping export market research is the most common reason why export-import companies fail and can’t find buyers. Ignoring export market research can also lead to the serious risk and losses, so I suggest to do it as much you can and as much your possibilities allow.

    In export market research, you should collect information for each before selected countries about the following aspects:

    1. What are the customs formalities and duties in those countries regarding your products?

    (I would suggest creating an excel worksheet for each of the selected countries and collect data there)

    You as an Indian or some other country exporter need to be aware of the all requirements, formalities and import duties in that country where you plan to export. Formalities and requirements need to be met, otherwise you cant pass the importing country custom. Customs duties, taxes, and other fees will impact the selling price in that country.

    All duties, formalities, requirements are being determined by internationally standardized names and numbers for all the goods in import-export trade – the HS code. Every product has its own HS code.

    Example for the coffees, you can see the HS code below:

    Coffee HS codes

    All the European countries have the same rules for the goods from the thirds countries. Non-Eu countries have different rules. Rules in China and Netherlands are very different.

    Best way to make all clear is to contact your selected freight forwarder or customs agent and ask from him. We would suggest selecting one service provider from where you can get all needed services: custom, freight, transport.

    We suggest using DSV or DHL services. Those are one-stop service providers, you can get all services from those companies. Contact our country branch and send an inquiry, let them know your product and to where you want to export and u will get all the details. Also, make sure how much it cost for you to meet all those requirements.

    2. What are the transport costs by sea, by air to those possible export countries from your country?

    Using the previous international companies, you can make sure the air freights, shipping frights and also local transport if necessary. Different sized cargo has different shipping cost. Also, air freight is usually 3-5 time more expensive than sea-freight. For you as a coffee exporter, you need to calculate the delivery costs per 1 kg of coffee. Transport costs are important to know in export marketing, these need to be taken into account if planning your pricing strategy for our export business.

    3. Make sure, how your product reach to the end consumer and what are prices

    After you know the requirements and costs ( including the transport costs) for sending the goods to the potential export market, you should make sure, how that product finally reaches to the final consumer/user.

    You should make sure how the goods are moving in that market. Below is an easy supply chain/distribution scheme, how goods maybe moving in a foreign country from direct importers to the end consumers.

    Supply chain in foreign country

    If you understand the mechanism, how goods are being distributed in the foreign country to where you want to export, then this gives you a big advantage. All this can be made sure only through export market analysis. Foreign markets today are all different. Structure of the distribution network depends on a country development level. Different products will be distributed also differently.

    Also, note the X and Y coordinates. As you see the closer you move to the end consumer the higher the selling prices will be, but the lower is the volume you can sell.

    In your export market research phase, make sure the following aspects.

    • Make sure who are the main players there who directly import your products
    • Find out the prices what direct importers are paying and how the prices changing during the distribution chain. Also, make sure what kinds of operation they are doing during the supply chain.
    • Make sure, how importers and all the other players in the supply chain, are finding a new supplier. Example, local distributors are finding their suppliers differently than direct importers. Make sure what channels they use, to find their suppliers.
    • Make sure ( as much you can) what are the volumes being sold in those countries, different cities by different players during the distribution network.

    4. Analyze competition in those foreign markets.

    Exporting company need to handle two kinds of competition. Local competition in the foreign markets and competitions by other exporters from your country. That’s why this is wise to search for the competition.

    Search what are some of the other companies in your country, who are exporting the same products to the same target countries. Find them online and analyze their website, their selling prices, strategies. Find out, what kind of export marketing channels and methods they are using. One smart way to learn about your competitor prices is to pretend, that you are a buyer and ask for an offer.

    Secondly, collect information about some of the local companies in the foreign market. Find the companies which are selling the same products in the foreign country, what you want to export. Again, analyze their entire strategy, website, maybe ask for an offer.

    5. Make sure expenses if establishing a company and operate a business in those foreign markets.

    If you are 100% sure, that you are not going to open company in those foreign countries, then you can skip this step.

    If you have an established company and you have more resources, then you can consider opening a foreign company. In this case, you should analyze also a foreign market business, legal, tax environments. Make sure how much it cost to open a company there, how high are salaries, how expensive is rent if you want to rent office or warehouse there.

    6. Make conclusions, analyze and make decisions

    In this part of export marketing research, you need to put important data all into excel and compare different countries.

    Compare following data:

    • What the selling prices for your product in each of those selected counties, In a different part of supply chain.
    • The possible volumes being sold in different countries (market potential)
    • Competition, their strengths, and weaknesses
    • How hight is the shipping costs if you send goods to those different countries.
    • What are the import requirements, if you want to send goods to those countries
    • The main marketing channels what foreign importers and other players are using in different countries to find new suppliers?
    • How easy it seems to find buyers, importers in those countries?

    After you compare all the data, then you should be able to make an informed decision, to which country you should start exporting or entering and to what kinds of players in the supply chain you should approach. Also, you should know, how to reach them.

    We suggest making an excel sheet also for the Finacial part. In financial part, analyze selling prices, total costs regarding with the exporting, possible marketing costs, estimated profir margings. All other costs what impact your business activities in those countries. Finally, your decision about the final country to where you start expanding should be made based on the financial calculations.

    Skipping export market research is the most common reason why export-import companies fail and can’t find buyers and export orders.

    Now we are reaching to the easier step in export marketing.

    Now, after export market analysis, conclusions, we need to determine export marketing strategies and put together an export marketing plan.

    Export marketing strategies for export marketing plan

    Note: Before you start putting together your export marketing plan, you should set your goals and set limitations. With limits, we mean to set the budget and resources what you can spend to export marketing plan.

    In this phase of export marketing, you should continue only with the selected country which seems most attractive to you. Now it is time to define your export marketing strategies with actions plans and resources – All the strategies, actions plans together will conclude your export marketing plan.

    Export market entry strategy

    There are 3 traditional ways how to entre to the foreign markets. Your lesson is to consider all of them and choose the best ones what you are going to use in your export business.

    Direct exporting

    Perhaps the most common market entry strategy. You as an exporter will get an export order from foreign country importers and you are exporting directly to them.

    The export-import company needs to be aware of, how to reach to the importers who are directly importing your products. You need to know the marketing channels and tactics. Based on the research, you know the structure of the supply chain in the export country and you should also know, how they are looking for new suppliers.

    Direct exporting trough export-import agents/sourcing agents

    You as a direct exporter will approach the foreign country importing agents first. Foreign country importing/sourcing agent is presenting local importers and is making a commission fee, when they bring good deals to the companies whom they are representing.

    If the country to where you want to export, has a lot of agents and they are common players in the supply chain, then finding the agents maybe be a good idea. You need to know, how to reach to these agents.

    We have an in-depth article about how to find buyers for your export goods. There we are explaining those methods more deeply and we include practical samples as well

    Entering the foreign market through the established foreign company

    The exporter can also establish a local company in the target market. In this case, a local partner is essential. In this case, an entrepreneur must have a considerable amount of free funds to invest. This option is suitable for an already long time established export companies.

    #Exporting through Online shop#

    This is a new form of exporting, it is increasingly popular. This allows small entrepreneurs to expand their business and export globally with very small costs. However, this option is usable, when you are exporting something that is light and small and a buyer is a private person. Example of clothes, accessories, beauty products, electronics, handicraft etc.

    using this market entry strategy requires, that you know very well how to do import export online marketing.

    Based on the export market research you should decide your market entry strategy.

    Pricing strategy for export market

    Based on the export market research and analysis you should know the price of the products that you plan to export. One this is sure, nobody purchase from you if you are offering your products at a more high price, what the buyers are currently getting in the export market.

    Bullet-proof method for getting export orders and market share quickly is to offer your products with 10-20% lower price what the buyers/importers are currently getting.
    If your product has some special advantages (a unique selling point-USP), let us say your products are higher quality than buyers currently getting or your products has some special features, then you need to point that our to the prospects, then you are in positions to get a higher price from your products.

    Consider your products, costs and the prices on the exporting market and decide your pricing strategy.

    Export marketing channels and messages

    If you have decided your target export country ( even better when you decided the right city), right entry strategy, right pricing, then it is time to decide, what kinds of marketing channels you are focusing on.

    You know to whom you are going to approach ( who is your buyer). Also based on the research, you should know trough which marketing channels your prospects are looking at their suppliers- through those you should send your messages ( offers, presentations, ads).

    There are traditional export marketing channels and there are also online marketing channels.

    Traditional export marketing channels

    Here are such traditional channels like export-import trade fares, Chambers of commerce, Business visits, old-fashioned import-export discovery trips to the export country, to meet potential partners. Printed media in foreign country newspapers, magazines ( the ones, your prospects are reading). Using the services of local sourcing agent.

    Import-export online marketing channels

    Here are newer ways, like participating in Social media groups, Online advertising, PPC, Email marketing. Also ranking high in google for selected search terms ( what your clients are using) is apart from online marketing. Online marketplaces, like Alibaba, go4worldbusiness. Also creating the online store and selling trough it is a part of export marketing.

    Right channels must be selected based on the customer of yours. You need to use this kind of channels what your customers are using.

    Below you can see an example, how random exporting company is posting its marketing messages and adds in the social media export-import groups where their potential customers also participating. This is easy, cheap and can be a very effective tactic to get the attention of your potential buyers.

    Export marketing messages, presentations, brochures

    In order to get export orders for your business, you need to know how to approach to the potential customers. If you know who exactly is your customer, then you need to create proper marketing messages what really resonates with them and grab their attention. You should create offer templated, presentation materials about your business and products, offer templates etc. Also, social media posts, videos, and articles are marketing messages.

    Most importantly, you think about your customer and think about WHAT they really want and WHY they need your products and what is most important to them. Then create proper marketing materials and templates.


    Export marketing plan contains properly selected strategies and action plan with needed resources. But the most important part is the export market research and analyze. Only after analyze and conclusions it is possible to make effective decisions and put together a marketing plan which will bring you export orders and clients regularly.

    We covered a lot and actually, this was a just brief explanation about the export marketing. This subject is very deep and we think, this is something that you can only learn from real export-import entrepreneurs who are experienced with it. We have practical export import courses and programs where we explain this subject to you in depth, with practical examples from our own export-import business.


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