There are many things to keep track of when you’re starting an import-export business. The best way to make sure everything stays organized is to create an import plan. After all, most successful businesses start with a plan. Steve Jobs’s 1981 business plan for the Mac laid the groundwork for the gigantic company Apple would become.
If you already have an established business of some sort and you’re hoping to expand to importing, you’ll definitely benefit from the guidance of an import plan. Whatever time and energy you put into developing your import plan will reap dividends in the future.
Ready to get started? Here are some tips to keep in mind as you write your import plan.
1. Clarify your import goals.
When creating your import plan, it’s usually best to start with the big picture before honing in on the details. If you’re brand new to the import-export space, you might want to consult with someone with more experience who can determine if your goals are attainable.
What are your import objectives? What’s your vision and purpose? What are some tangible goals you hope to reach in the next few years?
Identifying a list of objectives that properly align the company’s vision will allow potential investors and partners to understand exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish. Your team members will stay motivated as you strive toward a common goal.
2. Include details about your products.
Nailing down all of your product’s details is an important early step. It influences all of the logistics later on. Make sure you take into account packaging, pricing, and product availability when outlining your import plan.
If your business is already established domestically, perhaps you’re looking for imported products to add to your inventory. In this case, think about what your loyal customers might be interested in…and the kind of products that could attract new customers to your business as well.
If you’re starting a brand new import business, you have almost unlimited possibilities when it comes to selecting products. The best imports are high-quality, unique products that aren’t readily available in your country or products that are normally available for a much higher price. It can be good to look for a growing industry that doesn’t have much competition from other sellers. If you enter an industry before it takes off, you’ll have a competitive edge if your product soars.
3. Define your supplier criteria.
As an importer, one of the most important relationships you have is with your supplier. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to make a choice between the thousands of available suppliers in the world. That’s why it’s best to make a list of criteria you’re looking for in a supplier before you begin the search.
You should consider which countries you’re willing to import from, whether you can meet the minimum order requirements, how responsive and flexible you expect your supplier to be, and the quality of the products. Once you’ve made this list, you’ll be able to narrow down your supplier search.
Don’t forget to order a sample product before committing to a supplier. You need to be certain your products have the quality your customers expect. Once you choose a supplier, start building a solid relationship with them. You should be able to trust each other so you can solve problems together if they arise.
Are you planning to import from China? Don’t miss our guide.
4. Analyze your competition.
Regardless of the kind of company you have, this is a crucial step. Being ignorant of your competition can likely cost you customers. Since you’re planning to import, you should check out local competitors within your country to see what they offer and charge.
For example, let’s say you’re importing notebooks from Malaysia to the US. Which companies are your main competitors? How does your product compare? Is your price point lower than the competition? Are your notebooks customizable or unique in some way? Are they of higher quality? Do your competitors offer free shipping?
Conduct a market analysis that’s as thorough as possible. The more you know about your competitors and potential customers, the more prepared you’ll be to enter your target market. Again, this is an investment that will pay off in the long run.
5. Research all import regulations.
One of the biggest differences between starting a domestically-supplied company and an import-based company is the import regulations. The customs process can be daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the various import duties, paperwork, and other regulations. In that case, it’s best to hire a customs broker so you can avoid potential pitfalls.
As part of your import plan, analyze the potential risks your company might face while importing. These can include possible damage of goods in transit, issues with your supplier, transport delays, customs clearance issues, and currency fluctuations. Make a list of inherent risks along with potential solutions.
No matter how big or small your import business is, it’s essential to invest in international insurance. It only takes one catastrophe to sink a fledgling business if you don’t have insurance coverage. Use this guide to determine which kind of international insurance is best for your business.
6. Make a budget.
An import plan without a budget is like a car without a steering wheel. It’s hard to start going in the right direction without it. Your budget should include your projected cash flow as well as any established financial goals. Make sure you factor in the possibility of hiring an import team who can handle the daily details of the business.
As you’re crafting your budget, don’t forget to take currency rates into account. You’ll need to pay for your products, shipping fees, and any other fees from the country you’re importing from. Remember that currency rates are constantly fluctuating. It’s best to build a margin into your budget accordingly.
Consider which payment methods will be most attractive to your customers. Rather than relying on only credit card payments, think about whether you can provide a payment plan option like Affirm or PayPal, especially if your product is expensive. This can persuade customers to buy your product when they might not consider it otherwise.
7. Adopt a marketing strategy.
It doesn’t matter how great your products are if no one knows about them. Developing your marketing strategy is a key part of your import plan. Start by optimizing your website and searching for ways to promote your products. Make sure every aspect of your strategy has a clear plan for implementation.
Don’t try to use every avenue possible for advertising; rather, consider your target market and build a marketing strategy around them. For example, if you’re importing backpacks for high schoolers, you probably won’t need to pay for a commercial on the evening news…but you will want to consider creating appealing Instagram ads.
Always be on the lookout for new opportunities to expand your import business. As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to add to your import plan and adjust it as needed. This document should grow along with your business.
Is your company new to the import industry? Let us make things easier for you by handling the customs documentation and duties for your shipments. At BorderBuddy, we offer solutions for small, medium, and large enterprises. Give us a call today!