How to Export - Part 9 Resources for Locating Overseas Buyers

Locating buyers from various off-line and on-line resources is an inexpensive, fast and cost effective way. Often, it is the only way of finding buyers - specially in services sector and for high cost projects. However, one should be aware of several limitations in this approach and be realistic in expectation. Once-a-buyer can never be considered always-a-buyer. True, repeat purchase is very common in business to business (b2b) transactions and if you can locate a buyer - chances are, the same guy will buy the same product again.

However, the million dollar question is - When ? If this buyer does not plan to buy at the time of research - there is hardly any merit in pursuing him/her.

Obviously, time is one of the most critical factors here. If the buyer purchased a product long time back - there is less chance of finding him/her in the market place again for same product. Many events might have occurred during the intervening period - from change in nature of requirement to closure of business. It will be prudent to focus on as recent transactions as possible.

There are other factors as well - however, let us first identify various resources that can help you in your research.

Resources for Desk Research

Desk research to identify buyers for a given product require careful planning, hard work and sustained follow-up. One needs to identify end-users of the product as well as all intermediaries between seller and end-user. For example - buyer of handicraft could be retailer or distributor. An understanding of the distribution process is a great help and possible first step in the research for identifying potential buyers.

  • Trade Directories

  • Perhaps the most used and often the easiest resource to start with - trade directories are easily available in off-line and on-line versions, convenient and often the first step in your research process. However, it is also the least productive resource. Trade directories are mainly used for locating suppliers - so being listed in the directory is perhaps better way of getting buyers than searching it for buyers.

    Greatest limitation of trade directory is lack of information on latest activities of the company. It is great to know the address and brief background of a potential buyer - however, this is not going to help you much on finding what are its present requirements. Pursuing companies listed in trade directories is, at best, a trial and error process - so be ready for a long haul. Nevertheless, trade directories has its usage - however limited it may be.

  • Transaction Analysis

  • A much advanced way of locating possible buyers is to analyze latest transactions of the company - what it purchased, from where, at what price etc. Though such data is generally confidential and not available for public view - import shipment records is a notable exception. In many countries, including India - limited information on import shipment is available for public access. For example - we have a database of 65 million shipment records from major Indian ports, spanning last 4 years. For more information - please visit Export Import Data from Indian Ports

    There are several international sources for shipping intelligence like Piers (USA), Clarkson Research Services (UK), MarineNet (Japan) etc. However, apart from being very expensive, the shipping records may show cargo agent as buyer.

    There are still other ways like analysis of annual report of a company that can provide valuable information on on-going and future projects, funds allocated etc.

Outsourcing Desk Research - Trade Leads Service

Perhaps, trade leads is the best resource for an exporting company. In this age of Internet and e-mail - trade leads has assumed a remarkable user-friendly role in helping small and medium enterprises (SME) throughout the world. In fact, for many Indian SMEs, it is the only way of capturing new markets.

Trade leads is both a trade directory and statement of latest requirement of the buyer. Indeed, with reliable trade leads, you may close down desk research and focus completely on follow-up.

Remember, a trade lead is not an export order - its just the beginning. Pursuing the lead effectively and timely follow-up are two key success factors here. It is the equivalent of tendering process - your bid may or may not succeed, but you stand a good chance of securing the order all the time. With reasonable pricing and favourable terms and conditions - you should be able to find buyers for your products, provided you keep bidding and continue the good work. There is no short-cut - hard work and perseverance is the key.

Subscribing to a reliable trade leads service is the easiest and most cost effective way of receiving regular trade leads on your products. Reliability and timeliness are two most important factors for evaluating a trade leads service. Check track record of the service provider - specially how long it is in the field, examine membership list, inspect text of trade leads, compare fees etc. before selecting service providers. Often, you may find more than one service providers fit your bill. If your budget permits, subscribe to all of them. More the merrier - it will certainly help you in the long run.

Happy and Productive Surfing

Dr. Amit K Chatterjee

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 6, Issue 9 ; August 26' 2005

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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