Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Anyone interested in importing or developing products? I wrote some tips you may like

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 7th, 2012 8:28 am
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 23, 2012
127 posts
17 upvotes
Mississauga, Canada

Anyone interested in importing or developing products? I wrote some tips you may like

Product Development
Reward: A great product can have a huge impact on your success.
Risk: The product you develop may not sell

Today’s article, Part 1, deals with developing products and how we can increase the chances of creating winning products. There is no way to guarantee your product will be a hit, or even just be mediocre. You will have hits and flops. Here are some ways to increase your ratio of hits to flops.

Market Research
You probably have a very good handle on your market, but there are still considerations to be made when developing a new product or product line. At the very least, you want to make sure that your product is in-line with your overall brand and marketing strategy. Further, to make sure it is adding value to your existing product mix. It shouldn’t be redundant, and it shouldn’t be too far outside of your current offering. If you are venturing into a line which speaks to a new market, then consider marketing it under a new brand.

Product Research
Product research is more specific information you can gather about the product itself and predicting demand for it. Depending on your scale of operation, and investment amount in the product, there are several options.

Focus Groups – You can gather a random sampling of the target consumer and present your product (sample/prototype) to them. The objective is to simply get as much feedback about how much they like the product and how much they are willing to spend for it. Without expertise, you may want to hire a professional service to help you with this.
Surveys – A classic way to get information about things. These days it can be inexpensive to deploy a questionnaire survey via the internet. Especially if you already have a list of people to send it to. But this may not be suitable if photos don’t do your product justice. Another option is to find out where your target consumer goes to and do live interviews. Telemarketing is not a good idea for new product research.
For lower budgets, you can simply show people your product, ideally people who fit your target consumer segment. Friends, family, co-workers, anyone! Its free and some information is better than none.
Caveat – people are always more willing to say “yes” when its only imaginary money!


Pilot Tests
This is also a popular way of estimating demand before fully investing in your new product. Simply buy a small amount of it and test sales in conditions that mimic your consumer target market. You can test in certain retailers, or geographically. Several years ago, I had heard that London, Ontario is where a lot of major brands test products. If you get repeat orders, that is usually a strong indication that your product has enough demand. One key issue with this strategy is that you expose yourself to competitors copying your new product that you worked so hard on.

Backup Plans
No matter how much research you do, there is always the possibility that your product can flop. So, be prepared so you can recover as much as possible.

To move product quickly, develop relationships with companies who buy “clear-outs, close-outs, and lots”. These include warehouse outlets, liquidators, and discount channel wholesalers that specialize in these types of “deals”. They will not pay you much, but they will take all or large quantities.
Get creative and find new uses for your product. Can it be printed on? Market it as a promotional product. Can it be modified or re-manufactured to create a new product? If so, it might be worth the effort.
Donating product can sometimes be effective, if someone wants it. It can qualify as a donations expense and give you value that way.


Well I hope this was informative for you, and I’ll continue the series with Part 2, Quality is Key.

*******************************
9 replies
Newbie
Jul 12, 2012
24 posts
1 upvote
WATERLOO
how many parts have you written? I know there was a part 2 you were writing.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 23, 2012
127 posts
17 upvotes
Mississauga, Canada
KWVintageGames wrote:
Jul 13th, 2012 2:02 pm
how many parts have you written? I know there was a part 2 you were writing.
I've written 3 parts, and have since stopped as I was planning on giving my website a facelift, but haven't given time to that. Anyways, you can see part 2 and 3 on www.enhancetrade.com/blog. Forgot to post them here... didn't know any one was looking for them though, thanks for reminding me.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 23, 2012
127 posts
17 upvotes
Mississauga, Canada
Successful Importing, Part 2: Quality is Key

Quality Control
Reward: Better reputation and more trust in the market.
Risk: Worse reputation and less trust.

Controlling quality is absolutely crucial for a solid reputation in the market. And depending on how large your business is, this area can get extremely scientific and mathematical. There is a lot research and textbooks that discuss rigorous quality control methods, and I’ll leave it to the them to teach you about it. This article is more concerned with small business and what they should be considering.

Samples
Sampling is probably the most basic and obvious aspect to ensure products are being made to your quality standards.

Provide your own samples - If you have samples for a product from a previous order, or helps to explain what you want, give them to the factory. This becomes more important when the manufacturer’s language and culture is different from yours. Don’t try to describe things in an email, or even take chances with photos. If quality is important, send the physical samples so the factory knows exactly what you want.
Get samples sent to you - Get the factory to produce samples and send them to you. This can happen at various points in the buying process. Depending on your relationship, how many repeat orders, and how detailed your requirements are, you may want a series of samples, or you may just need one – at pre-production time. The pre-production sample is the most necessary. When you are ready to confirm your order, specify that you will require pre-production samples before they do the mass production. If you don’t specify beforehand, they may not ask you and simply do the mass production straight away!
Photos – I don’t really recommend photos, because photos don’t tell the whole story like texture, assembly work, etc. But sometimes, size, time and cost doesn’t allow for physical samples. If you must, ask for good quality photos that display all aspects of the product. And ask for video if it helps.
Packaging – Don’t forget about product packaging, inner packs and cartons, because it is all part of the overall quality of your offering.


Inspections
Making sure factory lives up to their promise is just as important as the promise itself. If the factory is inexperienced, they may have quoted too aggressively and as a way to compensate, they may try to cut corners during production. Inspection is so important, it’s the main reason why major importers have offices established where the factories are. For small businesses, here are some guidelines for inspections.

Before placing the order – This is generally a good strategy to help ensure the factory has an organized, safe and ethical working environment that knows what they are doing.

During production – Check how things are going while they are doing the mass production. Take your samples with you to compare. Weigh, measure, take Pantone colour swatches, do whatever you need to do because it is probably the last time you’ll be able to make changes.

After production/packing – Before the product ships, you may want to inspect the goods at this point, after all, freight is costly and lead times can be long. A general rule of thumb is to inspect goods randomly. Random cartons, random inners, random batches, etc.

Outsource inspection – You are probably thinking, it is not practical to keep visiting the factory at every stage for every order. You may want to consider getting help with this. Obviously it creates some additional risk, but it might be more practical. Many importers use buying or export agents to help with inspections. But the other option these days is to outsource it to a company that specializes in this. You can specify exactly how and when you want the inspections to be done and you can send them as much detail as you want, including samples. They will send a report back to you with their findings and they generally charge a flat fee.
Member
User avatar
Aug 19, 2005
278 posts
2 upvotes
Vancouver
Thanks for writing this!

Question: Who's responsible for shipping fees if I ask a manufacturer to send me samples of their products?
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 23, 2012
127 posts
17 upvotes
Mississauga, Canada
newsflash wrote:
Aug 3rd, 2012 12:58 am
Thanks for writing this!

Question: Who's responsible for shipping fees if I ask a manufacturer to send me samples of their products?
There is no set rule or even convention for this in my experience. It was usually a negotiation based on power and strength of relationship. With new suppliers, we usually paid for shipping of samples.
Banned
User avatar
Jun 29, 2012
475 posts
35 upvotes
If we don't research about products properly and only give importance on only one product then will we become benefited on this business?
Jr. Member
User avatar
Dec 10, 2011
194 posts
31 upvotes
Toronto
I'm not sure if anyone would be able to answer this, but does anyone have any idea how to estimate what the duties would be if I'm importing from England?
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jan 23, 2012
127 posts
17 upvotes
Mississauga, Canada
Dwight10 wrote:
Aug 5th, 2012 5:11 pm
If we don't research about products properly and only give importance on only one product then will we become benefited on this business?
That really depends on so many factors.

Top