Creating an export business plan

An effective export business plan lays the foundations for overseas success. Each piece of the plan should come together to create a blueprint that will see your business prosper in the years ahead.


The foundation of your export business plan will be built on your goals – the markets where you intend to sell your goods or services, and by when. Get your goals right and your export vessel will begin to take shape.

Business model

How will you plan to sail towards your target export market? Will you sell directly to your end customers, and if so, will you import or export, or sell online? Are distributors or agents a better option? Will you consider franchising or joint ventures?

Whatever you decide, take into account your future customers’ preferences, the risks and costs of each option, and how much control you’ll have.

Market research

Collecting valuable market research is vital – and you’ll need to be on land in your target export market to gather it. You’ll need to understand what your target customers are looking for and why they like or dislike your shipment.

Price positioning and strategy

How are you going to position your product or service in your export market?

Will you price low (closer to the deck where more people can access your offerings) with the aim of selling large volumes and getting a foothold in the market?

Or will you position your goods as luxury items by showing off their qualities and looking for top dollar at the uppermost point of the mainsail – but where fewer people can access them?

For example, if you’re exporting to China, your offerings may need to be sold at a premium price to show exceptional quality. If you priced too low, Chinese consumers could perceive your goods as lower quality.

Cash flow forecast

Planning an accurate cash flow forecast will be vital for a safe, successful voyage to take on the target export market. Your market research and price planning will help to create a meticulous view of expected demand, and give you an idea of what price people are prepared to pay.

Main competitive advantage

It won’t be easy cruising into the port of a foreign market and trying to take a share of local businesses’ sales. You’ll need a core competitive advantage that will make your offerings stand out from well-established competitors – and will give potential customers reasons to change.

Compliance and legal issues

Be aware of the laws and regulations under the surface of your export country. There will be consumer laws, importing regulations, health and safety, and environmental and employment laws that may all be obstacles to your progress.

Ongoing export strategy

As you get a feel for your new market environment there may be a need to review and improve your overall export strategy. Don’t rest when the seas are calm – a storm could always be around the corner.

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