The 7 Gates of Export Marketing Intelligence
Key business intelligence issuesthat exporters must consider before launching a new product

Article on US marketing by Chuck Klein

Intelligence Needs are Consistent

In today's high tech, cyber global economy, new companies are being launched at the speed of light with new products coming out at a record pace. While the business press is full of stories about the garage based start ups who succeeded in selling out after 18 months for enormous sums of money, far fewer are the published reports about the large number of new ventures that failed. Many non-US companies, especially in technology fields, have a strong US focus in their marketing strategy although most fail to seriously penetrate the American market.

From our experience, many of these failures could have been prevented had the exporting company's decision makers obtained accurate marketing intelligence on the US market, as a tool in making their critical business decisions. Companies that develop products the market doesn't want or need and managers who are unaware of emerging competitors, market segments or distribution channels end up being added to a long list of business failures by companies trying to export their products to the US or other countries. Marketing intelligence - to include competitive intelligence - is often sorely missing.

On the other hand, many other exporters invest extensive effort, time and money in obtaining comprehensive business intelligence before making decisions. Whether accomplished through formal research or simply the utilization of industry contacts, these companies have "done their homework" before going out and trying to sell their products.

Export Marketers Have a lot in Common

Tremendous investments in man hours are invested by exporters worldwide each year, trying to determine their business intelligence needs for their new company or product in particular export markets. While such planning is commendable, it seems that many managers are simply reinventing the wheel. Although products differ from each other and software company intelligence needs are not identical to those of industrial plastic film manufacturers, our experience has shown that, for the most part, intelligence needs for new companies and their products are quite similar. While most of the research we have conducted has been for exporters (typically non-US companies interested in the US market), marketers operating in their home market have comparable needs as well, although at times they can obtain some of the answers informally via their business network.


What are the real marketing intelligence needs?

Last year, having recognized that the marketing information needs for most exporters are fairly similar, we began trying to pin down, in an organized fashion, what these needs are. We did this by conducting a review of the collective business intelligence needs of our clients and export marketing seminar participants over a period of several years by:

a) Reviewing the type of information we have provided in our reports,

b) Adding in additional points raised by our seminar participants and

c) Recording the key needs from the information "wish lists" outlined in meeting summaries with many other companies. In order to expand and improve the list, we also consulted with marketing consultants in several countries that commonly work with exporters, asking them to list the key marketing information needs of their clients.


The 7 Gates of Marketing Intelligence

All of the above lead us to create the following 7 categories of business intelligence information needed by exporters:








The following is an abridged version of our collective list of exporter marketing intelligence needs for each of the above categories:



Exporters may be interested in many of the following points:

1. List of all competitors
2. Identify who are the key competitors
3. Profile of competitors (turnover, number of employees, key products)
4. Annual sales of competitors by product line and/or market segment
5. Strengths & Weaknesses
6. Prices, at various levels of distribution
7. Lowest prices offered to their best customers
8. Positioning
9. Competitor's marketing strategy
10. List of their reps and distributors
11. List of dealers
12. List of offices and warehouses
13. Professional and personal background on key managers
14. Key distribution channels
15. Distribution methods (direct, via reps, wholesalers, distributors, in-house sales force) in the various markets
16. Where the competitors advertise
17. Trade shows where they participate
18. Copies of printed materials of the competitors (brochures/technical data sheets)
19. Sample press kits
20. Negative information published about the competitors (products, management, law suits, strikes, other negative information).
21. Information on other exporters operating in the same market.



Information about the market itself, to be used as a decision making tool.

1. Typical profit margins for similar products
2. Market trends
3. Technology trends
4. The total number of potential customers
5. Size of the market or markets (dollars and units)
6. Is the market growing? Shrinking?
7. Percentage of imports in relation to the total market
8. Key countries exporting to the target country in this market
9. List and description of all potential marketing channels
10. Standards approvals and licenses required to sell the products in the target export market 11. Geographic areas with high concentrations of potential customers
12. Market dynamics - what issues are "hot"
13. If the proposed product is unique, how is the problem it solves handled currently?



Issues relating to what the customers really want from their suppliers.

1. What are expected delivery times in this market?
2. What level and type of service is expected?
3. How quickly is service expected?
4. What are the key issues of importance to customers when purchasing products such as these?
5. How satisfied are customers from their current suppliers?
6. What is the attitude of buyers to imported products in this market?
7. At what price would they be encouraged to buy the proposed product?
8. What credit and payment terms are expected?
9. Overall, what issues would encourage buyers to switch suppliers?



Feedback on the proposed product, required changes, technology and its pros and cons as compared to other products from:

1) Industry Experts
2) Distributors
3) Sales Representatives
4) Wholesalers
5) Dealers
6) End Users



Exporters always have concerns about how to distribute their product in the target country, concerns which usually do not plague local manufacturers. Exporters often need information to consider the following options:

1) Marketing Partner/Strategic Partner
2) Independent Sales Office in the Target Country
3) Partnership with a Local Company for an Independent Sales Office
4) Purchase a Local Company in the Target Country
5) Set up a Master Rep Organization
6) An Agent
7) Direct Sales to Target Customers



Where can the exporter promote its products and company?

1) Trade Exhibitions
2) Conferences
3) Trade Publications
4) Trade Association Events
5) Internet Sites with a Focus on your Industry
6) Internet Discussion Groups
7) Advertising and P.R. Agencies



Some exporters are also start ups. Many of them are seeking investment.

1) Lists of Companies in the Particular Field Who May Be Open to Investment Opportunities
2) Venture Capital Companies Who are Active in the Industry
3) Angel Investors Who Have Invested in the Industry
4) Opportunistic Investors


Defining Your "Wish List"

Exporters considering the launch of a new product, whether into the USA or other markets, can use the above list to create their personalized "wish list", the key marketing intelligence items needed to help increase their chances for success. Defining the exact types of information required prior to beginning an information search will help the exporter's management focus on the key issues involved in penetrating the distant market. It will also provide the researcher with very defined goals and objectives. If you don't know where you are going, you will never know if you got there!


Information Sources

Exporters can find information from both secondary and primary sources, keeping in mind the need to utilize human information sources which go beyond the Internet and other published data (see my article "Overcoming Net Disease" in Competitive Intelligence Magazine, July-September 1999). Many of the key categories of information required by exporters can not be found on the Net, but only by systematically conducting interviews with a range of respondents including industry experts, distributors, reps, end users and of course competitors.


The Bottom Line

Non-US companies considering export to the United States or American companies considering exporting to other countries are well advised to do their homework before trying to conquer overseas markets. Finding intelligence information in your home market can be a challenge - but doing so in export markets is often even more difficult, due to the distance, unfamiliarity with how business is conducted and the lack of a strong personal business network.

Carefully compiling a "wish list" of information needs, followed by systematic secondary and primary marketing intelligence gathering, are key elements in a business strategy designed to succeed in export markets.

About the Author:

Chuck Klein is managing partner of Amcon Marketing Strategy International, which specializes in helping non-US companies profit in the USA. Amcon provides tangible marketing and human resource services in the US including market studies, competitive intelligence, strategic partner searches, rep searches and executive recruitment serving clients worldwide.

Klein is considered an expert on US marketing for non-US manufacturers and international trade. He has published over 100 articles and presented numerous seminars and lectures on marketing skills and strategy for non-US manufacturers interested in the American market. His book Marketing to America: How non-US Companies can Profit by Selling in the USA was published by the Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Amcon's web site is:


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