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Entering a foreign market: 4 tips for successful market research

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You’ve already decided to take your business to the next level and expand abroad. You’ve set your eyes on several potential foreign markets and want to start collecting data and competitive intelligence, including pricing, competition, and customer preferences.

Is there a demand for your products or services in the markets you are targeting? How much should you charge? How strong is the competition in your industry?

Here are 4 tips to help you gather as much information as possible before expanding abroad.

1. Seek out multiple sources of information

Just as you would do at home when putting together a marketing or business plan, you should look for independant sources of information when looking to expand your business abroad. Unless the foreign market you are entering is very obscure, this information should be readily available—the only differences are the distance involved and perhaps language issues.

2. Go to authoritative sources

Industry Canada's Trade Data Online has market information and statistics on over 200 countries, classified by product or industry. Export Development Canada is another great sources of information on external markets.

For more specific "on the ground" information, you might try contacting individual Canadian Trade Commissioner offices in countries where you plan to sell your products—not only to determine market information but also to understand the local regulatory environment, which might differ from country to country.

Also, try contacting the local government trade offices—both federal and state—in the countries you are targeting. Not only wil they have market information on hand—all economic development departments amass this information—but they can also help you understand local regulations. Most of these offices are used to dealing in common languages such as English and French.

3. Research local competitors

Any country you are targeting will have a local industry association. To obtain a good idea of pricing in your target country, you might want to contact local competitors or research them online to determine what they charge for similar products. This will help you to understand local pricing policies and the level of competition in your industry.

4. Don't discount market intelligence agencies

A do-it-yourself approach involves a lot of time. This is why market intelligence agencies charge for their services: They save you time. Don't discount the value of thorough local market intelligence gathering. You need a clear and accurate picture of a regional market if you are to make a success of your venture.

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