The plan, in addition to some reasonable sales projections and a statement of how your product or service is positioned for international buyers, should single out from three to five markets to focus on.  The markets can be selected by an analysis of secondary research information or by looking at where previous inquiries or sales have come from.

An excellent market identification research source is  If, for example, you sell solar panels and want to know which countries purchased the most from U.S. suppliers for the past several years, you can find them there.  Also, you can identify countries with the highest growth rate in solar panel purchases.  You can also determine the average purchase price of the panels to see if you can compete on price.  And you can see the volume of imports of panels to the U.S. in order to determine how you stack up against your international competition.

Your plan can also draw on primary research sources by visiting the Web sites of U.S. commercial sections ( at our embassies and by phoning them with your specific questions about the likely acceptance of your product in their markets.  These contacts will be important later if your plan calls for direct promotion or finding distributors in your target countries.  The Commercial section can help you do both, and for a very affordable cost.

Now that you’ve winnowed down the world to a manageable handful of countries, the remainder of the plan can focus on areas of need for most companies before they are ready to export or to export to a new market. To learn what should be in your plan, come back later in the day to check out the last part of this mini-series.

Doug Barry is a trade specialist with the Trade Information Center of the U.S. Commercial Service.  He can be reached at

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