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Import from China Mini-Course - Part 5 - Section 3

"Choosing Profitable Products"

Perhaps you already have an area of knowledge or expertise that leads you towards importing and selling a particular category of product. Or maybe you’ve been selling one type of product for a long time from local sources, and now you’re looking for alternative sources of the same product from overseas.

If you know exactly what products you need to source, your search is going to be narrower, and you can immediately focus on finding good suppliers for particular products and setting up initial deals.

But for a lot of people, especially those new to importing for resale on EBay, Yahoo Stores, or other online shops, it is sometimes a bewildering task to figure out what the best products are that are going to make you the maximum profit with the minimum headache.

Whatever your overall plan, it’s essential to do in-depth market research before you commit to a project. Business students learn that each investment of money means money not available for something else. The same goes for your energy, and time. You need to plan wisely so you don’t waste too much time, energy, and money on business projects that don’t have a solid foundation and good prospects.

Finding Products To Sell

There are essentially two angles to take, if you’re looking around for new ideas about what to import and sell:

  • STRATEGY 1 – Play It Safe
    Find out what products and categories are currently hot sellers, and jump on the bandwagon. Get better quality products, cheaper prices, or better market penetration to compete with all the other people selling similar things.
  • STATEGY 2 – Get Ahead Of The Pack
    Find new, cutting-edge, or unique products that are little-known but, according to your background knowledge and research, have great selling potential.

STRATEGY 1 – Play It Safe

An example of this approach would be searching for good wholesale sources of Playstation or X-Box consoles. These are established hot-sellers, so you know there is a market for the products.

Advantages:

  • Relatively easy to find wholesale sources.
  • Easy to market as people already know the product (and want the product) and there are already information resources available relating to technical details.
  • Well-known or currently-hot-selling items may be selling at a premium, allowing you a greater profit margin.

Disadvantages:

  • Most of the hottest consumer items are also branded goods.
  • If you can find a source, so can others. Lots and lots of more powerful sellers will already be selling your chosen products.
  • If you "ride the wave" of the product popularity, there will come a stage when everything slows down, and if updates to the product are being released regularly, you could end up selling things that are out of date and depreciating fast.

Can you succeed if you are only following the herd?

Your competitors are selling the same products as you, and they are more experienced, have a bigger customer base, and better prices. Don’t give up!

With the correct approach and effort dedicated in the right directions, you can succeed using other people's tried and tested formulas.

Here's how you can persuade customers to shop with you instead:

  • Move faster than your competitors to bring newly released products to market.
  • Use quantity buying power to cut your buying costs and lower your prices.
  • Reach more customers. Take advantage of your location to market products. E.g. you may be the only person who has a source for this product in Timbuktu. Or your location may be virtual: maybe you are a regular contributor to an online community, and you have great connections for marketing products.
  • Have a better overall marketing strategy than your competitors. You can study marketing all your life, but even small changes can improve your sales. Some things to think about:
    • Improved product information and personalised pre-sales advice
    • Improved (personalised) customer support and knowledgeable technical support
    • Improved delivery of physical products (e.g. faster logistics, better packaging, free gifts, good tracking correspondence)
    • Warranties and guarantees
    • Quantity discounts and other special deals
    • Bundling, Upselling, and Combining products (e.g. software + hardware)
    • Promoting products to previous buyers
    • Strategic advertising (e.g. skillful use of pay-per-click advertising online)
    • Traditional (offline) marketing

 

STATEGY 2 – Get Ahead Of The Pack

An example of this approach would be visiting trade fairs and even travelling overseas to ‘discover’ products with obvious selling potential.

Advantages:

  • Less competition to worry about.
  • Novelty value and "uniqueness" ...the demand that means customers will pay high prices.
  • You will develop expertise

    about your products quickly as you research sources, and as the first person to offer products you may gain respect and “expert status” in the marketplace.

Disadvantages:

  • You have a lot more marketing "legwork" to do, educating customers about the benefits of your product.
  • New products may have unforeseen / unpredictable drawbacks such as electronics developing faults.
  • New products could “go stale” quickly, especially in the world of technology, where your product could be suddenly rendered obsolete by a new and better product. At the least, products that are innovative may fall in price very quickly.

WHICH STRATEGY DO YOU RECOMMEND ROSE?

A combination of the two strategies will often work best.

For example, you know iPods are hot sellers, but the market is too crowded to profit from selling actual Apple iPods. What can you do?

You can seek out and market ‘related’ or "alternative" products.

"Related" products would be iPod accessories like cases, speakers, and spare parts.

‘Alternative’ products would be other MP3 Players or MP4 Players for buyers who want a media player but not necessarily only an Apple iPod.

You identified iPods as hot sellers, but you are not selling iPods … Instead you are just profiting from the popularity of iPods. This sort of approach would let you “play it safe” while still being “ahead of the pack”.

 

Read on for my discussion of niche products
continue

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