What Problem(s) Does the Product or Service Solve?
Use your personal experience if you can to make an initial list of problems that you found personally.

Having those as a base, its time to make contact with your target markets that you have found channels of communication with a survey about the field you are interested in, to find out what problems they experience and the ideas they have in experiencing the products they currently use. A simple survey can include basic questions such as:
– What problems do you encounter in finding these products?
– Is there anything that really frustrates you the products in this space or anything related to them?
– What issues do you have with dealing with these products?
– What quality of the product is acceptable to you? How do you judge quality?
– What is important to you about these products? (size, weight, durability, speed, taste, etc.)
– How important are these types of products to your lifestyle, health, work, family, etc.?
– What do you think about the prices of the products in the market?
– What brands do you use?
– What brands if any do you think are premium brands in the market related to this field? Why?
– What brands do you consider to be low quality? Why?
– Roughly how much do you spend on this product type per year?

Depending on the way you conduct your survey you may not have a chance to ask too many questions. If you can find a way to have communication with some people in the market that would buy a great deal of the products you have in mind, then it may be worth your while, setting some time aside to meet with them either personally or electronically. With these people, be professional and polite and make sure you have all the questions you want to ask written down and make good notes. Also, look at giving them something of value in return for their time. Sometimes offering to pay them a consultancy fee to share some of their knowledge in the industry works well or offering them a gift voucher or something from your own business as a gesture of goodwill.

Do as many surveys as possible to get an idea of what the main problems are in each target market is or if there are general issues experienced between all target markets. Sometimes 20 surveys get you to the point, sometimes it takes 100 sometimes 1000. The bigger the sample of the surveys you conduct on you target market the more accurate your information. There is a point that it is just not economical to survey large numbers of people and get quality responses. It takes time and effort. You have to make a judgment call on the amount of time and resources you’re willing and able to put into it.

Review the Survey Responses
Once you have the surveys, review them and make note of every answer to each question. This is usually easiest for me by taking each question at a time and reviewing every answer received to it. Make a spreadsheet labeling each column with a general classification for that question. As an example in one of my surveys, I used the question, “What are the reasons you subscribe to a vegetarian diet?”

My columns included various general answers
– I was born into a vegetarian family and have not considered eating differently.
– For religious reasons
– For health reasons
– Other

Try to use a new spreadsheet page for each question. If your survey had 5 questions you could have 5 separate sheets.

Finding A Sweet Spot
It is important to review the surveys even if you did the surveys yourself and found that there were general trends just from listening to the responses. Sometimes the review process gives some unexpected gems.

By going through the surveys, I found out something that I had missed in the initial interview, but I had noted it down. It resulted in more research, in which I later discovered that quite accidentally, that almost all meat eaters could not tell the difference between meat products and one particular brand of vegetarian product. Which meant that that product had an expanded target market potential.

Some things always surface as the main ideas or the main problems and this is what you can use to your advantage.

Calculating the Percentages Of The Answers
You may have often heard or read about marketing studies which showed a certain percentage of the population does something or other, such as this one, “Less than 3 Percent of Americans Have a Healthy Lifestyle”.

Well, now you have your own study. For each column in your spreadsheet, you can work out the percentage by dividing the number of answers that were aligned to that column by the total number of surveys conducted and multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.

If you conducted 20 surveys and 3 respondents responded to the question about how old they were with, “Between 50 and 60 years old” then 15% of your respondents were between 50 and 60 years old.

Finding the Market Size
Once the survey is done and you have your answers tabulated, you may be excited to find some gaps in the market that you may or may not have suspected. Maybe your initial hunch was proven right, and it has been confirmed by some hands-on market research. Well done for getting through this. Now just to be sure, it’s a good idea to work out some rough estimates of how many people are in this target market. This can be done by looking at a website like Statista.com. For my vegetarian market there were no stats that I could use. Your case may be different. You can try to get an idea of this by asking people in high positions in councils and organizations or doing some searches for the target market within the areas you are defining. Depending on the amount of budget you have for this exercise you can also pay for a research company to do this homework for you, such as EY Parthenon.

Accurate market research can save you a fortune and can also make you a fortune. The more credible the information the better you can rely on it to make important decisions.

At this point you should a very clear idea of the product that you could or should import. If you do not, it is possible to repeat these steps outlined in these posts. It is a process of zooming in to a product and then zooming out to gain perspective after all. The goal of these posts was to assist in getting a good idea of a product to import. How to import it and then make it profitable will be the subjects and goals of other material.

Adjusting The Goal
In closing it is a good point to revisit your goal and complete it so that aligns with the product that you are looking at importing.

– State of Operation Goal: Providing excellent quality vegetarian products that taste like meat products to over 200 restaurants in and around the San Francisco area, as well as making online sales to individuals and other stores in other states; making a profit of over $15 000 per month within 24 months and enjoying the experience with a great team of loyal, trustworthy, hardworking people who are all well remunerated for their efforts and find the project fulfilling, rewarding and profitable.

In this case I will not be providing these products in San Francisco, but another city altogether. But this serves as an example.

I hope that you have found these posts and would be glad to hear from you and if you have any questions please feel free to write an email to inform@globalsourcingsa.co.za.

Wishing you all the success and richness you deserve.