Ask the Experts: Research foreign products

Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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Q. I am a returned expat. I brought a unique product back to New Zealand with the intention of getting it complied then marketing it here. Should I sell it on Trade Me and other self-arranged sales points or would it be best to partner with a reputable store to sell the product?

A. Starting a company based on a product-centric view is risky. I would suggest turning your focus around to the customer perspective and understanding more about the opportunity for this product to succeed in New Zealand.

Depending on where it comes from, if you are lucky it may be as simple as translating the customer demographic from the original market into New Zealand but there are nearly always differences that need to be taken into account.

Importing and reproducing an existing product from another market can be a great way to start a business, especially if there are transferable lessons, support materials, and an established global market that Kiwi consumers will want to emulate.

Understanding who you are selling to will help answer your question about how you market it. But most importantly it should answer a question of whether there is actually a worthy market for it in New Zealand.

Talk to local potential customers before you start shopping around for a channel to distribute your product. Find out what their view is of it and whether they would buy it. This will feed your pitch to potential channel partners, retailers or marketers who might help you bed it into the New Zealand market.

There may well be differences in underlying cultural expectations, existing domestic solutions which compete directly with your new product, price expectations and other things specific to your product. Ensure you haven't got any regulatory hurdles to jump through too.

Looking at the channels you are considering, you will need to do your homework on the structures and models of each of the likely options available to you.

Each channel partner is a customer in their own right, which requires dedicated due diligence. Without some forethought and knowing exactly how they will respond to your product proposition, you could find some sticky, risky or expensive situations which erode the value of your business before you have even got started.

In short, do your homework like this product was brand new, assume nothing, and go into each distribution conversation well armed with local information and market validation.

- Nick Churchouse is venture manager at Creative HQ,

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