Create a good export plan

Exporting can be a great way to tap into bigger markets. It can be exciting and rewarding, but also time consuming and financially risky. You can reduce the risk and uncertainty through market research, planning and getting financial support if needed.

Do as much research as possible before you plan. Think of research as an investment that helps you make more informed decisions, plan better, manage risks better and avoid mistakes.

Download the export plan template

Download the export plan template

Use our template that we created with NZTE to find detailed resources, guide your thinking, and record you plan. 

Choose an overseas market

You may have a country in mind already. Perhaps you have a personal preference, or you know which markets are most promising for your business. Either way, you still need to do your research. 

If you aren’t sure which market to choose, take these steps:

  1. Identify what your place in the market would be, work out what your customer in that market would expect and how big your potential customer base would be.
  2. Look at the cost of shipping and manufacturing for that market.
  3. Identify what matters most to your business. For example, distance may be important if your products are highly perishable. Being able to employ highly skilled staff may be critical if your company prides itself on excellent after-sales service.
  4. Understand who your competitors in that market are and work out how your offering is different.
  5. Look at the practical aspects of that market, for example tax, compliance, and marketing and branding requirements.
  6. Exclude markets that are politically unstable or where it may be hard to get profits out. Limit yourself to low-risk countries.

You could also think about countries that New Zealand has free trade agreements with. Free trade agreements are arrangements between countries that remove barriers to trade, create opportunities and give businesses more certainty. For example, countries might not impose tariffs, or might streamline processes. 

Learn about trade agreements and get help

Free trade agreements in force(external link) — Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

You may have to pay tax overseas.

Introduction to taxes and levies

When you first start to export you should make sure you choose one market and research it thoroughly. Look to build your networks and connections in that market and make sure you visit the market before you finalise your decision.

Australia may be a logical first choice for many New Zealand exporters. It’s a good test market before exporting further away. Australia is close, English-speaking, politically stable, easy to reach and is somewhat culturally similar. You can export New Zealand-made goods duty-free too, under New Zealand–Australia Closer Economic Relations.

Plan your research

Research takes time. How long depends on what you already know and how much time you have, but don’t be surprised if it takes months.

Save yourself valuable time and money by prioritising the most important areas and being well prepared. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What information do I need? 
  • Where can I find this information?
  • Why do I need this information? What will I do with it?
  • When do I need this information?
  • What is this information worth in dollar terms?
  • What is the likely cost of not getting this information?

Organise your information

Because research is so valuable and time consuming, make sure you save information safely and back it up. 

Organising information by country is particularly useful. Keep a file for each country where you do business. Keep information updated, otherwise it will quickly stop being useful. Consider including things like product, advertising and labelling changes. 

Comprehensive information will make your file a rich first source of information when you make decisions. It can also be a good way for new staff to learn about the market.

Keep your research somewhere that more than one person in your business can access. That way, you won’t lose it when an employee leaves, and others can update it. 

Do the research

Speak to people who are already exporting a similar product or service, talk to experts such as lawyers and accountants, and do some online research.

Find out how to adapt to local customs and protocols and read case studies or listen to podcasts to learn from others’ mistakes and successes.

Below are the most common types of information you’ll need about your potential market.

About your market 

Find out the opportunities and challenges, for example: 

  • the market size, both in geographical size and dollar value
  • market trends
  • competitor products
  • consumer spending patterns
  • income per person (per capita income)
  • tax, compliance, shipping costs, supply chains and other obligations.

Such figures are important indicators of the market potential for your goods or services.

Don’t just look at country-level figures. When you pick a market it does not have to be a country – it could be state or province. In the US, for example, there are big differences between states in consumer trends, costs and legal obligations. 

You may find urban–rural differences too. 

What your customers want and how they think

Learn how to grow your business overseas with myNZTE's free tools and guides(external link) — myNZTE

When you’ve decided on a market, sign up for market intelligence reports to keep on top of what’s happening. 

Market Intelligence Reports(external link) — Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

About your competition

Knowing your competition well is vital. Visit their sites. Find out what goods and services they offer. How do they market and price those goods and services? Will you need to adapt what you do?

Looking outwards at your market

How to research your market and competitors

About possible partners

If you’re thinking of partnering with another company to manufacture or distribute, research that company carefully first.

Do due diligence

Teaming up with other businesses

About trade and production statistics

Is the market for your type of goods and services growing or shrinking? Examine the trade and manufacturing statistics for your market over time to find out. 

What’s made locally in that market? What’s imported, and from where?

Imports and exports(external link) — StatsNZ

About legal and regulatory requirements

Find out:

  • what taxes and duties you’ll need to pay
  • what laws and regulations you’ll have to follow. 

Laws and regulations in your potential market can be barriers because they make exporting costly, hard, or both. Barriers created by government policies and regulations often mean you have to:

  • carry out administrative procedures
  • restrict how much you can export 
  • license or label products a certain way
  • store and protect data a certain way
  • appoint certain types of people to your board
  • procure materials a certain way
  • limit the price of your goods or services.

The New Zealand Customs Service and freight forwarders can tell you what different countries require. Your local Chamber of Commerce may also be able to help with export documentation.

Exporting laws

Compliance and logistics 101(external link) — myNZTE

Contact chambers of commerce(external link) — New Zealand Chamber Network

Export resources(external link) — New Zealand Customs Service

About intellectual property

Find out how to protect your intellectual property, copyright and trademarks. Protection is especially important in countries that tend not to respect intellectual property.

Protecting your intellectual property overseas

Copyright and trade marks(external link) — New Zealand Customs Service

About culture 

Don’t forget culture. Being sensitive to local customs can make the difference between winning a contract or not. For example, in some cultures, taking a business card without studying it is considered disrespectful.

Find out the cultural and business dos and don’ts in your market, and think about how you’ll overcome cultural or language barriers.

Find other information if you need to

You can also get information from the following sources:

  • foreign government websites
  • business websites set up for specific countries
  • your local Chamber of Commerce — they might have information and seminars for members at little or no cost. They might also have networks with Chambers of Commerce all around the world.
  • Kea is New Zealand’s only organisation that focuses on making one-to-one connections for and between members in New Zealand and globally. Kea’s flagship, the Kea Connect service has connected thousands of Kiwi businesses at varying stages of their export journey to members around the world, helping solve business challenges.  
  • ExportingNZ provides practical support to exporters, and organises networking events, in many parts of the country. 

New Zealand Chamber Network(external link) — New Zealand Chambers of Commerce

Export Library & Information Service(external link) — New Zealand School of Export

ExportNZ(external link)

How business advisors can help

Think about intellectual property if you export a service

Stopping someone from copying your ideas is always important. Be extra careful when you sell a service, a process or a unique way of working.

Check the intellectual property law in the other country when you’re choosing an export market. Also do one of these things:

  • register your patent in your overseas target market
  • apply for a patent under the Patent Co-operation Treaty. 

Applying for patents in different markets is worthwhile. The process includes searches for existing patents, so you’ll find out if you might infringe on any.

International patents(external link) — New Zealand Intellectual Property Office

Learn more about finance and modelling

If you’d like to make better financial decisions, use our free resources to improve your understanding of finance and financial modelling.

Metrics that can help your cash flow

Financial models that can help you succeed

Get financial help

If you’re ready to export but aren’t sure you can afford it, you might be able to raise money. For example, you could:

  • get funding from angel investors
  • get investment from friends and family
  • sell a share in your company

Use the Funding Explorer to find out your options(external link)

Or you could apply for grants, subsidies for training, or other forms of help.

Government grants and help for your established business

New Zealand Export Credit gives trade credit insurance and financial guarantees to exporters. 

Who New Zealand Export credit is and how to apply(external link) — New Zealand Export Credit

NZEC in two minutes(external link) — The Treasury

Solutions for exporters(external link) — New Zealand Export Credit

Rating form

We appreciate your feedback

Rate this

"Rate this" is required