Export Potential Guide for Goods

What is export potential and why is it important for my business?


Export potential refers to the likelihood that a company’s product or service can be successfully sold abroad.


Businesses usually identify the export potential of their products and services by analyzing:

  • customer profiles;
  • potential product or service modifications;
  • transportation, shipping, and logistics;
  • local representation in overseas markets;
  • exporting services; and
  • business development capacities.


Additional information like the export market’s economic outlook and current trade conditions may also be useful. Analysing these areas helps businesses to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their targeted overseas markets and to determine whether and why an export product has the potential to succeed abroad.


Some examples of online tools that can help you analyse your export potential are:

  • the United States International Trade Administration’s (S. ITA’s) web page on export potential
  • the Government of Canada’s Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting


How do I determine my business’ export potential? 


There are two practical ways to assess the export potential of products and services in overseas markets.

  • If you are already selling successfully in your domestic market, look for an overseas market with similar characteristics.
  • The second way is to assess the unique features that make your product or service different from those found abroad and therefore desirable in a foreign market. The U.S. ITA has created a useful export guide for small businesses called A Basic Guide to Exporting.


How do I select my target markets? 


Online trade statistics are a useful tool, as they provide an overview of markets in target countries. They can show if target countries are already importing the products or services that your company is intending to export. They also indicate supply levels in target countries. One resource for identifying target markets is the European Commission’s Guide for export of goods.


How do I find potential buyers? 


The next step after identifying a target market is to find and connect with potential trade partners and business contacts. For example:

  • Trade fairs are a good place to find business partners, as this is where companies from across the world can meet to explore business opportunities, find potential markets, and use contacts or word of mouth.


  • Events hosted by business support organizations for domestic companies, with the aim of helping local companies explore export opportunities, is another option.


  • There are also an increasing number of online platforms that connect buyers and sellers. In addition to well-known global online marketplaces like Alibaba and Amazon, a simple internet search is another way to identify specialized online marketplaces see the Trade4MSMEs guide on selling abroad online.


Where should I start? 


The International Trade Centre offers a free tool known as the Export Potential Map. This online tool uses a quantitative model that considers global market shares, relative market access conditions like preferential tariffs, the relative strength of bilateral trade relationships, and distance and demand.


This Export Potential map works by using estimates from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) World Economic Outlook to create estimates of export potential. This model helps businesses to identify products and markets across 226 countries and territories for 4,376 products. It also enables businesses to do quick scans of target markets for products using the 6-digit HS code level, see the Trade4MSMEs guide on how to read HS codes.


Various types of searches can be performed, including by country, to see what products have the greatest export potential from that domestic market, and which markets have the most potential for a specific export product. The International Trade Centre’s Export Potential Map allows for finding attractive markets and likely export performance for a chosen product using its HS code.
Google’s Market Finder training is another free resource to help explore domestic and international markets.


Links to Supporting Information


United States International Trade Administration’s (U.S. ITA’s)  How to Analyze a Product or Service’s Export Potential (trade.gov)


The Government of Canada’s  Getting started: assessing your export potential (tradecommissioner.gc.ca)


The U.S. ITA  Guide_To_Exporting


The European Commission  Guide for export of goods | Access2Markets


The U.S. ITA Find Buyers and Partners


Trade4MSMEs guide Selling Abroad Online


The International Trade Centre Export Potential Map  and  Spotting Products with Export Potential


IMF World Economic Outlook  World Economic Outlook (imf.org)


Trade4MSMEs guide How Do I Determine My Product’s HS Code?


Google’s Market Finder training  Find Global Business Opportunities – Market Finder by Google


The Institute of Export and International Trade Export essentials: 10 steps to getting started in trade – The Institute of Export and International Trade


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