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Step 7: Selecting and researching potential countries/markets abroad

You are here:Step 7: Selecting and researching potential countries/markets abroad > Preparing a research brief



Preparing a research brief



No market researcher can study everything about a particular market in depth - the researcher must be selective. He or she needs to decide on which aspects and in what depth of a market to investigate. There is clearly a need for a set of guidelines or plan of action - referred to as a research brief - that will guide what research you will do and how you will do it. The research brief need not be longer than a page or two and will provide some direction to your research efforts. The research brief is nothing more than your firm's export market(ing) research plan. It is called a research brief rather than a research plan because it is commonly used as an formal instruction (or brief) for the research agency that will conduct the research. If you plan to do the research yourself, then the brief is really your research plan. In this section, we will continue to refer to it as a research brief.

The structure of the research brief

Your research brief should contain the following five elements:

  1. Background:In your background to the research brief, you would sketch a short history of the firm, pointing out that the firm has taken a deliberate decision to enter the export market. This should be followed by a short statement of the firm's interim export mission statement and export objectives (which you outlined in step 4 of the export process) - you need only copy and paste this mission statement and list of objectives into your research brief.
  2. Research objectives: You need to translate' your export objectives into research objective. Based on what you hope to achieve with your exports you now need to indicate what you need to know in order to be able to successfully achieve these objectives. For example, your research objectives may be to:
    • Identify a shortlist of countries to focus on
    • Select a target market within each of these countries to focus your research and marketing efforts on
    • Better understand the market environment within which you will be competing
    • Identify the tariff and non-tariff barriers to your success
    • Identify your major competitors and the products they sell
    • Understand what drives your customer to buy similar products
    • Understand the importance of brands, pricing, quality, features, service, etc. to your potential customers
    • Identify intermediaries that could assist you enter the market place
    • Identify the best way to market your products in the foreign marketplace
  3. Research methodology: This part of the research brief is quite important and will outline how you plan to carry out your export marketing research. In this regard, there will be two main objectives behind the research methodology that you implement (linking up with the market and marketing research persepctives we mentioned in the previous section):
    1. The first part of the methodology is to evaluate countries abroad and to segment these countries into two or three groups, the main group being a shortlist of three to five countries that you believe offers your firm real potential for exports (the other two groups are those with some potential and those with no potential). These countries/markets you have shortlisted will be further studied in order to
      • Narrow your shortlist down to one or two countries - this you would do using more extensive desk research
      • Select one or more market segments within the countries you have chosen on which to focus your marketing research efforts (see point two below)
      • To better understand the foreign environments that you will be competing in in the case of these two countries - done using desk research and in-market research
      Go to CountryHelp.co.za to find out more about individual countries.
    2. To better understand how your company and its marketing mix will best meet the needs of the customer within the foreign marketplace - done using desk research and in-market research. To this end, you may need to undertake both desk and in-market research, as well as secondary and primary research (we discuss the later on in this section). In this section, you would need to elaborate on the means of doing this research. For example, will you need to interview several hundred potential customers to better understand their needs, or will you simply interview several intermediaries and trust their feedback and view of the marketing opportunities for your company?
  4. Research budget: A statement of the money you will make available for this research. Click here to read more about preparing a research budget for your exports.
  5. Research schedule: The research schedule should indicate how long this research will take to complete and when the various outputs of the research can be expected.
  6. Conclusion: The brief will end with a conclusion, summarising the purpose of the research and indicating that all of the outcomes generated by this brief will be compiled into an export market(ing) research report..

The brief must represent clear guidelines for researchers

The research brief must be unambiguous, i.e. it should mean the same to all concerned. This is particularly important if you plan to use an external market research organisation to do the research for you or if you plan to appoint another staff member within your firm to take responsibility for the research. In addition, the degree of accuracy expected in terms of the results should be specified in the brief. As the research will probably be a basis for decision-making, benchmarks need to be established against which results can be measured.

Evaluation criteria

A brief description of the other important criteria you will use in order to guide your research efforts in (a) selecting between countries and (b) evaluating specific markets, e.g. "Market selection should, in particular, take into account the need to use specialised overseas marketing staff as economically as possible" (i.e. indicating to the researcher that (s)he should try and find a collection of markets which are clustered together geographically and within which the fewest possible languages are spoken).

The company's export capabilities will influence the brief

Before proceeding with the research, all researchers involved need to be aware of a company's export capabilities as this information will influence the scope of their research task. If, for example, a company can only supply a small volume of goods for export purposes, it follows that it should focus on only one market abroad, and/or seek out only one or two intermediaries in a particular country. In other words, your research is likely to be far less in-depth than if you were planning to expand heavily into a market. Similarly, if a company does not have the ability or resources to modify its product range, then the target markets must be limited to those in which the unmodified product will be acceptable. What is more, if the export-marketing budget is very small, then sales may need to be generated in the selected markets without the help of any advertising support and this will impact on what research you undertake (you wouldn't consider television media in your research, for example). This information can perhaps be included in the introduction section of the research brief together with the export objectives of the firm.

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Step 7: more information

Step 7: Selecting and researching potential countries/markets abroad
            Export research budget
            Evaluating the cost/benefit of your export research
      Implementing the research brief
      Preparing a research report


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More information on Step 7
Learning to export...
The export process in 21 easy steps
Step 1: Considering exporting
Step 2:Current business viability
Step 3:Export readiness
Step 4:Broad mission statement and initial budget
Step 5:Confirming management's commitment to exports
Step 6: Undertaking an initial SWOT analysis of the firm
Step 7:Selecting and researching potential countries abroad
Step 8: Preparing and implementing your export plan
Step 9: Obtaining financing for your exports
Step 10: Managing your export risk
Step 11: Promoting the firm and its products abroad
Step 12: Negotiating and quoting in exports
Step 13: Revising your export costings and price
Step 14: Obtaining the export order
Step 15: Producing the goods
Step 16: Handling the export logistics
Step 17: Export documentation
Step 18: Providing follow-up support
Step 19: Getting paid
Step 20: Reviewing and improving the export process
Step 21: Export Management
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