At least half of the questions readers send me go something like this…
“I’ve been struggling to find a product for weeks now. Can you help me? How do you find products that make you money? Why can’t I find any profitable products!?”
And MY GOD! It’s getting old…
There’s nothing I hate more than seeing a recurring question come up. That means I’ve failed to answer something.
Luckily, I finally nailed the common thread in all the frustration.
This blog post will answer “Why can’t I find a good product to import” once and for all.
The Common Problem
After answering several hundred emails along those lines, I think I’ve discovered the common problem would-be importers are having.
They’re all looking for a silver-bullet product that does the work for them.
Let me explain…
Many people are still in the “get-rich-quick” phase of their entrepreneurial careers.
Apply that mentality to importing, and you get people that try to play the arbitrage game.
Arbitrage is simply buying something for less than you are selling it for.
Arbitrage products are goldmines; they have great margins and basically sell themselves…
And you can make money with arbitrage products.
For a while…
Your margin is my opportunity. – Jeff Bezos
It’s only a matter of (increasingly spare) time before a big player uncovers your goldmine, and eats it up for themselves.
This is the sad state of importing today, years after the “wild-west-ecommerce” days of 1995-2005.
This is surely bad news to anybody in that mindset.
Is there any hope left for small time importers? The kind that are just getting started, with little capital to invest…
Spoiler alert – There is!
But it’s going to require a shift in your mindset and how you think about importing.
What Makes a Product Good?
Sure, you want your product to have healthy margins. Great margins even.
And yea, it would be good if it was easy to ship, reliable, had a factory warranty. Sure, all of that is a plus for any product.
But none of that is going to make your product sell over a competitor who will take slimmer margins.
The Right Questions
Most people waste weeks (if not months) of their time looking for a miracle product that will build their business for them.
They are asking themselves the wrong questions, and looking at things from the wrong angle.
What you need to be thinking about is the other side of the transaction…
How are you going to sell your products?
Why would somebody buy your product over the competitors?
How will you acquire and retain customers in a cost-effective way?
These are the questions you should be thinking about while doing product research.
Bubble-Burster: This Is Business…
Many people seem to have the impression that importing is a quick road to easy riches…
It’s a business, like any other.
There’s a lot of things to worry about when starting a business. But when thinking about what you’re going to sell and how you’re going to sell it, you need to think about competitive advantage.
Competitive Advantage Cheat-sheet
You need some sort of competitive advantage that nobody can steal from you.
This means new importers have to focus on a few things.
Advantage 1 – Your Brand
Building a brand that your target customer loves is a sure-fire way to keep an edge on the competition.
In fact, building a good enough brand will even allow you to charge a premium price.
The examples here are endless…
Practically every “counterfeit” you can buy from China is a company that can charge a premium because their brand is so valuable.
Another example I often use is my friend Kevin Schlenker, who built the Skar Audio brand around his importing activities.
The only thing to make sure of if you take this route is to register your trademark.
Advantage 2 – Your Product
Another place you can provide value in ways nobody else can is the product itself.
I’d encourage any importer to really get to know his target customer, and then try to build in new product features that will make the target customer’s life better.
Small things can go a long way here. For some products, something as small as a color change can make a world of difference.
Sometimes, you’ll have to negotiate with your supplier directly and see what’s possible. You’ll be limited by his capabilities, your budget, and your imagination.
And of course, you could always go all out and create your own product. But I’ll save that for another blog post 🙂
Advantage 3 – Your Marketing
Simply put, if you can build an audience and a sales funnel; you can pretty much sell whatever you want.
Example – I was just talking the other day with somebody who built a lead-machine for the baby niche.
Before he had anything to sell, or any desire to make money off of it, he just decided to build a few websites and try to get “hot baby leads” (as he calls them).
Now he is out shopping for baby products, knowing that he can sell anything he chooses.
He hasn’t decided if he will start his own brand, begin drop shipping, or get into affiliate marketing. But no matter what he chooses, I’m confident he’ll make money 🙂
Advantage 4 – Your Capital
This won’t apply for many people reading this article.
It actually applies more to the guys you want to avoid in importing. Or beat!
It’s definitely possible to spend your way to the top in importing.
Somebody with deep pockets can quickly negotiate the best prices with the best suppliers. They can also afford to set up a more efficient distribution system.
Luckily, they’re easily defeated with the other competitive advantages (usually).
Advantage 5 – Your Contacts
Your network of contacts can also be a big competitive advantage.
This applies everywhere in business, but perhaps even more in importing. Personal relationships play a huge role in Asian (especially Chinese) culture.
If a Chinese factory owner likes you, you get the friend discount and best quality.
If they don’t like you, you get scammed.
It’s just the way it is…
The relationships you don’t think of are often the ones with the most potential.
Do you have a friend who was put in charge of buying 250 pool chairs? I’d look into pool chairs…
Does your Dad work at a company that uses a limitless supply of zip-ties and box cutters? Try to find out what they’re paying and pitch them otherwise.
Relationships like this can be solid gold.
It’s Tough Work
Any way you spin it, importing is a tough gig.
It’s a lot of fun, and has tons of potential.
But it’s far from a “get-rich-quick” solution.
I hope this guide helps to clarify what really makes a product profitable.
If you have any questions or want to be an awesome person, leave a comment below.
I’ll be sure to respond!