In your export plan you will have addressed these product issues, starting with whether you intend to follow a product standardisation or adaptation approach. In most cases, at least some degree of adaptation will be necessary. This will mean that you may need to redesign your product and adapt your manufacturing process to deal with such product changes. Another reason for improving the manufacturing process may be to ensure improved product quality, productivity and to achieve cost reductions. You may also have to submit your product to the standards authorities in your target market in order to obtain approval and certification of your product.

Bringing about product adaptions is a team effort

Most of these actions you will not be able to do on your own. You will need to work with your production team to put these changes into place. If you do not have a design team, consider approaching a design school at a university and asking them to tackle the redesign of your product as a project. You may be pleasantly surprised what innovative designs the students may come up with and it may only cost you a relatively small sum of money for a prize that you award the winning design.

As far as your production process is concerned, you may want to contact the National Productivity Institute and the South African Society for Quality for advice and information. You will also need to get together with your production manager and foreman and perhaps brainstorm how you might improve your production process.

Packaging and labelling are also issues that you will need to deal with and again you might consider turning to university design students to help you. Alternatively, there are several design organisations that could help you. Click here for more information.

What comes first – product changes or promotion

One of the more difficult issues to explain is whether you should first focus on the product adaptation before promoting your product in your target market or visa versa. If you adapt your product first, you find that there is no call for your product overseas and that all of your product redevelopment effort has been wasted. Alternatively, you may promote your product to customers and then suddenly get an order. At this point, there may not be enough time to still modify your product and you again find yourself in difficulties.

The answer is to first consider your product adaption as an overall improvement also for the domestic market. Thus any redesign, quality improvements and workflow or manufacturing improvements that have a positive impact on local sales, should be implemented in any case, whether you get export sales or not; these changes will good for business generally. These changes to your production activities can take place concurrently with your export marketing effort. If generate no sales, the changes will still be of value to your firm.

As far as any changes that are export specific (for example, new labelling and packaging, or product modifications only of benefit to the foreign marketplace), should be prepared for in antiicpation of obtaining an order, but not implemented until you receive an order. You may want to negotatiate slightly longer delivery terms with your customer, explaining that you still need to implement certain modifications to the product. The customer may be understanding of your plight and agree to wait a little longer for delivery. It is with this thinking in mind that we first discussed promotion (step 10) and then, later, production (step 15 – this section that you are currently on).