Understanding How to Export Commercial Goods
Wondering how to export commercial goods? To begin exporting goods from Canada, you’ll need to add an import/export number to your regular business number. Please visit our Starting a Business section for information on how to open a business in BC and how to add an import/export number.

You might also be required to obtain permits or licences, or follow specific government regulations, to export certain products. See Canada Border Services Agency website to determine what regulations you need to be aware of.

Are You Ready to Export?
An important question to ask is “Are we ready to export?” It’s not simply enough to want to sell your products internationally; you should also be prepared for this new business venture.

While export businesses differ, they all share certain characteristics, including a committed management team, production capacity, and financial capacity.

Export Planning
Just like your domestic business, your export business will require a comprehensive plan to help you identify the steps to selling internationally. A business plan will help you understand the legal requirements for getting your product into a new market, identify the costs associated with exporting, and develop an overall strategy for this new endeavour.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) publishes a Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting. Along with export plan templates, these guides allow you to:

Assess your company’s export readiness
Build an export plan
Research and select your target market
Create an export marketing plan
Determine the best methods of delivering your product or service to your target market
Develop a sound financial plan
Understand the key legal aspects of international trade
Do Your Homework to Find Your Markets
Market research is an essential step in understanding how to export commercial goods. With close to 200 countries in the world to export to, you want to make sure that you’re targeting the right ones.

Through market research, you can determine which countries hold potential for your product, who your competitors are in that marketplace, and what the trends are for your product in that market.

Screening Potential Markets
Obtain export statistics. Search the Statistics Canada website to see where Canadian exports are currently going.
Identify potential markets. Of the countries you have identified, which hold the most potential? Are the markets growing there? Remember to not just look at the largest markets; look at the smaller secondary markets that might have fewer competitors.
Target the most promising ones. Of the markets you have identified, choose three to five that you feel hold the most promise, and begin further research.
Assessing Your Target Markets
Examine product trends. Look for information on your product as well as related products. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has free market research reports for various countries in different industry sectors. You can also look to Canadian industry associations that are related to your business. Even if you’re not a member, they might have research reports available to you.
Research the competition. You need to know who your competitors are. This includes both foreign competitors and domestic. Google is a great resource, as are the reports published by DFAIT.
Analyze the market. Research any factors that may affect the marketing and use of your product. For example, does your product name have a different meaning in the local language, or do you need to change your sizing to suit the local market?
Identify barriers. You also need to know if there are any significant export barriers or import barriers. The most common export barriers are export controls for certain products. To check to see if there are any export controls for your products, check with the DFAIT’s Export and Import Controls Division. Import barriers could include significant import duties or import regulations for your product. You will need to check with the foreign country’s customs agency to determine what these may be. You can also check with DFAIT’s office abroad.
Choose a market. Once you have conducted market research, you should determine which market is most suitable. For a small business that is just starting exporting, we recommend that you target at most two markets at a time.