Importing the Premium Call-to-Action
If you're seeking differentiation from the competition, there's nothing better than an exclusive premium to drive greater call-to-action. Take Blue Hippo Funding and their offer for a free digital camera. Or CartridgeClub from 1800-INKJETS, that offers a free Mr. Inky collectible doll with your first purchase.
Sometimes, to make a direct-response offer work, an advertiser must give the customer something to persuade them to act: a 10% discount, free shipping, a free trial subscription, or perhaps a free product related to whatever is being sold – like a cutting board to go along with kitchen knives, or a platinum chain to go with your new rapping ring-tone.
If your company is considering the free product option, you've got a choice to make: do you want to buy your products in bulk from American manufacturers, or do you want to import from an overseas manufacturer who can produce the same product for pennies on the dollar?
Certainly, incredible deals can be had by working with overseas manufacturers. For example, one of our clients is giving away a body fat analyzer free with every paid order. This same body fat analyzer can be found at stores for as much as $100, yet our client is paying only $1.15 for each unit they import.
Of course, importing ridiculously inexpensive products to fuel your advertising isn't quite as simple as it sounds, thanks in no small part to government bureaucracy.
For those of you new to the importing game, we've included a few tips to help you along:
CHECK WITH THE GOVERNMENT
The US Government has furnished new importers with a very thorough report entitled: Importing into the United States: A Guide for Commercial Importers , which you can find on the US Customs and Border Control website http://www.cbp.gov/ . Food products and medical devices, to require unique regulations.
FIND A PRODUCT
Okay, the first secret is the website www.Alibaba.com
FIND A MANUFACTURER
Your first priority is to find a manufacturer who can converse with you in English. In addition to producing the product you seek at a reasonable cost, the manufacturer must guide you on importation. One overseas manufacturer whose customer service skills have impressed us is Everlin International ( www.everlin.com ).
FIND A SHIPPING AGENT
To simplify the delivery, you might look for a company that can complete your international shipping, work the shipment through US Customs, and deliver the product from its port to your door. You might start your research into pricing and services at Menlo Worldwide, now owned by UPS ( http://forwarding.ups-scs.com/eww/emeryWeb/ ). Choose your shipper/customs broker carefully – they're the ones who will be interpreting the 200 pages of government import regulations you couldn't bring yourself to read, and they're the ones you'll need to work with if anything goes wrong (see tip #5). It's likely that you'll also need to release your Power of Attorney to your Customs Broker somewhere in the mass of legal paperwork they'll ask you to fill out. Be sure to get shipping quotes and delivery times for both sea freight and air freight, where applicable. Also, unless you or your client want to rent a truck and drive to the nearest international port to load your shipment, make sure your shipper knows you'd like the package delivered to your door.
IT WILL ALL GO WRONG
It's quite possible that something WILL go wrong. You're relying on a lot of people to be on the same page throughout the manufacturing and delivery of your product. Be prepared to persevere and work through any complications that might arise. What could go wrong? Plenty. A few examples of what could happen:
Be sure the manufacturer's bank can accept US checks, or make sure your bank can handle international wire transfers. Work out all payment details and scheduling with the manufacturer and shipper prior to any services performed.
Be sure to coordinate between your shipper and manufacturer so both parties are aware of product completion dates, shipment pickup dates and locations, proper package labeling (sometimes referred to as Marks and Numbers), and proper shipping method and delivery options.
Both US Customs and the FDA get involved with some products, such as medical devices, drugs, and food.
Have we destroyed your enthusiasm for importing yet? Don't worry – it'll come back as soon as you compare overseas product pricing to what you'll find stateside!