Research technique: Use the US Trade Database for market research

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Want to know the best place in the world to manufacture a product?

Want to get a sense of whether a market is growing or shrinking?

The US Trade Database is a great tool you can use to learn a WHOLE lot about a market very quickly.

I live in Taiwan and I wanted to know what Taiwan exports to the United States. A bit of fiddling with the Trade Database answered the question.

Taiwan exports Electronic machinery and nuclear reactor parts to the United States
Taiwan exports Electric Machinery and nuclear reactor parts to the United States.

It’s electric machinery followed quickly by nuclear reactors and boilers.

You can dig down into any category. Here is a breakdown of the sub-categories under nuclear reactors.

Digging down into a category reveals that those top level labels aren’t always the best. You can also see export growth (or decline) over time.

Ok, turns out the category is pretty broad and includes a lot of non-nuclear related stuff… but another interesting thing to notice is that you can see import growth over time. I think this is another way to see rough market growth trends, something I’ve talked about before as being important.

I actually got the idea for exploring this tool from a great book by John Spiers called How Small Business Trades Worldwide.

John is an entrepreneur from before the internet and I think that reading his book is really enlightening. His approach involves finding a problem and then finding a great designer who can design a solution… followed by having the solution manufactured by factories around the world.

John reminds me that the entrepreneur’s job is to find and solve the problem not come up with and build the solution. Think Bill Gates buying DOS after learning that IBM was in the market for an OS, or Steve Jobs convincing WOZ to build and sell computers (instead of trying to build them himself).

John loves the US Trade Database because he uses it to figure out where in the world he should go to find manufacturers for his product designs. He’s looking for manufacturers who are the best at what they do (maybe it’s price or quality… whatever). He figures other entrepreneurs have already done the research for him.

It’s fun to use the US Trade Database for this kind of research too.

Where is the best place to get your nuclear reactors made?

Turns out it’s Japan! Followed by Germany, Canada, Sweden, Croatia France… etc…

Who’d have thunk after Fukushima. But then I guess they have a lot of experience with those kinds of technologies.

Anyway, the Trade Database is a useful tool and worth checking out. Give it a try and let me know if you find anything cool.

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