An explanation of what "Indirect Exporting" is and how it can benefit smaller U.S. companies. This information is part of the U.S. Commercial Service's "A Basic Guide to Exporting".
Last Published: 10/20/2016
Indirect Exporting
The principal advantage of indirect exporting for a smaller U.S. company is that an indirect approach provides a way to enter foreign markets without the potential complexities and risks of direct exporting.
Buying Agents
What are they?
  • Buying agents (also called Confirming houses) represent foreign firms that want to purchase your products.
  • Seek lowest possible price
  • Paid a commission by their foreign clients.
In some cases, they may be foreign government agencies or quasi-governmental firms empowered to locate and purchase desired goods. An example is a foreign government purchasing mission.
A good place to find these agents is through foreign government embassies and embassy web sites or through the U.S. Commercial Service.

Export Management Companies

What are they?
Export Management Companies solicit and conduct business in the names of the producers it represents or in its own name. They work for a commission, salary, or retainer plus commission. Large EMC’s can provide immediate payment for the producer’s products by either arranging financing or directly purchasing products for resale.
EMCs usually specialize by product or by foreign market, or sometimes by both. The best EMCs know their products and the markets they serve very well and usually have well-established networks of foreign distributors already in place. This can help companies save time and money. Immediate access to foreign markets is one of the principal reasons for using an EMC.
You may lose control over foreign sales. Companies can retain control by carefully selecting an EMC that can meet your company’s needs and maintain close communication with you.
  • Companies may ask for regular reports on efforts to market its products
  • May require approval of certain types of efforts, such as advertising programs or service arrangements
  • Negotiate points of concern before entering an agreement
Export Trading Companies
What are they?
Export trading companies facilitate the export of U.S. goods and services abroad. Like an EMC, an ETC can either act as the export department for producers. A special kind of ETC’s are organized and operated by producers. These ETCs can be organized along multiple- or single-industry lines and can also represent producers of competing products.
Export Agents, Merchants, or Remarketers
What are they?
Export agents, merchants, and remarketers purchase products directly from the manufacturer. They pack and label the products according to their own specifications. They then sell these products overseas through their contacts in their own names and assume all risks.
The effort required by the manufacturer to market the product overseas is very small and can lead to sales that otherwise would take a great deal of effort.
In transactions with export agents, merchants, or remarketers, your firm relinquishes control over the marketing and promotion of your product. This can have an adverse effect on future sales abroad if your product is underpriced or incorrectly positioned in the market or if after-sales service is neglected
Piggyback Marketing
What is it?
Piggyback marketing is an arrangement in which one manufacturer or service firm distributes a second firm’s product or service. The most common piggybacking situation occurs when a U.S. company has a contract with an overseas buyer to provide a wide range of products or services. Often, the first company does not produce all the products that it is under contract to provide, and it turns to other U.S. companies to provide the remaining products. The second U.S. company then piggybacks its products onto the international market.
Company can export without incurring the marketing and distribution costs associated with exporting.
Usually require that the product lines be complementary and appeal to the same customers.