Let us begin by defining an export agent. An export agent is a firm (or individual) that undertakes most of the exporting activities on behalf of an exporter usually for a commission. A key feature of the traditional export agent is that they never really take ownership of the goods, which always remain under the control of the exporter. The agent thus will do most of the marketing of the principle (i.e. the export firm) and the firm’s products.

What exactly does the export agent do?

The agent may travel abroad, do research, prepare an export plan, advise the exporter on how to adapt their marketing mix, make contact with potential buyers, negotiate deals with the buyers, take care of all promotional activities, handle the logistics and documentation, and much more. All of these tasks, the export will do on the exporter’s behalf. The exporter normally pays the agent for the expenses they have incurred marketing the firm’s products and handling the export administration, and will generally earn a commission on any sales generated. In essence the export agent becomes the exporter’s export department. In some cases, the principle will want to keep tight control over the agent’s activities, while in other instances, the agent is given free reign. Some companies may employ an agent for very specific tasks such as undertaking marketing research or handling the export administration and logistics only.

Using an agent is a relatively easy and painless way for a local company to enter the export market, as they generally have to do very little – the agent does all (or at least some) of the export marketing on the firm’s behalf.