The economic climate within the domestic UK market means that looking beyond the traditional sales channels is sometimes the only option for business growth, which is why exporting should be seen as an opportunity and even more so now, with the UK Government working towards and offering incentives to have exports hit £1 trillion by 2020.
Here are 7 handy tips which will help you decide whether exporting is for you and if so, how you go about building the right relationships and getting your product into new markets.
- Are you export ready? Review your current resources; do you have the financial resources, dedicated export staff, suitable sales and marketing literature, price lists and website? Use business tools such as SWOT or PEST analysis to assess both internal and external factors that could affect your business and competitors in a foreign market.
- Do your homework and know your market inside out. Who are your competitors? What are they doing to promote themselves and their product? How does your USP compare? Some businesses set up joint ventures or partnerships with foreign entities that have more experience selling to local buyers. These arrangements however, can be of high risk, so background checks are vital. Also, are there legal implications relating to your product? Do you need accreditation from a trading body or approval of required safety features?
- Put yourself out there. To find contacts and prospective customers you may need to travel to trade shows and events to present your company and product to foreign buyers and distributors who might be in attendance.
- Watch your cultural Ps and Qs. Although selling through a foreign distributor can make your job easier, you can miss out on additional profit too. It often makes more financial sense to sell to foreign consumers directly, but be prepared to go outside of your comfort zone, as beyond the basic language barriers exporting directly typically involves wading through varying levels of taxes, tariffs, banking practices and currencies.
- Don’t forget your core business, as it’s what got you started in the first place. This can be a common problem when expanding a business, but while you are growing remain consistent and in contact with your core customer base. Forget about them and you risk losing your ‘bread and butter’ income which is enabling you to create an export strategy. This is called overtrading and is something to avoid.
- Get to know a good shipping agent. Unless you’re experienced in importing goods into a specific country, then using the services of a reputable shipping agent is a must. They will know the ins and outs of bringing in goods, who to speak to should problems arise and also how to secure the best rates. A really good agent will also save you time by taking care of any transportation or logistical issues, which frees you up to focus on learning about your market and building business relationships.
- Never forget about customer service. You may have chosen to sell your product or service through a distributor or retailer, but it’s still your company that the end user or consumer will turn to for help. So it would be worth considering investing in a local service or an international answering service who can answer queries in your customers’ language. It seems obvious, but poor customer service can mean a negative impact on your reputation, a drop in sales and potentially a failed export business. Why run the risk?
If you’re considering trading abroad and are at the research stage, building a customer base or are negotiating a trading agreement, then using international credit reports will certainly aid your market knowledge. A credit report can help you to identify potential risks and therefore protect your business and export investment from factors such as non-payment from customers or a distributor becoming insolvent.