Whilst this is primarily for people and companies who are new to exporting, it is often a good thing for everyone to sometimes pause on their journey and look back, review, refresh and rethink.
This might be particularly useful when an experienced exporter is thinking about looking at a new region where they haven’t exported before, or not for a few years.
The first set of points are setting the groundwork, the foundation for your export plans. They cost nothing, but take time and committed thought.
First steps to help build a global strategy
- Get an International Trade Adviser, (ITA). Simply enter your postcode, this will connect you with your local office who will then connect you with an ITA whose role is – very simply – to help you do more export business. ITAs are paid for by the government, they all have extensive experience of exporting, many have spent years or even decades working in the private sector running businesses all over the world, their advice to you is free and their experience priceless.
- Market selection – your ITA will be able to help you with this, and you probably already have some ideas about which markets your product or service will sell in. But think about markets, select a few – five or six, not the whole world! And there is no requirement to think you have to go to China and the USA first. Ireland is an export market. France, Belgium and Netherlands are even closer. Think about why a market you select is appropriate, what is the evidence to support your decision.
- Route to market – how will you get your product or service to market? There are many ways, including: direct sales, establishing a company in that market through agents & distributors, licensing & franchising, a local joint venture (which may or may not be incorporated). Your ITA will have experience of all the options and can help guide you in this decision.
- Product/service suitability for international purpose – Possibly a very quick & easy question, but important to ask none the less. Will what you sell in the UK sell overseas? Is it right, is it appropriate?
- Produce the first draft of your export action plan – all of the above form the basis of this plan, your ITA will help you draft it and it is a live document which you will update, develop and change as you go along.
Once these basics have been addressed and you have got your ITA on board – your ITA will be with you for as long as is necessary, there is no time limit – and you can move onto the next stage:
Do your homework – a checklist
Planning includes initial research; desk-based research, in the UK. There is a lot you can do from home, and you should do.
We have asked our team of trade experts to share their top tips in the form of questions, which you can use as a checklist to make sure you are ready to draft your action plan:
- Are you able to export with your current product, service, intellectual property? i.e. is there anything stopping you going to that market?
- Has someone already got a market sewn up and are there regulations preventing import of anything similar?
- Can your trademark be registered in your target international market, does it infringe another mark already in use in that market? Establish this before you do anything else. It too might be quick & easy. But check.
- Assess your existing client base to help identify your key strengths and international opportunities. One of your best clients in the UK may have an international presence which you can use as a starting point.
- Get advice in the target country with regards to local culture and regulations. There is a huge amount of information everywhere, and the UK has Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates all over the world who can all help with this sort of advice and research.
- Look at your local competitors’ strategies, especially their websites and social media, to see how they have made themselves more international. If it works for them it can work for you.
- Check the potential international markets for your product/service: in particular look for services similar to yours already on sale there – are there any international competitors, who are they and what are they doing?
- Start to develop client/customer pipeline – this too can be started at home, it doesn’t need to be a huge list of hundreds of leads, it might only be a handful, half a dozen for each market, but who are they, where are they based, who are the key names, so much information is immediately available. You probably have more information on your desk already that you realise. Business cards, LinkedIn, ask your team if they have any contacts in the chosen markets.
In the next guide we will move onto in market research, market visits, time & money before looking at further actions and overarching considerations.
We have over 20 years’ experience supporting businesses of all sizes and sectors to grow in global markets.
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