Companies considering exporting must take their time before deciding which international markets to enter.
The guidance comes from trade body the Institute of Export (IOE) which is advising businesses to research thoroughly and not rush into an exporting decision they might later regret.

“Some businesses spend more time choosing their company cars than they do selecting which markets they should be exporting to,” says IOE director general Lesley Batchelor. “Exporting is not easy but it is profitable so a company should get its head around how to do it properly.”
She adds that many firms think selling their products to overseas customers is straightforward because they see other companies already benefiting from international trade.

“The most successful exporters would have started small and grown their foreign sales gradually.”

The IOE says businesses should learn how to get it right rather than accepting errors as par for the course. They are costly and avoidable.
When looking at which market to start with they should then consider which markets their competitors are targeting and why. Spending time setting a price that reflects all the aspects of profit and market postioning is vital and may vary between markets. Especially as costs can mount in terms of logistics, taxation and duties.

“Exporting will help your business growth if you get it right,” says Batchelor. “It can make your organisation more sustainable, improve your product and packaging and help with marketing in your own country. It can also help to keep sales coming in during difficult trading periods in the UK.”

 

Research tips

 

As part of any new market research the IOE suggests that a business analyses its website statistics of where in the world its views are coming from remembering that google is not the only search engine when looking for sector activity.There is no need to translate an entire website into different languages, but companies should translate the home page and purchase URLs for different countries. It is a fact that customers are 4 times more likely to purchase if spoken to in their native language – certainly it’s the first language they search in.

“Your research should also include attending trade exhibitions to see if a particular market is right for you. Trade missions are useful too but you need to have prepared in detail to get the most out of them.”
Batchelor would like to see more SMEs collaborating to take advantage of the larger projects in overseas markets and she is calling for children to be taught about the importance of international trade in school.
“Ideally we need everyone who works in British business, whether young or old, to have a mind-set where they are thinking about the benefits of exporting when it comes to future growth.”

The IOE runs ‘An Introduction to Exporting - Physical Goods’ one day course which is ideal for people new to exporting. It explains international trade procedures, the importance of documentation and the role of tariffs and customs. It also trains in importing and selling services overseas. They are rightly proud of their full qualification programme in International Trade from 16 – an MSc.
The latest in their series of Doing Business Guides available free online are Germany and Ireland, the guides give an overview of the local economy, business culture and potential opportunities. See their website for the full series.