Exporting can have huge benefits for your business, no matter what size it is. If you’ve not thought about exporting your goods and services and you want to grow your business, it’s worth considering and taking this beneficial step.
We recently partnered with innovation foundation Nesta on a report called The State of Small Business. In it was research from the Longitudinal Small Business Survey, which revealed that only 18% of all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK export their goods and services. Yet, there is a moderately strong correlation at a regional level between SME productivity and export intensity.
Trading internationally is an area that UK businesses have an appetite for – something that came to light during a recent CBI Global Growth Conference. But for some firms, exporting isn’t a consideration for them.
In some cases, that makes sense – if you run a hairdresser and are based in Liverpool, it’s unlikely that you’re going to think about exporting your services to Brazil.
But if your business is focused on manufacturing, technology or fashion, for example, there is a clear opportunity to export your goods – and that can also lead to an increase in productivity for your firm.
And John Hill, managing director, international trade and investment, at the Department for International Trade, realises businesses with up to 249 employees can take the lead when it comes to exporting.
At the CBI event, he said: “Medium-sized businesses are well-placed to buck the trend and get Britain exporting. For instance, while medium-sized businesses represent just 1% of British businesses, they hold 12% of jobs and 14% of GDP.”
Therefore, it makes sense for you to takes advantage of your position in the market and grab the opportunity to grow your business while improving UK export rates at the same time.
And despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and what the end result will look like for the UK, building an exporting strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or offer a huge risk to your business.
Here are four things to consider if you want to build an exporting strategy and grow your business.
Perfect what you do before expanding your trade
“Become world class at something, then explore the world,” said Raman Sehgal, the founder of Ramarketing, during a CBI keynote session. Ensure your goods and services have established success before you try to tackle foreign markets.
Although this is a slower strategy, it’s a pragmatic approach that’s more likely to reap the results that you’d like to see for your business.
How to start the exporting process
Before making any preparations, ensure your business has the capacity to begin the exporting journey. You’ll need to assess whether there is enough room in your budget to fund extra materials, machinery and in some cases to increase staff.
Once you’ve made the definite choice, the next step is choosing your market and doing some in-depth market research to know what works and what sells.
Knowledge of the international markets you want to operate in is the key to successful exporting, so be aware that what works in the UK might not work somewhere else.
With that in mind, it’s often worth exporting to somewhere similar to the UK to avoid things getting too complex. Also, if you’re planning to export outside of the European Union, an export declaration will have to be completed first.
However, it’s not just the big decisions you need to make – the small details must also be taken into account to make sure there are no hiccups that could be easily avoided.
For example, have you checked the market’s legislation on packaging products? You may need to change packaging so that it’s appropriate for your intended market.
Or perhaps the naming of your product or brand has a funny or unintentional meaning in your chosen country, which might be worth changing.
Understand the nuances of different international markets
Trading in an alternative market can be very different to doing so in one you’re used to. Knowing that in advance means you can make the necessary steps to adapt your business methods and marketing techniques, so your products and services are tailored to the intended market.
Respecting cultural differences is another crucial point to be aware of. Although it seems obvious, you’d be surprised how much further you can get just by being aware of certain customs and understanding how people work differently in other countries.
Get the support your business needs
When undertaking the expansion of your business, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to support organisations that offer tailored advice to businesses looking to expand.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) is one such example. It hosts a campaign dedicated to helping you sell your services abroad and even offers funding to those who need it. SMEs can get access to 50% consultant funding, finance management and help with connecting business partners worldwide.
Business West is another organisation offering support to SMEs that are looking to export their goods and services. It provides workshops on exporting and has a database of organisations looking for partnership opportunities.
Sure, there are cultural differences and certain nuances to be aware of but once you are mindful of them, with the right support and expertise, it can be easier than you think to adapt your business to the global market.
What are your stories of getting into exporting? Are you exporting goods and services or is it something you’re considering? Let us know in the comments below.