First steps to export

Exporting for the first time is a huge step for any company, and preparation is key. But knowing where to start can be difficult. Department for International Trade advisers offer Tribune readers practical tips on those tricky first forays into overseas trade.
Published —
25.07.17

Isn’t exporting only for bigger businesses?

You don’t have to be a large business to sell to other countries. UK businesses of all sizes are exporting right now and it helps them to grow. From exporting products overseas to selling on online marketplaces, small and medium businesses are increasing their brand awareness and profit margins day after day.

Everyone has to start somewhere. That’s why the Department for International Trade (DIT) offers UK businesses free guidance and tools to get you started.

I’m new to exporting – where do I start?

You can start by using the government’s website dedicated to exporting at great.gov.uk. From how to write an export plan, how to research potential markets and even understand the shipping and logistics, you’ll find what you need to learn to start exporting.

It’s an ideal starting point if your business is looking to export for the first time or if you’re already exporting and want to grow your international business.

How do I find out which country is best for my business?

You can export across the world, but it’s market research that will tell you where is best to go.

Your market research will be your first step towards exporting successfully. It helps prevent costly mistakes and maximise your potential for profits.

It’s not as difficult as you might think – you just need to learn how to do it. We can help with that.

How do I research my target country?

You start by assessing if a market is right for your product or service, work out the demand, define your target customer and understand the competition.

Focus on a couple of target countries you’d like to export to, then decide how best to market and sell to customers in those countries.

You’ll also want to gather information on your industry in the target markets, identify your market niche and understand cultural concerns that might be relevant to selling your product or service.

You can learn more about your target countries with DIT’s exporting country guides on gov.uk. It’s free, detailed guidance on countries in all continents around the world.

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How else can I better understand my target market?

One of the best ways to understand your target market and the customers there is to attend overseas events, trade fairs or trade missions.

They can help to familiarise you with your target market before you fully commit. You can meet potential customers, agents and distributors, and you may even generate some sales.

DIT lists events taking place worldwide on great.gov.uk. We even offer funding to eligible business to attend overseas trade shows.

Is there demand for my business in other countries?

If you’ve made sales in the UK, there’s almost certainly a market for you abroad.
Overseas businesses and government agencies are often looking for products or services like yours.

You can search, find and apply for opportunities from overseas businesses looking for products or services like yours on great.gov.uk.

New opportunities are added daily and you can also sign up for relevant email alerts – so as soon as a business is looking for a product like yours, you’ll know about it.

How do I promote my business to international buyers?

You can amplify your company’s international marketing efforts by creating an international trade profile on the Find a buyer service on great.gov.uk.

Your profile will promote your business internationally. It’s free to use and connects you directly with international buyers, offering you a way to showcase your company’s outstanding projects and experience.

Is selling online an option for my business?

Not only is selling online an option, in many cases it might be the best option.

Opportunities for international online sales are huge and are growing strongly. With a digital presence, your business can access new markets and gain new customers 24 hours a day, often at low cost.

You can explore and find the right online marketplace for your products or services at great.gov.uk. We negotiate exclusive deals for UK businesses like yours from a wide range of marketplaces and provide all information in English, making it easier for you to choose.

Does my business need an export plan?

It’s best practice to have one. An export plan outlines your objectives, strategy and preparations for selling your product or service in a new or existing overseas market. It also helps you evaluate risks and benefits. It’s similar to a business plan but with an international focus.

You can get free guidance on creating export plans from great.gov.uk that will help you develop a working strategy for successful overseas sales.

How will I know if my business has the capacity and capability to export?
Making sure you have the right resources and skills in place before you start saves time and reduces your workload in the long run and is a key part of your export plan. It can drive higher profit margins and less risk for your company.

It’s important to understand what’s involved in selling overseas, but preparations can be made bit by bit and you don’t have to be an expert. There are many support organisations and trade advisers out there who are ready and able to help you. Even existing UK exporters can be willing to share advice on their international success.

How will I fund my international growth?

Exporting can bring secure, long-term growth for successful businesses. But starting to sell overseas or expanding your existing export business can put a strain on your cash flow.

In the short term you may face upfront costs, such as logistical costs, product customisation or additional payroll costs.

The UK government may be able to help you meet these upfront costs through export finance, designed to ensure export deals don’t fail because of financial issues.

You can also learn about sources of finance to help make exporting a success and ways to make sure you get paid on great.gov.uk.

Are you pondering your first steps towards export, or seeking help with growing your international presence? We can help you find advice. Tell us about your circumstances and the questions you need answered and we’ll put them to experts in the field. Submit queries to editor@thebusinesstribune.net

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