Helena Deane is one of our active and most helpful contributors. Here she gives 7 tips to get you thinking about exporting. We’ve added an Eight: Join smallbusinesscans new microsite dedicated to exporting. All you have to do is join up with your Facebook and Linkedin details. While it’s early Beta, there’s still people there, such as Helena, able and willing to help and share insights and experiences.
Are you export Ready?
With many SMEs facing a fall-off in domestic sales, exporting is becoming a key survival tactic. The benefits of selling to overseas markets include increased sales and a longer lifespan for products and services, lower production costs, more productivity, less vulnerability to fluctuations in the domestic market, invaluable experience and differentiation from competitors.
Before you jump in head first, however, it is important to prepare carefully to sell into new markets. Here is a seven-point checklist you can follow to help make the move:
1. Determine your Business’s Export-Readiness
Look objectively at your business structure, processes and strategies. Assess whether your weaknesses will negatively affect any exporting activities and how your strengths may help. Ensure your current production, storage and logistical operations can accommodate export sales. Review your business plan in line with your findings and reassess the financial requirements/ projections.
2. Identify your Target Market
Concentrate on territories which provide you with the best prospects. First-time exporters may focus on a single country or limited number of countries and expand from there. Explore any strengths and weaknesses in the potential market so you can develop your export strategy around this.
3. Research your New Target Market
Identify any regulations and prohibitions relating to exporting from Ireland or the UK. Consider the expectations within your export market in regard to standards, brand names, quality, appearance and packaging as well as usage. Understand the market size, growth and competitive environment. Valuable country specific information is published by the World Trade Organization, EU Market Access Database and OECD. You may then need to modify your current product or service offering or develop a new product or service for export.
Social media like Linked-in, Facebook, Twitter and Xing allow SMEs to identify and connect with potential international business partners quickly and cheaply. Do not forget about more traditional networking avenues such as Chamber of Commerce events, formal trade networks, trade missions and trade fairs.
5. If you need help, ask!
Talk to other businesses who have ‘been there and done it’ and share their experience and expertise. Liaise with organisations such as Enterprise Ireland, Invest NI, Intertradeireland, Irish Exporters Association and International Chamber of Commerce.
6. Form Local Partnerships
Having a local partner takes away a lot of uncertainty and removes many barriers to entry – they speak the local language, are familiar with the culture, provide local market knowledge, experience and connections, as well as being able to deal with regulatory and administrative issues as they arise.
7. Harness the Power of E-commerce
A commercial web-site can offer you instantaneous access to global markets and global advertising. However, careful planning and research is required for e-commerce. Starting small and keeping it simple will help form a solid base for the growth strategy.