The first time you start to sell away from your local neighbourhood it could be said that you have started your export journey. There is nothing scary or mysterious about exporting, it is simply about selling your products or services ‘somewhere else’. With exporting, that somewhere else has come to be understood as being to another country, but the principles behind it are exactly the same.
Exporting is just selling!
The first time you receive an enquiry from a potential customer in London, perhaps when sat in your office somewhere in Manchester, you have new issues to consider; how will I deliver? Should I price differently? How will I service the customer? It is exciting and generally you will find the way. But what if it was Belfast? That brings the additional complication of crossing the sea. You find that there are delivery companies that do this every day and will help. Perhaps Dublin? It’s no further than Belfast and they speak the same language, so at least you can communicate well, but they are a different country and after Brexit a different jurisdiction. Then you find the rules are very similar and that so much trade crosses the Irish sea every day that there is plenty of help at hand.
The world beckons
So now let’s push further afield, let’s try Canada or the USA; the language is the same but the rules are different. Sometimes, depending on the products or services you sell, very different. Yes, there is now some more work to do to understand different rules and customs. For instance, in the USA, weights have to be shown first in ounces, but can then also show grammes. This is more adventurous, but the potential customer base is so huge that some additional effort is worthwhile. The next stage is to try to export to countries that don’t have English as a first language. That can seem daunting, but help is readily at hand. It is remarkable how widely English is spoken across the world, and so even if your prospects do not speak English, it will be easy to find help with translations. The key point I am making here is that whilst the prospect of exporting may seem at first to be daunting, it is a natural progression in business. There are many advantages for a business to seriously consider that can come with exporting:
- English is a world language. This may be one of the greatest commercial advantages UK companies can have.
- The UK brand is strong and very well respected. In many parts of the world having a Union Jack on the product is seen as a sign of quality.
- The Government is providing significant levels of support and resources to help businesses to export, including free expert guidance, both locally based and in territory. This has been increasing over recent years.
- Support is also forthcoming from non-governmental organisations including, trade bodies, chambers of commerce, local enterprise zones and many more.
- Exporting is a great opportunity to increase your sales and your profits.
Many of the considerations when exporting are the same as for selling in your home market, and for me there are three key factors:
– Right Product
– Right Price
– Right Place
These apply wherever you are selling, but are definitely worth focusing on when you are considering exporting.
Right Product – Not all products will suit all markets, so you should ensure that you only try to export products that are suited to the markets you are looking to sell into.
Right Place – If you have luxury, high value, goods, then a budget supermarket may not be the place for you. These considerations are exactly the same as selling in your home market.
Right Price – When you have decided which products you want to sell into the market, and selected the right place for you to be, then how to price?
You have to be aware of the competition, but sometimes imported goods can withstand a premium price cache. It is important that you get your pricing right to start with and there is no point in pricing at a level that won’t make you any profit. Taking these three factors into account it then makes sense to look for markets with similar characteristics to those of your home market customers – the low hanging fruit. If you base your export strategy on finding similar markets rather than just countries of interest you are more likely to pinpoint that low hanging fruit. You may also want to change the way that you move your goods to market from how you operate in your home market. For instance, having a good local distributor can remove a lot of problems from understanding the local market, and hopefully may take care of all the logistics. You would have to make careful allowance for the margins that a distributor will need and your pricing structure must allow for this.
The hardest part…
The hardest part of any journey is the first step. Taking small steps on your export journey need that one essential decision: that you are going to start. Why not try? There is big, inviting world out there.
Tony Goodman MBE is a successful exporter and has been doing so through a variety of different businesses. He is currently Marketing Advisor at Forest and Co who specialise in offering guidance on branding, exporting and sales: www.forestandco.com