Exporting is GREAT week: Kickstarting your overseas business

Interest in exports is at an all-time high among UK businesses, but it's important for firms to have the right strategy in place from the start.

Container ship loaded with exports
UKTI figures released alongside the government's Exporting is GREAT week show that more businesses than ever are interested in exporting. The initiative has garnered more than 20,000 responses since November 2015, and kicked into high gear with a week long event in April.
UKTI is looking to give UK firms wishing to export their products and services a big push, and has showcased upwards of 6,000 opportunities since November (roughly one every 37 minutes, according to UKTI), coming from 109 countries and ranging across 44 different sectors. In short, for companies looking to build their business overseas the government is ready and willing to offer support.
"We have a proud history as a trading nation. The development of digital technology has the potential to give even the smallest company a global reach and access to attractive new markets," Trade and Investment Minister, Lord Price, said. "This government is committed to supporting 100,000 more UK businesses to export by 2020."
The opportunities being highlighted show real diversity – they range from calls for tea from China to a need for chromatography equipment in the Dominican Republic to interest in British beer in Finland to an attempt to attract UK gaming and creative industry experts to Ghana.
While the opportunities are myriad, it's important for firms to approach potential overseas clients with their eyes open. Natwest, which has partnered with UKTI on Exporting is GREAT, emphasises the need to properly research your chosen market, consider finding export partners and taking the time to become properly familiar with local trade rules and legislation.
"Be confident of the demand for your goods; understand the potential for growth; be knowledgeable about the competition and how you should price your goods," Natwest says in its guidance. It also recommends becoming familiar with not only the commercial imperitives at work in your chosen market, but also the local customs and cultures. Relationships are key to this, and it's important to regularly liase with customers, agents and partners, as well as keeping abreast of what's going on in the cultural and economic environment of the region you're operating in.
To ensure you're getting the best local knowledge and access, it might be worth working with a partner. Natwest suggests a number of ways companies might enter a market with the help of a third party, including going through a local distributor, using a local sales agent to work with potential customers, entering into a joint venture with a local business or, of course, establishing a local office.
Similarly, different territories have different rules regarding advertising and marketing, so what worked domestically might not work abroad – it's worth consulting with an international marketing expert.
Firms looking to export also need to make sure they have all their legal work in order. Your new market may have documentary requirements above and beyond those usually needed, and patents and trademarks are only recognised in their country of origin, so it's important to get additional protection in new countries.
On a more general note, it's important that companies new to exporting don't stretch themselves too thin. Taking the time to get to know one new territory you're confident that you can succeed in and concentrating your efforts and resources there will pay dividends in the long run.

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