Thinking of international growth? 4 tips for getting exports right

Recent growth in UK manufacturing has allowed quiet optimism to seep back in to the industry.

However, new research from the British Chamber of Commerce suggests Britain’s manufacturing exports are ‘approaching stagnation’ – cause for concern for an industry that makes up 44 percent of total UK exports. Exporting can have a tremendous impact on small businesses, with UKTI research showing that firms who choose to export become 34 percent more productive in their first year, while those already exporting achieve 59 percent faster productivity growth than non-exporters.

Often with exporting, it’s the first step which proves the greatest hurdle. Unlike many other countries, UK businesses can be apathetic towards exporting. A recent YouGov poll revealed that well over half the sample of British businesses traded solely within the UK, 90 percent of those respondents have no ambition of pushing their produce overseas.

Exporting can be a daunting task, but for UK manufacturers there is a realm of opportunity in international trade expansion. Here are some tips for would-be manufacturing exporters.

1. Make sure your product has international reach

According to UKTI, the UK has exported £128m in cosmetics to the UAE, £120m of aluminium to India and £43m of carpets to the Netherlands in previous years. These export success stories would not have come about without savvy market research and testing; read up so you’re not flying blind.

Let consumer demand drive your strategy. What sort of consumer is likely to benefit from your product and what demographic are they likely to be in? This will enable you to narrow down key markets or tailor your products so they are suitable for export.

2. Know your target market

Assuming you can simply replicate your UK strategy for overseas success is a fool’s errand. Make sure you investigate new markets thoroughly. First, decide on the top one to three new markets with potential and then research the landscape – consider foreign competition, local customs, laws and industry structure and tweak your plans accordingly. Government advisers can help you with this; UKTI have regional teams with dedicated Language and Culture staff to assist you on your approach and plan a route to success overseas.

3. Sweat the small stuff

Typically, businesses will spend days and nights perfecting product, catering to the target market and planning for business expansions but not attach the same importance to the details like finding the right logistics partner or international payments solution.

It is just as important to spend time researching any service providers or partners who will be an important part of the exporting process. Not shopping around could end up being a costly mistake. No one wants to end up with a logistics partner that loses their goods in transit or with a bank that charges them high fees for bringing their hard earned revenue home.

4. Don’t give up

Exporting overseas is a commitment – there will be investment costs (time and money) that will require time to overcome before your plans and hard work begin to pay off. The road to becoming a master of overseas commerce won’t be an easy one, but with the right support and partner structure, you’ll soon be looking for your next international challenge. Exporting can offer a world of opportunity, quite literally.

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Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK