How can the Department of International Trade help UK SMEs go global?
At the recent Amazon Academy Newcastle, Sue Beverley, an ecommerce advisor at the Department of International Trade (DIT) explained the ways in which her organisation is on hand to help businesses looking to bump up their exports.
The Amazon Academy is an event series aimed at small businesses looking to grow online, whether this means increasing sales domestically or overseas.
Beverley explained how one of the main things the DIT has to offer is its large support network.
there’s me on the ground here in the North-East, covering the North-East region, but overseas weve got staff in all of the embassies.
According to Beverley, the DIT offers practical support not just in identifying key markets, but also in deciding how to target them.
The barriers to export
Beverley asked the room what they consider to be the barriers to expanding, the things holding small businesses from exporting overseas.
Unsurprisingly, language barriers, taxes, customs and duty fees and challenges finding distributors were all put forward.
ive had big multi-million pound companies come to me and say, this guy in Romania is asking if he can be our distributor in Romania, and were quite keen but it’s just an email that’s landed in my inbox, said Beverley.
we can check them out and we can check the company out in Romania for you. If it’s not too much work to do, it’s a free service.
She explained that there are lots of different fear factors involved, from language and culture or the sheer hassle of expansion some people are exporting but in a reactive way and with no strategy. The DIT is on hand to help overcome these barriers.
The support is the same across each region of the UK, but there are different teams for each region.
This means that, wherever you are in the UK you can have one to one support with the advisors. Perhaps your business has just decided to start selling on Amazon, or wants to develop a brand to sell overseas you can sit down with someone and talk about how it might work and which markets are the best to target.
we help you get into the country and work with you to identify customer segments, and how you can target those people, Beverley explained.
The DIT also has a programme of overseas trade missions, which tend to be sector led. In January for example, Beverley took a group of 15 homeware and lifestyle businesses to a trade show in Paris called Maison et Objet.
They were able to meet with organisations that could help them bring their products over, and met with a French agent to discuss what it’s like working in the French market and what the differences might be with the UK market.
Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.