How will the Brexit saga end? When will the Brexit saga end? Journalists, business leaders and of course politicians seem to have been batting these questions backwards and forwards for months, with no easy answers. Indecision, uncertainty, ambiguity – these, now, are words that we can use to describe much of the business landscape. But uncertainty can also engender opportunity.
How can UK exporters ensure success beyond the EU?
For businesses who export their products abroad, the rumbling indecision in Europe should be taken as a driver for exploring new markets beyond the EU.
Next year a raft of high-profile international events, including the Qatar World Cup, Expo 2020 Dubai, and the Tokyo Olympic Games, are set to shine the global spotlight on diverse countries a long away from Europe.
Meanwhile, rapid economic growth is being experienced across a range of emerging markets, whilst digital technology and internet culture are enabling consumers to discover – and desire – products from all over the world.
But exporting to new and distant markets can present significant challenges. How can businesses best tackle them? We think there are five key steps you need to consider.
1. Developing cultural understanding
Cultural understanding is important when undertaking any export project. It dictates the type of products you export, how they are marketed, where they are sold, the relationships you develop with distributors and vendors and how those relationships are negotiated.
When exporting to the EU, or countries with longstanding links to the UK such as the US, Canada, and Australia, achieving an adequate level of cultural understanding is fairly straightforward.
Sure, there are nuances as to how different countries expect business deals to proceed, but familiarising yourself with these nuances, and finding employees and consultants who can advise accordingly, is easy and cost-effective.
Beyond Europe: The importance of cultural understanding
When exporting beyond the EU, cultural understanding takes on an even more significant role. There is simply less of a cushion of familiarity, fewer established business relationships to depend on, and often, greater contrasts in terms of cultural norms and business practices.
It is vitally important that you avoid reverting to stereotypes and generalisations – you must undertake first-hand research and seek out informed, expert advice.
A certain degree of initial research to scope out the feasibility of an export market can be carried out from your own premises in the UK, but ultimately there is no substitute for getting on a plane and doing business face-to-face.
Indeed, in many countries, face-to-face communication is considered a truly vital building block of professional relationships, far more so than in the UK.
Part of building cultural understanding, of course, is about understanding the extent of any linguistic barriers and meeting them accordingly, whether seeking out a partner organisation on the ground or hiring staff or consultants with the appropriate skills.
2. Developing technical understanding
As part of these initial feasibility studies and knowledge-building in terms of the regional culture and language, it is important to focus some of your research resource on more technical considerations.
What are the legal, regulatory and compliance frameworks in the country in question which your products or services will be subject to?
3. Defining your offering
Only once this thorough cultural understanding is under your belt can you begin adjusting your product or service offering in line with the country you are targeting.
If customisations need to be made – and this is where an in-depth understanding of the legal and regulatory frameworks in the country in question is particularly important – then you should make those before you present your company and brand to the export market.
4. Establishing your route to market
From there you can begin exploring how best to bring your product to market – which means establishing in-country partnerships with distributors.
This is almost always the most cost-effective way to begin exporting to the new country because the partner should shoulder both the in-country sales and marketing costs and share your payment risk.
As when undertaking your initial research and feasibility studies, it is critical that you find partners with native language capabilities, and an in-depth understanding of the cultural practices, legal and regulatory frameworks of the country you are operating in.
This is the foundation for strong communication networks and the development of relationships with further distributors.
Don’t discount the possibility of seeking out a local manufacturing partner, which can better enable you to compete with local organisations on price and lead times.
Producing licensed products locally can enable you to avoid incurring substantial taxes when shipping products and can also cut production costs into the bargain.
5. Seeking support when exporting beyond Europe
Perhaps all this sounds extremely daunting. However, it is important to remember that the importance of international trade to the UK is well-recognised by the government, meaning that there is plenty of resource and support available to help you through these processes.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) is your obvious first port of call. With a network of international trade specialists, these contacts can help you to effectively prepare for trade shows or research visits abroad.
Indeed, international trade shows, fairs, and exhibitions are often a fantastic grounding for the research and feasibility testing stage of your international expansion, and great networking opportunities too.
Grants are sometimes available for attending such international events, via the DIT’s Tradeshow Access Programme.
The DIT also offers a paid-for Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS), via its network of staff in overseas embassies and consulates. This can offer you bespoke market research and market entry strategies, as well as wider practical assistance.
Whether you are searching out key partners or customers overseas or looking for insight into regulatory and legislative issues, the OMIS can help.
There are vast opportunities for UK business to export and expand internationally. Don’t be put off by the complexity or lack of familiarity; a logical approach can open up exciting new markets.
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