Doom, gloom and potential triple dips – not to mention the cold weather... If you want to take your business to the next level, generate new income and boost your client base, could you be ready to start trading abroad?
It seems like a wonderful idea: travel, vastly expanded income potential, the buzz of new people and the idea of your product or service being sought after outside the UK. But where do you start? And what – and who – do you need to know? Chris Kubicki, International Trade Consultant, explains that, before you even start, you need to lay some strong foundations.
You have to make sure that you know what your company can bring to an overseas market, what makes it special. It has to have a USP and you need to build up a buzz around your product, establish your brand. In your favour is the fact that, with British products, there is already perception abroad of a certain standard, of high quality. Scotch whisky is a good example – it’s a well-known, high-end product. Recently, producers from other parts of the UK have begun making whiskey – in Wales and here in East Anglia in Norfolk – so these manufacturers will tap into the global brand of Scotch whisky and this will help them sell their own beverage. Quality and standards are also things to bear in mind when you’re choosing trade partners, for example, distributors: you’ll need to know they’ll uphold your business values and stay true to your brand
Another key factor is being able to recognise what you already have going for you, and maximising its potential. “Make sure you are really exploiting all your existing contacts,” says Chris. “Who do you know already that could help, before you go and spend money on an expensive advertising campaign abroad? Also, look at people who are not necessarily competitors but who are working in the same sector as you, where are they exporting to? It can be as simple as checking what countries their distributors operate in – a sample package to each of those distributors, seeing if they might be interested in working with you, could double your business.”
For Brits abroad, coping with differences such as language can be tricky. Could you be roundly insulting all your potential new clients if you immediately start speaking to them in English? Or in order to trade abroad do you need to start learning a whole suite of languages? Chris doesn’t think it’s necessarily the case, but there’s definitely some truth in the phrase
When in Rome…”. “It can be hard and time- consuming learning a new language from scratch – but it will give you a distinct social advantage to at least know a few phrases. People will be pleased and impressed that you’ve made the effort, and you may pick up certain things to your advantage if you understand as much as you can of what’s going on! One example is China: it’s a market that’s growing exponentially, but many very successful young Chinese entrepreneurs don’t have English, or very good English, so knowing at least some Mandarin would give you a distinct advantage here. But if you do learn another language, make sure you already have a target export market successfully lined up or you could just be learning random languages, which would take a huge amount of time and effort!
The great news for Peterborough businesses is that we are in one of the best places geographically to exploit foreign trade: the East of England. The infrastructure we have is superb for transport and travel to mainland Europe (especially Northern Europe, the part least affected by the downturn), still one of the most important trading blocs we deal with. And as laws and regulations are streamlined across Europe, once you are set up to trade in one EU country, you can potentially trade in all of them.