What are the biggest barriers to exporting?
This is a question I have been asked before, and as hard as I try, nothing significant comes to mind. British businesses have so many advantages when it comes to exporting – the English language, our legal systems and a generally positive reputation – that I honestly cannot think of a major barrier that we encountered in expanding sales into 110 countries.
In some ways, I would say just getting started is the best way to learn what barriers may be put in your way. However, I cannot overstate the importance of thinking about the key features and benefits of your product or service, just as you would for local market entry, and then using that with in-country market research to prioritise your international attack.
As a starting point, the telephone is a great option, and with the right open attitude and willingness to listen you can learn a great deal. You don’t need to decide immediately whether you want to sell direct or partner with a distributor, but you should understand the issues associated with each option. There is an asset value in owning and controlling your supply chain, but the speed of set up can be more challenging and certainly the overhead risk higher.
You should also stop and ask yourself a few key questions. Are there native suppliers who have monopolies? Are there environmental concerns that might affect your product performance? Is your sector in growth or decline within the target market place? Is there financial stability? Are there sample taxes, costs or quota limitations that might be applied for market protection?
Clearly if the answer to the questions above lead to a negative outlook then a trip to this market place may not be viable. However, if the market place looks encouraging the next path would be to contact the following organisations:
Department Of Trade and Industry: An invaluable resource that is there for everyone to utilise, with endless information and contacts for UK Exporters like details of trade missions or DTI grants, contact names for local authorities.
Export Market Information Centre: This organisation can provide you with market information free of charge, including overviews of the country including the economy, trade, investments and future developments.
British High Commission: Inform the British High Commission in the market area of your pending trip, arrange a meeting at the beginning of your itinerary to establish major contacts and gather internal market information like politics, business leaders, growth areas, new developments or local taxes and duties.
Actual market discovery activities will vary a lot depending on the product you are promoting, but frankly, the market abroad will not be much different from the markets at home so just use a bit of common sense – if you’re selling sailing equipment, go to the local sailing club!
The experiences, fun and relationships I have built overseas are some of my most special memories, learning about the history and culture of different nations and I trying fantastic food. In all my adventures I only ever felt unsafe once (probably due to my own stupidity), so don’t be afraid to get on a flight, ask all the stupid questions and get listening to people.