Branching Out? Export Manager Do’s And Don’ts

There has rarely been a time like the current in terms of exporting – with so much uncertainty at home, but so much opportunity in overseas markets. Exporting is an excellent strategic business decision when carried out correctly, in terms of survival, productivity and growth.

It is over 11% more likely a UK company will survive if it does business overseas, companies that export become 34% more productive in the first year alone; and 85% of companies say exporting has led to a level of growth not otherwise possible. With these in mind, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you ensure that your business is one of those that thrive in international markets. Develop a well researched export plan.

This should include the steps you need to take, the targets you should be aiming for and the resources you have available to ensure you meet your targets. Important factors to consider here include Human Resources, Manufacturing Capacity, Product Changes, Market Visits. As well as set out the route you should take, this will ensure you are in the correct position to export. Having been here before with many successful businesses, HRA are well placed to assist you with the planning process.

DON’T: Wing It, Or Export For The Sake Of It

‘A failure to plan is a plan to fail’ may be one of Britain’s most overused sayings, but it couldn’t be more apt when it comes to exporting. Like any major business decision, planning is well and truly essential – exporting is a mammoth task for any business, and success simply isn’t possible accidentally. Secondly, if your planning reveals that you aren’t completely ready for exports in terms of capacity; resources; products; sales or anything else, don’t export because you feel you should. Exporting is very worthwhile – but only if you are in a position to do so. It is far better (and safer) to strengthen your existing business before planning to export elsewhere.

DO: Your Research

This will quite possibly be the research project of your life, and will need to cover: which markets to target; where you should target your resources in the market; what are your potential routes to market; and what would be attainable yet beneficial targets for your business. Once you’ve identified your market, you will need to carry out extensive research both within this market and your own product range to identify which of your products will be most suitable, how to position them, and what would be the most suitable route to market. It is most advisable to focus on one or two countries at first, and expand your exporting portfolio gradually.

DON’T: ‘Spray And Pray’

Often stemming from inadequate research, the tendency to ‘Spray and Pray’ is a common factor in the failure of many exporting projects. This is both in terms of products, and markets. In exporting terms, less is definitely more – it is important to focus on just one or two markets to begin with, and focus all your energy and resources there to make sure your first foray out of the UK market is as successful as possible.

It isn’t just your target markets you should slim down, it’s also your product range. If you have an extensive product range, don’t launch it all at once. Identify those products most suitable for your target markets, and focus on one or several products initially to give them the best introduction possible to that market. At HRA, Export market research is one of our major specialisms, and we would be more than happy to help you.   

DO: Ensure You Choose The Right Importer/Distributor/Agent

There is often a sea of choice when it comes to professionals eager to help you  – and such a huge amount of choice certainly isn’t always a positive thing. It is firstly important to understand the difference – particularly that between agents and distributors – see our articles Agents or Distributors Which Is Best For You? and Agents or Distributors – Which is Best for Your Brand?

It is important that you narrow down your potential partners to those most suitable for your brand and your products – and of course those who are well recognised, trusted and networked in your target market.

DON’T: Choose The First Company Who Comes Along

Of course, the first company who comes along might be fantastic, and you might end up going with them – but we wouldn’t advise choosing them without looking around and researching other companies first. If possible, meet with potential suitors to get more of a feel for their business. Appointing them for a trial period initially is always useful, if possible.

This is a major decision – and shouldn’t be made quickly. At HRA, we have a network of agents and distributors internationally, and specialise in commercial partnerships – ensuring companies find the correct match, saving a lot of time and effort.

DO: Correctly Tailor And Maintain Your Marketing And Promotional Strategy

A lot of this will stem from your market research – you will have learnt what it is that consumers in your target market want, and what it is that differentiates them from those in your own market. They may not be completely different, and may only require a minor extension of your existing strategy – but it is very important to ascertain this nonetheless. It is very important to set up an up-to-date informative company website focusing on each market, as well as utilising social media to build brand awareness effectively.

DON’T: Take A ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach

It is very important to not assume that all consumers in different markets will react in the same way to your existing strategy, so it is key to understand the consumers in each target market. Cultural factors are very important here – make sure your product is a cultural fit and is properly translated to avoid embarrassment.

It is also very important to look into labelling regulations – particularly when exporting outside of the EU, as incorrect labelling could result in costly and damaging product recalls.

DO: Sort Out The Boring Stuff

The terms and conditions of sale and payment, the legal considerations, paperwork, and finally finance and insurance. It is crucial to understand the terms and conditions of sale, the documentation you will need and the terms and conditions of payment – you may need to set up a new bank account for the transactions.

In terms of legal considerations, it is recommended that written agreements are overseen by an experienced lawyer. Intellectual property, product liability and product compliance should also be covered. The correct paperwork is also vital, and should include a pro-forma invoice, and insurance document, a certificate of origin and an export health certificate – among others. Finance and insurance is also very important in terms of making sure all of your risks are covered.

DON’T: Ignore The Boring Stuff

As tempting as it may be, and as long winded and boring as all of the paperwork is, this is extremely vital. There are plenty of international lawyers specialising in trade available to help you, as well as insurers and financiers.

DO: Contact HRA For All Your Exporting Needs

HRA offer a full service Exporting package, designed to help you at every stage of your exporting journey.

From Export Planning; Channel Choice; Practical Exporting; and Commercial Partnerships through to Category Management; Market Research; Route to Market and In-market Branding Translation, at HRA we are an experienced consultancy who’ve worked with a catalogue of brands to make their products a success.

Are you looking to Export your product overseas? Are you looking for any of HRA’s Exporting Services, or are you simply looking for more information? Email, or call us on +44 (0) 1803 203387.

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