Never underestimate the power of planning. While it’s right and proper to seize opportunities when they arise, having a well thought-out, considered approach to business is going to be more helpful in the long run. This is why having an export strategy is so important.
The key to a successful export strategy is end-to-end thinking. What this means is that you need to work through all the elements, from understanding why you want to export, to the practicalities of how you’re going to achieve your aims.
Key Questions to Begin With
- Is there a market for my product overseas, and if so, where?
- What is the best way of marketing it?
- What is the competition like?
- How do I finance my exporting?
- Am I ready for export, do I have the resources and commitment?
Be clear about your reasons for exporting.
Researching the Market
To become a successful exporter to begin with you should identify and target a small number of key markets for your product. Think about which regions of the world would work best for you. Work out your competitive position and choose your markets carefully; think about choosing somewhere that doesn’t have a business culture too far removed from your own.
Every foreign market carries with it a degree of risk. Consider the risks that are specific to each specific market. These may range from typical import restrictions to economic instability. That’s why you should weigh up risk against opportunity.
Planning your Distribution
This part is essential, because exporting your goods is only half the task. You must ensure they can reach your customers once they’ve got to their country
You may need business partners overseas and a forwarding agent. You might decide to use a local distributor or licensee. You will also need to ensure that you have all the correct paperwork completed for the movement of goods.
Marketing Your Product
The modern, interconnected means that there are now numerous opportunities to market your goods abroad.
Developing an online presence can be crucial to reaching a new, overseas audience. You may need to find out what local key publications there are for you to target your new, expanded customer base. Also think about joint promotional activity with a local distributor, and visiting the country your exporting to build up personal contact with your customers.
Finance and Getting Paid
Making sure you can fund your venture is vital, and you should consider a range of alternatives such as foreign exchange services, bank loans and other solutions such as invoice finance.
At the opposite end of the process is the issue of getting paid. Many exporters find this bit a great deal trickier than winning the overseas orders in the first place. Language and currency issues can arise, the latter exacerbated by fluctuating exchange rates.
Generally reliable methods for ensuring payment include:
- letters of credit;
- advance payments;
- bills of exchange; and
- open account trading (for trade within the EU).
Be sure to negotiate credit terms with your customers in advance of delivering any goods to them.
One important thing to add to all this is flexibility. Conditions can change and even the most water-tight export strategy may have to be adjusted. Be prepared and be confident. As Winston Churchill himself once remarked,
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”