Selling overseas represents an exciting proposition for many businesses. Naturally, there's a lot to consider, like researching your chosen market, finding export/import partners, understanding country specific trade rules and legislation. Here are 12 key points you need to think about before getting started:
1. Research your overseas markets
As you would domestically, take the time to research potential overseas markets. Assess the demand for your goods, potential for growth, competition and appropriate pricing. Once you’ve settled on a market, you should learn everything you can about it – the culture, the economic and political environment, customs, regulations, how business is conducted etc. Trade advisers in organisations like the UKTI or Chambers of Commerce can advise which markets have the most potential for your business. They can also help with overseas visits, offering services like finance, interpreters, introductions to potential business partners, help with identifying local agents/distributors, etc.
2. Tackle one new market at a time
Don't stretch yourself too thinly: focus your time, effort and money into the one market you're confident you can succeed in.
3. Get to know your overseas customers
Make sure you understand their commercial environment - just as importantly, get to know their customs, culture and markets. What is considered good manners in the UK isn't necessarily true overseas.
4. Be prepared for different documentary requirements
Different countries often require different types of documentations over and above those usually demanded.
5. Consider the different ways you can sell goods overseas
You have a range of options for selling goods overseas. When starting out, it may be easier to look for a partner who already understands the market, for example:
- Sell to a distributor who then sells your products locally
- Use a sales agent who sells products on your behalf, or introduces customers for a commission
- Enter into a joint venture with a local business
- If you want complete control over sales, you can set up your own local office.
6. Define your strategy for selling overseas
Your strategy for getting your product or service to an overseas market will vary depending upon what you offer, where it’s going and your level of involvement in the exporting. Usually you have 4 options:
- Sell direct from the UK
- Trade via distributors
- Employ agents
- Create a joint venture
7. Check the copyright on your products
Patents and trademarks are only recognised and protected in their country of origin, so you’ll need to secure additional protection in each market you intend to export to.
8. Check your customer's ability to pay
Can you be sure that your customer is credit-worthy? If you have concerns about their ability to pay, you might ask them for an export letter of credit - or even cash up front - and receive your funds earlier.
9. Protect yourself against payment default and delay
You’ll encounter various risks in overseas markets, from payment issues to exchange rate fluctuations. There are a number of ways we can help you manage these risks. For example, the right insurance can protect against non-payment and political or economic upheaval.
10. Customise your marketing
Different countries have different rules concerning marketing and advertising; what works in the UK may not work overseas. There are various aspects to consider like language and cultural differences. Take the time to check with an international marketing expert.
11. Select your transportation methods wisely
It's absolutely vital that your goods are insured, whether by you or by the importer. Freight forwarders often offer the most sensible option for shipping abroad. They handle the potentially complex aspects of logistics and paperwork. If you decide to take responsibility for delivery, you can find helpful advice from trade advisers like UKTI.
12. Nurture solid relationships
It’s important that your business regularly liaises with your customers, agents or partners. It’s also important to monitor the economic and political environment in the destination country. This way you can respond in a timely way to local changes that may impact your trade operations.