Don't stand still – export for growth
03 September 2015
Paul Halliwell, sales director at Disposables, shares his top tips on what businesses looking to export should consider:
Those of us working in the manufacturing industry are keenly aware that British manufacturing plays a key role in securing the nation’s on-going economic growth – not just by generating revenue in UK markets, but via export to international markets. Manufacturing accounts for half of all UK exports and, with the government’s target to reach £1 trillion in exports by 2020, there has never been a more urgent need for manufacturers to have strong export plans.
Disposables UK has recognised and responded to this need by opening up successful export markets across Europe where growth of our Bay West brand is flying, and we are constantly on the lookout for new markets, such as those in Eastern Europe, so that we can expand further. With established export markets in the Netherlands, Denmark and France, we’ve recently broken into Germany, the largest European export market, which demonstrates that, even in mature markets, people respond to new and innovative products.
In my experience, there are some key elements that anyone looking to export should consider:
- Identify and research the market
Research and evaluate the market you’re going in to – is it right for you? Consider GDP figures and statistics, who your potential customers – and competitors – are, the business culture and any language barriers – be prepared to translate your packages and materials. Look at the areas that will impact on your price – import duties, local taxes, payment terms and methods and type of currency. Is your trading name relevant for the local market? Think about how you will deliver your product – review packaging and the local road/rail infrastructure. Formulate a plan for how you will stimulate and fulfil demand.
- Have the right products for your chosen market
You undoubtedly have a strong product – otherwise you wouldn’t be looking to export, but it’s crucial to identify the potential for sales of your produce in your chosen overseas market. You must ensure the market needs your product or service and review whether you need to make any modifications. It is also really important to show innovation within the product range. If you are an innovative manufacturer, with a strong R&D function, you could benefit greatly from doing business overseas. Exporting can lead to even further innovation, which in turn leads to further exports, therefore creating a virtuous circle where sales are more likely.
- Establish the right partnerships
Having the right contacts is vital in order to develop your business internationally. Contacts who know the local market can help you avoid any pitfalls and, via their own connections, can help you find buyers. Be prepared to visit your chosen market and get first-hand experience of the local area and local business practices. A good starting point would be to attend overseas trade fairs where you will meet foreign buyers and distributors. Think about how you want to sell – via a distributor, agent, or joint venture. Identify potential agents and representatives. When looking at likely partners, identify someone who is focused on your customer base, who is a good cultural fit with your business and who understands your product.
- Have a plan and the right person to drive it
It’s vital that you have a clearly defined export plan which is integrated into your overall business plans and shared and supported by the senior management team. You also need someone with relevant experience to lead your export programme. As well as driving on the ground export sales, this person should also develop a clear sales and marketing plan, and consider how you will promote your company in new markets. Will you be able to use existing marketing collateral, or will this need to be adapted to suit your new target market? Is your website export-fit?
We’re operating in a global marketplace where international trade is more important than ever, and exporting is key to the success of the UK economy. Manufacturers should take advantage of the opportunities open to them so that they achieve greater success and growth through export.