The relatively small size of the domestic market means many companies looking to expand their business and increase their profits must look to overseas markets for growth. In other cases, new companies begin with the goal of selling their products or services internationally from day one. Thousands of companies across the island are already selling successfully around the world. However, there are risks and downsides to exporting. First, you need to be sure it is the right choice for your company. Here are some of the key issues to consider which this guide will outline in more detail in the following sections:
What is different about exporting?
- Customer needs
- Product / service use or application
- Sales channels
- Service expectations
Is your product/service fit for market?
One of the critical issues for would-be exporters is whether or not your products or services are suited to a new market. In fact, it goes wider than this: can you replicate the business model you use at home in other markets? Do the factors that allow you to be successful at home exist in other countries, and if so, which ones? If you provide multiple products, are there particular ones more suited to a particular market? Take the time to decide which products or services suit which countries.
Do you have the required ambition and commitment?
Developing a new business in another market requires great commitment from everyone in your company. In many ways, moving overseas is like starting in business all over again – but with added considerations such as new business cultures, languages and different legal and regulatory systems. Do you have the backing of senior management and the support of your board? Have you told all of your staff about the potential impact to their roles and discussed new working arrangements?
Can you maintain your existing business?
You still need to maintain and develop your existing business while making the move overseas. This fact needs to be included in planning; distracting attention from your hard-won domestic customers could be costly and dangerous.
Have you the resources to succeed?
Building a sustainable export business is costly, requiring considerable management of time and resources because the lead time between initial contact and agreeing a sale can take years. You need to gauge what will be the financial impact of the move to exporting and the implications of staff travelling abroad frequently – especially the CEO or the senior management team.
Have you the capability and capacity to deal with larger organisations?
Many of your target customers in export markets will be significantly larger than your own organisation, or your current local customers. You need to be sure your business can scale up meet the demands of overseas customers. Keep in mind, this could also include having sufficient staff to cope with the demands of serving clients in other countries where there could be different time zones and languages involved or different service levels expected.
You can do it
Exporting is hard work, and there are risks involved, but the potential payoffs are many. If it first seems daunting, then remember:
- The most successful exporters have built their success on strong international sales and were once where you are now
- In today’s global marketplace, if you have been able to survive in your home market then you are already competing successfully with international companies
- There is a wide range of skilled, export-focused sales and marketing people who can guide you and help you to succeed
- There are a wide variety of resources you can use such as Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.
Questions you need to answer:
- CAN YOU EXPORT YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE?
- IS THERE ENOUGH DEMAND FOR YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE?
- DO YOU HAVE A COMPELLING VALUE PROPOSITION?
- DO YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET MARKET?
- CAN YOU MEET THE MARKET’S PRICE EXPECTATIONS?
- DO YOU HAVE A DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING PLAN?
- DO YOU HAVE THE CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY TO EXPORT?
- HAVE YOU INVESTIGATED PAYMENT ISSUES?
- CAN YOU FUND YOUR EXPORT DRIVE?
- HAVE YOU COMPLETED AN EXPORT PLAN?