An essential guide to exporting

John Cradden looks at the resources and actions to turn your scaling business into an export firm.

If you’re thinking about exposing your business to export markets, the chances are you’ve already answered the ‘why should I export?’ question.

In other words, you‘ve gone as far as you can go in your home market and there are opportunities in export markets that you believe are within your grasp and would benefit your business.

“Creating an export plan is essentially the same process as creating the business plan that helped you succeed in your domestic market”

So where do you go from here? What should be your first set of actions, and what specific resources are available to help you with these?

The good news is that the resources and supports available to exporters has become much more tailored and streamlined, so whatever aspect of your export journey you need help with, you’re likely to find something that will help.

Market research

Once a decision is make to explore the prospect of becoming an exporter, things can start moving very quickly thanks to all the many resources available from the likes of Enterprise Ireland, your Local Enterprise Office and organisations like the Irish Exporters Association. But it’s important to take a step back and research the overseas markets you have in mind and the best ways to approach them.

The Local Enterprise Office, for instance, suggests conducting secondary market research to begin with, collecting information like  recent import statistics, size of local market for products, local economic data, competitors’ products and prices, import license, quota regulations and administration and tariffs. Then you can consider primary research that looks at your potential customers’ needs, wants and requirements, and also things like market issues unique to your overseas market, along with infrastructure and relevant legislation.

The information you gain from this research will help you plan how you position the business in your chosen markets, including market pricing, value proposition, route to market, and how you will support operations there.

Export plan or strategy

Creating an export plan is essentially the same process as creating the business plan that helped you succeed in your domestic market.

Here, you are assembling all of the relevant facts and data together with the constraints, capabilities and goals of your business, and creating an action statement that outlines what you are going to do, how you’re going to do it and what the expected outcome will be: your vision, in a nutshell.

This plan should also detail the human and financial resources required, why you have selected your target market, your product or service’s USP and how it translates internationally, your market entry methods and how you plan to monitor and develop these.

Build your export support network

Up to now you may have lightly tapped the many resources available from organisations like your Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Exporters Association, but this is the time to make yourself known to them and seek the active support programmes they can offer.

These can include mentoring, further education on matters linked to exporting, such as customs, licenses, international laws and regulations etc.

They should also be able to direct you to any grants, loans and financial supports available if you are in need of funding to help support your journey to becoming an exporter. join the Irish Exporters Association.

Market entry

This is the stage when you start executing your company’s vision within new export markets, beginning with identifying and allocating enough resources to do this job. This includes financial resources, people and equipment or assets.

Then there’s the crucial question of your distribution channel. whether you sell direct from your current location, open operations in target market, or use a selling agent or distributor.

The issue of how to generate your first sales leads could be your next step; whether that’s online, offline or a mixture of the two. This should tally with the development of a marketing and communication plan that adapted to fit your new market.

Grants and finance

There is a wide range of financial supports that can assist with your journey to exporting. Once again, Enterprise Ireland (EI) and your Local Enterprise Office should be your first ports of call.

One EI fund that might be a good fit for exporters is the Market Discovery Fund, which offers grants of up to €150,000 towards undertaking market research and developing viable and sustainable market entry strategies.

Main image at top: Photo by Jamie O’Sullivan on Unsplash

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John Cradden
John Cradden is an experienced business and personal finance journalist and financial wellbeing content designer.