6 steps you need to take if you want to export successfully

Paul McIntosh of Bridgehead shares his step-by-step guide if you want to export successfully

For companies with a product or service with global market appeal, a route to success for both the company and brand can be through growing into international markets.

Yet 80pc of businesses fail to cross the chasm to export successfully. Sadly, they lose money as they establish a foothold to expand within the new market.

Of course, most companies choose to launch on their home ground first, as inevitably they will have a much better understanding of the market compared to overseas.

Like any business venture, there are things to consider and risks to mitigate. Take Europe, for instance. There are 51 countries on the continent, each with their own cultures, set of local laws and trading standards. These have to be taken into consideration if you want to export successfully. It can be a wonderful opportunity if you embrace it as there are over 700 million consumers. The root access and possibilities are endless.

Concerns around legal entities, employment plans, logistics and all the concerns around finance, foreign exchange and localisation can easily be removed and managed with the right partner.

We know how important it is to enter a market “properly” to ensure rapid success. Successful market entry is more than just passing the port. There are pitfalls many companies experience that are easily avoided.

A common mistake would be to rush in without prior knowledge of the country, marketplace and your customer needs. Launches require planning to make an impact and build your brand. You will rarely have a second or third chance to access new markets. To become a success, we need this debut launch to be a good experience.

Is there demand for your product?

It’s understandable that many companies when faced with the decision to grow into global markets worry about how to ensure that they are in the 20pc of businesses that succeed in successful market entry.

The critical aspect for any company looking to export successfully is to ensure there is a demand for your product or service, before heavily investing too early.

Identify the right time to launch

One key factor to success is identifying the right time to launch. Before expanding into a new country, a company should ask itself, “Do I have the desire to see this through?” The first 90 days of the journey are critical. That’s when the laser-focused approach happens. If there isn’t that focus, or the true commitment from the start, then the time may not be right.

It can take time to become profitable in a new international territory but here at Bridgehead, we believe you can absolutely start to see results within the first 90 days of entering a new market. That full transformational journey may have a 12-month plan for example, but 90 days is enough to see a significant return on investment.

Create a go-to-market strategy

If you want to make the most of your product potential by introducing it into one or more new markets, creating a go-to-market strategy is essential for each of those you wish to enter. We all know and understand that every market is different. As are the customers within those markets. It is imperative to build a strategy and one that sees results within those first few months.

Evaluate your competitors

Before creating a go-to-market strategy there a number of things to consider. Identifying your product or services USPs is essential. Once this stage is complete, you will then need to evaluate your competitors’ product features. This identifies which of your features are unique to the market and therefore ultimately will become the USPs of your company. This can vary within industries as there may already be many companies like yours that have launched in their home country but not branched out into others as yet.

Conduct market research

Thorough market research is one of the next critical steps all businesses should take to create a deeper understanding of the market for consideration.

Market research is paramount to successful market entry. When a business chooses to enter a new market, examining secondary market research is the first step they should take in the process. Secondary market research is research that has been compiled by either government organisations, trade associations or even other businesses within the industry. Studies could include certain demographics, psychographics, geographic and behaviouristic characteristics of a specific area.

Primary market research would be you as a business looking to enter a particular market, doing the research yourself. This could be through research methods such as surveys or focus groups in each chosen market. Once this research has been completed at a market level, it’s time to dig into a competitor level. Firstly, to find out anything you can about each particular brand you see as a competitor and then work out where each of them sits in your proposed market.

Going through this process will help you define and decide whether the time is right for you to launch your product or service.

Protect your intellectual property

Before entering your chosen new market, take time out to evaluate your company’s intellectual property status, agreements, contracts and approvals. Understand how your intellectual property is protected and how you plan to enforce these laws as you export successfully. Failure to do this can have devastating effects on your company in the long run.

Building an international model from the ground up and getting that swift ROI can be a challenging task without the right support around you. You can find guidance with industry experts or those who have already accomplished what you are trying to achieve.

As the famous saying goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Invest in the right resources, research your market, evaluate your competitive landscape, identify the key gaps for your business, and you could be part of the 20pc of businesses which make successful entries into overseas markets.

Paul McIntosh is founder and CEO of export consultancy Bridgehead

Further reading

3 ways to improve your chances of success exporting overseas


Paul McIntosh

Paul McIntosh is founder and CEO of export consultancy Bridgehead International Agency.