International expansion should be a priority for any business committed to long-term growth. A loyal customer base in your home country is important, but access to new markets can be crucial to your ongoing success.
DHL and the British Chamber of Commerce’s most recent Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) covering Q3 2015 highlighted a fall in export orders and sales amongst UK businesses, with confidence at its lowest rate since 2009.
This can mostly be attributed to uncertainty in the Eurozone and the instability of the Chinese economy. While the decline in confidence does raise some concern for the UK’s ongoing economic recovery, it’s important to remember that UK businesses are resoundingly resilient.
While the QITO recorded a fall in confidence, as many as 54% of businesses that we questioned said their export orders have remained constant, which suggests the longer-term impact on exports could be limited.
Keep the faith
Indeed, we shouldn’t let figures such as this knock our confidence too much. There have certainly been highs and lows for the UK economy over the past decade, but business has continued despite this and has often thrived. Enduring demand for British products across the globe means that there is still opportunity for UK businesses to export overseas and where possible, SMEs should take advantage of this.
What is important is having the right strategy and putting the right support in place to help you successfully export and expand overseas. A clear strategy and advice from experienced partners and professionals will increase your chances of success and will mean that you benefit from independent counsel and perspective.
We often get approached for advice and have a number of tips to offer SMEs or businesses looking to export for the first time.
As a starting point, it’s important to prepare your product for exporting. Think about how your product will work in a new market and whether a few modifications might be required to appeal to the new target audience.
You should also prepare your business practically for exporting. Many products will require specific documents to pass through Customs and some may not even be permitted in a particular market. Partners such as DHL Express have experience dealing with organisations such as HMRC and can provide advice about what information would be required to enable you to export.
For starters you will need to be set up as an exporter with HMRC – this process will also equip you with your Economic Operator Registration Identification number.
Those established businesses who are looking to expand into less developed countries may find that there is a lack of infrastructure in their new market. For example, transport networks may not be as efficient or reliable.
You may require support from partners who have experience in less developed countries. Advice is available from a variety of sources and I would encourage new exporters to seek this. The UKTI and the British Chambers of Commerce both offer independent counsel to SMEs and companies such as DHL Express have specialist teams on hand to help.
While becoming an exporter for the first time might seem daunting, it can be hugely rewarding and can help safeguard future growth for your business. There are many businesses out there that can help guide you through the process, from preparing your offering for the overseas market, to readying your business and making sure you can operate internationally.
At DHL Express we remain confident in the underlying UK export market and we will continue to support UK SMEs in expanding their businesses internationally, to help them to reach their full potential in the global market place.