The UK’s SMEs have an essential role to play in reigniting the UK economy while also offering the country the chance to rebuild its reputation as intrepid, innovative and forward thinking.
SMEs currently provide 40 per cent of UK revenues and half of the country’s jobs. The government has been quick to recognise these benefits and this has been reflected in Lord Livingston’s recent pledge to offer Britain’s 10,000 medium-sized businesses personal advice on expanding overseas, in a bid to boost our exports to £1 trillion a year by 2020.
Expanding into overseas markets can be a daunting undertaking for any business. This is something that has been at the core of our business since day one. But with new markets comes new challenges.
From my own experience at Postcode Anywhere, a service based on providing a fast and easy way of capturing address data, our offering is very international by its nature. However, we are also reliant on people knowing their postcodes and being able to find their own address in just a few keystrokes. Unfortunately, not many other countries around the world have address databases as good as we have in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands – the two other main territories we work with.
Nevertheless, we have managed to build a good business both in the UK and overseas helped mainly by introducing a more innovative way of finding addresses for the majority of countries where it’s not possible to find your address from just the postcode.
Australia is a market that we have always had an eye on for a number of reasons. It’s almost exactly on the other side of the world providing an excellent strategic location for straddling time zones around the globe.
The people are culturally similar, speaking the same language, and we share many elements of the same legal and tax systems. The address validation market is also reasonably mature – although we feel it is ripe for a new innovative entrant, particularly an international provider specialising in the web based end of the market.
Having decided a number of months ago to arrange a business trip to the country, we engaged our local branch of UKTI to conduct an OMIS report on the country. The OMIS (or overseas market information survey) can take many forms. From identifying key channels and opportunities for your product, to setting up meetings with potential partners and customers.
More on expanding into new markets:
- India – Still a land of opportunity
- Mexico – Much more than the M in MINTs
- How Britain’s SMEs can tackle the Chinese market
As we have a good feel for who buys our technology and why, we skipped the first part of the offering and used UKTIs office in Melbourne to help identify and set up a series of meetings with potential partners, customers – and in our case two competitors!
To accelerate the process and get UKTI focused on arranging meetings, we sourced data of potential partners for a mailshot and provided UKTI with a nicely designed PDF attachment to tell prospects what we did and what we were looking for from meetings on our trip.
The net result was that I ended up with 15 to 20 meetings that ran during 10 business days that were arranged logically to fit in best with my travel arrangements and with a mixture of senior decision makers at some very well-known Australian brands and potential partner businesses.
I found the people exceptionally helpful and co-operative, and learnt a huge amount about where the opportunities are in our market, how to position our service against rival products as well as developing a better understanding of what it might take to set up a satellite business over here.
All in all, it’s been an exceptionally rewarding experience which, like most good business models, we will look to repeat elsewhere around the world as we grow. The UK government are very keen to see more SMEs involved in overseas trade, who typically may be put off by the opportunity within their own market, or by concerns about the cost, complexity or the general distraction of starting afresh in a new territory.
While the internet can help reduce some of the risk associated with doing business abroad, we have found UKTI to be a very attractive and low risk way for finding out the depth of opportunity in a market, if you want to really hear it from the ‘horse’s mouth’.