Export opportunities

Export opportunities - map{{Export opportunities - map}}It is essential to do your research before making plans to export. Kate Horstead finds out how to take advantage of opportunities overseas

A wealth of overseas opportunities as well as UK government support at home mean that now could be the right time for small firms to look at exporting, says Clive Drinkwater, Department for International Trade North West director.

Identify target export markets

Before you start exporting, you need solid knowledge of your potential markets. Start by approaching Department for International Trade for a free consultation. “their advisers can help you to find the right markets for your product or service,” says Drinkwater.

“To predict likely demand for your business, your first step should be to find out about the state of a potential export country’s economy and its demographic,” he adds.

The Department for International Trade will direct you to the relevant organisation to do this — for example, the UK India Business Council if you are thinking about exporting to India. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) can also put you in contact with the appropriate international chambers.

In addition, these organisations can help you to find out who your potential competitors might be.

Understanding the law abroad

Knowledge of the legal restrictions in different countries is essential. “The Department for International Trade, the BCC or the resident British Embassy can all help you to find local interpreters, lawyers, and distributors who can clarify the restrictions,” says Drinkwater.

Tariffs, duties and taxes will also differ. You can contact the HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line on 01702 366 077 for help and advice or use the online Trade Tariff on the GOV.UK website.

In addition, it is important to research the cultural variations between countries, which may affect the way you market your goods or services. Again, the Department for International Trade can advise you on this and also offers seminars on business etiquette abroad. 

Funding support

Firms can apply to several government-funded schemes to help them research foreign markets.

The Passport to Export programme offers free mentoring, as well as commissioning market research on behalf of users. Grants are also available through the scheme to attend overseas trade fairs.

You can apply to have your market research commissioned for free, or reclaim some of your research costs, through the Government-funded Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).

Alternatively, for a fee, the Overseas Market Introduction Service provides businesses with a research report to see if their product is suitable for a particular market and how they should enter it.

“Market research usually involves a cost, but the return can be significant,” says Drinkwater. “The Department for International Trade recently showed that firms new to exporting experience an average 34% increase in productivity in the first year.

“By growing successfully overseas, you’ll learn how to meet varying customer demands, which will enable you to grow your UK sales, too,” he concludes.

  • For more information on the Department for International Trade's support services, visit the Department for International Trade website 
  • To find out more about the EMRS, visit the BCC website