Export opportunities

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Researching export markets can help you make the most of overseas opportunities

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 to talk to an international trade adviser. "Their advisers can help you to find the right markets for your product or service," says Drinkwater.

"To predict likely demand for your business's goods, 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 in your target overseas market.

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 depend on what you are exporting, to which country. You can contact the HMRC VAT, Excise and Customs Helpline on 0300 200 3700 for help and advice or check export duties and procedures online..

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 understanding the local business culture and also offers seminars on business etiquette abroad. 

Research support

The Department for International Trade provides a range of online information, support and advice to new and existing exporters. You can search the database of export opportunities, or commission bespoke market research and support using the (chargeable) Overseas Market Introduction Services. 

You may be able to get a grant to help offset the costs of attending an overseas trade show. Finance and insurance for exports is available through the Government-backed UK Export Finance.

"Market research usually involves a cost, but the return can be significant," says Drinkwater. "The Department for International Trade 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.

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