Finding new customers overseas can seem like a pretty tall order if you’re new to exporting. But with the right techniques and a little thought it’s more than possible, as the following tips reveal.
Do your research
First things first – is there demand for what you’re offering and are there customers willing and able to buy it at a price that’ll make you a profit? Start your research by downloading a country or industry report from the UKTI site or check the information available at international trade site Alibaba.com.
Find your niche
Look for a country where you can make a difference to what’s being offered by existing competitors. Finding out that Scandinavia has a high percentage of people with lactose intolerance was just the information Simon Stokes of Styles Farmhouse Ice Cream needed to start exporting sheep’s milk ice cream to the region. “Within three weeks of the first order from Norway, a further three pallets were purchased to meet the rising demand – and the orders are still coming in,” he says.
Build your reputation
Consider translating sales literature and your website into the local language. Look at purchasing the local version of your domain name too. For example, if you run the site www.samplebiz.co.uk and want to increase trade in France, buy the domain name www.samplebiz.fr and make sure it directs customers to pages translated into French. Encourage overseas interest further with a low-rate phone number for international sales.
Talk to local contacts
Working with local distributors or agents is a common way of finding customers. You can also access affordable help from the UKTI. “We asked the UKTI’s Overseas Market Information Service to help us set up introductions with firms in the US,” says Mark Detnon, MD of pharma software firm, ClinIntel. “We could have made cold calls but we wouldn’t have got to the Chief Information Officers, which is who we needed to talk to. We paid an hourly rate for their time. They made 25 calls and secured seven warm leads. That turned our US trip from exploratory to very worthwhile.”
Get your product to market
Customer service is key to winning and maintaining customers, so make sure you can deliver your goods to where you want to go. “It doesn’t matter how useful your product could be to your new market,” cautions Mark Detnon. “If it’s awkward to get and goes to market at too high a price point, your new customers won’t buy it.”
Flex to meet market needs
Culture and customs can make a big difference. Certain shapes, tastes or colours are popular in certain countries and not in others. “In Europe we want fake tans. In Asia there’s a big market for skin lightening products,” says Chris Taylor, Director of Business Development at aromatherapy skincare specialists, Eve Taylor. Often little adaptations to your product, packaging or hours of business can go a long way.
See the country for yourself
“Nothing beats face to face,” says Mark Detnon. “Talk to fellow exporters. Attend a trade show and go to the evening socials if you can. They’re often tiring, but people are more relaxed and it’s where a lot of business gets done.” Worried about the ROI of your trip? Talk to the UKTI, as its Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) can provide funding for emerging firms that want to attend an overseas event.
‘Go global – how to take your business to the world’ © Redbrick Enterprises Ltd. Source www.enterprisenation.com