Preparing to export – 10 key steps

Are you thinking tentatively about exporting, or keen to do business with international buyers but want to know where to start? UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) can help you rise to the exciting opportunities and challenges that globalisation offers.

This short introduction outlines the help UKTI provides for new exporters. Here are ten steps you should consider when starting out:

1. Review your export potential

2. Develop an action plan

3. Research and prepare to visit the market

4. Explore routes to market entry

5. Find out about selling and marketing your product overseas

6. Think about cultural and linguistic challenges

7. Prepare to manage finance, payment and risk

8. Prepare to protect your intellectual property

9. Prepare to fulfil your orders and get your documentation right

10. Choose your distribution, shipping and delivery methods

1. Review your export potential

You should take some time to consider the realities of exporting and their implications for all aspects of your business, and to be aware of any assistance you may need. You’ll find lots of useful information on the country and sector pages of this site. If you’ve not done so already, get yourself started by reading our advice for first time exporters

2. Develop an action plan

Exporting is a process, which needs to be planned. Clear and focused objectives are needed, and exporters need to be realistic as to what can be achieved within a given timescale. UKTI, through its international trade teams, can provide help to companies to develop a tailored action plan which sets out a workable strategy for developing into international trade with regular reviews to ensure it is on track. This is a core part of the passport service offering.
More on developing export strategy and plans on Marketing Donut

3. Research and prepare to visit the market



Researching markets is essential to help reduce risk and improve chance of success. This is usually a combination of desk and field research. Each business and each market is unique. UKTI’s aim is to help you, through research and advice, make those initial approaches into new markets. We offer two key research and contact services, Overseas Market Introduction Service [OMIS] and Export Markets Research Scheme [EMRS].

Bespoke export training on Passport also assists companies with professional approaches and techniques for market selection, taking into account questions such as:

  • How ‘easy’ is the market?
  • What is demand likely to be?
  • What criteria are important to you?
  • What are your objectives?

..and ease/demand considerations (see above)

Taking part in overseas events, trade fairs or missions is an effective way to do some field research to test markets, attract customers, appoint agents or distributors and make sales.

UKTI helps groups of UK companies to attend tradeshows and missions worldwide

Read more about UKTI’s Tradeshow Access Programme and Market Visit Support Service.

Our website offers access to detailed country guidance, including Doing Business in..” guides, Additionally, you should consider readiing our FCO country updates assessments of business -relevant political and economic issues in key markets, and our Overseas Business Risk service provides declassified strategic information on business security related issues

Read more in the CIA world fact book

4. Explore routes to market entry



Choosing a sales presence in an overseas market can be quite complex. There are a number of options:

– Agent, distributor, internet, license or franchise

– Direct sales to retail, direct business to business sales, joint venture, subsidiary or via UK contacts

However, the suitability of each will depend on your company and products UKTI, through its Passport to Export training provision and our experts in our overseas embassies and consulates through the Overseas Market Introduction Service can help you narrow down the options. We can help you with market intelligence on your preferred route, establish whether you need a direct sales operation, or establish whether an agent or distributor is more effective

Case study: Chokolit’s appointing of a Mexican distributor helped them succeed

Video: Agents and Distributors – managing them effectively and organising disputes

5. Find out about selling and marketing your product overseas

It is important to consider how to market and sell your product overseas. There are a number of elements which make up the marketing mix to ensure competitiveness, including uniqueness of product, price, location and distribution channel. UKTI and our teams overseas can help to adapt your approach to local conditions and to find answers to the questions you’ll have. Passport to Export training also reviews this topic in some detail with the opportunity to exchange experience with other participants.
Whether you‘re new to exporting or an established exporter you should consider taking advantages of the growing opportunities to do business online.

Read our brief guide to exporting online

Video: localising your international websites for foreign target markets

Video: social media marketing – using social media to develop and maintain business relationships

6. Think about cultural and linguistic challenges

If you need help with the linguistic and cultural aspects of doing business overseas, the Export Communications Review [ECR] offers companies a variety of options and advice, including cultural awareness reviews and communications planning.
Video case study: training company Steps Drama pass on their tips for meeting cultural and linguistic challenges

7. Prepare to manage finance, payment and risk



Managing international risk is an important part of exporting. There are several categories of risk to take into account. Some of the most important are:

  • Commercial: Non payment, Insolvency, Contract disputes, Overdue payment, IPR, brand, reputation
  • Political: Government change, War, riots, terrorism etc., border disputes, changes in laws
  • Country: Exchange rate, high inflation, lack of hard currency

For more information on these categories of risk, see these sources:

UKTI’s Overseas Business Risk Service

FCO Country Updates

Choosing the most appropriate method of payment and exchange rate is an important decision to manage cash flow. This may depend on the customer, product and market conditions.

You may wish to consider the products and services offered by UK Export Finance

Video: International finance – managing cash flow, receiving money and foreign exchange (featuring HSBC)

Video: Trade finance and letters of credit (featuring Lloyds TSB)

8. Prepare to protect your intellectual property

Protecting your intellectual property can be the difference between commercial success and failure. The Intellectual Property Office offers support and advice on all four main forms: patents, trademarks, designs and copyright or speak to your local ITT for initial guidance. Read more about how to protect your intellectual propertyon the Intellectual property office
Video: On protecting your rights outside the UK

Video: Registrable intellectual property – patents, designs and trademarks

9. Prepare to fulfil your orders and get your documentation right

It is important to know at an early stage regulations and legal requirements which must be complied with and trading terms which might apply. If done incorrectly consequences can be high. Access our online training on Customs and VAT training for exporters here. Read further information, including training options, on the following sites:
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs

British Chamber of Commerce

Institute of Export

Access the online UK Trade Tariff on the website

Video: export documentation and getting paperwork right

10. Choose a distribution Method



You need to consider the implications of selling over long distances. The kind of goods you export, the level of demand and the type of costs involved can all dictate your distribution options. The OMIS service offers a wealth of information and you may wish to contact BIFA

Video: Understanding and using Incoterms

Video: Commodity codes and customs procedures

Return to “New to Export” overview

Return to “About Exporting” Overview

Topics: Getting Started
Export Action Plan