A guide to successful exporting

Moore and Smalley is coming across more and more businesses that have spotted opportunities to expand by exporting.  In a special report put together for our business magazine ‘Bottomline’, we put some key questions to international trade expert Clive Drinkwater, North West regional director at UK Trade & Investment.


How important is the export trade to the UK and how do North West businesses contribute?


The government has identified exporting as a vitally important factor to help the country grow out of recession. As part of National Challenge, a major initiative is to boost the number of SMEs entering the export market – from current levels of around 20 per cent to at least 25 per cent. By increasing the number of companies that export by roughly a quarter, about £36 billion could be added to the UK economy.


The North West is the biggest exporter in the UK outside of London and the South East, so we have a critical role.


What are the main benefits to exporting?


First of all, the UK has less than one per cent of the world’s population, so if you only sell here then you are limiting yourself to less than one in 100 customers.  Furthermore, research suggests that companies that export also perform better domestically, and are more resilient. There is a battery of statistics showing that firms  increase their productivity by an average of 34 per cent in the first year of exporting and  that firms that export are 12 per cent more likely to survive through difficult times.


There are also benefits to spreading your risk – if one market dips another can take up the slack.


Revenues are generally higher in export markets and you will dramatically improve your credibility by competing against the best the world has to offer.


How does UKTI support experienced and new exporters?


Our team of experienced international trade advisers visit companies to provide free practical help and advice. If you’re new to international trade, we’ll sit with you and look at your business to assess whether you’re ready to begin the export journey.  If you are, we’ll explain what you need to do, and offer support, such as market research, export training and help to visit target markets.


Some of these companies join our Passport to Export programme, with £3,000 of matched funding to help them implement an export business plan. Experienced exporters also make good use of our services when they’re looking to expand into new markets, for example by commissioning bespoke research carried out by our staff overseas.


Where are the best countries to start for new exporters?


It depends on your product or service, of course, but for most new exporters the nearby EU markets are the obvious place to start. The Republic of Ireland, for example, might be small in population terms, but is the North West’s fifth biggest export market, and our companies are very well received there.


Where are the main growth export markets for more seasoned exporters?


Europe and the US will always be hugely important markets for our companies, but real future growth will come from the BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China).  China is already the North West’s third biggest market, so we’re well placed to take advantage of this shift in world economic power. I’m also pioneering a brand new acronym of my own; MIST, representing Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey. Before long, these BRIC and MIST countries will account for around one third of the world’s GDP, and nearly half of its population.


Anything else potential exporters should know about?


Exporting is addictive. You meet people from all over the world, visit fascinating places, test yourself against the best, and learn how business culture differs around the world.


You’ll also have a lot of fun along the way.  In my experience, British companies are highly regarded around the world, but overseas customers want us to be more visible – to visit and engage on a regular basis. Yes, like any other aspect of business, exporting can have its pitfalls, but there’s a lot of support available to help you get it right and, when you do, it’s great for your business and very rewarding personally.


Moore and Smalley has close partnerships with a number of international trade bodies and intermediaries who can help businesses capitalise on export opportunities.  For further information, call us on 01772 821021 or send an email to info@mooreandsmalley.co.uk.