It’s perhaps natural for smaller and even medium-sized businesses to assume that domestic customers should be the priority. It’s less hassle, and your product or service will appeal less to the foreign market, right? Actually, no.
According to UK Trade & Investment’s report, exporting companies are more productive, have stronger financial performance and a greater chance of staying in business. Other benefits include increased confidence and higher efficiency rates.
Companies surveyed also reported that exporting was the catalyst to new product and service ideas. And of course it helps the economy, which is why the Government wants more businesses to export.
It’s much easier than you think to start exporting. While being part of the EU may be controversial at present, it does make life much easier if you’re wanting to sell widgets to France. There is no duty to pay and no customs checks, as goods are classed as being in ‘free circulation’.
Selling to countries outside the EU is slightly more complicated, in that your product will need a commodity code, so that it can be classified for duty, tax rates and whether or not you’ll need an export licence. An electronic customs declaration (often integrated with the invoice) will also have to be submitted. If you’re only sending the occasional order, this shouldn’t take up too much time, however if exports become a large part of your business, then you may wish to use freight forwarders, who will take care of this extra paperwork.
Before you decide to take your orders to the post office, do some research into reliable and experienced international shipping companies, such as TNT Express. You want a firm that is globally recognised and who can offer door-to-door tracking.
So how do you find customers abroad? They may have already found you. If you have a great website, optimised for all the relevant keywords, you may find it’s already being visited by potential clients. By using Google Analytics, you will be able to see country of origin, as well as lots of other useful data. It’s an essential tool for all businesses.
If you manufacture something, then you could use Alibaba.com, which is China’s global e-commerce marketplace. Be warned, however, as scammers do use this site, so ensure that thorough checks are carried out before sending goods or money.
You should also get on board with social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube. A huge number of companies use sites like these to reach their demographic and expand into other countries.
Regardless of whether you’re a sole trader or plc, the world is your oyster – embrace it!