Is my business ready for overseas trade?

How to be sure that your business can cope with overseas expansion

Some businesses are ready to venture overseas at just a few weeks old; on the other hand, firms which have been around for years may still not be ready. So it’s important to be sure about whether your company can make the leap into international territory.

Here’s a simple 10-point checklist to help you gauge the readiness of your firm. If your company ticks all these boxes, you’re probably ready!

1. Do I have a plan?

Before you start to pitch for overseas business, you need to have a clear plan – dealing with the eventualities of both success and failure. If your overseas expansion doesn’t work at first, you need to have an idea of how to turn things around; on the other hand, if your sales rocket, you need to know how to cope with the increased demand.

2. Do I know where I’m going?

Before you start pitching overseas, you need to be clear on the markets you’re going to target – a scattergun approach won’t work. It’s crucial that you identify specific markets, and do some specific research, taking into account issues such as tax, entry requirements and local business etiquette.

3. Do I have the money?

Overseas clients often expect credit for a longer period than domestic customers, and you’ll inevitably face additional transport and administration costs, so it’s vital you have plenty of money to support your overseas drive. You’ll need to be profitable, and access to loans is crucial if you need to invest heavily in the early stages.

4. Is my team behind me?

Before you embark on your overseas journey, it’s crucial that all your staff (if you have any), investors, and anyone else closely involved with the business, are on board – it won’t always be smooth-going, so you need everyone to approach the task in a positive, enthusiastic frame of mind.

5. Is there demand for my product?

Some markets may be saturated with the product you’re selling – for example, if you’re trying to sell beef to Argentina or perfume to France, you’ll struggle! It’s important that your product has genuine market demand, and there’s a clear reason for your target customers to buy what you’re selling.

6. Can I name my price?

You need to have a clear idea in your head how much you need to  charge for your product, and be certain that your target customers can afford it. If you’re exporting to developing countries, potential clients may not be able to afford the price you charge domestic customers, so you may have to drop the fee.

7. Are my staff able to service overseas clients?

If you, or your staff, don’t have the requisite skillset for overseas selling, you probably won’t do much business, so it’s vital the team has all the required tools. If they’ve got the technical and customer service skills to correspond with customers, organise transport and provide effective after-sales support, you’ll have a great chance.

8. Is the law behind me?

Some governments will provide proactive protection for foreign firms looking to sell in their country; others will actively discriminate against them with tariffs or red tape. Before you start your sales drive, make sure your custom is welcomed in your target market – be aware that your product may not even be legal in certain countries!

9. Can I get support?

It’s important to know where to turn to for guidance whenever you hit a troublesome issue, so you need to familiarise yourself with all the relevant websites and guides before you start out. Never be afraid to ask questions!

10. Is my IP protected?

If your international property, particularly your trade mark, is not protected in the countries you’re targeting, local firms can register your brand name and you may have to carry out a rebrand, so make sure your brand is registered before you set out.

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