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10 things I suggest to boost your international trade activity in 2015

1. Tackle a new market

Take stock of where your customers are today. Has anything changed in your international sales cycle for current markets? The landscape is changing all the time; are there emerging opportunities in countries you might not have considered before?

2. Do market research

Select and prioritise your potential markets. Draw out the reasons which lead to a set of criteria that are important to the success in those markets, draft comparable data/statistics for each market and score in order of importance. Make informed decisions!

3. Attend trade missions and exhibitions

One of the easiest ways to research a market, find new customers or indeed keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. If you are new to exporting, there is no need to exhibit from the outset. Do your research to find out which is the right exhibition for you, visit, watch and learn. Check with UK Trade & Investment if there are financial subventions available to support your trade visit or for you to exhibit.

4. Use your networks and contacts

Utilise networks and experiences of others, here in the UK and overseas. There are a plethora of organisations offering support. Chambers of Commerce, UKTI, Trade Associations, Professional Services and Trade Forums to name a few. Tap into their resources and keep connected.

5. Make use of your peers

Don’t underestimate the power of peer to peer networks and companies willing to share their experience and knowledge in international trade. Find suitable networks – locally, the South Yorkshire International Trade Forum (SYITF) is a good example of how lucrative and successful this can be for those involved.

6. Resources x 3

Firstly, human – make export part of your strategy for growth, it should not be a ‘by-product’ of your everyday activities. Dedicated resources devoted to selling overseas must be part of that long-term strategy. Secondly, financial – identify financial costs and exposure from the outset and manage to control them. Get the right advice from your bank! Thirdly, your agent/ distributor overseas – keep them motivated to sell your products. Visit them, arrange joint visits to their customers, provide technical support, keep them posted, understand their customers’ needs.

7. Consider student placements

What a valuable resource! Students are an effective means to support your international activities in a number of areas such as marketing, market research, communication, sales and linguistic support.  There are a number of schemes around, most of which are either provided at low cost or, better still, FREE.

8. Plan your social media footprint

Love it or hate it, social media platforms are here to stay. Integrate social media marketing into your sales strategy alongside a good website and your traditional sales channels. Effectively use appropriate channels for your products, be it LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs or other online platforms. Stay tuned and be visible!

9. Maximise your export profits

Tariffs, Incoterms, HMRC Relief and Preference schemes – why are they relevant? Because they all play a part and can help make savings, giving you a competitive edge. Pay lower or nil customs duty for example where trade agreements are in place and your goods qualify.

10. Avoid language and cultural faux pas

Familiarise yourself with the language and culture of your target market, it goes a long way to build relationships and could potentially clinch a deal. Taking time to understand your market can’t be underestimated and is a worthwhile investment. And do learn a few words or sentences in the customer’s language; it can make all the difference to cementing the relationship and getting that order. Yes, some countries are more challenging than others – persevere!  Lastly , use professional  translators!

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