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Are you ready for take-off? Q&A: getting ready to export

Export is a complicated business so do the groundwork before you start

Is the export market for you?
If a company has export potential, it can be very rewarding. First-time exporters should consider opportunities in an international market that presents the fewest obstacles. These may include, but are not limited to, currency, culture, language, opportunity and demand. Exporting is hard work and there are risks involved.

Is there enough demand for your product or service?
Base your decisions on where to sell through solid market intelligence. You are likely to invest a lot of time and money in a new market at first, which makes it essential to have chosen the one that best suits your offering. If there is an absence of direct competitors in a market under consideration, then it is probably due to a lack of demand. Undertaking extensive market research is worthwhile and will pay off.

Do you have a compelling value proposition?
Part of what makes your company's offering attractive to customers is how it solves the problems in their business or lives. This is what makes your value proposition. This is how your customer will identify you over your competitor. Once you have defined your offer to customers, it should inform all of your marketing effort.

Can you meet the market's price expectations?
Setting your prices correctly when selling overseas is critical to building a sustainable export business. It is best to avoid lowering prices in the hope of winning market share. It is better to enhance your product or service in order to move the discussion from one of cost to one about value.

Do you have a distribution and marketing plan?
The distribution plan you devise will be linked with the route to market you choose. It is important to ensure the distribution method you choose marries well with the route to market. If possible, work with your preferred distributor on a fixed-period, trial basis to test the working arrangements.

Do you have the capacity and capability to export?
Developing a new business in another market requires great commitment from everyone in the company. In many ways, moving overseas is like starting in business all over again – but with added considerations such as business culture, language and different legal and regulatory systems. You need to be sure the business can scale up to meet the demands of entering a new market and the resources to achieve success.

Have you investigated payment issues?
Set different prices for different markets, because mark- ups and routes to market vary. It is also very important to find out the tax implications of selling your product in a particular market, as this could affect your final price. It is also important to be aware of potential payment delays when exporting. Test how this could affect your cash flow.

Have you completed an export plan?
The key to exporting successfully is preparation, and the best way to ensure this is to have a clearly written plan with stated goals, timeframes and tasks assigned to specific people or teams in your business. You should draw up this plan once you have completed your market research.

Can you fund your export drive?
Deciding to export carries significant costs. Your company is unlikely to be paid until after delivery, so your business will incur many of those costs upfront, potentially putting a strain on your cashflow. Having a detailed export plan will help anticipate these costs.

For more on the Global Ambition campaign see: ambition.enterprise-ireland.com