1. Do your research – the internet can provide a wealth of how-to information for first-time importers and exporters, but it’s also important to research your market and where there is a need for your product or service.
2. Get advice – There will be experts in your local international trade team, the local Chamber of Commerce and other business advice networks. Speak to companies which are dealing with products being moved around the globe and network with other businesses already successfully trading overseas.
3. Define your market – Find out how your product and service might need to be adapted for export and what regulations must be complied with. Think about opportunities in fast growth markets: it is predicted that emerging markets will be importing more than they are exporting by 2026.
4. Consider the risks – risks are higher in foreign markets than at home. Monitor your progress against your plan and re-assess the risks at regular intervals. That includes mitigating your supply chain risk by forging close relationships with your suppliers and buyers.
5. Keep an eye on costs – Businesses thinking about international trade for the first time should make sure they have the right resources and commitment to put towards it. A good understanding of how fluctuations in exchange rate will affect profitability and pricing is vital.
6. Think internationally – Be sensitive to language and cultural differences in your target market. Tailor your communication to suit potential customers. A new country will have different regulations, currency, business practices and potentially language.
7. Watch the competition – Find out who you are competing with, how their products and pricing differ from yours as well as things like how and where they operate. You can learn from their successes and from their mistakes.
8. Make a plan – Be forward thinking in planning for and recruiting the right people, particularly those with special skills, and be willing to pay them accordingly. Establish structures and stick to them. It controls costs and risks and minimises wasted efforts.
9. Check the legalities – Understand the rules of engagement, particularly issues such as duties and paperwork. Finding out at the outset what is required might save a few headaches later. Secure export certification and documentation from trusted sources, which will save time and money in the long run.
10. Look to the long-term – While every profitable sale is welcome, it is always worth looking at long term market potential, to assess whether initial investment might bear fruit later. Look beyond your borders and consider the opportunities in rapidly growing markets.