How to start trading internationally
Trading internationally is not an exclusive club for big
businesses with a huge turnover. It's something anyone, from a
one-man T-shirt designer to a part-time candlestick maker, can
achieve and benefit from.
Why do it?
Statistics from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) show that
companies that take the plunge and secure sales abroad improve
their productivity by 34%. They are also 12% more likely to survive
and excel in the world of business than those who don't export.
With the recent news that the UK has fallen into a double-dip
recession, Heather Booth Di Giovanni, the director of economics and
evaluation at UK Trade & Investment, says British businesses
should look for opportunities abroad in order to grow and ensure
their businesses stay open.
"In the context of a depressed British market, the benefits of
sustained revenues from a well diversified portfolio of overseas
customers are even more vital," she says. "We should not forget
that there are opportunities in overseas markets, which are still
growing, and that new opportunities are constantly opening up."
UKTI statistics also reveal that businesses believe that
exporting leads to innovation. In fact, 53% of businesses they
spoke to said that a new product or service has evolved because of
their business overseas.
Emma Jones, author of the book Going
Global, agrees with this view. "It's never been more
important for small businesses to start trading internationally,"
she says. "Our exchange rate is also good at the moment, which
means our goods are cost competitive. With two billion people
online, many of them in emerging countries, the opportunities are
How to do it
Emma Jones also wants to bust the myth that selling your
products abroad is difficult. "Foreign markets are now more
accessible than ever before," she says.
Kate Castle is a perfect example of an entrepreneur who has
capitalised on this. She used www.alibaba.com to find a
supplier of stools as well as a supplier for disposable bags. She
then put the two together and made her product, Bog in a Bag, a
disposable toilet. Castle now sells her product back to countries
all over the world through Alibaba. "She's using Alibaba to source
and sell her product. It's a beautiful business that may not have
been possible ten years ago, but sites like Alibaba have made it
possible," says Jones.
She carried out a survey and found that 67% of new businesses
are going global within the first few years of trading and she
wants the rest of the UK small business economy to join them.
She doesn't believe location and lack of funds should be an
issue. "I recently met a young lady who was running a business
called showpony.co.uk, importing fairtrade bags from
India. She puts her own design on them and them exports them all
over the world via websites like www.etsy.com, all from a flat in
Glasgow," she says.
Help to get you started
UKTI offers plenty of support to get you started trading abroad.
Using Market Visit Support new exporters can
target customers overseas by arranging visits to specific markets
as part of an organised group. UKTI will help ensure your company
gets the most from the trip and can even provide funding to assist
with travel and accommodation costs.
They also offer the Passport to Export
programme for those who are new to exporting. This gives
inexperienced exporters free capability assessments, support in
visiting potential markets and mentoring from a local
International Trade Advisors in regional UKTI offices can help
you get the ball rolling and answer any questions you have.
Check out the 'Exporting for Growth' tool to discover how you
can benefit from exporting.
All this evidence shows going global is a reality for small
businesses and an option they should consider when searching for
ways to grow their business.
For more information on how to sell abroad,visit www.ukti.com
For more information on Alibaba.com, click here
For more information on Emma Jones, follow her on twitter @emmaljones