There's a myth that you've got to have a dedicated export department or a team of linguists in the business. Those things can certainly help but the most important thing to make sure you're export ready is to ensure you have a strong domestic business.
Whether you're selling into China or Colchester, the same business basics apply. Is your product right for the market? Can you sell it at a price that allows you to bring profit back into the business? Can you manage your costs so they don't exceed your income?
Yes, you have the challenge of getting your goods to market and adapting your product where necessary but step one is getting your business fit and healthy to trade domestically as well as internationally.
Whether you have a strategy in place from day one or are reacting to enquiries from overseas, thorough market research is vital.
That might be reactive research. Look at who is visiting your website and where they are based so you can see where the international demand for your product is coming from.
Emma spoke to one company who saw through Google Analytics that they were getting a lot of US visitors to their site. Their pricing at the time was all in sterling but by just listing their prices in dollars as well, their sales immediately went up by 25 per cent.
It's one thing to see where existing customers are coming from but you also need to be proactive with your research. Who are the potential customers in a new market, who is the competition and how might you need to adapt your product?
It is also vital to consider the additional costs that come with exporting. Moving into overseas territories can open up huge opportunities but you need to have a very clear picture of, for example, the associated shipping costs. Can you still make it a viable proposition when you take those extra costs into account?
One of the things that's enabled small businesses to open on a Monday and be trading with the world by the Wednesday is online marketplaces such as Amazon. They give you access to multiple territories at the touch of a button but as you begin to build sales in a particular market, you need to consider to what extent you localise.
As you build confidence that you're selling into a territory and, crucially, making money there, then you can look to invest to localise. You may consider options such as translating your website and using imagery that suits the culture of the territory – both of which show your commitment to the market.
You can also buy local postal addresses through companies like Regus. So if you're selling into Germany but don't have a physical presence there, you can buy a Berlin address, for example, which can help to give your customers confidence that you are taking the market seriously.