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Ten tips to help small businesses export to success

21 Jan 2020
As we enter a new decade, small business owners will be looking for new opportunities and ways to increase sales and grow their business.

Exporting is one option to seriously consider as research shows that it can significantly help firms to increase turnover and enhance business performance. For a first-time exporter trading, the cross-border market is the perfect place to begin, writes Alison Currie from InterTradeIreland.

InterTradeIreland’s research shows that 75 per cent of businesses that have gone on to sell off the island took their first steps on the export ladder through entrance into the other market on the island.

The cross-border market holds many advantages for businesses across the island. It is geographically closer than our other neighbours, and there are no language barriers. Cross-border trade is currently valued at €7bn – so substantial opportunities exist in both jurisdictions.

So for those businesses considering exporting for the first time, here are some pointers to get you started.

  1. Review your performance in your home market
  • Carry out a SWOT analysis to identify the challenges and opportunities that exist for your business
  • Is there opportunity for growth in your existing market?
  • How do you compare against your competitors?
  1. Looking at new markets
  • Review the business opportunities and challenges of entering a new market
  • Do your market research (have facts and figures to hand)
  • Identify your readiness, do you have the skills and resources in place to grow?
  • Set focused and ambitious but achievable targets.
  • Focus on one market at a time. Although tempting to pursue multiple markets, be sure to understand the first fully before heading on to others.
  1. Research your new market
  • Spend time in your target marketplace.
  • Meet and talk to as many relevant people as possible, even if they are unlikely to be immediate customers. They are all sources of invaluable market information.
  • Identify potential prospects and customers for your product or service
  • Understand the sales or distribution channels for your product.
  • Examine competitors closely.
  • Understand the marketing and promotional approach of suppliers and retailers.
  • Note and understand any differences from your home market.
  1. Understand your brand
  • What makes your product/service different from others that are already operating in the market?
  • Design your product or service for global appeal from day one. Local knowledge of the country you plan to enter will help you tailor your product.
  1. Review your pricing
  • Ensure that your price point is achievable in your target market. Get as much detail as possible ( end retail, wholesale, discount prices)
  1. Engage an experienced market research consultant based in the target marketplace
  • A professional marketer based in the new market can assemble facts and figures and reach sources quicker than you may do yourself.
  • An independent professional can also provide realistic feedback on the opportunities and challenges.
  • InterTradeIreland’s Elevate programmeoffers a number of tailored supports to help you with this research
  1. Pull together all your information and research
  • Collate all the information and material you have assembled.
  • Draw up a research analysis report – this will clarify many issues and needs, and present possible opportunities for you.
  1. Proceed to draw up a market entry plan
  • A formal market entry plan will establish your date of readiness.
  • It should clarify the dos and don’ts and identify priorities and must dos.
  • It will give you the opportunity to test likely outcomes, before serious money and resources are committed.
  • Having a market entry plan increases the likelihood of success.
  • InterTradeIreland’s Elevate Programme provides consultancy funding support to help you develop a cross-border sales and marketing plan.
  1. Consider Resources
  • Identify the resources required to achieve your objectives (personnel, finances)
  • InterTradeIreland’s Acumen programme can help with salary support for an additional sales resource focusing on the target market
  1. Listen to advice
  • Listen to the people that are around you and be open to their advice. Although you may think you have covered every aspect, someone could bring something to the table that hadn't crossed your mind.
InterTradeIreland Sales and Marketing Supports

InterTradeIreland is here to help you start & develop your cross-border journey so if you think your business could benefit from sales and marketing supports find out more at

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