Top tips for export success

  • 28 Mar 2018

By Ian McCarthy, Director of the 2018 International Business Festival

UK businesses are demonstrating a real thirst for exporting, as new figures from HMRC show trade is up across every region of the country. This is particularly good news considering the current backdrop of currency exchange fluctuation and trade uncertainty. With HSBC research suggesting businesses could add £3 billion to their impact on the UK economy if they boosted their exports by just 5 per cent, there is a strong rationale to motivate all companies to start exporting.  


Commencing international trade can seem daunting, especially to smaller businesses, but with solid research, expert advice and a strong export plan, small ambitious firms can succeed. The following five tips to help take your business to new markets:

Find local contacts

Research what local business communities, agencies or trade organisations are active in the country you would like to reach. UK embassies can provide a good starting point if you wish to find more information about trading with that specific country. 

These experts will be able to offer practical ‘on the ground’ information, as well as advice about the culture and customs of the country. They can advise you on everything from the regional economy to local concerns and direct you to useful contacts. You can also find regional trade contacts from organisations such as UK Export Finance, Commonwealth First or the Department of International Trade.


Regionalise products and services

Not all countries and cultures are the same, so consider how to tailor your product to suit different regions. In 2014 UK gelato business Caffe Cream was focused on classic British flavours but its founder Justin Dooley had his sights set on exporting to Dubai. Caffe Cream adapted an existing flavour to include edible gold leaf to suit Dubai’s taste for luxury and modern decadence. Research local trends in order to ensure your product or service will resonate with the local audience.  

Identify local social media trends

Having a strong digital development plan is fundamental if you want to reach the right audiences in different markets. Some online platforms may be more popular than others depending on the country you want to trade in. 

At the same time, selling and advertising via social media channels may be subject to particular regulations depending on the market. Seek expert advice before embarking on a new marketing strategy to ensure you are appropriately reaching out to the right audience. 


Embrace business events

While technology has changed the way we do business around the world, networking face-to-face remains a fundamental part of building meaningful partnerships, learning from experts, and finding new opportunities. 

It isn’t necessary to travel all around the world to meet potential buyers and partners from far flung destinations – networking events such as the UK’s International Business Festival, held in Liverpool every two years, covers a wide range of sectors and business areas, providing a major opportunity to meet new contacts, investors and buyers.

Market towards your diaspora

As you expand your business via exporting, you will also be reaching British consumers – most countries will have significant British expat communities. ‘Diaspora marketing’ can help you gain a foothold by engaging with a more familiar audience while learning the ropes of international trade. This can be a good way to establish a good relationship with consumers abroad and develop a loyal local base which you can then expand as you grow.


Whichever country you choose to export to, the decision to grow internationally is an exciting stage to reach and opens countless new opportunities for your business to explore as you take on the challenge of going global.

The International Business Festival will be hosted in Liverpool between 12-28 June 2018. For tickets and more information visit

FSB will host ‘Destination Export – Small Businesses as Strategic Exporters’ at this
summer’s International Business Festival (IBF), attendance at the FSB event is free with a festival ticket, and those who register to attend the FSB event on 12 June can access the rest of the festival for free on that day. There is a 30% discount available to FSB members on tickets for other days and full festival passes until the end of March, with other discounts to be announced. 

Find out more here.


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