How to grow your business internationally

3 March 2016

The UK economy is the fifth largest in the world by GDP. Whilst the country boasts a thriving consumer market, when taking into account the wider picture, it actually accounts for just four percent of total world GDP. So, for UK businesses operating solely in the domestic marketplace and looking to grow, taking your business abroad may be just the opportunity you’re looking for.

But where and how do you begin your export journey? Here we look at four top tips to help you achieve your exporting dreams.

1. The time is ripe

Despite all the worries of how a weak pound could impact local businesses here in the UK and the early evidence of consumer prices starting to rise, when looking to take your business abroad the reverse applies.

For exporters, a weak pound in fact presents an opportunity, as British products become more competitively priced on international markets. World First’s Chief Economist, Jeremy Cook, explains:

“It might sound bad, but it’s creating opportunity and I expect to see a transfer of wealth in the UK from importers to exporters, whose goods and services are more affordable for overseas buyers. If you want to make money in a post-Brexit environment, you have to focus on something outside the UK.”

The UK government is also ramping up support for SMEs looking to expand into overseas markets so there are more resources available to help you get started than ever before. The government’s own Exporting is Great campaign is a good place to begin.

Logo: Exporting is Great

Funding Options is a proud partner of Exporting is Great

2. Test the waters

Bringing your business to a completely new market can be daunting and having a physical storefront often requires significant time and capital investment. However, there’s no need to rush in blindly — there are a number of ways to dip your toes in international waters before you take the leap.

Perhaps one of the most important steps is conducting thorough research; this can even include a minimum viable product test. You can also look to trial potential opportunities on a small scale by selling your products on online marketplaces, for example, to see what traction they get and how your brand is perceived in a new region.

When in doubt, there’s always the option to work with a local agent on the ground who can help you do everything from creating a partner base to ensuring you’re in line with both customs and regulatory requirements.

3. Strike a balance

It’s important to maintain the essential characteristics that make your brand unique when taking your business abroad. The Great British brand, for example, is highly regarded around the world and can be a key selling point in itself.

However, it’s a delicate balancing act — you also need to be mindful of local customs and cultural intricacies, especially when it comes to consumer behaviour. Remain agile and ready to adapt both your product range and service in accordance with the results of your research and real world trials.

4. Get your currency strategy in order

As soon as you expand your business overseas, you take on currency risk. And as markets move and exchange rates fluctuate, sometimes drastically over short periods of time, it’s prudent to protect your business however you can. From gaining better visibility of your budgets to knowing the terms of your suppliers and making the most of your FX dealings, there’s lots you can do to safeguard your bottom line.

When and how you move your money across borders (whether sending payments abroad or repatriating earnings) can make a big difference to your total profits at the end of the day.

With so many volatility drivers still on the horizon, ensuring you have a robust currency strategy is vital to supporting and protecting your growth plans. One simple way to do this is to work with a currency specialist like World First, who have a dedicated corporate dealing team to help make international payments a breeze.

Growing your business internationally has the potential to unlock huge profits when done well, but of course, it’s not without risk. Striking while the iron is hot, conducting thorough practical and real life research, maintaining a balance between brand identity and adapting to local needs and getting your currency strategy in order should all help to get you on your way.