Export globe in hands

Is a lack of export knowledge holding SMEs back?

Posted on: 12/10/2015 in: Export, New markets, Opportunities for SMEs

Research published earlier this year suggested that one of the main factors holding small businesses back when it comes to export is lack of knowledge. So this week, we’re taking a look at how SMEs can find a way to break through into the vast potential for growth which exporting opens up.

In February this year, the business network, BTube said that a study of UK SMEs revealed that 49% of those questioned reported that their lack of expertise in export was the biggest barrier to international growth. And yet, 35% of the SME survey group acknowledged that the biggest challenge they face is finding new customers. So how can small businesses overcome this barrier to growth?

Here’s out top 3 tips for export success:

  1. Improve your digital skills – it’s important to make sure your business has an up to date online presence and capability – if you don’t have this, there’s plenty of organisations and companies offering help, such as Heart of the South West Business Support or BusinessThink
  2. Hire the right staff – it almost goes without saying, but attracting and retaining great staff are always up there among the biggest challenges for small businesses – key to success will usually being able to employ staff who have the ability to forge good business relationships
  3. Take steps to adapt your business for foreign markets – don’t underestimate the importance of understanding local business practice and etiquette or else your export plans could stall before they even get off the ground. As British interior designer and former ┬áDragon’s Den entrepreneur, Kelly Hoppen has commented

“Businesses need to take the time to understand the nuances of foreign markets, if they wish to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities to tap into new sources of production, distribution and sales.”

Fact is though, not many small and medium businesses have the time and capacity to spend weeks, months or even years building up business relationships – and that is what it can take in some countries, for example India, where numerous personal visits may be required before closing a deal. Even with additional levels of export support from Government backed providers or UKTI, this can be a costly and lengthy process.

Good job then, that there is another way to take advantage of the long term growth and other benefits which exporting can bring to a business. Partnering with a company which has an already established network of business contacts, together with detailed knowledge of the local market means that SMEs can effectively leapfrog the barriers to growth described above.

So if your SME is considering exporting, either for the first time, or to new markets, get in touch to find out what we can do to help. It could save you a lot of legwork!