It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an SME seeking to export must be in want of a UKTI-organised market visit to a close European location…or is it? A YouGov-sponsored Easyjet survey showed that just under 29% of companies with fewer than 5 employees said they would visit a country before trying to trade there.
So much of our experience at UKTI supports the idea that going overseas and ‘eye-balling’ overseas counterparts is an integral part of successfully doing business there. That’s why we have organised a series of Export Insight Visits, enabling companies new to export to meet prospective clients and get a feel for what trading overseas is really like.
We spoke to two companies who have signed up to a three day visit to Benelux in February 2016 to find out about them and what they believe they will get out of the trip…
Based in Nottingham, Paguro offers a unique range of contemporary fashion and home accessories, all handmade using recycled and repurposed materials. They are currently exporting to Germany, USA and Australia.
The Buxton Pudding Company produces heritage British puddings in the High Peak (the clue’s in the name!) and are pleased to list Harvey Nichols and, more locally, Chatsworth Estate as two of their UK customers. Not currently exporting, they are looking at the Netherlands as a good starting point.
In the league table of goods exported from the UK, Belgium regularly takes 3rd place, behind only the USA and Germany, with the Netherlands taking 12th place. In 2014, goods exported to Belgium totalled a huge £1.3bn, while those to the Netherlands amounted to £561.5m.
Yen Goo, CEO of Paguro, feels that the Benelux market, with its openness to recycled and repurposed goods, along with a fondness for handmade quality, will be very receptive to what they have to offer.
Alan Hibbert, CEO of the Buxton Pudding Company, explains that his interest in the Netherlands was sparked when he spoke to Gary Blackburn as part of the UKTI-organised Export Marketing Research Scheme which he describes as a ‘must’. During this process, the country was identified as a potential market, making the upcoming Export Insight Visit an ideal way in.
Both are currently working with a UKTI International Trade Adviser who has helped them to strategize their approach. Both also see familiarising themselves with a market as being a crucial step in the exporting process.
Visiting a couple of trade fairs in Germany showed Yen how tastes and requirements differed between that country and the domestic market. This encouraged her to sign up to the upcoming trip to Benelux which will enable her to do plenty of export ‘homework’ before making any financial outlay.
Alan adds, ‘It will also be really useful for us to get to know the potential customers for our products and the competition that we may have from other producers.’
Both companies are also agreed that how well they communicate their offer is going to be hugely important.
Yen is very clear that with the rise in social media and the inevitability of websites, it’s essential to see brands in an international context. As she explains, ‘Not only do you need to be able to communicate with retailers, the key messages of the brand also need to be relatable.’
Alan puts the communication challenge in the following way, ‘The key for us will be getting our potential customers to understand what we do.
‘As an example, if we contacted a customer and asked him if he'd like to buy an aircraft wing, he would know what we were selling. However if we contacted a customer and asked them if they'd like to buy a Lord Mayors Pudding, it's highly unlikely that they would understand our product as no-one else in the world makes them!!’
UKTI staff based in The Hague are busy arranging meetings and receptions for all the companies taking part in the trip. They will also be on hand to give their expert and in-depth advice on all aspects of trading in the Benelux area, which will be an invaluable help in the months to come. As with all market visits, we are looking forward to hearing back from our intrepid East Midlands exporters.
The Benelux visit is taking place from 16-18 February 2016. Companies interested in getting involved should call the UKTI East Midlands office on 0345 052 4001.
Export Insight Visits can provide companies with:
- an introduction to UKTI services, and how UK and overseas networks support companies
- practical information on approaching markets, including cultural and linguistic challenges
- introductions to successful British companies already in the market, who can share advice and experiences
- 1-2-1 meetings with the trade officers who have experience of supporting companies in your sector within the market
- a networking reception with a range of tailored contacts from the business networks of our overseas teams
- opportunities for companies to learn from one another as they embark on their international journey.
For more information, go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-insight-visits