Fear of failure, fear of wasting time, fear of disrupting the status quo, most of all, fear of losing money. As any management guru or even export manager will tell you, standing still in business is not an option. We all have to move forward to stay in the same place and even to keep up with, let alone get ahead of, the competition. What is this fear I’m talking about?

Well, it is an unexplained fear of the unknown, fear of something larger lurking out there than we are used to…… it is fear of tackling new overseas markets. Even when profitable opportunities present themselves. Opportunities, which would have been pursued promptly and with vigour within our home market, our comfort zone.

Many - perhaps most - of us in our relatively small island economy have to sell abroad to expand our businesses, to increase profits and to drive our companies forward. Yet if we are to grow our companies overseas we must consistently look to sell abroad and not always to the same places, to the same markets or else we end up with another comfort zone, another status quo. And in these turbulent times - which most market commentators agree will last for some years - we have to diversify to survive. We have to diversify our range of products, our target customers and, most of all, we have to diversify the geographic markets into which we sell.

Profitable, opportunistic one-offs, admittedly are ok and can deliver a serious boost to the bottom line. However, such opportunities are just that – one-offs – which add a bit of cream to the cake for a short period of time, but can never be the cornerstone of a consistent, strategic approach to international markets.

In order to overcome the fear of tackling a new overseas market and to create the circumstances which lead to the best chance of delivering success, two absolutely key areas of activity have to be addressed.

First, specific, product-related, in-depth market research must be undertaken in order at minimum to determine market size and identify potential clients and competitors. It is also important to include one other area in this research – potential risk factors, both short-term and long-term, to inform management planning. This latter research could include exchange rate forecasting, regional and national government attitude to business, union activity (eg at ports/airports) and demographic analysis for a particular country, but doesn’t have to be a long-winded analysis of everything under the sun, rather a focus on essentials pertinent to the products to be sold into the market.

Second, serious consideration must be given as to how the products in question are to get into the hands of the target customers, how are the sales channels to market organised. Most importantly, if a potential exporter is not able to set up its own operation in the country concerned from day one (and to be frank only the largest and best-funded companies are able to do this before income from sales starts to come through) partners must be sought to distribute the products locally. This usually means identifying in-market distributors, agents or partners, who know and understand the target market segment(s) and have a clear idea of how to best position the products in the market to obtain optimum sales. As experienced exporters are well aware, finding effective distributors in a new overseas market is no easy task, but nevertheless is usually essential to achieving sufficient and consistent market penetration.

Both the above two key areas of activity can be undertaken relatively quickly and cost effectively, it is just that fear again raises its ugly head. Fear of high costs to undertake the work, fear of requiring too much time from already limited in-house resources, thereby unbalancing existing structures and systems, fear of ………doing something new and exciting, but essential for long term survival! Easier to just let the status quo remain. A true tango with fear!

We at Whitefield International look to help companies – often, but not always SMEs – to break into new international markets, to research target markets, in particular to identify:

 - the size of the market opportunity
 - clients and competitors
 - risk factors
 - in-market distributors and partners

We work with people in many of the key export markets in the world, who are able to undertake this research in situ in the market. They are all people from private industry and are quickly able to cut through to the essentials of a specific company’s requirements. This allows us to keep costs down and deliver results in a timely fashion. Moreover, all projects are managed from our UK base, thereby ensuring swift and effective communication with our UK clients.

Lose your fear in tackling overseas markets. For many, increasing exports will become an essential activity for survival in the coming years. Get ahead of the game now and drive your sales forward through carefully researched action. If you don’t want to go it alone or haven’t the available resources we are always ready to help and offer advice on part or all or your international growth plans.

For further information or advice that will help bring clarity to international sales and exporting, contact us on +44 (0)1672 851802 or at enquiries@whitefieldinternational.com.