Ten steps to successful export

Zoe Bagnall
Content and PR Executive | Business West
7th May 2021

Research from the The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found businesses are 11% more likely to survive if they export. So, what are some of the steps businesses should take to expand successfully overseas?

1. Do your research

It is essential that you carry out adequate market research before approaching overseas customers. You should find out the consumption/import figures of products that are like yours and assess the economic growth of each market to see if it is worth approaching. It’s also a good idea to look at what competitors are doing in your chosen market so you can develop a strategy to differentiate yourself from the current offering. 

2. Find opportunities 

It’s important to be proactive in your search for opportunities. Trade shows are a good way to find contacts and generate new business. The Department for International Trade (DIT) regularly holds Meet the Buyer events where you can sign up to organise meetings with potential distributors.  DIT has also recently launched The Export Academy to help businesses understand how to trade effectively. You can sign up for this here. 

3. Make a plan 

Your export strategy should consider factors such as whether you will need to hire more people or whether your current team can drive the programme. You may also want to consider whether you have enough capacity to meet a market’s demand. Do you need to scale up? 

4. Getting your products to market

Selling directly to a market may not be the best approach. Many companies choose to work with distributors or agents who market/sell for them. 

When working with third parties to distribute your product overseas, it’s vital to confirm their roles and responsibilities from the outset. It’s also important to develop a good relationship with the agent or distributor, ensuring whoever you work with aligns with your company’s values and is as passionate as you are about your product. 

5. Start marketing

Adverts can gain you valuable brand exposure but can also be expensive. You should keep in mind the target audience as well as expense vs. return on investment. Your digital marketing is crucial in a world where we a living more and more online. To stay relevant to your export markets, it’s a good idea to localise your website, so it is culturally appropriate for different customers. At Business West, our digital support team can help you to optimise your website, so it is appropriate for different markets. Find out more here. 

6. Understand the admin

Its essential that your export documentation is completed correctly so that sales can be finalised without delays. Any administrative errors could cost you financially, cause delays, and affect your relationship with your customer. Documentation lies at the heart of exporting and without it, there is no contract, transport, or payment. At Business West, our Export Documentation team can help you with any queries and we offer a range of services to help you get your paperwork completed to ensure a seamless exporting experience. Find out more here.

We’re holding a series of training sessions to get your knowledge up to scratch on areas such as customs declarations and export documentation. Click here to apply. These courses may be able to accessed using grant funding. Once you have booked onto a course, you will be provided with a VAT receipt which you can use as proof when applying for the grant.  

7. How are you going to be paid?

Once you start making sales, you need to get paid. We can help you do that with:


These are internationally agreed rules that define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers. They outline who is responsible for paying for and managing the shipment, insurance, customs clearance, and other logistics. We’re holding a training session on Incoterms on Thursday 6th May. Apply for your place here. If you have any questions about Incoterms, don’t hesitate to get in contact with our Export Documentation team on (insert number). 

Letters of Credit 

A Letter of Credit is the most secure form of payment and will guarantee you are paid provided you meet all the requirements. There are several benefits to this form of payment including: 

•Improves your reputation for efficiency and reliability

•Increases profitability 

•Risk of non-payment is transferred from the seller to the bank

•Saves money and time 

We help advise and process the documentation for a Letter of Credit and can present these documents to the bank on your behalf. Find out more here. Our Letter of Credit training is being held online on 5th July. Apply here. 

8. Legal requirements: Things to consider 

It’s essential to understand the legal issues and regulations in the countries you want to export to. Our International Trade Services team can help guide you in the right direction and point you towards the right people if you do need legal advice. 

You may also want to consider whether your product compliance certificates and liability cover is valid overseas. It’s also a good idea to check your intellectual property rights and registered trademarks. 

9. Transport logistics

Once you’ve made the sale and agreed the terms, you can start thinking about how to get your goods to your customers. Our International Trade Services team can help you make sense of this and get your knowledge up to scratch on areas like Incoterms, duties and customs clearance, methods of transportation and whether freight forwarders are required. Click here to view our training courses that cover some of these topics. 

10. Success! Now what?

Now you’re a successful international exporter, you need to ensure that you maintain your trade relationships. You should keep in regular contact with your customers and ask for feedback so you can improve your offer. 

Maintaining a strong reputation is important for your international business. This means delivering on time and if delays cannot be avoided, keeping your customers in the loop at every stage and updating them on progress. 

As a novice exporter, you have the chance to seek out new opportunities and apply your new learnings to a range of new markets. To make the most of this, keep on top of your promotional activity and continue to attend export related events. DIT has recently launched The Export Academy, a series of over 50 events and activities which will help businesses understand how to trade effectively. You can find out more here. 

  • Find out how to get started

    Start selling your products overseas with our comprehensive support to help you every step of the way.

    Call our trade centre on 01275 370 944

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  • Find out how to get started

    Start selling your products overseas with our comprehensive support to help you every step of the way.

    Call our trade centre on 01275 370 944