Exporting can be a great way for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to expand their customer-base and pile on sales, especially if a company offers non-commoditised goods or services that cannot be easily replicated by overseas rivals. In uncertain economic times, a multi-country sales strategy can hedge against falling demand in the home market. Even during the depths of the recession, the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil continued to grow rapidly, providing opportunities for British businesses who trade there.
SMEs with plans to trade overseas face many challenges. Researching a market from afar can test the resources of even the most dynamic business. And once the groundwork has been done there are further practical issues, such as setting up sales and distribution networks, and local marketing. All this has to be done within an unfamiliar business landscape that may run on very different commercial and cultural lines. The Breakthrough programme’s overseas trade missions initiative is designed to help companies overcome the challenges traditionally associated with exporting.
How does it work?
Our trade missions will provide companies who have taken investment under the Breakthrough programme with the information and the contacts they need to sell overseas. We will pay for selected entrepreneurs to ﬂy out to target export markets, providing an opportunity to gather information at ﬁrst-hand and to create relationships with key players in the market: sales agents, distributors and customers, even politicians and diplomats.
There will be a huge amount to learn. You’ll ﬁnd out how the market works in terms of distribution, customer expectations, the competitive landscape and regulation. Equally important, you will gain immediate feedback on the commercial potential of your products and how they may be positioned alongside any competitors. There will also be opportunities to gain insights into any problems that could arise in terms of contractual expectations, payment terms and language differences.
A trade mission won’t throw you into meeting after meeting without a clear plan. Ahead of the trip, we’ll help you work out exactly what your company needs to know and to whom you should be speaking. Once that has been established, we will work with partners such as UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the EEF (the manufacturers’ organisation) to ensure that you are introduced to the right people.
The ﬁrst mission
Changes in the global economic balance have created a huge amount of interest in the potential of the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). It is appropriate then, that one of our trade missions took entrepreneurs to South America to learn about opportunities in Brazil. During the mission, participants were immersed in the realities of doing business in an increasingly important market.
But it doesn’t stop there. Santander is an international bank with operations in many of the world’s key markets. During the course of the Breakthrough programme, we will use our knowledge and international contacts to plan a series of trade missions that will deliver tangible beneﬁts to companies with overseas ambitions. The trade mission initiative is fully funded by Santander and is available to businesses taking investment through the Breakthrough programme.