Clinching the deal in an overseas market is the first key step, then you can start to work out the practicalities of delivery (or taking delivery if you’re importing from a new overseas partner). This is partly about logistics – how will you actually move the goods – and partly about regulation, since there may be very specific compliance and legal requirements that you’re required to meet. These steps might take time, but never lose sight of the end goal of selling your goods in a new market. Start thinking about this as part of your earlier market research too, the clearer you can be on the costs and time involved in getting your goods to market the stronger your position when it comes to securing buyers.
On logistics, weigh up the pros and cons of different methods of shipping your goods, considering things like cost, speed and the additional services a carrier can provide. Postal carriers, for example, are often cheaper, but they also tend to be slower and less flexible. Express carriers may charge higher fees, but work with a broader range of packages, including heavier cartons, offer more delivery options, and provide more additional services.
Depending on what you’re shipping – and the needs of customers and/or suppliers – it may be worth paying more. If you’re dealing with perishable items you’ll need a different service to shipping goods that don’t have a short shelf life. Alternatively, you may want a choice of delivery options – for example, if you’re selling several different products where time pressures vary. Do your research carefully, taking guidance from partners with logistics experience and expertise.
More than just logistics
Services such as tracking and insurance can prove valuable. Most carriers should offer shipment tracking so that both you and your customer or supplier can see where products have got to. Insurance gives you protection against loss or damage, although cover isn’t usually included as standard in shipping charges.
Logistics partners can also be a good source of advice on issues such as product certification, licencing, and labelling. It’s vital that you understand any rules that affect your products before you do any shipping. Does your product need a certain type of certification in the market you’re targeting? Do you need a licence of some sort to sell it? How should your products be labelled for shipping, to meet the requirements of customs at each stage of the journey, as well at their final destination? What other paperwork does customs require?
Revisit your market research
Don’t let these complex rules put you off, with the right support and research you’ll start to build up the knowledge of the potentially very different requirements of each market you send goods to.
Each country you trade with is likely to have its own regulation - don’t assume, for example. when you start selling into Germany that the same rules that govern your existing sales to France will apply.
Make sure you take plenty of time to consider these issues – not least because navigating red tape in some markets isn’t a quick process. In some countries, it may take years, rather than months, to secure the right product licence, particularly if you don’t have access to expert advice and support.
Securing that advice is therefore crucial. As well as logistics partners, talk to businesses in your network that have been through the same process. Industry trade bodies and chambers of commerce may also be useful sources of information. For example, the World Trade Organisation’s Global Trade Helpdesk is a centralised resource with detailed information about the rules in hundreds of countries worldwide. You may even need specialist legal advice from a legal firm with a presence in your target market.
Key action points:
- Identify the key regulatory and legal issues for your products in your target markets, taking expert advice on how to comply if necessary.
- Apply for all relevant documentation, such as product licences, well in advance of your market entry.
- Think carefully about your shipping requirements and discuss the most cost-effective options with potential logistics providers.
- Make sure you understand issues such as product labelling and customs documentation, so that your shipments move without unnecessary delays or additional costs.