Moving into exporting is a daunting challenge, but various supports are in place to help ambitious companies.
The Irish market, in many ways, is a mile wide and an inch deep – you will find a myriad of companies and consumers, but it is difficult to develop the critical mass needed for a niche product or service to be truly profitable. Even firms that are ticking along here in Ireland will often find themselves looking at potentially richer pickings abroad.
While becoming an exporter is a significant challenge, companies are rising to it every day. What’s more, Enterprise Ireland can help you on your way. While this export-orientated agency is all-too-often portrayed as a kind of entrepreneur’s piggy bank, doling out grant money to companies who know the system, the expertise and other support offered by this agency is often just as valuable.
Any serious would-be exporter will need to do good market research: you need to know where there is a market for your company, how a foreign market differs from the Irish environment, and what unique challenges you will face. The kind of deep research and insight required for success rarely comes with an hour or two of desk research.
Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre is designed to assist companies that are serious about researching international opportunities. Clients of the agency can access the most up-to-date information on a range of markets, sectors, companies and countries including industry and sector reports which cover key players, the size of markets, factors driving or curtailing demand, projected sales and more. Country profiles and ‘Doing Business in…’ guides are also available, and useful, while you can access company financials, competitors, key players, manufacturers, distributors and key personnel. There is no cost for accessing this valuable information once you are an Enterprise Ireland client.
Missions and Fairs
While you may want to simply start dialling potential partners or customers, and setting up meetings on your own initiative, you’ll face a few complications with this approach. For one, it’s easy to end up with a schedule requiring multiple trips to a market, eating up valuable time and money. Moreover, you have little or no ‘quality control’ in terms of potential contacts, so your risk of an encounter with a disreputable operator is heightened.
For this reason, many companies find it more efficient and secure to participate in a structured trade mission or trade fair. Enterprise Ireland organises group trade visits, led by a member of government, to our major and emerging export markets, as well as networking events to enable clients to retain and build relationships with their international customers. The agency also organises group stands at some of the most important trade fairs and exhibitions across the world, allowing businesses to showcase their products at a reasonable cost and also gain market intelligence along the way. SME client companies and High Potential Start Up (HPSU) firms can get grant support for attending these events as well. For a flavour of the trade missions and events organised by Enterprise Ireland, you can review the 2013 calendar here.
Even with a good model and a strong team, you will probably need to enhance some area of your company’s skill-set to successfully export. Enterprise Ireland partners with and runs a variety of programmes to meet diverse needs in this area, ranging from Graduates for International Growth (G4IG), which partners graduates with ambitious internally trading companies to the International Selling Programme (a hands-on training course delivered in partnership with DIT), mentoring, and specialist courses on selling to the public sector, internet marketing and more. Grant support and affordable fees will help you meet the challenge of up-skilling your firm for success.
Too often, entrepreneurs are wary of letting the much-maligned bureaucrats of business development agencies in, and don’t realise the kind of positive impact that they can make. Any company that’s serious about exporting should seriously engage with Enterprise Ireland as, even without direct grant support, they can help you out.
At DCA, we advise many different companies that are taking their first steps into exporting, and navigating the sometimes complex processes adopted by Enterprise Ireland. If you would like to talk about your needs, or the opportunities that might await you in new markets, don’t hesitate to contact us.