Most solid Irish companies that want to scale up have an eye beyond these shores – for many businesses, the home market alone simply doesn’t have the breadth and depth to sustain growth. But exporting isn’t as easy thing to do, and many business owners have wasted money on ill-thought-out international expansion. If you want to avoid that fate, you need to lay some groundwork and get your company export-ready
Define Your Offering
Your first step to successful exporting is to define what product or service you offer that’s genuinely unique while also being profitable. In some cases, an idea that’s successful in Ireland is immediately transferrable to other markets. Usually, however, businesses that have a clear innovation edge in Ireland will face competition in a broader market. Tweaking your product or service to be uniquely valuable or cost-competitive may require accepting a lower profit margin, or even extensive redeveloping. If you offer a range of products or services, you may consider simply focusing on your most popular – or valuable – offering.
Define the Opportunities
Running in tandem with this process, you also need to research in depth what opportunities are out there. English speaking markets, from the UK to the United States and further afield, are the low-hanging fruit. However, if you are able to break down the language barrier – either through your own skills or easily-tapped expertise – you should include other accessible markets in your research.
There are a few obvious questions that you need to ask of each market: “what kind of demand (or potential demand) is out there for your product or service?”, “what companies are competing in this area?”, “how successful are they?” and “what can you do differently?” spring to mind. After these initial questions, you’re better off homing in on the most promising market for even more research – which should include at least one physical visit to the country.
Find a Process
Even if you’ve successfully identified your target market and refined your product or service to suit it, that isn’t going to ensure success. We see far too many businesses simply striving to win contracts in a scattershot way without any idea of how they’ll actually service them. Needless to say, this doesn’t end well.
You need to have a fresh look at your business processes, from sales to product and service delivery, factoring in how distance and increased travel costs will impact on them. In some cases, you’ll have to tear up a blueprint that works well domestically and design a new one for the new market. In other cases, you may just need to absorb the cost of a local sales agent. The most important thing is to genuinely consider the issue.
There’s considerable work involved in getting your business ready to export. Fortunately, you don’t need to do it alone. Enterprise Ireland offer a considerable range of supports, ranging from simple advice to R&D grants, funding for market research and participation in trade missions.
At DCA Accountants and Business Advisors, we help many businesses through the process of getting export ready, whether that involves developing a business plan, assistance in the tax implications of exporting, liaising with external agencies, or just about any issue potential exporters face. There’s a helpful breakdown of what they offer here.
We’re also always willing to talk to SMEs about what they might need. If you’d like to contact us, we can organise a free, no-obligation consultation that will help you on the road to international expansion.
DCA Accountants and Business Advisors