Tapping international markets without a multinational’s budget can be challenging, but there are some cost-effective approaches you can take.


Once you’ve got a successful business model at home, your ambitions may well be international – or your business model may depend on international expansion anyway. But tapping international markets as a new entrant requires considerable ingenuity and work, particularly when you don’t have the deep pockets of a multinational. Here are some ways that you can begin to make an entry into a foreign market without incurring costs that you can’t afford.


Find a Local Partner

Many businesses choose to make their first entry into the market through a local partner or distributor: somebody with the right contacts and expertise to open doors in unfamiliar territory. While you should always be cautious about the partnerships you form, there’s a lot to be said for an approach like this, particularly when limiting your exposure to expense is a priority.

It’s imperative, when you’re choosing a potential partner, to select a person or entity that sees the value in what your product or service will offer and shares your vision for attacking the market. Discuss how your partner will deploy your products or services in the market, and all the practicalities of delivery, before making a commitment. Even if your potential partner or distributor is highly  impressive, always check on a person or company’s bona fides, and make sure that you have watertight agreements in place to protect your intellectual property and give legal recourse if things go south.

To really maximise the benefits of a distributor or local partner, you will need to work on the relationship. Market visits and regular discussions about new initiatives that you can take will help make your joint venture a success.


Tap Trade Fairs

Trade fairs are a cost-effective way to get in front of many relevant people very quickly: with the right event, and the right spadework to support it, you can accomplish the kind of market penetration in a few days that would normally take months – and at a fraction of the cost.

All of this depends, of course, on selecting the kind of event that’s right for your business and having the right strategy for it. Whether you’re taking a stand or merely attending as a delegate, you will need to be creative to get attention and have a readily compelling case for continuing discussions further – after all, most other people are there to sell as well!

It’s rare – but not impossible – for significant deals to be done during a fair itself. Because of this, it’s worth investing a little extra to stay on in the market for a few days after the fair, or organise a quick trip for a selection of pre-arranged meetings in the weeks following the event. Either way, follow up effectively on any contacts you make to maximise the value of participation.


Trade Missions

Enterprise Ireland doesn’t just dispense grants to software firms: they also enable companies of all stripes to access foreign markets. One of the most effective ways that they operate is through Trade Missions to promising areas.

By participating in these, you can get insight into a market and organise meetings with the backing of a highly respected development agency behind you. If you haven’t engaged with Enterprise Ireland before, you can look at the kind of international trade missions they organise – and the events that they offer participation support to – here. If you’re daunted by the practicalities of exporting, even aside from budgetary constraints, they offer highly useful advice.


Of course, it always helps to get solid advice on managing your business during a period of change. If you’d like to talk about the potential impact of beginning to export, just contact us to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting.


Declan Dolan

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