Cross-Border Business Blog

Posted by Paddy Savage on February 1, 2016

6 steps to help you get on the exporting ladder

One of the biggest challenges currently facing small business owners is dealing with the decrease in demand in their home market.

Exporting is clearly one option, which can significantly help increase turnover and enhance business performance. For a first-time exporter, trading in Ireland or Northern Ireland is the perfect place to begin, writes Paddy Savage from InterTradeIreland.

Northern Ireland holds many advantages for businesses based in Ireland (and vice-versa). It is geographically closer than our other European neighbours, and there are no language barriers. Cross-border trade is currently valued at €3.048bn – so substantial opportunities exist in both jurisdictions.

So for those businesses considering exporting for the first time, here are some pointers to get you started.

1. Take stock of your performance in your home market

  • Identify the challenges and opportunities (SWOT analysis).
  • How do you perform at home?
  • How well have you the home market covered geographically?
  • How do you compare against your competitors?
  • Do you supply all the multiples – are any markets closed to you?

2. Discuss with your team the opportunities and challenges of entering a new market  

  • Lead the exercise yourself unless you really believe someone else in the team is better equipped to do this.
  • Discuss why you want to extend and grow (have facts and figures to hand).
  • Identify your readiness.
  • Fix any blockages.
  • Identify all challenges.
  • Set ambitious but achievable targets.
  • Identify rewards that will arise from new markets.

3. Visit your target marketplace

  • Spend time in your target marketplace.
  • Meet and talk to as many relevant people as possible, even if they are unlikely to be immediate clients or customers. They are all sources of invaluable market information.
  • Understand the retail or distribution channels for your product.
  • Examine competitors closely.
  • Get as much detail on “price” as possible: End or retail price, wholesale price, discounts
  • Understand the marketing and promotional approach of suppliers and retailers.
  • Estimate volume.
  • Size the work (the scale of the task in hand).
  • Note any differences from your home market.

4. Engage an experienced market research consultant based in the target marketplace

  • You or your team are best placed to carry this out and will learn a lot from the research process.
  • However, a professional marketer based in the new market can assemble facts and figures and reach sources quicker than you may do yourself.
  • An independent professional can also provide realistic feedback on the opportunities and challenges.
  • InterTradeIreland’s Acumen programme offers a number of tailored supports to help you with this research.

5. Pull together all your information and research

  • Collate all the information and material you have assembled.
  • Draw up a research analysis report – this will clarify many issues and needs, and present possible opportunities for you.

6. Proceed to draw up a market entry plan

  • A formal market entry plan will establish your date of readiness.
  • It should clarify the dos and don’ts and identify priorities and must dos.
  • It will identify the physical, human and financial resources required to achieve your objectives.
  • It will give you the opportunity to test likely outcomes, before serious money and resources are committed.
  • Having a market entry plan increases the likelihood of success.

Supports currently available from InterTradeIreland

InterTradeIreland can help your business capitalise on the extraordinary possibilities that exist right here on our doorstep.

  • If you own an established business, and you want to explore your export options within the island, Acumen  can help fund key sales and marketing personnel in the cross-border territory.
  • If you are a micro-business looking to identify cross-border markets and customers to win new business, funding for specialist consultancy support is available through Elevate .
  • The Trade Accelerator Voucher scheme provides small businesses with financial support towards professional advice in relation to cross-border trading and regulation, such as legal, accountancy, marketing and other business services.
  • The FREE Simple Guide to Cross-Border Business  can help business owners with simple and practical advice on all aspects of cross-border trading.

If you would like more details on any of the InterTradeIreland export supports, including eligibility criteria and application details, please contact our Trade Team on 028 3083 4110 (048 from Ireland).


About the Author

Paddy Savage has been with InterTradeIreland since its inception in 1999 and is currently responsible for the management of InterTradeIreland’s suite of trade programmes including Acumen and elevate, which are aimed at helping SMEs and microbusinesses to identify new market opportunities on the island of Ireland.  

He also has joint responsibility for the InterTradeIreland First Stop Shop initiative, which offers practical advice, guidance and funding to small companies seeking assistance with cross border legal, taxation and marketing issues. 

Paddy is a graduate of the University of Ulster and has been working in economic development since 1987 when he joined the Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board. During this time, his main responsibilities were in relation to helping companies develop new export markets.


Coming next month: A British Exit from European Union - more barriers to overcome? by Thomas Hunter McGowan