Importing and exporting essentials

8 Top tips

1. Seek advice

‘Speak to other businesses about their experiences as well as the usual experts,’ says Ian Cass, managing director of the Forum of Private Business. And tap into the knowledge of the DIT, says Simon Duffy, co-founder of Bulldog. ‘They helped us to filter out the good leads from the hobbyists and checked that we’d thought through aspects of intellectual property, getting paid, contracts, law and so on.’

2. Write an export plan

Outline your objectives, strategy and preparations for selling your product or service in a new or existing overseas market. It will also help you evaluate risks and benefits and give you a clearer idea of the resources you’ll need. If you’re already established in one country overseas, consider how the experience you’ve gained there might be useful in another market with similar culture or languages.

3. Visit your target markets

You need to understand local differences so you can tailor your products to the region’s culture. Don’t assume that what flies off the shelves in Britain will do well overseas. The British Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Commerce Network run trade missions to the world’s biggest and fastest-growing markets.

4. Research on and offline

There are various B2B websites that offer a straightforward channel for importers seeking overseas suppliers, but not all online directories are vetted equally. Importers need to put work into qualifying suppliers to ensure they’re legitimate. A safer alternative is attending a trade fair, where thousands of suppliers display their products.

5. Hammer out the right import deal

Understanding your supplier’s priorities, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses, will help you negotiate the best deal. For example, you could offer to pay more promptly in return for a good price if you know that they have a healthy cash position. In some cultures, it is necessary to build a relationship in advance of striking an import deal.

6. Ensure you have the right international payments solution in place

Look for a solution that allows you to send and receive funds online, while managing the risks that come with currency fluctuations. You could also receive rate alerts via email or text message when a specific rate for your chosen currency is available or lock in exchange rates with forward contracts.

7. Match your need to the right kind of export finance

The government’s Exporting is GREAT portal includes links to online finance platforms, which represent hundreds of FCA-regulated and approved UK lenders. If you’ve been trading for under two years, you may be eligible for a variety of start-up loans or could benefit from crowdfunding options.

8. Think logistics

Will you handle it by yourself, or work with a third party, such as a freight forwarder? If you have a smaller number of easily transportable products you may be able to work with UK parcel carriers without outside help. But if you’re working with products in any volume, it’s likely you’ll save time and money by using a freight forwarder.