How can your business be successful overseas?

Posted on 26 Feb 2019 by Maddy White

The demand for UK goods and services overseas continues to grow, as exports in the year to October 2018 rose to £626bn. Is your business capitalising on overseas trade? If not, this is how it could be.

exportThe Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 shows that 41% of manufacturers are confident about growing their business through exports. However one-sixth of manufacturers are “unclear” of how to grow their business overseas, with the ‘mushy middle’ accounting for the remaining 43%.

With only 31 days until Brexit, perhaps now more than ever, businesses need to be looking at markets outside of Europe to ensure future stability. But just how to do this remains the pivotal question.

How can your business be a successful exporter?

Telford-based business Filtermist is a manufacturer of oil mist filter units. The company exports 92% of their products to over 60 different territories.

It is a business that has grown 25% year-on-year for the past two years. 30% of its exports go to the US, 40% to Europe and the rest to the Far East.

Manufacturing growth slowed over the three months, but export orders remained well above average - image courtesy of Depsoitphotos.
Filtermist exports around 92% of their products – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

“We have worked traditionally through distributors because that minimises our risk and it is less costly then establishing our own in-country operations. To be a successful exporter, we have done a lot of work identifying and researching different territories where we could be successful,” director of international sales, Stuart Plimmer told The Manufacturer.

He explains the business “committed” to making their products successful overseas by putting in time and resources. “We have worked with one of our distributors in Japan for over 30 years, another in the US for about 40 years – you have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.”

When looking to export to specific markets, it is crucial to research and understand external factors. For example in the food and drink sector, a growing taste for Scotch Whisky in Asia saw exports increase in the first six months of last year to £36.3m (up 34.8%), and exports to India increase by 44.4% to over £56m.

Plimmer explains, “You need to be aware of other factors; culture and where your competitors are situated. For instance a lot of our competitors are based in Italy, so to get traction in Italy we would have to approach the market very differently.”

Case study: Gtech explodes in Taiwan

Grey Technology, known as Gtech, a UK manufacturer of vacuum cleaners and garden tools, achieved global sales of more than £17m in 2017 after taking the Taiwanese market by storm.

The company, which was founded by Grey in 2001 and who had a turnover surpassing £2m in just two years, puts their success down to good design - image courtesy of Gtech.
The company, which was founded by Grey in 2001 and who had a turnover surpassing £2m in just two years, puts their success down to good design – image courtesy of Gtech.

According to the company, revenue more than doubled in the year, with over half of its international growth coming from the country.

Nick Grey, owner and founder of Gtech, previously explained to The Manufacturer about the company’s surprise success in Taiwan.

He said Gtech expanded “so fast” in the UK market that the company actually focused on meeting demands in Britain over exporting globally.

Grey continued: “It was at this time that Kevin Quo – now our Taiwanese distributor – got in touch with us. He was so passionate about the product that I couldn’t say no, so we agreed to send over Gtech Multis for him to try in the market.

“Before I knew it he’d given the Multi to a well-known Taiwanese vlogger and interest sort of exploded! A big chunk of the success is definitely down to Kevin knowing that Taiwanese people are always looking for a cleaner bed, alongside the vlogger and his followers giving the Gtech Multi such good reviews.”

Grey’s tips for winning trade in international markets:

  • Consistent and constant product innovation
  • Meeting market demands & expectations
  • Researching and exploring new markets
  • Social media and digital influencers that act as brand ambassadors for products