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Entrepreneur Q1 2023

Higher growth potential for small businesses in the export market

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Jirapong Manustrong

Simon McKeever

Chief Executive, Irish Exporters Association

The export market provides businesses with the potential to grow through sourcing and attracting new customers from outside Ireland.

Exporting has many potential advantages including increased innovation, spreading market risk and, ultimately, increased profit. However, many small businesses may struggle to understand how to start this journey.

Start with export market research

Knowing whether there is demand for your product or service is the crucial first step. Before you jump on that plane and expend resources (time and money), a little desk research is a good place to start; and various agencies provide support. Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices have a range of country and sector reports for early-stage and high-potential exporters.

Identifying in-market supports such as the Irish Embassies overseas, local Chambers and connecting with other Irish companies already in-market is vital. Consider Northern Ireland — our 8th biggest export market — and InterTrade Ireland which provides a range of support to companies looking for trading partners in the other jurisdiction.

Knowing whether there is demand for your
product or service is the crucial first step.

Plan and strategise for an export market

Deciding if your product or service is suitable for an export market is essential. Your export plan should include:

  • Sales and marketing: Identifying your customer, engagement opportunities and competitor analysis. Pricing, packaging and labelling requirements.
  • Legal and regulatory: Is your product or service legally exportable? What about tax, patents and trademarks? Are there different regulatory standards in the export market you must comply with?
  • Route to market: Will you sell directly or via an agent/distributor? Do you need an e-commerce strategy?
  • Logistics and transport: Mode of transport, customs requirements, Incoterms. How will you deliver the product?
  • Do you have the resource capacity to deliver the potential extra sales? This could include plants, equipment, raw materials, technology and — most importantly — people.
  • Finance requirements: Funding and cost forecasting. Do you have the requisite funds for this expansion? If not, can you get it? The last thing you need after all of your efforts is to win a large order and then realise you cannot fulfil it.

Maximise investment and connection opportunities

Our support provides companies with an opportunity to be part of a community of fellow international trade professionals and businesses — sharing and understanding potential risks and opportunities that may lie ahead. While getting to grips with the overseas market can take time, SMEs that make this investment typically reap the rewards of spreading their wings.

The Irish Exporters Association supports exporters at each stage of their export journey: member-to-member connections, events, webinars, training courses, legalisation of documentation, business visas, translation services and assistance.

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