You will need to identify your potential customers and their needs, by considering the following factors:
- Who will buy from you? Each marketplace is different. You may find that your overseas customers are in the public sector while those in your home market are small businesses.
- What influences customers' purchasing decisions? This could include culture, age, gender and many other factors. Why do customers buy from you? See our guide on how to know your customers' needs.
- What price can the product profitably sell for? This will influence your pricing and marketing decisions. See our guide on preparing to export.
Researching other countries
When researching potential countries to sell to, you can find information from the following:
- Find out about the support for selling outside Northern Ireland on the Invest NI website.
- UK Trade & Investment provide support and help in planning entry into new overseas markets. Find background information on potential export markets on the UK Trade & Investment website.
- Search for commercially available research on the Market Research World website.
- Trade visits provide first-hand experience.
You need to establish:
- Size of your potential market - this could be limited by population, cultural or economic factors.
- Politics and economics - an unstable political climate or unfavourable trading conditions can make exporting risky.
- Culture - this may affect your selling proposition. Investigate any barriers to your product's success. Will your product be valued the same as at home? Will your customers have the same reasons to buy it?
- Language and etiquette - can you market your product effectively in the local language? Will you have access to professional translators and marketing agencies? It is important to communicate effectively and understand cultural differences.
- Safety and security - the risks presented by local terrorist activities as well as the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. Also, the level of crime in the target market. Find the latest security information on the UK Trade & Investment website.
- You can also find travel and security information in your target market on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.
Trading in Europe
Legislation varies widely in overseas markets and will affect how you sell into them. You must make sure you adhere to local laws. You will also need to consider how you will find and select partners in overseas countries, as well as how you will investigate the freight and communications options available. See the page in this guide on how to research product and packaging changes for export.
However, trading in The European Economic Area (EEA) is much easier as all EEA countries have similar trade laws and free market access which can benefit your business. The EEA includes Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and all the European Union (EU) countries.
You can get advice on laws in any EU country using the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a group of business advice organisations across the EU. You can find your nearest EEN partner organisation on the EEN website.
Invest NI's Passport to Export programme can provide support and help in planning your entry into new overseas markets. Find out about the support for selling outside Northern Ireland on the Invest NI website.