Entering overseas markets

Develop an export marketing plan


It's essential to build a detailed export marketing plan, based on market research, for each of your overseas markets. Huge differences between markets and countries prevent the use of a 'one size fits all' approach.

Your export marketing plan should take into account your chosen approach to the market and your plans for logistics, order fulfilment, customer service and supplier management.

Export marketing plan considerations

Investigate your new market and how your product will fit into it. Consider the following questions:

  • What's your priority - minimising potential costs or controlling the process?
  • Do you have the market knowledge (and language skills) to make contacts and generate sales?
  • Do you have the time and money to invest in setting up a local branch or subsidiary?
  • Are there restrictions on the way you can enter the market? For example some countries may insist you form a joint venture with a local business.
  • What is appropriate for your product? If it requires specialist after-sales support, selling through an intermediary may not be suitable.
  • What are the usual distribution channels for products like yours in the target market?

Choose your target export markets

One of the key decisions you will make when exporting is choosing which markets to target. Trying to export to several different countries can be very expensive. Unless you tailor what you offer to suit each individual market, you may fail to offer what customers really want. Instead, it's usually best to focus on selling to one or two individual markets. See country guides: exporting to the EU and country guides: exporting to GB and outside the EU.

Read more about how to choose which export markets to enter.

Visit your target markets

Trade visits are organised visits to target markets. While they provide an excellent opportunity to research overseas markets, you can also use them to generate business.

Invest NI offers a range of services to help businesses going on trade visits to generate advance publicity in their target market. It also offers a range of other advice and financial support. Read more about the available support for exporting.

Research partners, logistics, and infrastructure

The distribution channels available for selling will vary between countries. There are several different ways to enter overseas markets.

Consider the following:

  • How will you be paid by your overseas customers?
  • Will the exchange rate be prone to excessive fluctuation?
  • What's the communications infrastructure like?
  • Does your target market have widespread access to telephones, faxes or the internet?
  • Do you need UK freight forwarders experienced in your chosen market and product?

Read more about getting paid when selling overseas and transport options for moving your goods.

Communicate with customers abroad

As part of your promotion, you may want to communicate directly with customers in your export market. The choice you make will be defined by your budget and how effectively each method will reach the customers in your chosen market. Read more about the basics of advertising.

Alternatively, you may choose to buy in a database of potential customers from a direct mail agency. You should select the agency carefully to ensure you receive high-quality data. Read more about the basics of direct marketing.

Exporting marketing plan template

Download an export marketing plan template (doc, 162KB).

If you are importing, you will need to identify countries to trade with, as well as individual suppliers within those countries. You will also need to consider how you are going to manage overseas suppliers.