Guest Blog: Three golden rules for an SME embarking on international export

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Today's Guest Blog is from Sarah Brown, founder of Pai skincare

March's EEF National Manufacturing Conference is fast approaching, and I'm delighted to be taking part in the afternoon's ‘Exporting from Britain' panel session.

I founded Pai Skincare back in 2007, originally manufacturing from a converted garage in West London. Six years on and we now directly supply 20 international markets, and ship to online customers in over 50. It's fair to saw we've learnt a few lessons along the way!

Reflecting on my experience, here are the top three tips I'd give any small business embarking on selling overseas.

1. Protect your brand

Entering a new market can be costly, with one big outlay being Intellectual Property protection. Make sure your trademarks are properly registered in any new market you're entering.

2. Operate like a local supplier

Whether you're selling B2B or B2C, ensure the purchasing process is just as easy for a customer in New York as it is for a customer in Northampton. This means doing your homework on carriers, customs and potential warehousing options so that you can deliver a cost-effective, fast and hassle-free service.

Make sure your final RRP takes into account all these cost variables or you can quickly erode your profit margin.

3. Focus

Every entrepreneur has ambitions to grow fast and furiously. But if you don't have the budget and team resources to support aggressive international expansion plans then focus on getting just one or two markets right at a time.

If you're completely new to export, select a “test” market where you're prepared to fail. Ideally it should be small and accessible for you to visit regularly. For Pai, the Danish market was ideal; most people speak good English so we could use existing English packaging and materials, and the modest population size meant we could employ cost-effective PR tactics to raise brand awareness quickly.

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