International trade, trade missions and trade fairs alike are a hot topic of discussion at the moment as a route to stimulate growth in the flat domestic market.

Furthermore, with the Welsh Government expected to announce over 60 trade missions imminently, opportunities to take part in a trade mission have never been greater for Welsh businesses.

To mark the launch of an official partnership between Wales World Wide and the South and Mid Chamber of Commerce, Wales World Wide hosted a business brainstorm to find the top then tips for businesses participating in a trade mission.

Around 40 guests made up of experienced Welsh-based exporting businesses and export advisors alike shared top tips with businesses that were looking to go on their first trade mission.  Here’s what they came up with.

1.     Identify the opportunity

Recognise the opportunities and be enthusiastic about them. The UK market is flat, but there is growth in many other markets. Identify what country provides your business with the biggest market opportunity and have the confidence to go for it!

2.     Know your strategy

The internet has seen some businesses become opportunist exporters, as firms are able to receive and send orders by mail; however, it is the strategic exporters who are the backbone of making the economy strong. Businesses need to be strategic, and know their USP. Go in with a clear plan of how you will ‘break into the market’, and you will reap the rewards.

3.     Identify

Ahead of the trade mission it is important to line up the people you want to meet and try to secure a timeslot to do so before leaving.

4.     Are you ‘export ready’?

Businesses must ask themselves a few basic questions ahead of a trade mission. What capacity have you got to fill/deliver an order? How quickly can you meet an order? What are you putting in place on your website to look as international as possible? How are you pricing your product? Strategic exporters must protect their reputation, so knowing your capacity is vital.

5.     Leave some room in the diary

Businesses also need to be flexible to make room for extra appointments when you are on a trade mission – prearranged business meetings often lead to further referrals and you never know when additional opportunities will arise once you are out there.

6.     Take time to explore the landscape

On a trade mission, the journey of discovery is just as important the actual execution of an order. Businesses should spend time visiting competitors to get a feel for what it is like on the ground in a new market.

7.     Research the market

Businesses must know their market. If you are entering into a contract you must seek advice from local lawyers – don’t assume your t&c’s at home will be the same in an international market. Also seek advice from the Embassy of the country you are looking to export to. Not only will they be able to tell you key information about the marketplace, but they may also be able to pass on invaluable advice on culture and the way to present yourself in meetings, whether that be how to greet people, or even how to exchange business cards.

8.    Look for a local partner

For a small firm entering a new market a partner is priceless. Keeping people engaged on the ground in your product makes market entry much easier, and a good local partner can help you do that. Equally important is choosing the right partner. Make sure, if you do choose one, that there brand and image fits in with yours, or even that their politics does no prohibit you from securing government contracts.

9.     Make use of the web

Travelling overseas can be very costly, but internet and technology platforms can provide an excellent and easy way to communicate with partners/customers across multiple countries and keeps the dialogue with overseas contacts on-going without needing to fly out every week. YouTube is the second biggest search engine for under 30s and provides a good way of showcasing your product or services on a medium understood across the globe.

10.    Follow up!

You need to make time to follow up with contacts after you return from a trade mission. Be committed so your trail doesn’t go cold.

Of course, there were many more tips and anecdotal experiences shared on the morning, and there are many more to be shared. There are simply some things that you can only learn by speaking to businesses that have been there and done it.

Wales World Wide would encourage all members to use the Meeting Place to share their experiences and advice with those who are just beginning to dip their toe into exporting, or who are entering a new market.