Ten steps to successful exporting

1. Decide where to sell

Research is vital! Identify the markets with a little desk research. Find the consumption / import figures of products similar to your own and the economic growth rate of a potential new market. Look up the demographics, cultural and religious practices and your potential competition.

2. Have a plan

Your export plan should include your people.

Your People
Can someone from your team drive this programme or do you need to recruit?

Your Capacity
Do you have enough capacity to meet a new market’s demands? Do you need to upscale?

Your Packaging
Will your packaging design appeal to your market? Is there a legal requirement to label things differently or do you need to translate your labelling?

Your Knowledge
Visit your potential new market. Showcase your products at trade fairs and build new contacts.

3. Choose a route to market

You can do one of four options:

1. Sell directly
2. Use a distributor
3. Use a sales agent
4. Create a joint venture.

Whichever option you chose, you must ensure clarity of responsibility for things like delivery and payment and ALWAYS remember to protect your intellectual property.

4. Find the opportunities

Trade fairs are one of the best ways to find opportunities both in the UK and abroad. Meet buyers and generate new business. Check with us about available grants to subsidise the cost of exhibiting, or see if you can share the cost of a stand with another business.

Click here for hundreds of trade enquiries posted to the site each week.

5. Start marketing

Adverts can help you gain exposure but can be expensive. As with the UK, be mindful of the target audience and expense vs. return on investment. Another option is to create a website with content translated according to your target market. Global social media sites such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter can also help you to promote your message quickly and free of charge. Although these do not cost anything to set up, they need time invested to keep updated. Whatever you use, make sure all your marketing materials have up-to-date contact details for your company along with the person responsible for export sales.

6. Understand the admin

There are certain admin obligations that need to be correct from the start. HMRC and the UK Embassy of the destination country will help you to clarify the requirements for customs registration, forms, and payments.

Documentation is at the very heart of exporting, without it there is no contract, no transport and no payment. The requirements vary from country to country.

We can complete the paperwork on your behalf – in part or in full depending on your requirements. Contact Roy Broadhead, our specialist on Import/Export Services on 0845 034 7200 or email to ask about our back office support services.

There are two main geographic areas that your exports will fall into:

1. European union

Products can move freely across borders without customs checks and we can advise on any paperwork likely to be required. The buyer’s VAT registration number must be shown on the invoice. If this isn’t shown then you must charge VAT at the UK rate.

2. Rest of the world

Exporting outside the EU can open up wider opportunities and create new challenges. Although VAT is simpler (exports from the UK are zero rated) you may encounter Letters of Credit for the first time or come across requirements for specific customs forms. Contact Alison Holmes, our trade procedures expert on 0845 034 7200 or email to check what you need.

7. Get paid and get insured

Once the orders start to come in, you need to be paid. We can help make sure you do that with:


Internationally agreed rules setting out delivery terms for goods traded across borders. Buyer and seller agree details on the terms of sale to prevent misunderstandings or disputes. Incoterms set out responsibility for the cost of transporting goods, insurance, taxes or duties, pick up points, destinations, and responsibility for the goods at each stage.

Export documentation

Get the right documents to enter the market.

Written quotations

A written quotation must set out the details of your product including the size and packaging formats, as well as any potential additional cost for providing export labelling and packaging which you may be charging on to the customer. Setting out the price and delivery terms (incoterms), the estimated date of shipment on arrival and payment terms and conditions is vital to avoid any disputes further down the line. Late, or non-payment of bills is a risk and insurance could be a consideration. Any new customers requesting a form of trade credit need a credit check. An irrevocable letter of credit could be advised which will secure payments according to the terms of the credit and at an agreed rate. Make sure you are insured for your goods during transportation.

8. Legal considerations 

Understanding the legal and regulatory environment in all countries to which you would like to export is vital. We can help get your paperwork in place and put you in touch with international lawyers should it be required.

Things to consider:

Are your product compliance certificates and liability cover valid overseas?
Check your intellectual property rights and registered trademarks.

9. Transport logistics

Now you’ve made the sale and agreed the terms, you have to get the goods there! We can help make sense of transportation. From your Incoterms insurance, duties and customs clearance, to the packaging you require and the method(s) of transport or freight forwarders required.

10. Success!

Congratulations. Now you have successfully become an international exporter. The work doesn’t stop here. Now you need to increase your chances of repeat business and become a reliable international exporter with a solid brand.

Top tips include:

  • Keep in regular contact with your customers and get feedback to improve your offer.
  • Deliver on time and don’t keep people waiting. If delays cannot be avoided make sure you communicate early and often with your customers and keep them updated on progress.

Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep an eye on other potential customers so that you can grow your sales. Continue with your promotional activity and keep visiting the tradeshows.

What’s next?

Now that you are successfully exporting into one market use everything that you have learnt and apply that to another new market. Explore adjacent countries or those with similar characteristics. You already have a very good understanding of what it takes to become successful so your exploration into additional markets should be quicker and potentially easier for you to continue with your expansion and growth.

New to export?

International shipping is not as simple or as inexpensive as UK deliveries.

You also have added complexities along with getting paid, documentation and logistics to think about.

We can do it all for you. 

Click here to find out more