5 August, 2013 - 09:41 By News Desk

Companies urged to spread their net wider

There’s never been a better time to sell overseas: The internet has helped create a readily accessible global marketplace offering a vast array of opportunities for firms to export from their UK base.

It’s easier than ever for small businesses to connect directly with overseas customers through e-commerce. SMEs harnessing the web and social media can increase sales and fuel the export growth we are looking for.

It’s pretty rare to find a UK-based business that doesn’t have a website and many are well plugged into social media to boost business at home, but the international dimension is perhaps less familiar.

With the right use of social media you can have conversations around the world, direct people from anywhere in the world to your website and get friends and followers to do some of your marketing for you – a powerful tool given that 90 per cent of people trust peer recommendations while only 14 per cent say they are convinced by advertisements.

As with any other form of selling, knowing your target market is vital. For example, if your target is China, then it’s essential to know that, although main western sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN are banned, there are alternatives like the Chinese Twitter, Weibo with 140 million users.

If high growth market Brazil is where your customers are based then social media could be a key tool. There are 23 million Facebook users in Brazil and efforts are being made to provide free internet access in some of the main cities to boost the number of Brazilians with access to the internet.

Youtube is the second biggest search engine in the world – so is there a way of communicating your product or service with an interesting video? After all a picture is worth 1000 words!

Some companies find themselves exporting by accident, simply because their website is visible to potential customers overseas. That can be a mixed blessing if you don’t use it as a spur to get you planning properly for international success.

You have to think about delivery, currency conversion and handling enquiries in different languages. You also have to navigate regulatory issues (you might get away with posting a jar of jam to a customer in the US but a big order would need FDA approval) and protect your intellectual property.

And when you decide to really go for e-exporting there are issues like marketing your products effectively and making the most of the myriad of professional services available to support growth. UKTI, with its advisers here and commercial teams in 100-plus markets worldwide, can help with all this.

UKTI is offering more and more help with e-export. As well as our Export Communications Review service which will help you adapt your website for an international audience, we will be running a number of SEO optimisation workshops in the autumn and there is more to come as the year progresses.

I’d encourage any firm out there not already exporting to get in touch with us to see if we can help. To find out if UKTI can help your business expand overseas call: 0845 641 9955; email  info [at] uktieast.org.uk  or visit  UKTI.gov.uk

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