Fri 19 / 03 / 21
Exporting post-Brexit: have great expectations!
Jill Woolf, Managing Director of Chimera Communications, has shared some key takeaways from our recent panel event, Practical steps for exporting in a post-Brexit world – the latest in our From Brighton with Love business support programme.
By Jill Woolf of Chimera Communications
I am always delighted when I attend an event and it surpasses my expectations. I have become a Zoom-bie in recent months, but Practical steps for exporting in a post-Brexit world was one of those events where I was attentive throughout.
The panel was brought to the city’s business sector by the Chamber, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership. The panelists were articulate, engaging, knowledgeable and motivating. They were honest about their own experiences, good and bad, and generous in giving advice and practical tips.
Here are some takeaways from the session. They’ll act as a reminder if you attended, or a taster to tempt you to join the remaining events in the programme if you weren’t there.
The panelists were:
- Jeff Hayward, Director, Wildwood PR
- Liz Spencer-Phillips, Founding Director and MD, Caburn Hope
- Karl Barrett, Financial & Production Manager, Roja Parfums
- Chloe McKenna, Director, Oban International
Jeff Hayward, Wildwood PR
Jeff’s agency is a multi-award-winning PR and digital marketing agency. He explained how he started with an interest in exporting to the US in 2012. His bank encouraged him to connect with the local Department for International Trade (DIT) representative and investigate grant funding and business support. He had to identify specific companies with whom he wanted to work and give a list to the DIT who would approach the companies on his behalf.
He had to agree a funding package, pay the DIT a relatively small amount of money, and the DIT set up meetings in the US. Jeff added some additional meetings to the list, flew to the US, saw the contacts, and still has some of those clients today.
Jeff’s top tips:
- Find a good fit for your business
- Now is absolutely the right time to export – there are plenty of opportunities out there so don’t miss out
- The Government will “bust a gut” to help businesses following Brexit
- It’s a global marketplace now so there’s no reason why a company like his can’t export
Liz Spencer-Phillips, Caburn Hope
After starting out as a Marketing Services agency 28 years ago, Liz’s company decided they needed to stand out, so they carved a niche in employee communications. The company was working for global companies based in the UK so viewed the marketplace as one big borderless global one.
Liz’s top tips:
- There’s still a huge cachet about being a British company so choose countries who love all things English
- The barriers are language (try your best to learn a few words), currency (easy to deal with these days) and the rest is logistical (research the rules)
- Once you get one client, find five more in the area and connect with them - LinkedIn is full of opportunities, so once you start working with a client, you’ll find you get requests to connect from more businesses in that country
- Do your research – Government sites are fantastic
- Speak to the finance department in your target client’s business to find out how payment will work and always talk about VAT
- You may lose money on exchange rates so factor that in when quoting
- Be prepared for cultural differences, for example, use of email, speed of doing things and always work their way
- Be aware of time zones and local laws
- Be very clear on your working hours such as bank holidays etc
- Watch out for country-specific nuances e.g. Germany is really tight on GDPR
- Put export on top of your agenda – do it on purpose rather than by accident
Karl Barrett, Roja Parfums
Karl’s company has 1700 product lines and is in the luxury perfume business. He said he and his colleagues were in a state of panic on 1st January this year post-Brexit and had to galvanise themselves into action to stay in business.
The business experienced problems with delivery of goods to Europe post-Brexit and took a big hit in the first week but learned so much in return. He spent time researching solutions and spoke to key service partners to see how best to get everything moving again.
Karl highlighted that working through these issues, he’s found a huge and unexpected breadth of opportunity to export to new markets both inside and outside Europe. He realised it’s important to work with companies in other markets which have expertise where he doesn’t.
Globally online sales grew by 300%. This growth is important as you get the cash straight away. Consequently, he’s put a much bigger budget this year into global advertising – focusing where the company isn’t known.
- Big companies weren’t agile enough to instigate enough change post-Brexit – small companies are
- Put the customer first in everything – if you were buying your product/service, look at what would you need and want
- Make sure you have enough margin to be able to export
- Communicate with customers about (for example) the VAT situation, so they’re aware of your difficulties and what you’re doing to put things right
Chloe McKenna, Oban International
Oban International helps grow businesses internationally through digital marketing.
- Understand who your customer and audience are - your UK audience can look very different from your customer abroad
- Consider how local people look for your type of business/brand - SEO, brand perception, consumer expectations, and marketing will be different market to market
- Be aware of cultural nuances in different countries when marketing because small changes can have a massive impact
- Research via free sites like Google Keyword Search to see what people are interested in and what they’re searching for
- Be aware of translations and use native speakers rather than automated versions especially if you’re going to have a localised website
After hearing from the expert speakers, delegates broke out into discussion groups.
Tips from the break-outs:
Use your network or join a Chamber in the area you’re interested in - find a ‘local’ expert, or someone who’s done it before, and ask for advice. Don’t use a blanket marketing or business strategy for every market, make sure to do your research on local buyer behaviours, local payment customs and pricing, local competition and so on.
Next practical steps:
- Start exploring export as an option
- Take the time to assess/review how you portray yourself - for example, check the language on your website, is it too local/regional/national
- Register / set up a distribution hub in Europe to avoid VAT horrors
- Use the Chamber’s From Brighton with Love programme as a catalyst and group of exporters to work together to go out into the world and export
Written by Jill Woolf - Chamber Vice-President and Managing Director of leading strategic PR and communications consultancy Chimera Communications.
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