All markets are different and your chosen market may present a number of options so far as entry routes are concerned. Often choices are dictated by factors outside your control - legislation, distance, tariffs and duties etc. However, when selecting your approach, consider how your choice could enhance your offer and gain a competitive edge.

  • Direct selling from the UK - even in turbulent times, the UK is still seen as a reliable and trusted source of supply. Traditional values are strong. Goods and services created in the UK and sold directly can have added kudos - even commanding a premium price.
  • Use distributors as resources - exporters often point to the cost of using distributors and hence choose less expensive routes. However, if you are a small exporter, the chances are you are short on resource - particularly time.
    A distributor can handle merchandising, documentation, sales promotions, intelligence gathering, stock holding, after-sales and much more. Of course there will be a cost, but that will be reflected in discounts and reduced margin, rather than direct costs on your business at home.
  • Partners can enhance your status - in your chosen market you may be seen as an unknown quantity where a good agent or distributor may already be well regarded. Partnerships work two ways - being taken on by a respected market partner (who may be much bigger than you) can mean instant reputation.
  • Direct selling can have cultural benefits - understand the culture of your chosen market. How is the business-owner regarded? In some of the more entrepreneurial cultures direct contact with senior management can carry huge advantages over those who employ sales staff.

Build relationships

Whichever route to market you choose, the biggest advantage you can have is the relationships you can build.

If you are selling direct, you have the opportunity to build a powerful community of customers. Happy buyers can become strong advocates for your product or service.

Don’t stop at the sale.

If you are working with partners in market - agents, distributors, licensees or franchisees - your relationships are like gold dust. 

It’s not uncommon to hear exporters complaining of not hearing enough from their market partner. But the question is how much the exporter puts into the partnership? 

People still deal with people. Relationships matter - and in some cultures they are the most critical factor to your success. If you can build better relationships than your competitor you have a huge advantage - at no extra cost.


Ian West