Guide to exporting | Royal Bank of Scotland

Guide to exporting

Whether you’re new to exporting or you’d like to export more, discover a wealth of opportunity


Technology makes it easy to communicate and trade the world over. New export markets are constantly opening - and not just for big business. Small, niche operators are discovering large opportunities in export. Whatever your reason for exporting, the good news is that there’s never been a better time to start - or grow your exporting activity.

Through our working relationship with UK Trade & Investment and other partners, we support both new export businesses as well as those already trading internationally. Our export guide gives you an overview of conducting business overseas, whether you’re starting out or growing your export activity. It covers the main things to think about along with links to more detailed information where you require it.

Top tips for exporters


Icon expand Are you new to exporting?

Typically, there are eight main benefits to exporting:

1. Business growth
Trading overseas can open up new high growth markets. Getting the right help can make a big difference. Exporters using UKTI’s help are around 50 per cent more likely to enjoy faster growth. In a comprehensive survey carried out by the group, 85% of businesses reported that exporting had provided growth not possible in UK markets alone.*

2. Exposure to new ideas
Overcoming language and cultural differences can pay dividends for your business. Companies that recognise and adapt to challenging new environments export over 45 per cent more of their turnover. 70% of companies found that overseas business led to fresh ideas and innovation, upgrading their products and services.*

3. British business, products and services are in high demand
British products and services carry a reputation for quality and broad global appeal. As a result British exports enjoy high demand in traditional, established export markets like Europe and the US. They also perform well in the high-growth BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

4. Improve profile and credibility
When you sell your product or service in overseas markets like Europe, the US, the Far East and elsewhere you’ll enjoy a significant halo effect. Your credibility and reputation can significantly improve as a result. In a UKTI survey, 87% of UKTI clients said exporting significantly improved their profile and credibility.*

5. Access more customers to lessen competition and spread your risk
Expanding into the EU can create access to over 500 million new customers. When you explore opportunities in India and China, this figure reaches into the billions. Considering the competitive nature of the UK market, moving away from domestic dependence can make very good business sense.

6. Offset seasonal fluctuations
48% of businesses surveyed said that foreign trade has increased their return on investment from new products and services.*Whilst many businesses reach a saturation point in the UK, exporting abroad can not only extend a business lifespan with new audiences, but it can also balance out seasonal fluctuations in demand for your product or service.

7. Exporting can benefit businesses of all sizes
The internet has opened the doors to exporting for small businesses. Thousands of small businesses already trade with traditional markets like Europe and the US and lucrative, high-growth markets like those of the BRIC economies.

8. A wealth of government support makes exporting simple
The government has a strong commitment to supporting UK businesses seeking new export markets. Heavy government investment has gone into improving the services available – particularly via bodies like the UKTI and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Important information

Bringing home the benefits: How to grow through exporting. Published March 2012 by UK Trade & Investment.


Icon expand Getting started exporting

Selling overseas represents an exciting proposition for many businesses. Naturally, there's a lot to consider, like researching your chosen market, finding export/import partners, understanding country specific trade rules and legislation. Here are 12 key points you need to think about before getting started:

1. Research your overseas markets
As you would domestically, take the time to research potential overseas markets. Assess the demand for your goods, potential for growth, competition and appropriate pricing. Once you’ve settled on a market, you should learn everything you can about it – the culture, the economic and political environment, customs, regulations, how business is conducted etc. Trade advisers in organisations like the UKTI or Chambers of Commerce can advise which markets have the most potential for your business. They can also help with overseas visits, offering services like finance, interpreters, introductions to potential business partners, help with identifying local agents/distributors, etc.

2. Tackle one new market at a time 
Don't stretch yourself too thinly: focus your time, effort and money into the one market you're confident you can succeed in.

3. Get to know your overseas customers 
Make sure you understand their commercial environment - just as importantly, get to know their customs, culture and markets. What is considered good manners in the UK isn't necessarily true overseas.

4. Be prepared for different documentary requirements 
Different countries often require different types of documentations over and above those usually demanded.

5. Consider the different ways you can sell goods overseas 
You have a range of options for selling goods overseas. When starting out, it may be easier to look for a partner who already understands the market, for example:

 - Sell to a distributor who then sells your products locally
 - Use a sales agent who sells products on your behalf, or introduces customers for a commission
 - Enter into a joint venture with a local business
 - If you want complete control over sales, you can set up your own local office.

6. Define your strategy for selling overseas
Your strategy for getting your product or service to an overseas market will vary depending upon what you offer, where it’s going and your level of involvement in the exporting. Usually you have 4 options:

 - Sell direct from the UK 
 - Trade via distributors 
 - Employ agents 
 - Create a joint venture

7. Check the copyright on your products 
Patents and trademarks are only recognised and protected in their country of origin, so you’ll need to secure additional protection in each market you intend to export to.

8. Check your customer's ability to pay
Can you be sure that your customer is credit-worthy? If you have concerns about their ability to pay, you might ask them for an export letter of credit - or even cash up front - and receive your funds earlier.

9. Protect yourself against payment default and delay
You’ll encounter various risks in overseas markets, from payment issues to exchange rate fluctuations. There are a number of ways we can help you manage these risks. For example, the right insurance can protect against non-payment and political or economic upheaval.

10. Customise your marketing
Different countries have different rules concerning marketing and advertising; what works in the UK may not work overseas. There are various aspects to consider like language and cultural differences. Take the time to check with an international marketing expert.

11. Select your transportation methods wisely
It's absolutely vital that your goods are insured, whether by you or by the importer. Freight forwarders often offer the most sensible option for shipping abroad. They handle the potentially complex aspects of logistics and paperwork. If you decide to take responsibility for delivery, you can find helpful advice from trade advisers like UKTI.

12. Nurture solid relationships
It’s important that your business regularly liaises with your customers, agents or partners. It’s also important to monitor the economic and political environment in the destination country. This way you can respond in a timely way to local changes that may impact your trade operations.


Icon expand Growing your export business

We’ve helped thousands of UK businesses to expand their exporting activity. Through experience, we’ve identified a range of common issues that you might face – along with a few ideas on how you might handle them.

Finding the right overseas customers
The key to success in new overseas markets lies in finding the right customers. Once you identify who are the best potential customers for your product, you need to work out where they are and what’s the best way to reach them. Fortunately, there’s a lot of expert advice and support available to help you Visit UK Trade & Investment UKTI, British Chambers of Commerce BCC, UK Export Finance UKEF, Institute of export IOE and British Exporters Association BeXa to find out more. For live business opportunities visit the Exporting is Great website.

Finding the right overseas business partners
As in any business venture, it’s always important to work with the right people. Not only customers but of course partners and third party providers as well. You’ll find plenty of support on this matter at the UKTIs Overseas Market Introduction Services. Here, you’ll find support during overseas visits, finding potential business partners and making key contacts. Our International Trade advisers can also be a valuable source of contacts and information.

As you expand your overseas operations into new markets, you may find a range of issues that you don’t have to deal with in the UK market or your other export markets. As long as you can manage these issues, you can reap the rewards of expanding your exports whilst mitigating any risks.

Some of the typical issues you’ll face include:

  • legal, regulatory and customs issues
  • payment issues (RBS has services to help)
  • language and cultural barriers
  • underestimating exchange rate risks
  • logistics

There are a range of strategies that can help you manage these challenges. Some of the most effective include:

  • talk to the trade experts
  • attend international trade fairs
  • make your website export-friendly
  • use online marketplaces
  • learn from other exporters
  • use social media

Exporting is GREAT

We’re proud to support the UK Government’s five year campaign to inspire and assist more businesses to sell their goods and services overseas.

Gain access to live international business opportunities, training sessions, business seminars and other events as well as specialist trade services. Every day in every country around the world, there is someone somewhere who wants or needs a UK product or service. The demand is out there, you could be too.

Explore international trade support and opportunities

At first buying and selling internationally can seem a daunting process. Working with the right partners can help you branch out to overseas markets with confidence. Visit these UK-based organisations for the right support when you're exploring trade opportunities in new international markets.

Resources - useful links - bite-size knowledge

Institute of Export

Knowledge in bite-size chunks is a series of education modules from the Institute of Export. Each module covers a different area of international trade.

Sign up for one of their in-house courses and benefit from 20% off – just use the discount code rbs20.

View courses at the Institute of Export


If you’ve still got questions about international trade, GuruOnline may have the answers.

Popular topics – such as importing, exporting, currency, language and legal issues – are covered in a series of short video explanations.

View the videos at GuruOnline

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