Are you export ready?

THIS year, John Ross Jr will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary.

Over the last three decades we’ve grown the business from a small, family-run smokehouse into a successful international business that exports to 33 countries around the world – and one that won the Queen’s Award for enterprise: International Trade 2016.

In fact the business is almost unrecognisable when compared to when we first opened the doors in 1987. The only two things that remain unchanged are that John Ross Jr is still family owned and managed, and that we still smoke our salmon using traditional kilns dating back to 1857.

And it’s this last point – the provenance and commitment to traditional techniques – that has arguably driven our global success. The good news is that Scotland is a melting pot of companies with a rich heritage and strong story, both of which have huge appeal to an international audience.

For those businesses (food and non-food based) that are thinking of using 2017 as a springboard to launch an export programme, here are seven export tips to help get you ahead of the game.

  1. Be proud of your Scottish credentials

Scotland is home to a high number of manufacturers producing high quality products. As a result – and even before you’ve thought about anything else – you already have a huge amount of value ready to be exploited from the outset.

  1. Get support from the UKTI

The UKTI offers SMEs superb support for overseas market information and can also help with introductions. These can range from fully resourced inward trade missions to specific target introductions.

  1. A partnership approach

Identify strategic international partnerships and target those with a strong reputation and that are aligned with your own brand. Our partnership with one well-known European retailer resulted in our products being supplied in over 700 stores. Remember that a single relationship could unlock the key to hundreds of opportunities.

  1. Get to grips with the basics

We invest in trade shows and a wide spectrum of marketing channels in order to continue building brand awareness, however this typically occurs in established markets. Desktop analysis can be used to filter and target markets that best fit your products and their USPs. It’s also cheaper and less risky to do what you can on home soil before you invest time and money physically visiting prospective markets.

  1. Culture counts

As a company that exports to places such as China, where cultural values are very different from those in Scotland, it pays to do your homework. Make sure you’re aware of what to expect – and what is expected of you – prior to your first meeting.

  1. Never underestimate transport costs

Getting the numbers to work when factoring in transport on a domestic level is one thing, but managing this on an international level and across multiple markets is entirely different. Get to know tariffs, costs and potential pitfalls thoroughly before you commit to something, otherwise you could catch a cold. This is particularly important for businesses like John Ross Jr, which produce perishable products. You really don’t want to find thousands of pounds worth of product sitting on a hot runway in Dubai!

  1. Don’t expect immediate success

If you’re serious about succeeding overseas you need to be in it for the long haul. Building a brand overseas takes time, belief and sometimes a leap of faith, however there is a tipping point and once you reach it you’ll never look back.

Good luck and I wish you the very best for 2017.