Overcoming international uncertainty through a bullet-proof strategy

UK exports rose 11.5% to £625.9bn in the last year, according to the Office for National Statistics – highlighting just how critical exporting is to both employment and business growth nationally.

A new report jointly developed by PwC and the Chartered Institute of Marketing discovered that SMEs that already sell goods and services overseas, and particularly those with an export strategy, are confident of achieving further business growth in the next three years.

However, the same report also discovered that only a third of the companies surveyed had an export strategy, whilst potential exporters are deterred by a range of other challenges.

The results highlighted that 40% of companies experienced challenges in adapting their existing strategy to different international cultures and markets. A further 33% cited a lack of confidence in approaching new markets, whilst 30% highlighted a lack of contacts in new markets as the primary barriers to exporting.

With the UK Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility forecasting that Brexit-induced uncertainty will cause export growth to flatline between 2020 and 2022, there is an urgent need for the marketing industry as a whole to work together to help companies overcome these challenges.

Genoa Black has assisted a range of companies across multiple sectors to help them grow their business, market themselves on an international scale and win new contracts. The common obstacles many businesses face when trying to internationalise has led us to develop the ‘International Breakthrough’ programme, a four-day, peer learning course that gives companies practical solutions alongside a clear and actionable growth plan to help maximise their potential overseas.

We have found that creating a common thread between a business’ international strategy, their marketing activity and the bottom line through a strategy and plan that is measurable, realistic and timebound should be the first step for any business considering selling their products or services overseas.

Having a clear international strategy and focus will also help companies structure their objectives - from raising awareness initially in-market, to becoming ‘front of the customers’ mind’, all the way through to customer contact, engagement, consideration of the business as a potential ‘supplier’ right to the point where the order is placed, or a PO is raised.

Working through this process in advance dramatically reduces risks and uncertainties, whilst having a customised strategy ensures it can be adapted to reflect different social and cultural norms as new opportunities arise.

Marketing certainly plays a dominant role in helping businesses to export, and it is claimed that for every £1 spent on marketing in Scotland, there is a £5 contribution to the country’s economy.

According to the ‘Advertising Pays Scotland’ report of 2016, the £1.7bn spent on advertising the previous year meant a total of £8.8bn was contributed to the Scottish GDP - representing 5.6% of the Scottish economy.

The marketing industry itself has a long legacy of attracting and developing staff with diverse skills from different backgrounds. As such, it is ideally positioned to support businesses overcome the challenges of exporting by equipping them with the tools, techniques and confidence to make their international strategy a success and help them reach new heights.

Claire Kinloch, managing director, Genoa Black

Claire Kinloch, managing director, Genoa Black