In the last 50 years, increasingly speedy transport links and the internet have broadened business horizons, helping to bring the world to the doorstep of businesses big and small – and as the world has shrunk, the opportunities for exporting have grown.

According to FSB research carried out last year, around a fifth of small businesses already export, but many more businesses that could be exporting are missing out on the opportunity.

If you’re considering exporting or it’s an area you’re just venturing into, here are five top tips to ensure your exporting adventure goes smoothly.   

Do your market research and get exporting adviceExporting Tips For SMEs

Hopefully, you’ll have done some market research when you started up your business; now you need to hit the research again, discovering which countries have customers, other businesses or distributors who may be interested in your products.

The Export Britain website, run by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has a wealth of useful information for businesses on the entire exporting process, including snapshots of key markets around the world, while the BCC’s own site has useful market guide publications.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) also has great.gov.uk, a site aimed specifically at businesses looking to begin exporting.

Do your legal research and check out trade regulations

You’ll need to make sure that you understand what documentation, taxes and fees will be required to export your products, including legal restrictions and the differing product testing, safety and security regulations in other countries. This sounds daunting, but the DIT’s own site has a compliance section with detailed guidance.

Do your packaging research

Think carefully about how you can package your products to make them secure while keeping the package size and weight down. This is a task best done in conjunction with the point below, as different shipping companies will offer a variety of options, deals and bespoke packaging guidance.

Do your shipping research

The cost of shipping your products will be a major factor in your export decisions. You need to have a precise idea of how much your products weigh and what size packages you’ll be exporting before you start your shipping research.

Shop around until you find a company that offers the versatility and value for money that you require; companies that offer the best deal for major exporters won’t always be the most competitive for smaller shipments.

Many companies offer customised and/or printable shipping labels; some even offer packaging. Most will have their own packaging guidance, which you should follow carefully.               

Consider finance and export insurance

Finance to cover your new venture could be a wise move and you’ll have to think about insurance too. The DIT’s Great Gov site has a useful section on this side of the export process, including a detailed look at your finance options and advice on export insurance.

It will be more important than ever to ensure you have anytime, anywhere access to real time financial information, so if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to find an accountant that offers free cloud accounting software, keeping you up-to-date with your financial situation at all times.

Finally, get as much advice and support as you can!  Network with other businesses who already export and learn from their successes and failures. You may even find that partnering up with another local business could reduce your shipping costs. The Federation of Small Businesses also has helpful advice, including this downloadable PDF.

Good luck!