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How Trade Missions Can Help SME’s Target Global Growth

The government wants more small firms to export products and services and a trade mission is the best way in.

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The government wants more small firms to export products and services and a trade mission is the best way in.

Opinions

How Trade Missions Can Help SME’s Target Global Growth

The government wants more small firms to export products and services and a trade mission is the best way in.

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Global Britain is much more than a clever marketing slogan dreamed up to promote a post-Brexit vision of business where our best companies trading abroad will drive the nation forward to increasing economic prosperity. Global Britain is a here now and is playing out in front of our eyes.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics shows that nearly 10% of UK SMEs export, with the number of companies doing so increasing by 6% annually. And a significant shift is that newer businesses are looking to export at an earlier stage of their development.

This was certainly true for my company, Smartology, where we quickly realised that our greatest opportunity was outside the UK.

With commercial offices in New York and Singapore and sales staff in Sydney and Dubai, the Department of International Trade has been a valuable partner in terms of advising us on international expansion and introducing us to commercial contacts on the ground in the various regions.

So how can a resource stretched start-up navigate the export maze and paperwork needed to start exporting. For the uninitiated here, I’m talking about understanding different company incorporation processes, tax regimes, insurance requirements, certifications and that dreaded ‘tariff’ word here.

A key element in setting-up overseas is using Government Trade Missions to help foster links abroad. The benefits of Trade Missions to a smaller company are myriad, for example while you may have to pay for your flights, you’ll get a series of meetings lined up with relevant contacts.

Trade missions can also help you to forge a network in your target country and act as a door opener to prospects, investors and, importantly, your future staffers.

We learned first-hand that no matter how good your offering is within any market in which you are looking to break in to, if you don’t have experienced, professional and like-minded team with an understanding of the local culture then then you'll be in trouble.

With this in mind, here are five ways that small businesses can benefit from Government Trade Missions:

1) They put you in front of the right people

We joined a Department for International Trade (DIT) AI trade mission to New York, which proved invaluable in providing access to high-level business contacts and international trade experts.

The DIT also paid for a stand at the NY AI Summit which hosted more than 3,000 attendees with insight into AI solutions spanning industries. These events can put your business in front of exactly the people you need in order to grow your user base internationally.

At the recent DIT Mission to the Cannes Lions Festival they also partnered up with The Mayor’s International Business Programme and the Advertising Association which provided a strong platform of support including industry expertise which was very useful.

2) They break down cultural barriers

One of the biggest challenges that SMEs face when looking to grow internationally is understanding cultural nuances of doing business.

Trade missions help overcome these challenges by arranging for you to speak to local experts including lawyers and accountants about how to go about setting up a company there. If you find these guys yourself, you’re never too sure if you’re getting the best advice, but we knew we could trust the people we were put on to by the DIT.

3) They save valuable team resource

While trade missions act as an excellent door opener, they are also an incredibly effective use of resource. From our perspective, we’re not tying up people from our 30 strong London office in trying to set up meetings cold. This is a headache with no guarantees of success.

4) They are incredibly cost effective: While you may have to fork out for your flights for trade missions, there is always a schedule of networking events and dinners beyond the one-to-one meetings.

If considering setting up a business in a new region there is a significant time and cost saving in being introduced to key partners to advise on the key steps involved and supporting you through the often-complex process.

5) They help in building visibility

The halo effect of being part of a Government trade mission shouldn’t be underestimated. You’ll be in official Government press releases, be mentioned (or even have a profile) on their website and you’ll also benefit from an onsite communications teams who will be on hand set up meetings and interviews with key sector journalists.

Despite the uncertainty of our future trading relationship with the EU, the Government is committing to increasing the proportion of GDP earned through exporting from 30 per cent to 35 per cent. Key to this is getting more

SMEs to set up export operations of their own and the Government sees Trade Missions are central to this strategy.

My advice is to find an official partner, get out there and make those high-level international contacts that will smooth your journey to global growth.

Mark Bembridge, CEO of Smartology, a contextual adtech and AI firm.

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How Trade Missions Can Help SME’s Target Global Growth

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