Business for the First Time

One of the biggest challenges currently facing small business owners is dealing with the decrease in demand in their home market. Exporting is clearly one option, which can significantly help increase turnover and enhance business performance. For a first-time exporter, trading in Northern Ireland is the perfect place to begin, writes Thomas Hunter McGowan from InterTradeIreland.

Northern Ireland holds many advantages for businesses based in the Republic of Ireland (and vice-versa). It is geographically closer than our other European neighbours, and there are no language barriers. Cross-border trade is currently valued at €3.048bn – so substantial opportunities exist in both jurisdictions.

Here are some tips to get you started:


1. Take stock of your performance in your home market

  • Identify the challenges and opportunities (SWOT analysis).
  • How do you perform at home?
  • How well have you the home market covered geographically?
  • How do you compare against your competitors?
  • Do you supply all the multiples – are any markets closed to you?
2. Discuss with your team the opportunities and challenges of entering a new market
  • Lead the exercise yourself unless you really believe someone else in the team is better equipped to do this.
  • Discuss why you want to extend and grow (have facts and figures to hand).
  • Identify your readiness.
  • Fix any blockages.
  • Identify all challenges.
  • Set ambitious but achievable targets.
  • Identify rewards that will arise from new markets.
3. Visit your target marketplace
  • Spend time in your target marketplace.
  • Meet and talk to as many relevant people as possible, even if they are unlikely to be immediate clients or customers. They are all sources of invaluable market information.
  • Understand the retail or distribution channels for your product.
  • Examine competitors closely.
  • Get as much detail on “price” as possible: End or retail price, wholesale price, discounts
  • Understand the marketing and promotional approach of suppliers and retailers.
  • Estimate volume.
  • Size the work (the scale of the task in hand).
  • Note any differences from your home market.
4. Engage an experienced market research consultant based in the target marketplace
  • You or your team are best placed to carry this out and will learn a lot from the research process.
  • However, a professional marketer based in the new market can assemble facts and figures and reach sources quicker than you may do yourself.
  • An independent professional can also provide realistic feedback on the opportunities and challenges.
  • InterTradeIreland’s Acumen programme offers a number of tailored supports to help you with this research.