How to establish and maintain links with businesses in other countries

by JT McGee

Ensuring your organisation is well-established overseas, as well as back in the UK, is something many business owners are keen to do, because it represents a great opportunity to generate more income.

However, branching out into foreign countries can be challenging and one way to mitigate the risks associated with foreign trade is to first establish partnerships with overseas companies – whether that’s local suppliers, trade associations or professional advisors.

Indeed, having such links can give you a more accurate understanding of the market – or markets – you want to set up in and establish what it will take to be successful. It is all too easy to assume that the products and/or services you provide in the UK will automatically be welcomed when expanding abroad – especially if your range has already found favour among a wide domestic audience. If you’re not careful you could struggle to generate interest overseas.

Just as you would in the UK, it’s important to do plenty of research into the countries you are hoping to target and establish how you can offer people something that has a unique selling proposition. Establishing links with overseas bodies – be it a trade association, a consultancy or a thinktank – could help you gain insight into the local market.

Whether you’re looking to figure out who your largest competitors will be, where you should set up offices or if there is a demand for a service that is yet to be provided, going to local agencies or consultancies for help is a great way to gain market-specific knowledge. Visit the local market and your local partners in person.

There may be a language barrier to overcome so it’s best to avoid using unnecessarily complex jargon and a professional translator can help to avoid any breakdown in communication. Bear in mind there may also be significant cultural differences between the UK and the country you want to target, so it’s worth looking at how your products and services can be adapted to suit local tastes (even before you meet with local partners).

To make sure you leave a long-lasting positive impression about your business among the organisations you meet, consider leaving your local partners with business gifts that are branded with your logo and contact details.

Research by the British Promotional Merchandise Association indicates recipients of corporate gifts hold a more positive opinion of the organisation that provided them and if you click here you can find out more about the kind of products that will make for effective business gifts.

Once you have established positive initial links with overseas bodies, it’s important you continue to sustain this relationship. Make sure you stay in regular contact – whether it’s by phone, email or in person – to ask for feedback on your activities and advice on future expansion. And as we approach Christmas, you may want to provide a small gift as an expression of your gratitude for your ongoing relationship and how you are keen for such a partnership to continue.

If you’ve established links with overseas businesses, please leave us a comment and let us know about your experience of establishing your organisation in a foreign market.

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