Paul Bennett, Managing Director of Fascia Graphics, outlines the five steps that are crucial to setting up and maintaining a successful export division in 2012.
Fascia Graphics set up a dedicated export division 18 months ago to meet the growing demand of orders placed by major global blue chip customers. Although the first few months were a slow burn, there has been a significant upturn in orders from the US, Asia and across Europe, particularly in the medical and security sectors. The majority of orders placed were for our core products, either membrane keypads or graphic overlays.
Market data is now suggesting that there is a real opportunity for manufacturers to grow their exports in 2012. Statistics from the Purchasing Managers Index found that manufacturing is at its highest level for eight months – recording a level of 52.1 in January 2012, up from 49.7 in December 2011.
Furthermore, according to the Financial Times, emerging market currencies are up 7 per cent to the dollar and following a rise in exports to non EU countries in 2011, this year looks set to be the year for manufacturers to boost their business by exporting to emerging markets. Vietnam, Mexico, the UAE and Ukraine are tipped to be the markets of tomorrow, however there are still opportunities in the BRICs to be found.
Companies shouldn’t be afraid to explore new channels and capitalise on boosting their business by exporting to countries with the capacity for fast economic growth. However, from our experiences, there are five key steps that can help this process to be a success:
Dealing with quoting and invoicing
Quoting and invoicing can be a particular challenge within an export division because of exchange rates and the fact that terminologies and specifications of products differ from country to country. It’s important to understand the markets you’re dealing in, basic language barriers and different business cultures in order to avoid confusion.
Protect your global IP
As our global reputation increased, we realised we had to become aware of protecting our IP. We discovered that a Chinese manufacturer had not only copied the design of our website but embedded our development code into their site. Google included them within our SEO report and we were able to deal with it through the correct channels, so the website was taken down by the host.
Manage your risk
We deal largely with blue chip companies on an international stage, but we have always mirrored our UK approach to vetting our overseas customers. We always request two or three references from suppliers they have traded with, and research these referees for their validity, contacting them to discuss trading limits and their customer’s track record in paying their bills. As a companywide policy we always agree Proforma invoicing before we establish a business relationship. If we are at all concerned with the information we are provided with, we weigh up all the facts, and we may then decide that progressing things could be counterproductive for the company.
Prepare to invest in your export drive
Our biggest areas of expenditure to date has been through the research of overseas markets and those companies that we trade with, the general administration of the overseas work and translating our website into several different languages – which is a significant undertaking. Future expenditure is likely to include overseas advertising and PR campaigns.
Although on the face of it our export story is a success, it’s important not to expect results too quickly, as our overseas turnover in previous years increased steadily before we experienced the more recent upturn.
Paul Bennett is Managing Director of Fascia Graphics, the market leader for the production of graphic overlays and membrane keypads. For more information visit www.fasciagraphics.co.uk. Or he can be found tweeting @fasciagraphics.