For those of you considering making more of foreign markets in 2015, Peter Kiddell of Fespa UK Association and the GPMA (Graphics, Print and Media Alliance) explains what help is at hand.
Whenever we leave this sceptred isle things can look different. Our destination will determine how different. An airport could be anywhere in the world and be indistinguishable but for the language on signage and displays. Logos are the same, brand colours and common layouts. Once we move out of the airport the look changes again, street furniture, building shapes, the amount of outdoor displays and their content. Fortunately designers from different countries and cultures create images and shapes that they find attractive. Some are constrained by multi-national brands but it is the subtle differences that, as a viewer, we see and catch our attention.
If, as graphics professionals, we can be affected by the subtleties so can the general public, probably to a greater extent. There are several messages given out by graphic displays. One is consistency in a brand we trust. Two, prestige and exclusivity. Three, get noticed. Four, quirky. Five, secure and trustworthy. There are others but these are the key messages. You would have seen people all over the world with Union Jacks adorning their garments, most have never been to the UK; others don’t know the significance of the design.
Coming home to the UK we see millions of visitors looking at our buildings, fashions, countryside, and culture. Delighted by what they see buying much of it and taking it back to their homes. So what, you may ask, is this to do with exporting our products and services abroad. Everything - because people enjoy our designs and culture, others are attracted by difference, and good quality is always appreciated.
For equipment manufacturers, substrate suppliers and ink producers, export is often the largest element of their sales. They set up channels, carefully select distributors, provide technical backup and build the brand internationally. This is a major investment that has to be repaid over many years. Print service providers have a different business model that generally is based on doing business locally.
But think on - exporting can be very similar to supplying a customer in the next town or city, with the same challenge of identifying the potential, using promotion and prospecting to find the ideal business partner. As with any successful business relationship, it is about working with people you can trust and being certain you will be paid.
For a wide-format printer there is a unique route to market – and there’s more of that later – but first here’s some more general information for those of you considering exporting.
For a start, there are nearly 60 Chambers of Commerce around the UK. They can be contacted on www.britishchambers.org.uk. Run by local business people and paid employees they provide a vast range of business services for their area, one of the main ones being stimulating export. Each Chamber has contacts with other Chambers throughout the world and thus with myriad companies. The link to the organisation’s export services is through www.exportbritain.org.uk (or directly via, phone, e-mail or even snail mail!).
It’s best to do some initial research through the website, which is a real eye opener when it comes to the challenges and opportunities presented by exporting. As with any organisation that is self-financing, to get the best support you should join your local Chamber of Commerce - the membership fee is often covered by discounts on its services.
It can take you through the process of examining whether your company and products are suitable for export and how to discover the opportunities for your product offering. Then there is the training that is necessary to understand the elements of the process: options on distributing your products; trade shows and route to market; financing exports and the methods of marketing you might employ.
There is no doubt that a website, or pages on your website in the language of your target market, is very important. Secure channels of finance and insurance are critical.
Chambers offer a valuable service that provides the necessary documentation for exporters - most of which can be completed online.
Which brings you on to UK Export Finance, the UK’s export credit agency and operating name of the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). It helps UK exporters by providing insurance to exporters and guarantees to banks to share the risks of providing export finance. In addition, it can make loans to overseas buyers of goods and services from the UK.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) provides advice on all matters concerned with international trade, along with practical support to UK-based companies who want to move into or expand overseas markets. UKTI can arrange a meeting in your office with an international trade advisor who will explain the range of services that will help make your move into exporting successful.
Communicating in a national language is always an advantage but the advisors will know when it is essential. Business etiquette can have a crucial influence at your first meeting with a prospective customer overseas. It is the little things that make a difference and that you’ll receive instruction on
‘Business is Great Britain’ is the new branding for the Business Growth Service that includes Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Pera Consulting along with the Intellectual Property Office Intellectual Property (IP) Audits and the Design Council Design Mentoring. It provides support for small and medium sized enterprises. It looks as if it is also going to be the route to experts from other Government services including UK Trade and Investment, UK Enterprise Fund, Innovate UK and local growth hubs.
Yes, you are right - these services are being rebranded and probably rationalised. How that will affect the provision is unknown but it may create a more streamlined approach to business support without duplications of form filling that can be a nightmare to potential users of the systems.
On top of the other organisations trying to stimulate business growth is the Enterprise Europe Network, a consortium of 600 partner organisations in more than 40 countries, promoting competitiveness and innovation at local level in Europe and beyond. Well, that’s what it says on the website. Contact by phone is difficult and the operation doesn’t appear to offer anything in addition to what’s available from your local Chamber of Commerce. However, there is an emphasis on filling-in EU funding applications and there’s an interesting section under the term ‘Going International’ which provides a list of business opportunities in the EU - both import and export. This also comes under the term ‘Partner Finder’, and there are print associated opportunities.
Apart from government and EU backed schemes and initiatives, there are independent consultants throughout the country who can to assist you in selling overseas. The British Exporters Association (BEXA) seems to have the ear of government on export finance, and there is a host of free guides available on its website at http://www.bexa.co.uk/exportinfo.html
The above can help you manage the paperwork, finance, insurance etc. in relation to export. You still need to find the people and companies you want to do business with, which is where Fespa UK Association can help.
The association is one of 37 worldwide that between them actually own Fespa Ltd. The ‘Profit for a Purpose’ principle that is key to Fespa means that profits from its events are put back into industry through its worldwide network of associations, and key Fespa UK Association personnel know the executives of the other associations. These contacts are invaluable to the UK association’s membership (wide-format, industrial and specialist printers and suppliers) as those wishing to contact similar companies in in any one of the network’s 37 countries has a route to open communication.
There are several examples of how this has worked out. With multi-nationals wanting to single source print in several countries, particularly Europe, members have partnered with printing companies in the EU to provide local supply and use alternative production capabilities.
Another example is of when a supplier member needed introductions to the top ten printers in a particular country along with possible distributors. A contact in that country has identified and made introductions to the key players.
In another instance, a member wanted a very special material that was not available in Europe but the Chinese association was able to locate a source from a reputable manufacturer that has enabled the UK member to produce here and export a product across the world.
Exporting is challenging, but the UK Government is putting its full weight behind companies that wish to expand their markets. There are many sources of help and support, so now could be a good time to explore the possibilities.