Of course the headline point about the Internet age we now live in is that the worldwide market for Scottish businesses to reach is available at our fingertips.
Any size of company can be online and be selling to new customers all across the globe, and there would be no greater accelerator for the Scottish economy than a massive uplift in the volume of international trade exported by our local small businesses.
With this in mind the key message is that this huge potential is very accessible, not just in terms of using technology to present your company online but also to leverage it to reach those customers.
Facebook for example, enables you to tailor advertising to very specific segments; you might run a campaign to reach men aged 40-60 in Canada, or teenagers in one particular USA state. This level of granularity is actually very easy and cost effective to achieve.
Of course business is never that simple, there are many factors to consider and address before you begin exporting, such as the competition in those local markets, the legal implications and the logistics and business model – For example perhaps first recruiting local agents is a key milestone to achieve before you can develop traction.
To answer and explore these types of challenges Scottish Enterprise offers this guide, where they share best practice recommendations such as their international e-commerce programme, a guide for selling via online marketplaces and a series of ongoing webinars.
In this case study they share the success Appointedd has enjoyed growing their business globally. This is a great example as we showcased in a previous blog how other businesses can use their appointment booking service to build their online capability.
CEO Leah Hutcheon talks about her experiences and provides some tips, highlighting how the multi-timezone feature of their service made it a natural fit for international businesses and this proved to be a gap in the market they were ideally positioned to address, leading to their first customers in Germany and then across the world.
A key point Leah makes is that while markets like the USA are obvious growth hotspots for them there are others proving to be equally prosperous, because of the local contacts and partnerships they have established there.
This goes back to the earlier point about first establishing these kinds of stepping stones as the key mechanism for accelerating international sales, and highlights the invaluable role of business networks that facilitate this kind of connection. Leah describes the role the Global Scot Network played in helping her open up markets like Australia.
She also credits Scottish Development International who funded their US trip, demonstrating the breadth and depth of the support available from the Scottish Government to support entrepreneurs with global aspirations. They also operate regional hubs like a Canadian office for example, to offer yet more contact channels.
There are also many other network organizations, other entrepreneurs willing to provide a hand up to their fellows on this journey, such as the Scottish Business Network, a non-profit social enterprise with a purpose to support Scottish based companies and organisations to develop and grow through the utilisation of the Scottish business diaspora, and who have a USA team to provide a bridge into that market.
Leah Hutcheon and Russell Dalgleish, Chair of the SBN, offer the two most important messages for Scottish businesses considering global export: Leah made the point that ‘exporting is easier than you might think’, and the key to that is to harness these contact networks ready and willing to help you experience that.
So what are you waiting for, the world is your oyster and there are many fellow entrepreneurs willing to lift you up to help your business reach for the stars!