How to create an export plan

Advice on how to write a business plan for exporting.

Last updated 27 May 2021

An export plan is a business plan for selling overseas. It should detail the decisions you’ve made based on your market research, your objectives and how you plan to achieve them.

A well-structured plan will make sure you’ve thought about all the possibilities, chosen a logical way forward and set targets to keep you on track.

Your export plan is a tool to show banks, investors or partners that you’re serious and have realistic and achievable goals.

Tips from our trade advisers

Before you start to write a plan, you should think about your overall objectives for exporting. Doing the following things should help you do this:

  • assess your current level of success and whether it’s in line with your expectations
  • establish the significant events or decisions which have contributed to your current position
  • identify your hopes and goals for your company in 5 or 10 years time
  • identify the options which might help you achieve these goals, including exporting

What to include in your export plan

Some important considerations are:

1. Marketing budget and resource

Export marketing budget

Assess how much you can spend on:

  • overseas market visits
  • translation of brochures and website
  • exhibition and other promotional costs
  • legal fees for agents/distributors agreements
  • training of in-market partners

Export staffing

Consider the availability and experience of staff who will handle:

  • export enquiries
  • documentation
  • market visits

Establish whether new staff and appropriate training will be required.

2. Market selection information

Define your target markets and the reasons why they have been selected. To do this you can consider a range of potential overseas markets, and then:

  • select a few markets or a region for further investigation, based on sound market research
  • establish sales forecasts with target dates, to help you set budgets and make cash flow projections

3. Product or service features and benefits

This should be based on your market research. You’ll want to:

  • ensure your product or service is attractive to customers and stands out from the competition
  • be aware of any changes you'll need to make, including compliance with technical standards in the market
  • ensure response, reliability, and delivery - you'll need staff capacity and production capability to meet customer expectations

For effective marketing and promotion, be aware of local requirements and tastes. Think about:

  • branding
  • packaging
  • design
  • names
  • logos
  • colours

4. Costs and pricing

Consider the additional costs involved in selling into the overseas market. Establish a target price in the overseas market to the end user. Take account of:

  • currency
  • payment terms
  • freight and carriage charges
  • import duties and taxes
  • commission to partners
  • competition pricing

5. Market entry approach

Establish how you’ll sell your product or service. There are several options that may be suitable for your business. You may want to:

  • sell directly to end users
  • sell via wholesalers or retailers
  • use partners (agent/distributor)
  • set up a local office
  • enter into a joint venture

Find further information on these market entry methods.

6. Market development

Whether the objective is to sell directly or via partners, your plan should cover:

  • overseas market visits - their number and length
  • communication with key contacts such as clients and partners - regularity and types
  • promotion - assess channels, including online and face-to-face at trade shows

Communication methods might include Skype, WhatsApp, teleconferences, and other types of live chat options. Identify with clients and partners their preferred method for keeping in contact.

Establish what changes you may need to make to your website, including translations and marketing materials. Think about visiting international trade shows and exhibitions, or perhaps exhibiting yourself.

7. Avoid risk of bribery and corruption

Export business is generally conducted fairly and honestly, but you need to consider how your business will manage any risk of unethical and illegal practices. This applies within your organisation and throughout your supply chain. Find more information on avoiding bribery and corruption.

If you have questions about your business plan for exporting, get in touch with one of our trade advisers.

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