DAVID Coppock, head of region for the North-East at the Department for International Trade (DIT), explains why businesses should invest in the right relationships when looking for exporting success.

Building good relationships is key to creating any successful business, and it is especially true when a business is looking to export for the first time.

Entering new overseas markets can transform a firm’s fortunes and often allows businesses to unlock growth that simply wouldn’t be possible at home.

That sentiment has certainly been the case for businesses in the North-East over the last year. The region enjoyed a two per cent increase in exports in 2018 reaching a value of £13.1bn, helping businesses become more resilient and profitable in the process.

However, without the right relationships in place, exporting can be a risky business.

Risks range from failing to properly understand the marketplace to not having the connections in place to drive sales and/or effectively manage your intellectual property correctly once you’ve taken it to market.

Having the right guidance at your side to develop these relationships is therefore essential. Often that can mean linking with local representation in target markets, like agents, licensees, distributors or wholesalers, who have the networks and knowledge to take products and services to market successfully.

Transformational deals:

A great example of this approach finding success is HistoCyte Laboratories, a Newcastle-based business that manufactures specialised medical materials to help detect diseases including cancer. It is now enjoying great trade in the US and beyond after teaming up with an American distributor.

DIT hosts regular trade missions around the globe so UK businesses can meet advisers and potential partners face-to-face, cementing relationships that can turn into long-term partnerships.

International Trade Advisers (ITAs) at DIT worked with their colleagues in the US to raise HistoCyte’s profile among potential new customers in the US life-sciences sector. That led to HistoCyte travelling to California for a meeting with distributor Cell Marque - a journey that DIT was able to help fund.

The subsequent distribution deal has given HistoCyte access to global markets in a transformational deal that will see it triple its turnover in just one year.

Finding the right partners:

Special iApps, of Houghton-le-Spring near Sunderland, had a similar experience when it moved to enter new markets overseas.

It had been working with our North-East-based ITAs since 2014 and had already found a ready market for its educational apps in countries as diverse as Botswana, Fiji and Iceland. Last year it contacted DIT again after setting its sights on further international growth.

The Department’s tailored support helped Special iApps increase awareness of its products by attending international trade shows, as well as working with the British Embassy in Kiev to showcase its products to potential Russian and Ukrainian-speaking users.

Last year its paid-for apps were downloaded in 26 new countries around the world, taking its reach to more than 70 countries, with overseas downloads now accounting for 79 per cent of revenues.

Overcoming obstacles:

Developing positive relationships at home and abroad is also extremely beneficial when it comes to the minor details that can have a major impact on your chances of export success.

Custom regulations, logistics and tax can all be daunting prospects for businesses entering new markets, but it really doesn’t have to be. DIT’s one-to-one guidance can help businesses navigate and overcome these challenges while working with colleagues based in embassies and consulates around the world to ensure a smooth market entry.

Shaping export strategies:

If you’re considering whether exporting could be a success for your business, DIT’s ITAs are on hand to listen to your export aspirations and facilitate the introductions that can help shape an effective strategy.

Once in front of the right people in the right markets, North-East businesses have as good a chance as any of growing their profits through exporting.

A useful first step would be to visit the Exporting is Great website www.great.gov.uk, where you can find countless overseas buyers who are looking for products and services like yours.

If you’re ready to go global, make DIT your first port of call.