Lunch and Learn: Why sell overseas? Benefits and challenges

Malcolm Gresty
Malcolm GrestyInnovas Consulting Solutions Ltd

Posted: Wed 29th Nov 2023

With the rise of e-commerce and globalisation, selling products overseas is easier than ever before. But is it really worth the effort? Is expanding your business internationally a smart move?

Selling your products or services overseas opens up a whole new world of opportunities for your business. You can tap into new markets, reach a wider audience and potentially increase your profits.

However, many business owners are hesitant to venture into international markets due to the perceived risks and complexities.

In today's interconnected world, selling overseas can be a game-changer for your business. Whether you're a small start-up or more established, there are numerous benefits to expanding your reach beyond your domestic market.

From getting access to new types of customers to boosting your potential revenue, selling abroad can help take your business to the next level.

In this blog, we explore why selling overseas could be the smartest decision you make for your business.

What do we mean by selling overseas?

Selling overseas (or exporting) is the process of marketing and selling products or services to customers in other countries outside of your own. It can involve, for example:

While it opens up new markets and increases your business's potential for growth, it also comes with its own set of challenges, such as language barriers, cultural differences and making sure you get paid. We look at these more closely below.

As such, it's important that you carefully research and plan your international expansion to make sure your overseas selling is successful.

Benefits of selling overseas

Some years ago, the government did some research and found that selling overseas:

  • can increase a business's productivity by 34%

  • means new businesses are 11% more likely to survive

  • can help a business increase the lifespan of its products by 79%

There are real rewards, financially and emotionally, to selling your products to international customers:

  • Increased sales and revenue: Having access to larger, more varied markets can add a significant boost to the number of products or services you sell.

  • Diverse market: If there's a downturn in the domestic market, or things go quiet in a certain territory in which you sell, you can always look to sell your goods and services abroad.

  • Economies of scale: Larger production volumes can lower per-unit costs, improving profit margins.

  • Extended product lifecycle: You can give new life to products that may be maturing domestically.

  • Competitive advantage: Being exposed to, and going up against, competition in other countries encourages innovation and improvement.

  • Enhanced brand: International presence can give your brand more prestige and recognition.

  • Learning and innovation: Exposure to new ideas, trends and practices can drive innovation and growth.

So selling overseas is gold at the end of the rainbow?

Unfortunately, it isn't always. If your business is going through some troubled times, international trade is no guarantee of success.

Plenty of experienced exporters have entered new markets and failed, for a number of reasons. Being successful overseas really takes a lot of hard work and commitment, given there are a number of big challenges.


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Challenges of selling overseas

Market research and a plan for entry

  • Understanding the market: Carrying out thorough market research to understand demand, competition and pricing in the target market.

  • Entry strategy: Deciding on the best plan for entering the market, whether it's direct exporting, partnering with local distributors or establishing a local presence.

Logistics and shipping

  • Costs: International shipping can be expensive, especially if you're sending items in small volumes. There are charges for freight, packaging and insurance, and potential tariffs or customs duties.

  • Complexity: Navigating international shipping regulations, customs procedures and the rules around paperwork can be complicated.

  • Delivery times: Longer delivery times compared to domestic shipping can have an impact on customer satisfaction.

Laws and regulations

  • Customs and tariffs: Each country has its own customs regulations, tariffs and import duties that you need to understand and keep to.

  • Product standards: Your products may need to meet specific standards and regulations in different countries (for example, safety standards, labelling requirements and so on).

Cultural differences

  • Marketing and branding: Adapting marketing strategies to different cultural norms and consumer behaviours can be challenging.

  • Customer preferences: Understanding and catering to varying customer preferences and tastes across different markets.

  • Language barriers: It can be difficult to provide a high standard of customer service in different languages.

  • Time zones: Managing customer service and support across different time zones requires effective communication and support systems.

Currency exchange and payment processing

  • Currency fluctuations: Changes in currency exchange rates can affect pricing and profitability.

  • Payment methods: Customers in different countries prefer different ways to pay, which means offering a number of options and managing the costs and security issues associated with them.

Legal and intellectual property

  • Legal environment: Each country has its own legal system, which can have an impact on contracts, liability and processes for resolving disputes.

  • Intellectual property (IP): Protecting IP across a number of territories can be complicated and expensive.

Key takeaways

While venturing into international markets presents a range of challenges – navigating complex logistics, regulations and cultural differences, for example the potential benefits are substantial.

Increased sales, access to a much more diverse market and a boost to your brand's reputation are just a few of the advantages that can significantly contribute to your business's long-term growth and stability.

By planning carefully, taking advantage of all available resources and staying adaptable, you can successfully expand your reach and thrive in the global marketplace.


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Malcolm Gresty
Malcolm GrestyInnovas Consulting Solutions Ltd
Malcolm has supported numerous Start-Up companies with their Business Planning, Finance and Marketing. As a Business Owner he brings experience of Starting, Running and Growing businesses Nationally and Internationally. International experience includes Australia, Far East, India, Middle East, Europe, United States, Canada and South America. Developing companies by Finding, Winning and Keeping Profitable Business through Market Research, Proposition Development, Lead Generation, Project Handling and Client Relationship Management. Malcolm is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers with considerable experience of working with businesses nationally and internationally. Malcolm’s early career was in the construction industry working for the British Government on projects as far afield as the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Kathmandu. He joined Arup, the internationally renowned Engineering Consultancy, working in London and Manchester on high value UK projects as a designer and project manager, along with overseas experience in Russia and Cameroon. He actively promoted Arup in Liverpool through relationships with the City Council and Chamber of Commerce, ultimately setting up an office in 2001 to focus on bidding and Client Relationship Management. In 2002, Malcolm was seconded to what is now the Department for International Trade (DIT) in London as an Export Promoter, encouraging UK companies to export their goods and services on the back of major sporting events in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hungary, Brazil and Qatar. Malcolm became Director of Business Development, External and International Relations at MIDAS, Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency in 2006, encouraging foreign owned companies to set up business in Greater Manchester.

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