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How Not to Make a Product Faux Pas when Exporting to New Markets!

How Not to Make a Product Faux Pas when Exporting to New Markets!

According to Clive Drinkwater, from UK Trade and Investment, businesses that export are, on average, 34% more productive, 75% more innovative, undertake three times as much R&D and are 12.5% more resilient than businesses that don’t.  With the UK housing only 0.8% of the world’s population, the opportunities that exist in exporting can be monumental.

However, once you have made the decision to begin exporting (and for businesses that have never exported before), what considerations do you have to make before starting your journey?

A good place to begin is with the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), who offer expert trade advice to UK based companies wishing to grow their business overseas. Whatever stage of development you are at it is worth speaking to one of their specialist advisors before you start – http://www.ukti.gov.uk/home.html. Many of their services are provided for free.

product in warehouse

Warehouse showing goods being stacked ready for shipping abroad.

Presuming you have carried out your market research and competitor analysis, and decided that your product will (hopefully!) be a success, then perhaps considering how you are planning to integrate your existing product design into your chosen markets is good place to visit next.

When making this decision it is important to consider these factors amongst others:

  • Never underestimate the power of your product and brand name, and make sure you test this thoroughly before you launch to make sure it works in your target market/s.  An embarrassing example given by Mark Lasswell was that of the Ikea workbench called ‘Fartfull’ and their computer table named ‘Jerker.’ Ok, so unless you speak the estimated 7,000 languages in the world today then you can never be 100% sure of zero embarrassment, but some basic translation research on your product name may be useful! You don’t want to insult your customers and new market before you’ve started selling to them.
  • Your product may need codes or symbols on its outer packaging, such as specific shipping codes for transportation purposes. Your international freight handler should be able to help advise on the necessary items required for shipping.
flammable symbol

Flammable symbol on a 3M Spray Mount canister


  • Depending on the product being exported, you may also need specific information to comply with legislation in your chosen country – for example, on an aerosol can, you must have regulatory information (text such as “keep out of reach of children”) and a flammable symbol of at least 10mm in width and height as the product is flammable. So you will need to consult your manufacturer or factory to find out whether there are any additional requirements or ask locally with a trade advisor in the country in question.
  • Translations are important if your product does not clearly specify what it is/what it does, or if there is specific information such as instructions for use that you wish to convey to the user.

So, this covers what you might need on your product, but have you decided how you are going to get these on to it?

Most products have some kind of label, and one of the great things about labels is they are extremely versatile. Does your company have the funds and quantities available, as well as the resource and capability to produce a number of different labels for your different markets? Do you instead intend to create one label that is ‘fit for all’?

If you haven’t thought of using labels on your product this may be a consideration which could save you money and time in the long run.  Labels can hold a variety of information and one of their attractions is the ability to add or remove information fairly quickly at any one time – had 1000 labels printed and need to make a change? No problem – it doesn’t take long or cost much to get some more reprinted.

Exporting can be a scary thought, and many small business worry about the scale of exporting and the huge costs that might be involved. Just remember – by achieving domestic success, you have already attained the background knowledge needed to break into foreign markets. Trust in your brand, do your research, and use what you know to make your successful UK business into a global one!

Posted in: Marketing

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