So, you have decided to start exporting to international markets. But, are you ready for this challenge? Assessing whether your business is ready to export is a complex process and should be supported by an export marketing expert. As a first step, however, you can do a simple self-assessment to determine if your business is heading in the right direction to be ready to export.

In this article, we introduce you to the main components of ProFound’s Export Readiness Self-Assessment and we guide you on how to conduct a self-assessment on your own. You can also watch our 20-minute video and learn how to do your first export readiness self-assessment.

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Conducting a self-assessment of your company’s export readiness

When doing the self-assessment, four key areas of your business should be evaluated: management and the organisation, marketing and sales, buyer requirements and finance.

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I. Management and the Organisation

An export readiness self-assessment starts by looking at your company’s management and organisation. To assess this area you should assess the following seven components:

  1. Strategy: – Is there a strategy in place? Does your company have an export marketing plan?
  2. Structure: How is the organisation structured? Does it have the correct division of departments for exporting and are they accountable for their objectives?
  3. Systems: Which processes are in place, how standarised are they?
  4. Staff: Does the organisation have the right staff in order to export? Is there any experience? Are they dedicated to this?
  5. Style: Are there mechanisms in place to motivate your staff toward exporting?
  6. Skills: Does the staff of the organisation have the right skills needed to export? Do you have staff with skills to present your products at international trade fairs? Do you have staff with skills to organize the supply chain in line with international standards?
  7. Shared values: What does your company stand for and to what extent do these shared values of your company support or obstruct development of exports? International buyers particularly appreciate professionalism, reliability and open and honest communication. Does your organisation have a culture that promotes these values?

By looking at this 7-S model (based on McKinsey’s 7S Framework) and answering these questions you will be able to identify in which areas changes and investments are needed in order to make the organisation export ready.

II. Marketing and Sales

Next step is looking at the marketing and sales activities of your organisation. Moving from local or regional to international sales is a big step for your team. To assess whether they are ready to export, you should assess the following:

  1. Product – product development: does your company understands its products properties, are products specification sheets available?
  2. Prices: understand your costs, is your export a profitable business?
  3. Place – distribution: understand and comply with exporting required documentation, does the company understand the logistics process and its associated costs?
  4. Promotion: have you developed promotional material targeted to international markets?
  5. Presentation – communication: make sure that the way your company communicates with potential international buyers is professional. Does the company have a private domain email account? Has anyone in the company experience communicating with international buyers? English language fluency is key to succeed in international markets negotiations.
  6. Personnel – customer service: Is there a customer service team assigned? Is there a structured customer feedback process in place?

Understanding your level in this adaptation of the 6Ps of the Marketing Mix will help you prepare your marketing and sales teams to become export ready.

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III. Market Access Requirements 

In order to export, your company and export product(s) need to comply with international market access requirements. Your company should be able to answer the following questions in terms of market access requirements:

  1. Is your product allowed on the target market? Is it a Novel Food? Is it subject to Access and Benefit Sharing?
  2. In case of food ingredient exports, does the company comply with the food safety requirements? Is there a traceability system and food safety management system in place? In case of cosmetic ingredient exports to Europe, does the product comply with the Cosmetics Regulation? Can the company provide safety and efficacy data?
  3. Is the company able to deliver a consistent quality and quantity? Does the company have the certificates preferred by buyers?
  4. Is there a minimum volume that the company can deliver?
  5. Are there policies for a healthy and safe working environment in the organisation?
  6. Does the company have a policy in place to protect the environment?
  7. Is there anyone in the organisation or who supports the organisation who understands the agreements in international contracts for exports?

A good understanding of the market access requirements is essential if your company wants to export. Your capacity to comply with these requirements will trigger interest of potential buyers and will help you build trust with them. Take the time to understand as best as possible these requirements before making major investments in your export marketing strategy.

IV. Finance

Finally, it is key to assess the financial strength of your company. There is potentially a lot of money to be made from exporting, but this will require investment up front. What is the estimated value of the investment and working capital for the period in which the export strategy will be in place? Is the company able to cover it itself or is it need to identify external sourcing of finance and loans?

By knowing the answers to the questions in these four areas you will now know better if your company is ready to start exporting to international markets!

ProFound’s Export Readiness Assessment – Find the gaps and optimize your getting export-ready journey

At ProFound we are experts in supporting companies that are analysing their export readiness. While this video and article provide a good guide on what questions to ask yourself when discussing your export readiness, we suggest that you ask for the support of an export market expert. The help of an expert is crucial in determining the true gaps between your current status and an export-ready company, as well as which ones to prioritise and how to address them. Would you like to get in touch with one of our experts to discuss your export readiness? Then send us an email to mail@thisisprofound.com